Rebecca wasn’t one of those bored flirty women.
She might have been, but it would have taken entirely too much effort to be somebody she wasn’t. Growing up in rural Tennessee, she did what most country girls did, but wasn’t pretty enough to get that many dates. Not homely, just no sparkle. On a whim, when a public school exam pegged her as talented in whatever incomprehensible skills and character traits government bureaucracies were seeking, she took a job offer at some big welfare office off in the city as mail clerk. That led to data entry, then some advancement courses, and so forth. When other jobs opened up, if one seemed half-way interesting, she grabbed it. She moved across the country several times and never saw much of her home state again, though she carried that rural Tennessee drawl wherever she went.
She was never really ambitious, never really qualified for big promotions, always hitting that solid middle level of management everywhere she went. Somehow, she found herself assigned some nebulous job as Community Coordinator on this God-forsaken installation. She laughingly called her office Gossip Central, since it seemed little more than that in terms of how it actually operated. In the typical fulfillment of bureaucratic requirements, written by a string of people who had never done any similar work at any time in their lives, and approved by officials who didn’t in the least care what it was really all about, she had all the hassles of any other bureaucrat in any other office and really didn’t have to do a darn thing that mattered.
But that would have been against her conscience, so she did what little she could to bless people with some sense of community and belonging informally. All the other stuff associated with her job was simply justification for paying her. Everyone liked her but no one really loved her.
It’s not as if she never dated anyone; she was no virgin. She had been burned enough times in romance to be very cautious because she knew she had none of the assets and talents as the flirty bunch. Like most women, she worked out in the gym out of sheer boredom, so had to listen to a lot of the sort of women’s locker-room gossip she found wholly distasteful. Her reaction wasn’t prudish and she sometimes wished she had some tales of her own. Not that she would ever tell anyone if she did. Maybe a couple of pals, but this was during a time in the natural bureaucratic rhythm of life when she had no close friends, no confidants.
Completely by accident she was the one person on the installation who actually knew something about the new guy. It was simply her job. In the routine procedures of taking his place on the installation, he had to visit her office so she could run through her official spiel. Perhaps it was entirely random, but in the long list of offices he had to visit during in-processing, he came to hers almost last.
I don’t debate. I seldom even bother to argue. You will always find me willing and patient to explain as best I know how what goes on inside my head. I always do what I know is required by my God, and if I can’t help you appreciate the value of that, I leave you to stew in your own juices.
Debate solves nothing. The same people who can be persuaded by debate could easily be persuaded by much lesser means. While debate in its purest form was meant to contrast ideas using facts, even in the sterile atmosphere of college debate competitions, it’s still about trickery and deceit, and the art of presentation. It was never really examining the facts, but selective use of facts to bludgeon someone else. So you can imagine my utter contempt regarding those things people advertise as “political debates” which are little more than thinly veiled hostility between persons regardless of the ideas involved.
It’s the same sort of thing when someone accuses you of racism. There is no logical defense against that; you cannot disprove the charge under any circumstances. Nor can you disprove charges of sexism or any other “-ism” these days. Such things are merely verbal bludgeons, trump cards used to avoid anything approaching an honest debate. I don’t even bother to take umbrage at such charges. All it does is prove the person making the charge is unworthy of any fair consideration. In colloquial terms, “screw `em.” Do what you know is right, and throw away any hope of placating someone like that — pearls before swine.
We could discuss social tactics, but the finesse and subtlety required is something you demonstrate, not write about. Think about the necessity of holding civility and dealing with uncivil and unreasonable people. Civility is a good in itself, and sometimes it actually does require drawing blood, but if you don’t defend it as a critical element in your existence, you’ve already lost the one battle worth fighting. Be generous, magnanimous even, but don’t be a fool.
I press my claims, but I do so first by conduct, and words come far behind. The business of changing hearts is out of my hands, and always will be. The strongest argument I have is myself.
Jesus summed up the moral fabric of Creation by quoting two passages from Moses:
Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’ (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18). All the laws and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NET Bible
Jesus was hardly the first rabbi to say such a thing. It was commonly understood this way, even when it was misunderstood how to carry it out. It really does rest on your shoulders to love God sincerely, a full commitment without reservation. That’s the meaning behind or English word “faith.” While I may exhibit some limited talent for discussing my own faith, you can’t ever have mine. It has to be uniquely yours.
In the process, you are surely going to come up with your own unique love for your neighbor. As noted previously, the word “neighbor” carries a different connotation than what it means in English. It’s not simply someone residing in close proximity. In the Ancient Hebrew culture it would have meant mostly your own kin, your cousins and such. However, it means anyone who operates according to the wider implications of the Covenant. So when Gentiles act in ways Moses was hoping to see, they are lawful and just in God’s eyes, regardless of what they may or may not know about the writings of Moses. Jesus makes that point with the Parable of Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite were not the victim’s neighbors in that story, because they adhered to the literal words of the Covenant, and violated it’s mystical principles.
Another popular wording is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” That does not mean you can demand others do to you as you want. You have no reason to expect someone will treat you as you treat them, but that you are obliged to do what you know is right regardless of how they treat you.
With strangers, I’m often reticent. Civility says you don’t blurt out every thought crossing your mind. However, I’m more likely to be blunt and honest if it seems the conversation goes that way. I would rather people do that to me, even as I know most people don’t like it. Under God’s justice, I have no obligation to meet their expectations, but to hold forth my expectations applied to myself. If they can’t take my bluntness, they can fuss with God, but I refuse attempts to moderate my verbal behavior. This is what I want you to do for me, so it’s what I’ll do for you.
Don’t buy into false guilt about what society expects of you. The Law of God is not the complex, conflicting demands of others. The Law of God is what He demands of you. When you claim to embrace biblical justice, and you want to see the promises of the Laws poured out into your life, don’t get entangled in making others happy. That’s actually a violation of God’s justice. You are responsible to Him, not those you encounter here below. If you have a thick skin, wear it well. Whatever you do, don’t fuss at someone who has to serve God in a different way. Feel free to explain your choices, but don’t ever let anyone hand you any false guilt.
This is the hardest part of teaching God’s Word.
The prophet tends to stand alone a great deal, in human terms.
I love people; I really do. There are plenty I’d rather not spend time with, but that’s a function of my calling and ministry. Some people have demonstrated a propensity to suck up all my energy and demand more. I can’t be faithful to God when they are around. I know how to handle them, and a big part of that is limiting contact. Those I can help can hang around and absorb whatever I have to offer.
I’m at the place spiritually where I don’t really feel a desperate need for other people. There are a dozen ways to explain that, but I sense those who understand what I’ve been writing here will already know where this is going.
When the mission requires other people to help, God will move them into my orbit. Same thing if they need my help for anything important to God. In between I can enjoy the company of a lot of people, but I don’t have much time to invest in mere socializing. By itself, it has no value in the Kingdom, beyond establishing the civil connection necessary for human coexistence.
Even back in my military assignment in Europe, I had a senior officer think out loud about having all of us Military Police folks get together for a formal military dinner. He said something about it being mandatory. I took out my handcuffs and put them on his desk, extended my two hands together, and said, “Put me away now, because I’ll refuse to come without these.” He knew what I meant, that I would not socialize under any conditions with some of our crew. It would be unbearable, a punishment that would make him my enemy. That dinner never happened.
I did just fine on the road hours on end four or five days per week, because I needed little supervision, but some of these people had no business carrying a weapon, especially in public.
For those with whom I feel a strong affinity, it’s okay if you don’t call or write to me for years. Whatever we share is still there, safe in eternity. When you need me, get hold of me and we’ll do something which matters eternally. That can include just chatting about some ideas, or comparing notes on the most esoteric subjects imaginable. Each of those things adds to eternity. It’s okay if we don’t have that much in common any more, that we’ve both drifted off in all sorts of different directions. And if we are brothers and sisters who simply haven’t met each other yet, call me any way.
As long as you understand eternal imperatives often don’t translate well into human needs, you’ll understand there is no need to be embarrassed or hesitant. I don’t take myself that seriously. We both have things to do in service to the Lord, and socializing is definitely a low priority.
We do right because we can’t do otherwise, regardless of what it costs.
I’m not whining; this is simply my commitment, my mission in life. My neighbor across the street doesn’t have a man or a working lawnmower. A few weeks ago, I got tired of looking at her yard, and during the day when on one was home, mowed it myself. She eventually found out and thanked me.
So it got too tall again, and still no mowing, despite my offer to loan my mower without charge. So I mowed it again today … and cut the Cox cable running into her house. Granted, it’s not supposed to be exposed that way, but it was. Since I use the same service, I notified them and told them to bill me for the repair.
Cox has a cable up to every lot here, and most trailers have a cable attached somewhere, even if the residents aren’t using the service. It’s possible my neighbor isn’t but that’s not important. She didn’t ask me to cut her yard, and frankly I broke at least one park rule doing it. I did it for myself, and I’ll eat the costs.
Since we had such a terribly light winter, the ticks and chiggers are just awful. All the other bugs are at least as bad. I’m working extra hard to control the ants this year, and they are normally pretty bad. Now they are worse than ever. So by mowing her yard, I’m reducing the pest population, because ticks and chiggers don’t like mowed yards. The old “nuisance abatement” doesn’t apply here.
I’m betting she’ll be glad I did again, probably a little embarrassed. She’ll know it was me, and if she misses her Cox cable, I’ll fess up. If not, they’ll fix it on general principle and tell me later. I’m hoping they refer to it as a quality control issue, since the cables are supposed to be buried. (Turns out later Cox did simply fix and hide the cable better.)
Jesus said to take up our cross. The meaning was be ready to sacrifice as much of this life as it takes to follow Him. I doubt I’ll be literally crucified, but I’m supposed to embrace it anyway, voluntarily. Getting a splinter while carrying it is the least of my concerns. It’s not something to crow about, but boasting on behalf of some Higher Power, since my own human nature is petty, whiny and selfish.
Truth changes people. I’d have no peace in myself if I didn’t take the small risks to do these things.
Live and let live.
My brother lives in a very old neighborhood just a mile north of downtown Oklahoma City. He has a traditional brick fireplace and I am cutting wood for him this summer so he’ll have a good supply this winter. We have tons of well seasoned deadwood lying around out here. Besides, it’s a really good workout, and woodcutting with hand tools is a skill in which I revel. If it weren’t for my brother needing the wood, I would probably cut it to sell.
My brother looks nothing like me. He’s taller, lighter, dark haired. He has a higher IQ, in the gifted class. He’s a secular humanist, but we do share some interest in computers and related technology. He’s a busy entrepreneur and I’m a mystic. He fixes computers for pay, hardware and all, while I try to help people out with simpler problems and charge nothing. We get along well, but don’t pal around much.
I’m not willing to push my beliefs on anyone. The only reason I bother explaining them is because people have asked questions when they find out I don’t fit any of their usual categories. So I welcome pagans and atheists and Catholics and Baptists and Buddhists and Muslims and whatever else you want to call yourself. The key to hanging out with me is the same kind of respect which says, “You have to find your own answers. Nobody else can do it for you.” I believe in you.
Perhaps there’s not enough of that out in the world, because I find I’m never short of friendly contacts, at least online. Perhaps we are so thinly scattered geographically, the Internet is about the best way to find each other. The world is going to seem a much lonelier place if it ever goes away, or becomes so perverted and subverted it might as well not be.
Sadly, the majority of the world believes in busybodies who insist things change to suit them. We aren’t permitted to stand on the sidelines and comment quietly amongst ourselves on the things we see. Here’s my busybody rant: I want to teach you to leave folks alone.
Hey, just let us be, and we’ll return the favor.
Perhaps my readers will tolerate just one more rant for the day. I promise, this one will be short.
Nobody should have to put up with me who doesn’t want to. Really. While I still have this burning sense of purpose, by no means would I impose on anyone while pursuing it. Over the 55 years I’ve been alive, I’ve been member of quite a few religious organizations. Precious few were the times I felt at home, felt I could be myself and not have to suffer the insufferable. I don’t mind absorbing the consequences for ignorance and generally blundering around; I rather hope everyone will be direct with me when I do stuff which doesn’t fit.
I’ve left most of those organizations after realizing there was considerable dishonesty behind the scenes. If nothing else, folks were simply not being direct with me. They would privately judge me stupid and useless, but were unwilling to tell me for any number of bogus reasons. Things like that will eventually slip out, and when they do, it’s a lot more painful than just telling me to get lost. I still have the highest respect for those who were honest enough to tell me I was no longer welcome, and why. There aren’t many of those in my memory, because most of the time I found out later.
In a different category are the places I left because it was all too obvious I didn’t belong and it had nothing to do with them being sneaky. I could see they wanted something I couldn’t give them, and staying would be misleading them.
For the same reason I hold in contempt men who subtext, I despise Christian leaders who feel they have to cloak their digs in subtle language. That’s not simple disrespect; it’s a form of hatred. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve run into that. It’s one thing when someone simply has trouble communicating. The world is full of people misreading each other for all kinds of innocent reasons. Most people are humble enough to accept the blame for a failure to communicate, even when they aren’t sure what they did wrong. They care, and that makes them superior humans. But those who refuse to apologize for anything at all, or are insincere about it, deserve full contempt.
I really do have a mission to communicate certain thoughts, and I’ve been willing to grovel as a novice in many organizations as a fair price for being heard eventually. Sometimes it was a bit much, but I don’t take myself that seriously. Please feel free to insult me personally here; I don’t delete those things, as you can tell from the comments in previous threads. Most of it I find funny. Loud, brash and playfully abusive is just fine. But I will get tired if you seem to pay no attention at all to my response and keep harping on the same things. This is my blog, my bully pulpit. Get your own and offer a link if it’s on topic. What I take seriously is my message.
A part of me understands, but I’m not sure I can explain why it is I am so unwelcome in so many Christian settings. Meanwhile, I have a warm virtual friendship with folks who have a different belief, a different religion, or none at all. The Bible says Jesus had no trouble making friends with social outcasts, and I’d like to think I partake of some of that. I’m just a little sad because the folks who are supposed to be on the same side keep shooting at me as an enemy.
I stood in front of the bookshelf at the thrift store, letting my gaze wander over the random titles. A fellow next to me crossed in front of me, offering the typical, “excuse me.”
My response was, “You’re okay.” Then I followed up with a very clichéd, “I can see right through you, man.” He laughed heartily and walked on down the aisle.
It was his choice. I engaged him with my standard personality response, clowning. It was my mission to make a kind of love offering, telling him he was significant, a human in my eyes worthy of at least that much effort. There was no desperate need in my approach, but no dismissal, either.
Being needy is a social disaster. It destroys everything in this world you could hope to build or achieve. I don’t need your approval; I am my own man. I have my mission from God and I will assume you have yours. Prove me wrong, but I will avoid proving anything at all, if I can.
Needy people would seize upon me in such encounters and unload everything in their minds, which tends to an awful lot. I take that risk. Most will simply take what I offered, as the man mentioned above did, and move on with one more smile than they had before. A rare few would be intrigued enough to actually respond with some limited offer of fellowship. Thus, I engage my world and offer what little I have, and grow from whatever response I get.
It’s possible you feel compelled to avoid human contact. That’s a hard row to hoe, but for some, it’s the best they can do. Then do it right, and carry an air of strength, not hiding in weakness. Do it right, and even being aloof and superior can make the world a brighter place.
The worst thing you can do is surrender in any way. Examples from a man’s point of view adaptations for women:
1a. Some hot babe wearing entirely too little shows it off, and you can’t take your eyes from her. You’ve already lost. If you must, take one good look, just a second or two, then deliberately look away and avoid becoming absorbed. If you stare, she dominates you, and may try to take advantage of you. Of course, if you enjoy being that kind of loser, no one can help you. (Note: If she really wants you, your aloofness will only make her more eager. Otherwise, whatever else it is she wants, you won’t enjoy it in the long run. In my case, women who put on this sort of display are already disqualified for my attention.)
1b. Ladies, if he’s hot and flirts, he’s a predator. If he’s hotter than you by any measure, the best you can hope for is abuse. Don’t smile at all; turn away and ignore him.
2a. Someone bears a strong visual affinity (dresses like you, etc.) and you quickly become engaged in insider chatter. In the process, do not engage in soul-baring. Yes, there is a time and place to share your sorrows, but this isn’t it. Listen; it’s the best gift you can give. Be reticent while friendly, letting them be the weak and needy one. You can’t stop needing, but you can stop displaying it and surrendering. Stop talking about yourself because it’s not about you.
2b. Women who chatter too much in girl talk are grasping at any strength in numbers advantage. The woman who can avoid being sucked into this is always more desirable to men, and very competitive against other women. While the other gals may take this as a personal insult, they’ll still wish they were like you.
3a. Some not-so-hot gal attempts to engage you in conversation. If she starts asking questions aimed at pinning you down in one political/social category or another, be evasive. Do this even if you happen to agree. Learn how to answer without content, or ask questions in reply. Start with, “Why would you want to know that?” Force her to reveal her biases and demands. Be civil, but don’t allow her to maneuver you into any pre-defined pockets. Come up with answers totally off-the-wall. It’s not a matter of winning her affections — you may well do so — but to practice dominance even when it doesn’t matter. That’s because, in the long run, it always matters.
3b. When a guy pulls this stunt with a woman, it’s more likely he’ll try to find out where she is and chase her there. Ladies, if you offer no definitive answers, he can’t pretend to be on your side. Losers think being your friend is the best way to get closer romantically. Don’t even smile, unless you intend to bite. Of course, if you are a barracuda, these guys are begging to be misled, manipulated and abused.
Fundamentally, it’s really not about dominance, but freedom. Don’t be ruled by others when you can avoid it. The problem is, human nature being what it is, the vast majority of the human race insists on operating in comparative terms. Thus, by insisting on freedom, you take dominance in their eyes. Given almost all humanity wants things measured in such terms, give them what they demand on that point — dominate where you can’t disengage.
In the vast majority of casual encounters, no real content can be exchanged directly. You first have to establish the right to speak. It won’t matter what your message is; you still have to get an ear. You still have to speak the language, which invariably includes measures of dominance. You cannot possibly avoid the underlying sexual dynamics; humans are hard-wired to operate with such a consideration, even if unconsciously. Best to be conscious of it and stop pretending it has no effect.
Men admire and cooperate with dominant men. Precious few will feel threatened; let them make a fool of themselves. When they become violent and hostile, they actually lose some measure of dominance, displaying insecurity. Few love what they fear. Need I explain you can take a beating and still win dominance? Women are actually more likely to be hostile, but less overtly, when one of their own displays feminine dominance. Still, the admiration is there in the form of envy, because women are not men. There are inevitable differences between the sexes on how this works out. With men it’s a question of “what” and with women it’s “whom.” A dominant male is focused on his mission and doesn’t really need anyone, but knows when he’s found someone worth holding. A dominant woman knows whom (what kind of man) she needs and how to get his attention.
Most of life is playing off those factors even when they aren’t directly pertinent.
As a group, the people who write most of the code for Open Source GUIs have no idea what typical users want.
I’ve noted before the strength of Open Source is those who code can do anything they like. That’s also it’s primary weakness, because they can be quite hostile to the interests of typical users. A significant minority of them are hostile when you ask them if they care. The result is the debacle called GNOME 3.
GNOME 3 will be pushed through simply because the number of folks involved is huge, and there is a significant minority of users who are mindless fanboys. They don’t take a clue from the multiple forks from GNOME which arose shortly after they offered their vision of the future. GNOME 3 will ensure a whole lot fewer people stick with the GNOME Project and start switching to other GUIs.
As other writers have noted, not a single user (as opposed to coder) has ever complained about “clutter.” They love it. It’s the developer who waxes poetic about “uncluttered” interfaces. What that actually means is free of anything they aren’t interested in adding, fixing and maintaining. In other words, I am charging the GNOME Project leadership and developers with being cranky misanthropes determined to make everyone do things the way they imagine humans ought to do. They are chasing the fantasy of reshaping the world to their liking. Down to some of the smallest details.
So let’s do this: You want “uncluttered”? Try the framebuffer CLI. That’s uncluttered. Nice, black screen with monospaced text in a handful of colors. No clutter there! And if just one project somewhere was born which promised they were going to try to create a TUI, a real text user interface, fully mouse-able, porting over some subset of features from GUI applications, I’d send them as much money as I could. I’d go out fundraising for them. I’d have no trouble finding more who would join me, people who, unfortunately, don’t write code.
It won’t happen, of course, because the only people who want such a thing are users, not developers. The idea Open Source coders would actually care what users want is a pipe dream. The alternative is no better, but for totally different reasons.
Sometimes the best reaction is none at all.
There’s a fancy word we stole from the French — aplomb. It comes from their word for lead, that base metal which weighs a lot for its size, and is pretty soft, typically used in bullets and surveyors’ equipment. To be a plomb in French is to be standing upright, by extension meaning undisturbed.
Just think what it means when you throw away the Victorian cultural mythology and simply don’t bother to splash a visual value judgment on things you encounter. You absorb the insane without reacting. You can probably figure out your own reasons for it, but as someone who has worked in counseling for most of my adult life, it’s the only way to get people to talk. If I start grimacing at things they say, they’ll stop saying them, or start saying things not true just to get a reaction.
It’s not the same has having no values. Yes, there is sin in this world, and I tend to write quite a bit seeking to define the idea and what deserves that label. But I need not throw a fit just because someone wants me to know they were involved in it. That dude in the mirror ain’t no saint, so it’s hard to stomp on someone else’s turf without hypocrisy. I can point to the sins of others because I can confess my own sins.
The only way you’re ever going to learn things is to observe, and that means trying to keep as much of yourself out of the observation process as possible. It’s not possible to be remote and aloof completely, but it is possible to reduce the barriers between yourself and other people by giving them a reason to think they can trust you with the truth as they best know it. Sure, mugging and clowning have their place, and you can usually tell when it’s effective for the context, or you should stop using it for awhile until you can learn better. But most of the time, just pay attention and see what comes next.
Yeah, I admit it helps a lot that I’ve already seen lots of things that make most people vomit. But I’m not hardened; I still get tears in my eyes when I see people suffering. It’s just that there is a time and place, and the context is not all that hard to discern much of the time. Most people who have needed some advice were often completely mistaken about what mattered, and my aplomb often gave them time to explore the thing. You’d be amazed how many people figure things out for themselves when they realize someone else wants to hear about it.
It’s a precious gift we give to the world when we offer aplomb.