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Gloom, Doom and Boomer

There’s an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal called The Boomer Bust by writer extraordinaire P. J. O’Rourke. In his essay, O’Rourke cedes that Baby Boomers are “greedy” for money. Coincidentally, O’Rourke is hawking a book, this column being an adaptation from said new release, The Baby Boom:  How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)

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Now, as a Baby Boomer, I’m always interested in the subject − which I suppose O’Rourke would consider completely apropos, given our generation’s propensity to believe everything is about usit is, isn’t it? A Boomer’s world is the ubiquitous, irrepressible … me, myself and I … self.

Masterful wordsmith that he is, O’Rourke has captured the essence, warts and all (for they are legion) of Baby Boomery. I have to confess, his description depressed me − because there was no way to deny how reasonable his assessment is.

To be fair, O’Rourke’s column wasn’t the first thing to spark my near-suicidal gloom. Having just read Tyler Durden’s Zero-Hedge post The Other America:  “Taxpayers Are the Fools … Working is Stupid,” I was already teetering on the ledge.

I should have taken a break, found a way to refocus and regain my perspective, but no, O’Rourke is so compelling! I came in off the ledge to devour his post, hoping for a few humorous Boomerisms to counter the aforementioned Durden’s Gloomerisms. 

Should’ve known better. Back on the ledge I climbed.

“The world is our fault,” O’Rourke says of Baby Boomers … and I visualize his long, bony finger pointing directly at me … because I know he’s telling the truth! I am beside myself in despair! In fact, he echoes Durden’s theme:  “… we’re the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one.” Aargh!

I won’t lie. I hated reading O’Rourke’s observations but who would dare argue with them? He writes:  “If we hadn’t decided to be young forever, we’d be old.” Boom!

We are old − no matter how hard we pretend otherwise. I’ve posted about aging before (here, here). Funny how it seems to be a common theme for me! When I read O’Rourke’s The Boomer Bust essay, I immediately thought about the sonnet shown below.

Aging-Well, aging, youth, twenty-one, 21, wrinkles, implants, sonnet, poetry, poem

Sonnet: Aging Well

Those of us who are Baby Boomers thought we could change the world. (I’m guessing we haven’t been the only generation who embraced that slightly misguided but lofty goal, though we may have been the most shameless to do so.)

But I wonder … were we always too busy trying to change the world so that we forgot to cherish the small moments of truth, beauty and goodness that could have been ours to savor? That would be reason enough for despair.

A Tale of Two Lives

The Daily Mail headline was beyond disturbing!

Transsexual, 44, elects to die by euthanasia after botched sex-change operation turned him into a ‘monster’

This story appeared on the Daily Mail website back in the first part of October. When I first read it, I was shocked and saddened. (The MailOnline story also provided details about Belgian twins who have been euthanized. I’ll restrict my comments to the person referred to in the headline.)

Today, I happened to read additional details about this individual. What a tragic tale that made me grieve all the more! Born Nancy Verhelst, she grew up feeling terribly unloved. Indeed, the mother who wanted sons has freely admitted her daughter’s choice of lethal injection “… does not bother me. I feel no sorrow, no doubt or remorse.”

I am totally unable to fathom the detachment of this mother to her offspring!

Reading about Verhelst, I was reminded of another individual, one whose lot in life was certainly fraught with complexity. If ever an individual had the right to be bitter and disillusioned about the challenges and “unbearable suffering” (as the doctor in Verhelst’s case referenced) such as he knew firsthand, it would be Nick Vujicic. But this young man has tackled life from a totally different perspective. Also, check his other website, Life Without Limbs.

Every time I’ve watched this video, I can’t help but be amazed at the positive outlook Vujicic models! Whatever my complaints, I realize how insignificant they are compared to Mr. Vujicic’s daily battles!

I will leave it to other commentators to wax eloquent on the wisdom of sex-change operations. Clearly, in Verhelst’s case, the anguish she experienced as a woman only compounded following her surgical procedures. But I believe Verhelst’s death was unnecessary and tragic! The doctors who performed anatomical changes failed to minister to her emotional/psychological distress.

I will be less reticent about the movement toward euthanasia in Belgium and elsewhere. No matter how benign we dress it up, no matter how we cloak it as just one more life-choice, I believe it’s barbaric and a short path to worse evil. I shudder to imagine the world we’re leaving our grandchildren.

The Proverbs 31 Model

Today in Arky-Barky land, the second day of a two-day event occupies my younger daughter’s attention. (The grandchildren and her sweet husband have slipped away on a day-trip visit to see the other grandparents.) My daughter is occupied with the NWA Boutique Show, an annual event where local merchants (and some from surrounding states) bring their best products hoping to appeal (i.e. sell) to early Christmas shoppers.

image337Yesterday, I took a quick spin through the convention center to see all the goodies on display. The parking lot (as always) was full! Inside the lobby entrance, my eyes lit upon beautifully decorated Christmas trees, artistic signage and enthusiastic young women gorgeously dressed and coifed. Transitioning to the convention hall, I had the sense of stepping into a glossy magazine with page after page exhibiting trends and elegant designs in fashion, home decor and dining fare.

I saw my younger daughter’s booth soon after entering. Cottage Colony products are a eclectic mix of large and small creations personally designed by my uber-talented daughter! The merchant booth itself (pictured below) reflects her flair for pulling together disparate objects in artful display such as I’d never be able to reproduce.7711_10151705006222096_458001789_n

Among her signature products, the red Collegiate Destination Blind shown at right (officially licensed for sale from the University of Arkansas) is a favorite for local communities and alumni seeking a unique way to express their school affiliations.

As with my daughter, the entrepreneurs at this boutique event embody what I consider to be a model of the Proverbs 31 woman. (I won’t reproduce the entire chapter in this post, but you can read it here for yourself.) Though I can’t speak for all the merchants in that convention center, I know several of these ladies and their entrepreneurial acumen is amazing.

It’s a daunting risk to mass-produce an item (or items) you like and your friends have admired or (in some cases) plunked down their cash to purchase. Feedback from friends usually indicates others might also like your product(s) enough to buy, but it’s a totally different undertaking to produce enough items to display at a show, not knowing whether the items will be sold or you’ll be piling much of it back into your car for the long trip home! (Of course, the “ideal” would be to sell everything you’ve brought and return home with a handful of custom orders! How often does that happen?)

Nevertheless, these boutique merchants open their two-day booths amid great expectations! (Will I garner enough sales to cover my expenses?) Some of them hope to earn enough during one two-day gathering so that they can depend on mail-order, online sales for the rest of the season (or year). Others know they’ll need to attend additional boutique events for the sales volume they’re hoping to achieve.

The Easy-to-Read (ERV) Version of Proverbs 31 calls this model woman the “perfect wife” or “noble woman” whose value is “far more than jewels.” The women in this boutique event work to create and innovate. They exemplify the Proverbs 31 model; she “… makes her own thread and weaves her own cloth …” (vs. 19), she “makes clothes and belts and sells them to the merchants …” (vs 24). Women like her (from all over the world) labor for their families and their communities, making the world and their lives better places to live, work and play.

Verse 31 of this chapter says, “praise her in public for what she has done.” I do.

Afternote:  I also am a Proverbs 31 woman! Verse 14b says “… she brings home food from everywhere.” My husband can confirm I’ve sufficiently mastered that quality!

Failure No Longer An Option

It’s been a long time since I sat in the bleachers watching one or another of my children playing sports. At various times, we were spectators for t-ball, soccer, softball, little league baseball, Kiwanis Kids Day football, junior high basketball and football, and senior high basketball and football.

I feel like I’ve probably left something out but you get the idea. With four children in athletics, there were times we (two parents) needed to be in three different places to attend concurrent events! It was a challenge.

However, only this week did I realize how radically different children’s sports has changed … I knew just how different when I saw this video relating the details of “Silent Saturday.” (I’ll let you make up your own mind about whether you think this is a positive transformation or not.)

Do a Google search and you’ll get results of numerous soccer associations experimenting with this notion of “Silent Saturday.” Their claims are noble − purporting to champion the needs of vulnerable children and prevent [screaming] adults from “invading the children’s playtime.”

For me, “Silent Saturday” is simply one more indication some children are introduced to sports far too early. One of the measures, it seems to me, for gauging a child’s readiness for sports is his/her ability to hone better listening skills (i.e. pay attention to coach, filter out other distracting voices).

As a parent on the sidelines, I observed that most grade-school children who participate in sports just want to have fun! To that extent, it is indeed the “children’s playtime.” Children definitely love to run, to chase a ball, to do the running and chasing in the company of other kids their age. But by the time they enter sports, they’ve already begun to understand the significance of cheers (and boos), of wins and losses, of excellence in performance and the mediocrity of lax performance. They may be playing, but they’re playing for keeps on some level.

Still, as long as parents encourage and permit their kids to enjoy the fun, undue pressure to perform at a high level can be minimized (except perhaps for the few who seem to feed on sports because of their intense competitive drive).

The sports skills children learn (at this young age anyway) are often incidental to the camaraderie and teamwork that takes place on the field/court/diamond, etc. In fact, I’ve known some children who learned the camaraderie and teamwork well without ever actually mastering the sports skills.

Why? May I suggest it was due to their personalities. For some, the sports were only an avenue for social interaction (and possibly because mom or dad wanted the kid to participate).

But even the children who don’t really care about the sport and aren’t naturally gifted athletes do have their ears tuned to their parents’ voices. Why shut down that parent-child communication? Children thrive on the feedback and they long to hear their parents praise them! I shudder to imagine the child who believes he/she has performed a “great” move but mom/dad can’t offer the immediate affirmation and praise they hope to receive! What’s next? A star on the pillow from the tooth fairy? A non-committal thumbs-up for A’s on the report card?

How does a child’s maturity most likely flourish? From the artificial imposition of “Silent Saturday” or from experience (whether win or lose) where the child internalizes natural feedback that can help him/her become a better player and/or a more understanding (wiser) human being?

Children who engage in sports require maturity, but their engagement also encourages added maturity. They learn to deal positively with affliction (sustaining losses, being a benchwarmer instead of top-dog, accepting legitimate criticism sans tears, etc.)

Sanitizing sports events by inflicting children (and parents, onlookers) with “Silent Saturday” is a sure way to squash any interest in competitive activities that move these kids away from the inactivity of computers and video games. The social engineers try to encourage children in physical activity (to prevent obesity) but then spoil the sports activities by pressing a competition-is-bad mumbo jumbo agenda!

I’m betting the kids would prefer less interference, more working-it-out amongst themselves, and a generous portion of normal free play.

The Rant

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… I’m tired.

… Scratch that. I am sick to death!

… I’ve had it up to here! (See Squidward’s hand? Mine is way higher than his head.) My patience is utterly sapped by the current cultural disposition that demands an unrelenting, dictatorial homogeneity of thought disguised in the garb of all-inclusive diversity! No divergence of opinion, no allowance for ideas that fail to toe an invisible line some unknown autocrat has drawn … for our own good, of course.

Day after day, rappers and celebrities heedlessly employ the term ni**er in their music and discourse, sometimes humorously, other times hatefully … and always with casual disregard. Yet esteemed writers like Mark Twain have been censured and deprived of their historic respectability in the literary canon for daring to have written works that express the everyday conversations of their time!

And speaking of language, I want it back! I hate that a word like niggardly has been tainted by someone’s misguided belief the word is an extension of the previously mentioned epithet.

… I’m angry there are “scholars” today who condemn C. S. Lewis, accusing him of veiled sexism in his portrayal of fictional female characters! How could he possibly have imagined such an idiomatic and ideological shift would so sever his world from ours?!

… I’ve had my fill of people who cry “racist” when legitimate criticism is directed at a US President who happens to be half-black. Okay, some people who hold opinions about our Commander in Chief might just be racist … but maybe they’re anti-white. (Conceding the man is half-black, doesn’t that also mean he’s half-white?)

… I’m done − I say, D-O-N-E-! − with know-nothings who presume to dictate which objects / topics / associations /relationships / clubs / etc. should be subject to micro-analysis for potential charges of racism / sexism / homophobia / heterophobia / jingoism or any other “no-no” based solely on someone’s contrived standard that presupposes their moral high ground, their hyper-sensitive intuition and their discernment. (Their attitude about your thoughts to the contrary are irrelevant and unwelcome, by the way!)

… I am especially exasperated with overindulged, politically-correct busybody trolls on the internet whose self-appointed mission is to act as doorkeepers and arbiters of right and wrong (as defined by them). Anxiously trolling electronic media, they pick fights with any writer who fails to adopt their oh-so-enlightened views of the world.

Yes, I am a knuckle-dragging neanderthal so I’ll never view the world through some troll’s warped lens. Certainly, I agree slavery was evil and continues to be an evil that unfortunately still exists today. But the so-called “systematic victimization and oppression” committed in the past … is past. Let it go! Learn from the past and refuse to slavishly perpetuate this tiresome victim narrative!

I find it tedious when people still insist today that Thomas Jefferson (or any other historic figure from that era) should be denigrated for owning slaves and/or having conjugal relations with slave women. Though in all times and all places, multitudes of powerful people have treated others despicably, the troll’s broad brush of disparagement blackens all figures from that time, not just the evil ones.

Sin is part of the human condition. Hearts are wicked and the base instinct of rule or be ruled will prevail. The powerful have never been shy about wielding the sword to their advantage. (Is it any different today? I don’t think so.)

… I am weary to the bone − yes, yes, yes! − with shameless academics who shirk their responsibility of imparting critical core knowledge to their students, preferring instead to indoctrinate students with a peculiar brand of deconstructive psychobabble that renders said students into useful idiot-hood.

Assuming every element and symbol of American thought is once and for all reduced and stripped of its “hierarchical,” “colonialist,” “patriarchal” (and other objectionable) constructs, what then? Do we gain nirvana or just end up as a mass of individuated ignoramuses? Instead of being propagandized, wouldn’t students be better served by learning how to think clearly and to develop lifelong problem-solving skills?

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’ve described this as a rant and it is. But none of what I’ve said is meant to be malicious or hateful. That’s not who I am. If you consider my rant oozes with “intolerance,” I welcome your views. But be forewarned. “Tolerance” usually receives short shrift in my book. Why shut down the marketplace of ideas in favor of aberrance?

[On the other hand, if a troll reader is determined to deconstruct my rant and delve into my deepest “issues,” I trust I’ve provided sufficient material for the endeavor.]

Am I the only one ready to push back against a prevailing ideology that no longer makes sense? If my observations provoke similar thoughts for you, then this was a rant worth having. Glad I got that off my chest!

A Crisis of Faith

In last Thursday’s post, Ever Been to Nando’s, I talked about the refreshingly honest portrayal of Rev. Adam Smallbone’s crisis of faith. A Google search for the term crisis of faith results in a predictably large number of hits, including articles that explore Mother Teresa and John F. Kennedy, both of whom experienced this phenomenon.

In its brief article, Wikipedia explains:  Crisis of faith is a term commonly applied, especially in Western culture, to periods of intense doubt and internal conflict about one’s preconceived beliefs or life decisions.

The most striking phrase in this description − at least for me − is especially in Western culture.” Really? As with the concept of happiness probed in my earlier series of posts, is the concept of a crisis of faith just another cultural creation?

In matters of faith, it seems to me that whatever the culture, doubt inevitably arises. Whether Westerner or not, the one who hasn’t experienced doubt hasn’t actually comprehended faith. A quote attributed to Salman Rushdie says:  “… faith without doubt is addiction.”

Indeed. The beautiful woman doubts her beauty. The truly wise man must occasionally doubt the trustworthiness of some aspect of his knowledge. The athlete confronts doubt (am I good enough to win today?) before every competition. Why should it be any different for a believer to question or doubt the foundations for his/her faith?

Granted, a crisis of faith distinguishes a deeper, more serious affliction from simple, garden-variety doubt. David, King of Israel, wrote many of the Psalms. Some of his Psalms seek help or comfort in times of trouble but others reflect David’s shuddering despair in the midst of serious crisis.

To me, the first half of Psalm 28 reads as a straightforward plea to God for help, and the second half praises the Lord for heeding David’s entreaty. Still, verse one (with a universality that could make it anyone’s prayer) contains a sense of desperation in it:  God, don’t be deaf to me! Don’t be silent!

As I was writing last week about Adam Smallbone’s struggles, I was reminded of the following sonnet written long ago. The poem speaks of a crisis of faith moment in my life, a time when it seemed God was deaf.

Down-To-The-Pit, Psalm 28:1, despair, longing, where is god, crippling pain, silence, knowing god, sonnet, poem

Sonnet: Down To The Pit

For one whose faith is more than addiction, Isaiah 48:10 (ESV) describes being tried/tested “in the furnace of affliction.” On the other side of that affliction, David the psalmist reminds us in the final verses of Psalm 28 (verses 7a, 8b, NIV) that God is “my strength,” “my shield,” “a fortress of salvation for His anointed one.”

Such promises don’t avert a crisis of faith, but they do provide welcome comfort as we stumble through the furnace.

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