Wednesday, August 27, 2008

85% Chance of Fogginess

We had a primary election last week and it seems that only 15% of our local population showed up to the poles to vote. That means 85% of the people who are eligible to vote decided to stay home, or to ignore the advertisements, or to simply thumb their nose at the process in protest. 85% chose to withdraw.

If that percentage held true throughout all of the US that means of the 300 million people we have only 45 million voted last week. For the season finale of American Idol there were over 65 million votes. Even America’s Got Talent and So you think you can Dance got more votes than did those in our primary. Now before you think this column is about complacency let me change tack here.

Alexis de Tocqueville told us in “Democracy in America” way back in the 1800’s that one of the dangers of democracy is “the tendency, when there is equality in conditions, is to withdraw.” In the Philosophical world when two philosophies to battle with each other and neither is a clear winner the tendency of the populace is to enter into a “so what?” kind of malaise. In the religious world Christianity thrives under persecution but when there is total freedom of religion the tendency is to become complacent and non-committal.

With five older brothers I learned to play baseball and basketball with kids who were years older than me. When it came to going to school and playing with kids my age it was a piece of cake, yet when I did my game suffered. I wasn’t challenged, I wasn’t growing, I was simply getting complacent and lazy.

As a compliment I think Americans are predominantly over-achievers. But we are over-achievers who have gotten everything too easily so we have become withdrawn, complacent, lazy and in some kind of foggy malaise. 9/11 shocked us out of this for about a year and then was gone. Katrina shocked us again for about 6 months and then was gone. Our politicians can’t win right now because they are simply trying to appeal to these over-achievers who are stuck in this fog.
It is time for a politician to take a stand, to have a backbone that is not bent by the latest wind but by some kind of conviction that is radical and earthshaking enough for us to push through the fog and vote. EVEN IF IT IS THE WRONG STAND TO TAKE! Did you hear me on that last one? Let me say it again: EVEN IF IT IS THE WRONG STAND TO TAKE! Because if you stand on something with backbone and strength it will cause me to take a stand against it with backbone enough to match yours; which would cause you to stand up again to defend and promote it; which would cause me to make my point clearer and more appealing, and so on, and so on. Cut the clich├ęs, dump the doubletalk and speak clearly and concisely and STRONGLY for or against something. You will turn some people off, turn some people on but most of all you will help ALL out of our 85% chance of fogginess.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Knife

I submitted myself to the knife again this past week. It was a simple outpatient surgery that knocked a few days out of my schedule. It is more of an inconvenience than anything else. I always struggle with the balance of putting up with the pain or putting up with the inconvenience of taking care of the pain. A little less than a year ago I put up with the pain after a softball injury left me with a swelled foot and pain for a few weeks. Most of the pain went away but a nagging nob of some kind never really did. It felt like I was constantly walking on a stone. I would wear good shoes and the pain would not show up until later in the day but barefooted (which is my normal summer state) was painful quickly and I grew to walking on the side of my foot instead of putting all the weight on the ball of my foot.

Enough was enough and it was time to have a professional check it out. After a series of x-rays and an MRI I found my bones were broken way back when and they had healed wrong. So I was walking on the wrong part of my bones and it was pressing on the wrong muscles and doing all kinds of other wrong stuff. Next step: surgery; or just shut up about it and deal with it. I had dealt with it for almost a year so now was the time for the knife to take care of it.

The knife. It is a useful tool and a destructive one. I have had many knife slips in my time; cutting me in places I was not supposed to be cut in. You could spread butter with a knife, slice your T-bone or use it to kill someone. What normally would be destructive: cutting into my skin, was now useful and necessary. I had to trust the guy behind the knife (that was after I had to sign a million consent forms and liability forms) I had to trust that guy could heal with that knife and not cause more destruction. We joked and laughed together before the surgery as he wrote “THIS ONE” on my foot with a Sharpie.

Now it is done and I am left with the healing pain after. Was it worth it? Time will tell but I am reminded of another knife that cuts both ways. This knife can be much sharper than any surgical instrument for good and healing but also can be as destructive as a Rambo knife when used wrongly. Only a few days before while in the waiting room I watched a mother’s interaction with her child. The child was being a child and running the room impatiently until finally the mother had enough and began yelling. “You get your little butt over here now or I will give you back to you father!” The pain in the child’s eyes was evident and the knife sliced.
My foot will heal but that child’s heart has a wound that will take more than time to heal. Watch out for how you use your knife for it is as sharp as a double-edged sword.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Profundity of Staples

One of the reasons for this column, for good or ill, is that it gives me a chance to remove some of the post-it notes that are sticking to the inside of my skull. After a while they start piling up and simply need to be put on paper.

I used the last row of staples out of an old box today and I had to go to Office Max to buy another NEW box. Stop and think a minute. How many of you have actually gone through a complete box of staples? Most of the time you lose the box and have to get another one and then you lose that one before it is totally used up. Seriously, how many times have you scoured every junk drawer in the house for that box of staples you just bought? Other times you drop the box on the floor and all those nice neat rows of staples are busted into 5000 individual staples to be swept up and put into the garbage. I repeat; I used the last row of staples in a dusty old box today. I have a certain Monk-like pride in that. All is right with the world.

I can remember that box being available when the kids needed to staple a report for school or when my wife needed it for her church activities and I would find that box sitting on a table next to my borrowed stapler. I would try to keep my cool as I, through gritted teeth, reminded my wife and kids to put it back when they are done because it will get lost if they don’t. Just like their own stapler and box of staples that I bought for them a month ago that now is lost somewhere in the house. I repeat; I used the last row of staples today!

I can compare this to the odometer on my truck which turned 100000 last year. It is such a great number, all zeros. I stopped on the side of the road to just take it in as it happened. I searched for people to pull over and show it to but found none. So I called my wife and explained it as the phenomenal occurrence it was but I don’t think I got it through to her for some reason. It is almost the equivalent of an eclipse or visible comet with it’s rarity, but she didn’t quite grasp it and simple said “okay” and hung up.

My kids now get a kick out of taking one thing off my desk and causing me to go nuts trying to work while it is missing. I worry it might not get put back where it is supposed to be and I really can’t work well until it’s done. They laugh as I try to work because to me it is like trying to type without one of my fingers, or with 20 people in my room talking loud and distracting me. Without a place for everything and everything in it’s place I find the world slightly kittywampus.
I used the last row of staples today. My two hole punches and stapler are in place along with the tape, paper clips, scissors, extra pens, stamps, batteries and, yes, even post-it notes. All is right with the world and my efficiency is through the roof! I find profundity in staples, you may not, but my application to you would be simply this: find your groove.