Monday, June 13, 2022

Who cares what old people think?

Do young people want advice from old people? 

When I was in my early 20s I don't recall seeking out much advice from my elders. Maybe I would ask about how get a car loan or stop a home invasion of ants. But I thought I had my life's direction in hand. OK, I did ask my parents for input before I proposed to Lisa. But that's all I can think of. Now I respected my elders, but times had changed, and they didn't "get" modern life. Or so I thought. (Mom, I'm just trying to make a point. I'm sure I listened to you and Dad more than that...)

We Baby Boomers felt pretty self-sufficient. So if young people today don't care what we elders think, that's nothing new. Well, it's kind of new. We have heard about old days when young people went to elders for advice. Just watch "Waltons" reruns. Back in the 1930s those kids would really listen to Grandma and Grandpa.

In other cultures around the world, all generations seek out the wisdom of the aged. How come we modern Americans don't care?

Here's one idea, from a Christian perspective.

The Bible is ancient meditation literature. It is designed to be pondered. We Americans just want the facts. Spell it out for me. Just say what you mean. The Bible doesn't do that. To get what the Bible says, you have to keep reading it, comparing passages with similar vocabulary and circumstances. It's like reading The Lord of the Rings; there are details and connections that go right over your head unless you reread, stop and think.

Have you ever thought that Jesus spoke in riddles? That's because he did. He wants you to ponder his words. When people faulted him for hanging around low-life people, he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"  (Mark 2:17). You've got to process that one. In fact, all of the Bible makes you think. Why did God accept Abel's offering, but not Cain's? We can only speculate. And we should speculate. God wants us to think about these things.

The Bible is such a vast, rich source of these riddles, we can spend a lifetime pondering them. Scripture is not intended just to pass along information. It is intended to lead us toward understanding through reflection. When someone has spent a lifetime meditating and pondering the scriptures, he or she gains great perspective and wisdom. A dedicated reader knows that life is full of nuance. There is so much to consider. Only after decades of living and struggling, failing and succeeding, reflecting on scripture, can someone have genuine wisdom. 

People who have soaked in truth for ages and spanned the range of human experience are worth listening to. 

Here's the point: We have not done enough truth soaking to get much wisdom. No wonder younger folks don't care what we think.

Yeah, I know I called myself an old person. I'll have to ponder the meaning of that.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Guns and Anger

There are lots of solutions to gun violence in America. 

Tougher background checks. Good guys with guns. Raising the age limit. Metal detectors. School resource officers. No high-capacity magazines. Gun registration. Allow more concealed carry. Allow less concealed carry.

We have no shortage of answers. People feel very passionate about the answers. People feel very passionate about disagreeing with the solutions offered by other people. 

And we all know who the "other people" are. They won't listen to reason. They are politically motivated. They take donations from the NRA. They take donations from George Soros. They only care about power. They want the state to have complete control of our lives. They only want criminals to have guns. They don't care about children being gunned down. They believe that crimes are committed by hunks of metal.

Mass shootings have become so common that we lose track. When will we see enough carnage to do something? In Uvalde, Texas the two funeral homes have scheduled out services for about two weeks. It takes a long time to bury 19 students and two teachers. The town will never be the same.

Some will leverage this display of grief to stir up anger against "them." If they would just wake up and do something, we could finally stop gun violence.

And that seems to be the state of discourse on gun violence. We need to get the other people to shut up and listen to our workable solutions. We are angry with them because they are standing in the way of ending this crisis once and for all. 

Anger abounds.

Let that sink in. Anger abounds. 

The solution to the problem is not to let one angry side prevail over the other angry side. That just breeds more anger. Many who passionately believe they have all the answers are really making the problem worse. 

Mass shootings are only part of the problem. Consider the wave of road rage, air rage, ballfield tantrums, school board showdowns. We have an angry society. And this seeps into the souls of young people and old people. Too often this anger becomes violence.

We can't legislate our way out of this societal mess. Some laws may help, but, frankly, I don't know which ones.

What will help is love. If we will work to find a loving response, even to that uniformed idiot who thinks he has all the answers, we may begin to see some change. It will take more than just a few self-righteous do-gooders writing blog posts. It will take more than posting memes on Facebook. It will take more than following anger-management practices.

We will need to care about people. We will need to care about our own families, our neighbors, our schools. We will need to care about poor people and justice for the disadvantaged. We will need to stop caring so much about being right. We will need to see people as those who are created in the image of God, people who matter to God, even if they have misguided ideas.

We will need to love angry people. Nothing disarms or redirects angry people more than love. Angry people expect anger in return. And when we respond with love, they have to recalibrate. They have to take a deep breath. 

You probably have some ideas about how to stop gun violence. Maybe you know of laws or policies that need to change. That's good. But make sure that you share your ideas with love. Because only love can bring an end to violence. Love the children. Love your neighbors. Love the unlovable. Love yourself. 

That all sounds utopian. But Jesus seemed to think it would work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Better than a Funeral

Funerals tend to be sad, of course. We miss the dearly departed, and feel the emptiness of the new holes in our lives. Many times I come to know the deceased better at a funeral, hearing all funny stories and reliving the poignant moments. We often wish that we had one more moment, one more conversation with the lost loved one. Something was left unsaid.

A couples of days ago my family presented me with 60 notes from 60 people in my tribe, a surprise in honor of my 60th birthday. At my daughter's clandestine request, my friends and family shared brief stories, impressions, and encouragements with me. She gathered and formatted these notes and presented the collection to me on Monday, appropriately on Memorial Day.

She noted that there are recurring themes shared by many of the contributors. This, she said, provided a sort of window into others' perception of me, and this birthday surprise allowed her to see me with a fresh perspective.

When my father died in 2001, I left his funeral pondering the many lives that my dad had touched, in ways that I never imagined. He was a cooler dude than I had known. Oh that I could have had one more conversation! I thought I knew him, but only at his funeral did I get a wider picture.

We rarely share the good things because, well, we take each other for granted. We rarely make time in our culture for good words. Eulogies ("good words"), are given almost exclusively at funerals, sometimes at retirement dinners or good-bye parties. We need to make more time for good words. Maybe funerals would be less sad if we made it a point to say the good things. Now.

That's why my birthday surprise was so meaningful. And my daughter had glimpse into her dad, while I'm still alive. 

That's better than a funeral.