Monday, January 30, 2012

We can escape our programming.

It would have been easy for me to have ended up in prison or maybe even dead at a young age. From an early point in my life I was headed down the path of might makes right in my understanding of how the world works. The examples I saw of how the people closet to me dealt with life only seemed to bear this out. My father was a hard man who was raised by an even harder man. My grandfather’s outlook on rising children was based solely on discipline. As a result of his attitude my father basically believed that the strongest person was always the right person. 

One of my earliest experiences with the concept that physical prowess was the answer to any conflict was when I was 7. I had come home crying because some bullies had knocked the books out of my hands and pushed me down on my way home from school. My father was home and asked me what happened. When I told him about the bullies he decided to take me in the garage and "teach" me how to fight by basically smacking the crap out of me. When he had finished “teaching me”, he said “If you ever come home again crying I will give you a lot worse.”

I am sure that this attitude that I eventually adopted in self defense was responsible for me getting suspended from school for fighting a number of times before I graduated. What sticks in my mind is that my father never said a negative thing about being suspended, except for one occasion. I had gotten into a fight and almost broken the nose of the Sheriff's son. All my father said was "I understand that you have to defend yourself, but the next time, can you make sure it is not the kid of someone who can cause us problems!”

Before I came to see where I was headed, I could have gone a direction that might have ended up in disaster. I had accepted the programming I was exposed to and didn't understand that the direction I had taken in life was really not my choice and thereby not something I had to accept. You have to recognize that you are responsible for your own life and do not need to follow any programming, either intentional or accidental, that you might have been exposed to. The problem is you also have to be totally honest with yourself and look closely at your attitudes in life. That is not something most people are willing to do because it can challenge who you think you are. But if you really want to be confident and comfortable with yourself it's the only way to change your programming and be who you really want to be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some reputations are not earned but created.

I was reminded by a friend recently that a reputation is not always something we honestly earn or even actually try to achieve. It can instead develop as a response to perceptions people may get from things they have heard others say and not actually from things they have witnessed for themselves. It's a lot like the game called "Telephone" where people pass something they are told on to others down the line. By the time it gets to the end person what was passed on has usually changed drastically.

I once got into a physical altercation for which I have no idea why it started. It happened in a hamburger joint parking lot of  the city where I graduated from high school. I had been taking Karate classes at the time and word spread that I used my Karate training to defeat three guys at the same time by myself. The truth was a guy who had been drinking a lot was standing with two friends in the parking lot when for some unknown reason he took a swing at me with his fist as I walked by their car. I got lucky by using my forearm to glance off his attempt and instead grabbed him and sat him on the ground, which wasn't that hard to do in his condition. His two friends, not being as tipped, just got him up from where he was sitting and helped him back into their car.

Even though I did go on to study Karate for several more years and earned my belt, with the exception of sparing matches in class, I don't recall ever having used Karate to defeat anyone, defend myself, or defend anyone else for that matter. In some cases a reputation is just a colony of artists painting the picture of a reality that they may believe to be greater than one they can achieve for themselves. When this happens it is usually not something that is available to them in their own life so they embellish on the picture. But the real point is after all, it's not about who other people believe you are, it's about who you believe you are!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some lessons come late and have to be repeated!

I was in my 30's before I realized that life wasn't like I thought it should be and people didn't treat others like I thought they should. But it wasn't until I was in my 40's before I actually accepted those facts and realized I couldn't change others, but could only change myself and do the best I could to show kindness toward others.

I also realized later in life that most people only care about themselves unless you provide them with something they want either emotionally, financially, or physically, and then they only care as long as it fits their needs. Very few people will care about you because of who you are rather then what you can do for them. I realized at that time that you can not count on most people when you need them, most people will only be available when they need you. That's when I began paying more attention to people's actions rather then what they tell you about themselves.

Another thing I have learned is a person's perspective only changes when they allow themselves to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Unless we are open and willing to grow, we stay the same all our life and never become anything more, wasting all the potential we had to make a positive contribution to anyone, including ourselves.

Finally, I came to realize late in life that when you don't pay attention to the signs and messages you are being given to help guide you to a better life, you miss out on fantastic opportunities, and will always look back in regret once you realize what you have missed. Along with that realization came the painful reality that you will have to repeat some lessons over when you don't learn them correctly the first time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What I call "Gutter Lauguage" ...

While buying lunch today I was standing in line behind two men and overheard them talking. While I do not make it a habit of listening in on what people around me are saying, I couldn't help hearing their conversation since they were talking rather loudly and standing about a foot in front of me. I might expect some people to curse a lot while at home or out of ear shot of others, but I was surprised to hear the two of them cursing so much and doing it so loudly that I believe practically everyone in the place could hear them.

While I personally try not to use curse words, I do not get offended if another person does. However in this situation, I believe that continued cursing and dropping the F-bomb every third word is out of line. When I looked around I noticed that there were parents in the seating area with young children, and several elderly couples, as well as probably others within hearing range who actually might have been offended by their language. It appeared to me that they had total disregard for anyone who could hear them, and they really didn't care who might be offended.

This reminded me of something my mother used to say: "When you use foul language all the time it appears to others that you are not intelligent enough to have acquired a good vocabulary and express yourself properly". While I am not saying that I assume these two men were lacking in intelligence, I am saying that constant cursing in a general conversation does tend to make a person sound less intelligent. I suppose that sounding intelligent really doesn't matter to some people, but for most of us, I believe we would like to appear as if we have some brains in our noggin and not just an empty shell sitting on our shoulders. I believe when we refrain from peppering our everyday conversations with vulgarity and cursing, and instead choose more appropriate and descriptive words from the vast reservoir of the English language, it appears to others that we express our thoughts much more intelligently.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why does Dave Dilley have a Blog?

Someone asked me the other day why I have a Blog I call "The Everyday American" when I look like a hippie and why I post links to it's articles on Facebook instead of just posting my comments directly on the Facebook news feed. First let me say that even though I look the way I do and hold some rather liberal points of view, I still consider myself to be an "Everyday American". I work every day, I pay taxes every day, I live everyday in American, so I believe I AM an "Everyday American". Second, many of the things I post on my Blog are rather involved and may be considered somewhat long for a Facebook wall post.

But the primary reason I have a blog that I post articles to Facebook from is because I want to make sure I am not filling up the news feed with long drawn out comments that maybe only 5 or 10 people are interested in. By putting my comments in a blog, and then posting a blog subject link on Facebook, people can choose whether they want to read my personal rantings or not and they can reply with a comment in the Blog if they want rather than on Facebook limiting the amount of comment traffic my friends need to sort through to find something that interests them. I believe it is a matter of politeness that I want to maintain ... and I don't want to have people saying: "When does he ever shut up? Now I have to sort through all of his crap to get to something I like". 

So the next time you see a link I posted to an article from "The Everyday American", it's just me making some comment on my Blog that I felt was either too long or too involved to gum up the entire Facebook news feed with.

What is Politically Correct?

For several decades now we have heard the words "politically correct" being used to describe an attitude that we are told we should have about others that are different from us. The rules of PC deal with the socially acceptable things we are permitted to say about people with physical, ethnic, or personal lifestyles that are different than our own. The supposed purpose for this PC attitude is to prevent us from saying things that might offend others that do not share our own physical makeup, lifestyle, standards, or values. The problem is that when you setup rules about what people can say, you start down the path of censorship and begin to diminish the promise of free speech our constitution guarantees for all citizens.

I personally feel offended by hate speech. In my opinion it is heinous and leads to violent actions by those who engage in it. However, I am sure that in just about any conversation being spoken today there are things being said that could possible offend someone who is listening. The main premise of free speech is that it allows us to voice our opinions, even when they are not popular, without fear of retribution from the government or those who disagree. This brings me to my question: "What is politically correct?". Who sets the standards for what is and isn't PC? If I say that I don't like the Indian spice curry, and that offends a person from India who is listening, should my taste in spices be considered not PC? I believe there is a fine line between what we embrace as a personal opinion and what PC proponents consider offensive.

In the past we have always had a type of PC in our society that guides what people say to others, and it was called politeness. Common sense plays a big part and gives us direction in that area. Being polite and having good manners can go a long way to helping us not offend others if we are really concerned about it. What it appears to me is that PC is an attempt by certain parties to make politeness a law and not an attitude. The truth is YOU CANNOT legislate morality! All you can do is take a stand yourself and use politeness to color you conversation with others. By setting an example yourself, you may be able to show others how to be polite, but you can NEVER change people by trying to force them to be polite.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Amble on over here partner ...

A recent comment thread on Facebook motivated me to look closer at four words related to describing forms of walking. The four words are amble, mosey, saunter, and sashay. Having watched a lot of westerns growing up (my dad controlled the TV), I often heard phrases on those shows like "Mosey on up to the bar cowboy" or "Amble on over here partner". I decided to look them all up and I was surprised to find that although there were a few slight differences in their descriptions among the various sources I used, basically all four have pretty specific definitions. Here's what I found:

Amble - To walk slowly or leisurely
Mosey - To wander or shuffle casually
Saunter - To walk relaxed, without hurry or effort, in an idle manner
Sashay - To walk in an ostentatious yet casual manner, typically with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders.

So an amble is slow and easy, a mosey involves wandering or shuffling,
a saunter is idled or relaxed and unhurried, and a sashay ... well as a friend put it: "May West had a pretty good sashay!"

Should a politician's faith be considered when voting?

In a recent news article it was revealed that a group of over 150 influential conservative evangelical christian leaders have decided to throw their support behind Rick Santorum for president, primarily because he has declared himself to be a evangelical Christian politician. It made me think about the part religion plays in the politics of our leaders these days when making decision that effect us all. I suppose it has always been on the mind of the American public, from the time questions were raised about John Kennedy being a Catholic and whether our country would be run by the Pope if he were elected. What concerns me is that just because a person claims to be an evangelical Christian, does it also mean they are a good leader or have good ideas that will benefit everyone? I am not sure that holding the label of evangelical Christian really qualifies you for public office unless your political record shows that you are doing a good job where you are now. I could say the same for almost any faith. If a person holds values that are a higher standard than others, then they are expected to have a higher moral life and set an example for others.

The problem is that no one is perfect. We have seen top evangelical leaders drop to great lows and commit wrong deeds that even most athiest people would refrain from. We have experienced the fall of many christian leaders and lay people simply because they are people and not gods. People make mistakes, that is a natural fact of human life. As a result we should never place a person on a certain level of acceptability just because they claim to be of one faith or another. Faith is a personal thing that each person has to deal with on their own. What "We the People" have to deal with are the decisions politicians make that affect us when we vote them into office. It is our responsibility to make sure we are voting for the people who will serve us the best and not just those who claim to be of one faith or another. Before you go to the polls this fall, do your homework. If a candidate has shown that they can be trusted and are doing their best to serve the people they represent then cast your vote for them. As it says: "By their works you shall know them".


Friday, January 13, 2012

Can Science Be Trusted?

I am just about as tech connected as most people, and maybe more than others. I have always embraced new technologies and have usually been one of the first of my friends and family to experiment with new gadgets. In the past I have sort of trusted technology to provide me with the advantages of an organized life and have leaned heavily on technological advances to help make my life more consistent and easier to navigate.

During a recent trip to purchase repair materials for a job, I realized that I was beginning to become way too reliant on technology for the simple act of mental calculations. I was attempting to determine how many 10 foot 2X4s I would need to buy in order to cover the specific distance I needed to make the repairs. Instead of mentally dividing the total number of feet I needed by 10, I pulled out my phone and started to open the calculator. I realized that I had succumbed to a form of automatic behavior brought on by habit. Then I thought: “What if I wanted 8 foot 2X4s instead, how many would that be?" I found that I could also quickly calculate the required number in my head. This situation lead me to consider how dependent I have become on technology to lead the way in life instead on relying the things I have learned and experienced for myself.

It also made me think about science through the ages and how much has changed since the apple fell on Newton’s head. We have gone from a flat earth that everything revolves around it, to looking for a Higgs Bosom in sub-atomic particles.  Standard physics couldn’t explain sub-atomic reactions so we came up with quantum physics.  Now we realize that quantum physics also breaks down when you begin to consider the mathematics of a black hole and the singularity that is said to be residing at its center.  I am not sure there will ever be an end to new discoveries that append to or even negate the current “laws” of physics.

So what’s my point? I guess all I am saying is that when we rely on material technologies that can break down, we leave ourselves open to loosing our ability to do simple mental tasks that are necessary to survive in this world. There is a story I read in early college that really sums up the point I am making pretty well. It is called “The Feeling of power” by Isaac Asimov. It tells of a future time when the two last countries on earth are engaged in a war that neither can win because the conflict is controlled by computers. By virtue of their ability to calculate quickly, the two computers are unable to outsmart each other. The unforeseen consequence of this is that the war has continued for years without any resolution while taking more and more of the two countries resources. While most citizens believe rumors that the government is testing children for intelligence and taking the dumb ones from their parents, the truth is they are really looking for the ones that can think and do calculations in their head. The government plans to use young people who can think and do math in their head to spearhead the attacks on the other country because they believe it is the only way they can defeat the enemy’s smart computer that is in a stalemate with their own. Makes you think huh? … and it was written back in 1958!