The Pendulum Effect

Over a month ago, I announced my decision to leave Facebook. My decision was based on what I viewed as the debilitating impact it was having on my attitude toward other people. On February 15, 2017, I deactivated my Facebook account. My absence from that space has had a number of positive results for me — more time for other things, less judgmental thoughts about people posting inane political rants or cluelessly posting unsubstantiated information. I have missed the news about families, personal needs, children, and pets. In this few weeks of freedom from the daily Facebook routine, I have experienced a pendulum effect.

The pendulum was a remarkable breakthrough in technology in its day. A pendulum is a weight suspended on a rod or a line. When the weight is moved off center, the force of gravity causes it to move toward center. Because the force of gravity, the force that causes the weight to seek the center, is not strong enough to hold it there, the weight moves past center into the opposite direction. And the process is then repeated in reverse. If you have time on your hands, feel free to watch Mr. Science explain the pendulum effect.

In theory, if the pivot spot, the place where the rod or line is connected, is frictionless and the weight and the rod experience no resistance as they travel, this moving back and forth continues . . . forever. But there are outside forces that diminish the effect. Thus, with no additional assistance or boost, a pendulum set in motion will eventually swing back and forth until the resistance brings the weight to rest in the center.

The pendulum effect I have experienced was not theoretical. In my absence from Facebook, I left my judgmental ways and I experienced an extreme aversion to saying anything about, well, anything. But, then, my previous experience and other influences pulled me back toward center — and then back toward the desire to be excessively judgmental and vocal. I’ve been back and forth on this a number of times.

I’m beginning to feel that constant shifting in my intent fade as the forces of friction and the natural force of gravity — common sense and clarity — pull me to a place of equilibrium. I no longer fixate on a desire to judge others and to express my thoughts in a derisive tone. Yet, I find myself able, in this neutral place, to view what is happening around me and ask those questions that seek truth and understanding.

In other words, without being driven to be right, I am freed to calmly, rationally, and, to a great extent, joyfully explore the world around me. If you are feeling anxiety over events spinning around you, I’d urge you to set your pendulum in motion.

Liars’ Holiday

the problem with talking too much

It’s the holidays. I haven’t been to the office in over three days. I watched a couple of Christmas movies. I read my new book. And I spent an unbelievable amount of time catching up on the political scene. In fact, I spent over an hour yesterday morning just trying to grasp the enormity of “misinformation” that leaks out of people. I knew it was there, but I found myself intrigued by the liars’ indexes that have been gathered.

photo credit: The Telegraph

Much could be made of the fact that the worse offenders seemed to be gathered along one end of the political spectrum. But it’s shocking to see how much falsehood is thrust upon us by all of the candidates — and sitting officials.

Still, I wondered why some of these folks seemed to be so focused on falsity.

‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

I have settled on the idea that is attributed to Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And no, this is not an indictment of the female candidates for president. In fact, both appear in the middle of the list of fabricators. Instead, I’m thinking about the meaning attributed to that statement over the years.

We think of the statement using the modern definition of the word “protest” — a challenge, a defensive move. When Bill Shakespeare wrote, protest meant a vow or commitment. The Queen was saying that the lady in the play she was viewing was trying to promise too much. To which her son, Hamlet (the playwright), said, “Oh, but she’ll keep her word.”

As I reviewed the list of candidates, it occurred to me that placement on the liars’ scale could have a lot to do with promising too much. That’s a common malady of those who talk too much.

Now, for those of you who are offended by my analysis, I am truly sorry. But listen to those statements. Take a close look at the quotes that land these people on the liars’ list. In most cases, their statements would have been valid if they had just stopped early enough.

In the press to win, to overcome, and perhaps, even to lay waste to others, we all go beyond what we’ve thought through. Sometimes we’re lucky and we deliver on our promises. Sometimes, we “protest too much, methinks.”

A healthy pause can be a good thing. And listening to others during the pause could be, too.

Friends . . . Actually

Years ago, my decisions about who my friends were or were not were more simply made. I simply avoided you if you said or did things that I found disturbing.

You would think that the same principle would be involved in social media. I fully understand that it can be. I see posts all the time where people “unfriend” others and, if pushed hard enough, completely leave FaceBook or whatever their platform of choice is.

I’ve “unfriended” a few people in the past. To date, my standard has been to unfriend anyone who exhibits hate and discrimination in their personal posts. Oh, and anyone who has a fascination with the “F” bomb or taking God’s name in vain. (“OMG! Addicts,” you’re nearing the edge.)  I am “friends” with a wide array of individuals — many of them sensitive to such rubbish. Others are young and losing their innocence to what our greater society has begun to find acceptable. Enlightenment never looked so dark. I don’t choose for my internet spaces to be the place where they get further exposure to such things.

I am close to “unfriending” some others of you. You’re pushing the line by reposting things that you haven’t checked out and that are largely false or misleading. Just writing the word “Truth” by those posts doesn’t make them true. Others of you are posting things that do have truth at their base. However, by watching what you post day after day, I have to wonder if you choose to feature only stories that will escalate violence and hatred. If I unfriend you, it won’t be because of your view of what is right and wrong, but only because of the way your actions are perpetuating bad sentiment and behavior among others.

Because of my life experience, I have been honored to form friendships among diverse groups of people. Politically, racially, ethnically, spiritually. I have been stretched by that diversity and I am grateful. But lest you think that you are on the “right” side of my friend set and that you’re safe from the point I’m trying to make, I want to be clear that I’ve found people on both sides of the dividing line. The desire to incite negative outcomes seems to be an equal opportunity malady. I am not immune either.

I strongly believe that unfriending any of you (except for those who violate my standards about the personal bile and profanity) is not the best answer. No, I’m not keeping you on as friends because I think I can change you. I need my perspective to be broad. I need to have as friends those who think differently, see differently, and choose differently than I do. You make me uncomfortable sometimes. But that’s the point. I see goodness in you. And I hope you can look past my multitude of failings. Friends do that.

In fact, some of the discomfort you’ve blessed me with has caused me to pause and reconsider my position on some things. I’ve changed as a result. Thank you. Other things I don’t agree with have convinced me that I need to find ways to better understand you, because the ideas you are posting aren’t doing it.

My plea to you, my friend, is to be responsible. No matter how badly you see and know an injustice to be, remember that we, as God’s children, as peacemakers, are to be a peculiar people. Don’t escalate violence. Talk. Talk loudly if you must, but respectfully. March peacefully. Help bring change to this broken world. But please help stop this vicious cycle of retaliation and justification of the unholy — from both sides.

I say this as one friend to another.

Fooling the Camera

I just completed spending five full days with just over 50 people who, I’m certain, will be my lifelong friends. And, in the course of that 5 days, pictures were taken. Some formally and some — not so much. As I’ve seen these images emerge on various social media platforms, I’ve found myself wishing that there had been a little better angle on some of those that I’m in. If I had only known that the shutter was about to open, I would have invested a little more effort in fooling the camera.

Head and shoulders back. Stomach in. Genuine smile. Turn that best side toward the camera. Find a position where you look taller. All things that have been suggested to me through the years. And many more that come from my own personal review and reflection of pictures.

In my earlier years — we’re talking the decades up until last year — I really dreaded being in pictures at all. I dutifully relented when asked to pose because I recognized the need to memorialize a particular event or special occasion. But I never liked the way they turned out.

Even though I can still look at my personal photos with a critical eye, I’ve discovered a peace in viewing them. No, I don’t look any better. Yes, I could have straightened up or tucked in my shirt or found a way to escape the camera completely. But I’m okay with what I see. Embarrassed a little at times, but okay.

I think that comes from knowing that these tiny microsecond views of me are part of a larger image that others see all the time anyway. And, unless I become a hermit and live away from people, all of my angles will be on display at some time or another. So, while I wince when I see the thinning hair or the goofy expression, I’ve found a way to keep fooling the camera.

My concerns for my image fade when I spend more time trying to see others in their best light.

With friends and family like those in my pictures, that pose becomes both them and me.

The Keyhole

This early post from Distinct Impressions is a bit more cryptic than most of my work. I remember writing it, but I can’t for the life of me remember why I wrote it. I hope The Keyhole  speaks to you.

Photo Credit: Megathy on StockImagine

I have stared through the keyhole of the door to hell.

And, just as a frightened traveler might gingerly touch his hotel door to determine if there was fire on the other side, I have reached out to test the temperature of the portal leading to Purgatory.

Perhaps it’s a reaction born of curiosity.  Or maybe it’s because my human nature requires that I find absolute boundaries.  I guess that’s why I’m the first person at the table to touch the plate at the Mexican food restaurant.  Yes, I did hear our server say that the plates are hot.

The fascination with the forbidden can be addicting.  Good sense and rational thinking tells me to move away from the door.  Yet, I am drawn there to peer through that keyhole.

Do I love God any less because of this attraction?  No, I really don’t.

Do I feel separated from him when I stand at the door?  Yes, I really do.

So then, really, why do I choose to bend down and eavesdrop on Satan?  Why do I risk being swept inside should the door swing open suddenly?

Because I have not chosen to do otherwise.

It is a matter of choice.

It is a matter of choosing between a view of the world that is narrow and dark and painted with pain and suffering and a view of the universe that is wide and clear and where good glows so warmly that the shadows of evil pale.

How can I move away from the keyhole, its limited outlook, and its immediate proximity to doom?

By blocking the opening with the key that God gave me.  Jesus is not only my mediator and high priest with God, He is my shield and rescuer from evil and temptation.

And once the key is in place, I must allow Him to lock the door.  All of this time, I thought that the door and the keyhole was provided by Satan as an entry to hell.  On closer examination, I find that the door was of God’s craftsmanship and the keyhole is my heart.  God has given me the means and the strength to bind that awful door forever.

With my life thus secured, I can turn away from the keyhole to enjoy the panorama of beauty God has given.  Still, I do have one fear — that I will return to the door tomorrow to test the heat on the other side and perhaps to jiggle the key.

Dear God, give me strength.  And thanks for the key.