Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Laugh at Strip Clubs . . .

Last weekend I was reacquainted with the unpleasant truth that who you hang out with determines the quality of your life.

I blogged earlier about how a friend of mine won a drawing which enabled him to invite three friends to the Falcons/Eagles game in Atlanta.  The prize included airfare, the team hotel, a huge dinner, game shirts, access to the field - it is really pretty amazing how much we got out of the deal.

To make the weekend even more sweet, on Sunday we went to Martin Luther King's church "Ebenezer Baptist" and were really challenged by the message.  After church we decided to catch a Braves game while we were at it.  The way the Braves continue to struggle, it was easy picking up club-level seats for $10 a piece.  Just think of it!  We were going to a Major League Baseball game AND a National Football League game on the SAME DAY!

A few days ago I blogged about how that whole day was a series of amazing conversations that we had with a homeless man, an ex-convict and a group of demonstrators.  We were really living!  Walking 30 minutes to and from the Braves stadium we were lit up with discussion about all the things we were seeing and hearing.  We talked about everything from justice to racism.  It was fascinating what we were trying to figure out about life.

This is because the quality of your life will largely be determined by the quality of your friends . . .

We met two guys on this trip who were just as excited, just as fortunate and just as eager to get all they could out of the trip.  However, after dinner on Saturday night they decided to head out and have some fun of a different sort.  After some time at a bar north of Atlanta, the guys went to a strip club where the attraction was watching older ladies take off their clothes.  I couldn't tell if he was talking about old old or just older than him (he was 23).  But it was clear that they spent hours laughing at women disrobe because they were past their prime.

I know strip clubs have been a staple of men's entertainment for eons, but it made me feel ill to think of some lady getting laughed at.  Isn't that someone's mom?  And of course it was probably all in good fun, but what does that mean?  Is it possible that there are certain activities (like laughing at someone's nude body) that have no redemptive value?  In fact I might even go so far as to say it cheapens us as people when we take part in something like that.  Somehow we become less human when we treat others with no dignity.

And how stuck-up would it be for me to say that we had the better weekend just because we skipped a strip club and went to church?  Because it really isn't about the church and it really isn't about whether strip clubs are good or bad.  The real point here is how the kind of friends you have and the sort of influence that you put yourself under will determine the quality of life you have.

So people . . . please . . . stop going to strip clubs.  And if you must, do not laugh at them . . . it is rude.  Better yet, save your cash and give some to Michael who is probably still on Auburn Street asking for money.  Get your sleep and find some friends who will guide you to listening to people who are different than you rather than laughing at them.  Think of those people in your life who would challenge you up and start hanging out with them.

In the end, the quality of your life will match the quality of the people you hang out with.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Death Penalty Comes Close

Last weekend I had the most incredible experience.  I was invited by a friend of mine to join him and 2 others to go see a Philadelphia Eagles game in Atlanta.  He had won 4 all-expense-paid tickets to fly out of town, stay at the team hotel, have a huge dinner, go to the game, walk on the field, talk to the players and just all around have a great time for two days.  It was phenomenal.

I got to meet players, I got to get my pictures with people I really have enjoyed seeing on TV.  I got to go to an Atlanta Braves game too!  It was a once-in-a-lifetime type of weekend.

But these weren't the highlights.

The greatest part of the weekend was what I learned about justice.

You see, we went to MLK's church and heard a sermon about how the justice system in the United States is broken.  The minister talked about the life of Troy Davis - scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, September 21st 2011.  As I write another appeal has failed.  It was in some ways overwhelming to set among hundreds of people who look at the legal system and our justice system with such jadedness.  It was eye-opening how much a product of my context I am.

As we walked along on the street we met people demonstrating against the execution.  We asked them the history of the case and learned more about it.  Walking away a man named Michael shook his head and said, "they gonna let him burn." And so we asked him what he thought and he echoed the same sense of disappointment in the justice system.  It was his opinion that because he was black and because a policeman died they won't let him off.

Michael then went on to say how he is stigmatized because he was an ex-con.  Listening to him, the whole situation seemed hopeless.  It stirs something inside of you when you see a grown man realize that he will never get a fair chance because of the choices he has made in the past.

It gave our group a lot to talk about.  At one point I asked them if they thought the highest expression of being human was to establish justice or give mercy.  Imagine you knew that Troy was guilty . . . what would be the greatest act - to bring about justice?  Or to show mercy?  To execute and uphold the idea of law (which is extremely noble) or to pardon in hopes that his life could counteract what he did 20 years ago (equally as noble).

Is mercy naive?
Is justice another word for revenge?

It would be easy for me to argue for mercy, but how would I feel if the victim was my father?

It would be easy for me to argue for justice to be fulfilled, but what would I want if I was in that situation?

So many questions with no clear answers.  It was a weekend that the death penalty came close to home.  What would you want?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How the NFL may teach us more than just football . . .

So here is a fun little exercise:

Think of the NFL season that just started.  Tell me your memory of the NFL season for 2011.  Technically you can tell me about your memories of the season because it has started, but you can't really tell me about the season because it hasn't ended.  Weird, I know.  Read on.

This hit me when I was listening to Dan Patrick on Yahoo Sports Radio talk about who he thinks will win the superbowl this year (incidentally he thought it would be the Falcons over the Steelers).  This got me thinking of how crazy it is to reflect back on a season once it has ended.  What people think a season will be while it is still going on versus when it has completed are two different stories completely.  That is because something has to be completed for it to have been recalled or understood.

So I wondered if the same were true of time . . .

Is it possible to really know something before you have completed it?  Can you say that you like a dessert while it has just hit your tastebuds?  Or do you need the power of reflection in order to appreciate it - which incidentally happens after the food has gone down your throat.

So . . . and I know this is a stretch . . . but is it possible that life is the same way?  If all we have is this life to fully comprehend our lives, it is inconceivable.  Except for the fact that we have something beyond it from which we could appreciate it all.  If we only live once, how would we have the power of recall to fully grasp it?

Perhaps the second life that faith speaks of is the only way that appreciating this life is possible . . .

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What a flood of rain teaches

I wasn't a huge believer that the rain was going to be a huge deal in our area.  Afterall, it is rain.  Rain comes down, it collects in puddles and grows bigger.  If your house is near water, you better pack up the stuff in your basement and hope for the best.  Oh, and make sure you have flood insurance.

But I was wrong.  Water is a very sneaky thing.  It gets into the ground and you think it is gone . . . but it grows when it is fed by hours of rain.  The only thing I was thinking about last Wednesday was how much snow would be on the ground if it was February.

At about 9pm my son asked if I should check on the guitar amp we have in the basement.  I went down and saw a thin lip of water coming from one corner of the basement.  I got a little nervous and we began sucking up water any way that we could.  It kept coming.  It was evil.

It wasn't until my father-in-law came with a big sump pump and we broke the seal on our sump pit (thank you Mr. Radon installer for sealing our sump pit) that we saw the water go down.  I checked around the rest of the perimeter of the basement - small encroachments of water all around.

Lesson #1 - Water can come from the ground up.

Lesson #2  - I learned this a day later.  When said water comes up and gets some of your carpet, there is always more underneath than you think.

When I pulled back the carpet, it was scary to see what was going on underneath it all.  So yeah, we had a few days of fans and dehumidifiers and bleach going to stop the advance of public enemy no#2 - mold.

For me it was a creepy lesson on life.

1. Make sure you are prepared for the things that you can foresee.
2. Don't assume that because you have built your walls nice and high that the undesirable things of life can't get in another way.

and . . .

3.  Check under your rugs periodically to make sure that you aren't incubating more trouble.

Let's pray for a low humidity and breezy week . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Post Office and the Physics professor . . .

The post-office lost $11,000,000,000 last year.

They did not just misplace it - because 11 billion dollars doesn't fit in a shoebox too easily.  It wasn't PASSIVELY lost - it was ACTIVELY lost . . . as in $11,000,000,000 more was spent than was taken in.

Do you know how much 11 billion is?  11 billion seconds ago Jamestown was a major colony, the King James Bible was being assembled and the Mayflower hadn't landed yet.

If you spent $10,000 cash everyday, it would take you 3,000 years to approach $11,000,000,000.

Now this is no rant about politics - it is clear that stupidity is a human condition, not a political one.  But it is to raise the question . . . "if we are so smart and have all the answers to every question in this life and the one to come . . . how come we can't figure out something simple like keeping a post office afloat?"

I am dead serious.

If we are so ridiculously negligent in trying to figure out simple things here on this planet, why would we even trust for a moment that some guy with a Ph. D in physics knows there is no God.  I mean really, something as simple as "don't pay out more than you have" seems self-evident . . . but then again, so does the existence of a great designer of all that we see.  But I think we missed on that too . . .

So if your trust is in human wisdom and human-centered reason, just take a look at the post office.  It's a mess.  And if we can't do the easy things well, how are we so expert at the mysteries of life?

Just sayin . . .