Category Archives: New Word

Universal Law of Religious Comparison

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“You sound weird.” -A quote from a member of one religion to every other member of any other religion or denomination.

Corollary: “Additionally, while I’m not specifically saying so, your way is misguided.” Also known as “The Highlander Rule of Religion” – as there can be only one.

Corollary Sequel Pertaining to Deniability: Even if you’re not aware of it, almost every religious person looks at the beliefs and practices of others with an aloof, if not a superior, critical, or comedic eye. Including yours.

Bacon? Temple garments? E-meters? Mysticism? Kaparot? Exorcism? Blood transfusions? Self-flagellation? Fasting? Confession? Scripture? Polygamy? Snake handling? Speaking in tongues? Animal sacrifice? Confirmation? Hymns? Silent worship? Reincarnation? Caffeine? Alcohol? Priesthood? Anointing? Penance? Communion/Eucharist/Transubstantiation? Meditation? Sin? Circumcision/Bris? Purification? Genuflecting? Faith healing? Praying? Guru? Karma? Baptism? Rapture? Armageddon? Prophets? Miracles? Crucifixion? Celibacy? Vows of silence? Pilgrimage? Cremation? Burial? Polytheism? Monotheism? Idolatry? Angels? Demons? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Sabbath? Original sin? Commandments? Male authority?

This post isn’t anti-religion. Any inspection of religion tends to spark an immediate and wrathful reaction from those who feel accused by outside observation or commentary, even if people are just asking questions. It’s an observation regarding how members of different religions react to how others practice their own distinct faiths. I’ve come to distrust those whose reactions tend to be angry or strident. The only sermon that works in the lives of others is one of example. “Words conceal, actions reveal” tends to be a great way to gauge someone’s convictions. Shouting may result in silence or cooperation but never conversion.

As an outsider, it’s fascinating to observe the huge variety of religions and denominations. Most adherents tend to practice supremacy in regard to their own particular faith and rituals. It’s the human way of doing things. It makes for some dreadful consequences at times, especially to those of other faiths or no faith whatsoever. The insistence of certainty clouds human interaction as thickly as just about any other human condition.

Having lived more than half a century, I still sit in amazement as I observe the faithful from one group interact and observe others as they go about the practice of their faith. One of life’s greatest pleasures is discovering someone with faith who walks their path without regard to the path another person chooses. They often get drowned out, though. The urge to judge the path of another is almost inescapable.

“We all sound crazy to somebody else.”

Except in my case. I sound crazy to everybody else.
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The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty

 

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Several days ago I wrote about vagueposting.

This isn’t a polished post. It’s just what is running through my mind. Do not take the time to read it if you might get triggered by my stupidity or errant abuse of words and ideas. This post is going to make a few people uncomfortable. Because I suffered the effects of it directly when I was younger, I feel competent to blather about it.

A couple of days later after my vaguepost commentary, a relevant enigma emerged, one involving a tertiary acquaintance and an unexpected death. Instead of just stating what happened, people involved circumspectly concealed the details, which of course is their right. That’s a tough sell in the era of social media. They tried, though. They stepped on toes, left ominous overtones by what was omitted, and generally made many who initially heard of the untimely passing say the worst about ‘how.’ I cringed to read what was missing by implication. As a bona fide lout and perennial foot-in-mouth sufferer, I learned more by what was NOT said.

That’s what people always do. If you think they don’t, you’re fooling yourself. Humans fill in the gaps with whatever information they have and preconceptions they possess. You have the absolute right to live your life in the manner you see fit and to not share things with those you choose not to. You also have the right to remain silent, but as Ron White paraphrased, “That ain’t happening.” Part of the damnable compact with social media is that people are going to ask “What happened?” Some will be tactful and some will not.

I had another one of ‘those’ conversations with my wife: if I get a DWI, shot and killed while impersonating a bank robber, or die in a horrible misunderstanding involving a case of stolen pepperoni, I want her to tell everyone. Publicly. On Facebook. Text blast, too – and even email, if the five people who still use it for personal communication are interested. She can just tell a couple of friends who are worse than a 1950s telephone switchboard operator. She can simply add the don’t-tell-anyone clause, thereby guaranteeing immediate repeat and publication on the hidden channels we all use when we find out anything interesting or salacious. I have one family who is so gossipy that people allege she knew about a family member’s death before the family member even kicked the bucket.

Everyone is going to find out, anyway. Worse, they’ll write, DM, private message, text, call, Skype, or ask 3,587 people what happened until they find out. We all have that one acquaintance who will resort to kidnapping and extortion to find out what we know. It’s easier to spill the beans before the water-boarding commences. Death is a resounding knock on everyone’s door. It is one of the two unifying life experiences we are all guaranteed to share. It is hard-wired into our genetic makeup to ask and inquire.

I’m already going to be hurt, dead, or otherwise encumbered by whatever it is that people want to know about. That people know immediately in no way worsens the situation. In many circumstances, it will improve the sanity of those around me. If whatever happens to me isn’t my fault, there shouldn’t be any embarrassment about it. If whatever happens to me is my fault, it still happened – and everyone is going to find out about it. I just hope I’m wearing clean underwear.

If no one is sure why someone passed, then simply say that. I experienced this same horrific uncertainty myself years ago. Even after getting some answers, all my questions weren’t addressed. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know” if the reasons and details aren’t clear. You can of course also say, “It’s none of your business,” which is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire and ensuring that the person will not rest under the ‘why’ of it is uncovered.

Watching this particular incident unfold once again proves to me a LOT of people were seeking answers behind the scenes. One group was working to find out what happened. The other, of course, was working to keep the details secret, which means that about 1/2 of those whispering were finding out through informal sources. In short, everyone is going to know.

I knew that if I used my particular skills and punched away at it, that I would find someone who knew and had posted on social media. I did so, because I was asked to. Using the most arcane and plodding system you can imagine, I found a post from two days after the incident involving the acquaintance. The route I used to find it resembled a map hand-drawn by a cocaine addict after nine days without sleep. The person posting knew the family by acquaintance. She had been given a minimal explanation, probably in hopes of dissuading further questions. It didn’t, of course. She passed along what she knew. The family of the deceased didn’t overlap much with the person sharing the information so the Control Headquarters For Family Information couldn’t stifle the sharing.

Before you launch into a weird ‘privacy’ argument, it’s important that you remember that the word you’re using doesn’t mean what you think it does. The same holds true for etiquette, manners, or decorum. In the same way that the first question following death is, “What did he or she die from?” attempting to conceal details is only going to make it look like you’ve got something to hide or that an element of shame is involved. Again, yes, of course, it is your right to say nothing. Saying nothing, though, brings consequences too.

It’s true that it is considered bad manners to ask about someone’s death if you are not directly connected. Our brains, though, continue to seek an answer even when etiquette tells us to shut up.

Equally important for you to understand is that I earned this viewpoint in the most horrific manner possible. It’s one of the reasons I’m so hardcore about it. It’s not that people have a right to know your business. I’m not making that argument. People will know your business, though, even if you miss the whispers and back channel communications. I am, however, shouting at you that trying to keep anything quiet is the equivalent of having a picnic and bbq in the trunk of your car during rush hour.

I didn’t come by my opinion lightly.

Got a DWI? Yes, everyone’s talking about it.

Sick? People will feel immense sympathy and many will reach out to help. But they still want to know.

Talk? Yes, of course. Every single time. About everything and anything.

When our social groups were smaller, concealment of the particulars was impossible. In our larger world, one fueled by communication, people still feel that need to know.

You don’t have to like it or embrace it.

Ignore it, though? At your peril.

If I die unexpectedly and the people around me are being coy about it, you can be sure that I died horrifically, as if I suddenly started liking Donald Trump or became a fan of milk as a beverage, watching sports, or testing high voltage wires with my tongue.

You are welcome to make up any story you want to.

Because you’re going to anyway.

And you should – if the people left behind when I sprint off into the unknown won’t tell you what stupid thing I did to hasten my demise.
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The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty
Divulging private information immediately invariably lessens the quantity and intensity of the inquiries which otherwise result in an avalanche.

The Vagueposting Admonition

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If you vaguepost on social media, it’s important that you understand that doing so gives me the right to creatively fill-in-the-blank to anyone, anywhere, about what you’re actually talking about. I’ll be the Rudy Giuliani for your personal news.

Most of us squint our eyes when we see a vaguepost. “What in the heck is he or she talking about?” Of course, our guesses immediately turn darkly comedic, ranging from ‘arrested in Thailand‘ to ‘hid the body in the swamp in Monroe County.’ It’s your fault. Despite all the food and vacation photos, we often assume that you’re just one mojito away from becoming a prison pen pal.

I’ll preface my news by saying, “I heard,” as in “I heard from the voices in my head.” You should never willingly provide an opportunity for someone like me to provide an explanation that you won’t share yourself. I will gladly be the Gossip Girl. With Tourettes.

Social media works best when you use it to communicate to eliminate doubt. On the other hand, it works really well when your intent is to say something highly crazy, such as “Sports are really important,” or “Here’s my opinion on politics, religion, and the best type of beer to drink.”

If you choose to do otherwise, don’t be surprised when everyone who knows you say they heard that you burned down your house while trying a new meth recipe.

If you’re not going to use social media to concisely inform us about important and actual goings-on in your life, I request that you vaguepost about every other topic in life, too. Let’s keep it consistent, unlike the mashed potatoes you make for Thanksgiving.

I’ll your ignore this admonition, I’ll use a random list of buzzwords to fill in the blanks you’ve left: pregnant (regardless of sex), arrested, hoof-and-mouth disease, and LSD-induced, all to keep your friends, family, and school classmates from 30 years ago entertained. And that guy Steve, the one who lurks and accidentally hits like on your 2008 beach photos.

While it is your account and you can post literally any nonsense that you want to, as I obviously do myself, you’re only making your situation worse.

You’re welcome. X

P.S. I’m sorry I told your mom that you hit the preacher over the head with a guitar.
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The Roundabout Proposition

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“No matter how significantly a change might improve our lives, there will always be a section of our population who will immediately dislike it; their dislike is immune to enlightenment.” – X

Roundabouts are traffic control devices used to replace traditional intersections. Chances are, you’ve driven through one, and probably at 5 mph the first time you used one. All of us know at least one person whose hatred of roundabouts is so insurmountable that it borders on the comical.

Roundabouts, like so many other developments, tend to be controversial during implementation due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is user uncertainty. As people, we are generally dense and tend to reluctantly accept change.

Many drivers are unable to overcome their initial dissonance regarding roundabouts.

The evidence is clear, however: roundabouts drastically reduce the frequency of accidents and more importantly, have a huge impact on the severity of the accidents which do occur. Two factors have a disproportionate effect: speed and angle of impact with other drivers. One benefit of roundabouts is they also allow for considerably more traffic flow than a traditional stop-and-go system.

Why is this a social and political issue?

No matter how you present the strikingly clear benefits of roundabouts vs. traditional intersections, there will always be one person (or group of them) in the back of the room or in comment sections spouting off such generalizations as, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, “These things are dangerous.” People love being told that the old way was probably best. After all, they survived, so why can’t everyone else? Showing them that roundabouts will prevent crashes, save lives, and increase traffic flow will only make them scowl harder and grunt more loudly.

You’re can’t argue them out of a position they weren’t argued into. You’ll probably try, though, because you sometimes are a bonehead, just as I am. We all fool ourselves into thinking facts will overcome stubbornness.

Right now, someone is reading this and becoming very angry. That’s how you know that cognitive dissonance works: it blinds you to contradiction and inevitably evokes an emotional response to new or challenging information.

This is part of the reason that expertise is so often met with skepticism and irritation. The folksy anecdotal experiences of the people who don’t want to learn anything new will often derail any attempt to make things better.

Additionally, because many of these people aren’t familiar with or engaged in the day-to-day business of government or society, they don’t understand or appreciate the massive machinery of moving parts and people that function to keep our society whirling. For many, the solutions seem obvious and simple. It’s easy to forget that if a simple solution were available, we would have adopted it already. I’ve learned to beware all opinion which preaches ‘simplicity’ in their solutions. Roundabouts are just another one of those things which makes our lives better; they require a little learning and adjustment, though.

Often, we all lose an opportunity to do things differently because the people who won’t listen to reason will have a disproportionate effect on our ability to implement change. Additionally, while a smaller portion of our society is actively engaged with issues and addressing them as part of their daily lives, most people sit on the sidelines and only begin to shout when something interrupts their focus, or a fringe voice clamors for action.

And so, expertise and better ways to live are drowned out.

It’s important that you understand that I’m not saying that just because you dislike roundabouts that you also tend to automatically resist potential social change. I’m simply using the subject as a comparative example most people can relate to. My guess is, however, that many will jump to this erroneous conclusion precisely because cognitive dissonance triggers an emotional reaction in most people, one which disarms their ability to distinguish nuance and subtlety. I am saying, however, that many who dislike roundabouts simply won’t listen to reason in their regard.

The Roundabout Rule refers to the mentality wherein no amount of rational or reasoned explanation will change a person’s mind. The person afflicted has a fixed opinion and data will not sway him or her. Additionally, it’s likely he or she will be unable to distinguish fact from opinion or weigh the overall impact to society as a group. It is the antithesis to, “My opinion changes with new information,” which is the foundation of education and maturity.

I think most people will read this and focus exclusively on the issue of roundabouts, rather than the underlying premise of the rejection of new ideas. This probability fits nicely with the premise.

In a roundabout way, of course.

The Grumble, Grouse & Grievance Guideline

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The Grumble, Grouse & Grievance Guideline

“Why don’t you offer some solutions instead of complaining?”

The pollyannas and positivity-infected among us are now evidently self-appointed gatekeepers for things which bother us. All complaints and problems are first-world from sufficient distance and a timeline lengthy enough.

It’s now another person’s job to curate their own words and behavior to accommodate you? Walk away or scroll. It’s the solution to the problem that you should’ve already have known.

In s-o-m-e situations, this type of question is passive-aggressive, as much as it pains some people to hear it. It’s also sometimes a backhanded silencing tool.

Some of the people who say it without malice are going to read this and get REALLY annoyed. But that’s just proof that they too will complain about seeing this, instead of following their own advice by offering solutions instead of complaining.

It’s true, most of us reach a point at which we simply tire of hearing unimaginative and repetitive whining. But if you’re tired of complaints, isn’t adding another one worsening the situation, thereby violating the rule of “Leave things better than you found them”?

A better use of your time is to focus your energy elsewhere and allow the complaining to flow past. Be Zen. Be silent. Be absent.

Otherwise, you’re just complaining. Pot, meet kettle.

25% of human conversation centers on things which we find to be unsatisfying.

P.S. If someone says this to you at work, it’s because it is almost certainly their job to fix things – and they are being well paid to both listen and address it.
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