Monday, August 31, 2020

The Staycation Blues


My wife Linda and I are taking a staycation this year.  I've been grumbling about it quite a bit lately.  We had some pretty grand plans for travel this year.  We were going to Santa Fe for a conference and Honolulu for a convention and New England for our late summer-early fall respite.  And none of that happened.  No desert sunsets and Native American art.  No surf and volcanoes.  No lobsters and visits with family and friends. So we're staying put.  Oh we'll probably manage a few day trips.  And I'll work through a large stack of books.  And I'll put in many extra miles on my bike.  But all of that right here in Southwest Florida.  All because of the virus.  So I've been grumbling.

But, and this is a big but, I need to lay off the grumbling.  Otherwise my time off will be filled with resentment and regret!  And really, the books really look look fascinating.   I've got the latest Carl Hiaasen novel--always worth a read.  And the first of the biographies in my new project, the Chief Justice Project.  (I'm reading the last of the presidential biographies I set out to read some four or five years ago, Washington to Obama.  All the former presidents.  Now I'm starting on the Chief Justices.  John Jay is first up.)  I've got a book on retirement that I want to work through, and a biography of Mr. Rogers, and I'll be adding James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

And the biking.  I'll have some time in the cooler parts of the day to put on some serious miles.  That will be good.  Good for the body and the soul.

And of course, more time with Linda.  That's always a plus.  We've talked about going to Tampa to the Dali Museum, which we are always meaning to do.  And maybe even a trek over to the East Coast.

Come to think of it, this could be, should be, a pretty good time!  And after all, I have a job that I love that offers me some serious time off, not to mention a pay check.  And there are a lot of folks out there without jobs, and others with jobs that offer no sense of purpose.  And we've stayed healthy through all of this.  And while there are real problems to address in the world, most of them haven't impacted me in such a way as to leave me unable to take a vacation--one at home or on the road.  So I'll stop grumbling, and start saying thank you.  Thank you for all the wondrous parts of my life--including this year's version of a vacation. A staycation.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Where the Heck Are We Going?

I am currently taking an online course titled "How to Lead When You Don't Know Where You Are Going."  The instructor is a well-respected church consultant, Susan Beaumont, who I have actually taken an in-person course with a number of years ago.

I think part of what attracted me to the course was the good experience I had in her classroom those many years back, but even more it was the course title.  Because, really, who among us knows where the combination of issues we are currently facing will take us?  And if you don't know where you are headed, it is far more challenging to lead!  This, she argues, is a liminal season.  We are neither here nor there, but rather, somewhere in-between  It is a time of uncertainty.  And part of the task of a leader, she suggests, is to embrace that reality.

Beaumont has built her course (and her book by the same name) around the basic notion that a traditional leadership style just plain won't work. "Instead," she writes, "we can approach this era with a different leadership stance . . . . We can let go of our egoic need to look successful and lead instead from a place of open wonder and curiosity."  (21)

I don't know about you, but letting go of that egoic need to be successful is a real challenge for me!  But I realize she is right.  I need to make room in my soul for whatever lies ahead. I need to be willing to think and act and lead in new ways, different ways.  I'm not going to get all the answers in her course, but at least it will help me think in a new way.  Because they never taught us this stuff in seminary!  Come to think of it, though, they did remind us from time to time that God is with us in all things.  I guess that's a pretty good place to start!  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

It's August--There Must be a Political Convention Somewhere!


Do you watch political conventions?  I do.  Not gavel to gavel.  But keynote speeches, the roll call of states, and so on.  I watch parts of every convention--that held by my party, and that held by the other guys.  I find them fascinating.  They are a snapshot of what's to come in the fall as we move towards Election Day.  OK, maybe not a snapshot.  Maybe it's a picture more like the ones where your mother made you brush your hair, and put on decent clothes, and smile for the camera.  Conventions (today) are cleaned up versions of candidates and platforms.  Even more so in this time of virtual conventions.

It wasn't always that way, of course.  There was a time where conventions were rough and tumble affairs.  Where different factions of the party fought it out (sometimes literally) for the right to carry the party banner in the election.  Read through history if you don't believe me!  And if you are of my generation, you can remember such affairs, especially 1968, when Chicago erupted.

I'm not sure what's best for the nation in terms of conventions.  The rough and tumble ones gave parties a chance to sort out their differences, maybe not come to agreement, but to honestly say these are the ways we don't agree.  That, it seems to me, may be better than the modern approach, where differences often seem to get papered over.  Yet there is a sense, if only for a few days, of a willingness to work together for a common cause.

Some folks have given up on politics altogether.  Wouldn't watch a convention speech if you paid them to do so.  Even a summer rerun is better, they'll tell you.  But it seems to me as citizens we have some responsibility to really participate in the process.  That means to vote, of course, but it also means to be informed.  So I'll keep watching the conventions.  And I'll take them with a grain of salt.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What Can We Do?

Two of my granddaughters resumed school today.  Online.  At home.  They had a choice--in person or online, and their Mom chose to keep them home for the moment.  She is fortunate to be able to work from home, and so it is a viable choice for her.  But of course, there are those for whom it is not a real choice.  They must opt for their kids to return to the classroom.  Because you can't wash dishes or mow lawns or any number of other jobs from home, and leaving kids of a certain age unsupervised is illegal, and of another age unwise.

There are, of course, many very public debates about the advisability of kids staying home and learning on line or returning to classroom settings.  There are many risks involved, so it seems, with either choice.  Some schools are not offering any choice, but requiring one approach or the other, leaving some parents (not to mention teachers and staff) very disgruntled.  I heard today of one teacher so distraught over having to take the risk of being in school with the threat of Covid that she posted her own mock obituary online.

I can't imagine being the parent of school age children today.  It's tough enough being the grandfather who can only stand by as choices are made, and hope for the best.  And I do know our governmental leaders have not done their part in making such choices viable for all parents.  So here's my point:  let's knock off the second-guessing of parents.  Let's knock off the name calling and blaming.  Let's find ways to support them in their efforts to do the right thing by their kids.  And as for teachers and staff members who must either new a new way of doing things--whether online or in the classroom--let's take a moment to acknowledge that they are sacrificing much for ofttimes very little pay, to educate the next generation.

Thank you, parents and teachers, what can we do to help?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cancel Culture? What's That All About?

I'd heard the term "cancel culture" many times, but was unsure exactly what it meant.  So I looked it up.  "Cancel culture," read the dictionary, "refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive."  (

OK, I thought to myself, now I understand.  That sounds rather benign on the surface.  If a certain company funds anti-LGBTQ organizations and I hear about their taking such a stance, I will no longer buy their products.  If a celebrity is blatantly racist or anti-Semitic, and that comes to my attention, I will no longer go to their films, listen to their music or watch their television programs.  Does that mean I am engaging in cancel culture?  I guess, by the dictionary definition it does.  

In some ways it is an aesthetic issue.  I have never been a fan of the art for art's sake movement, that you can separate art from it's maker or from its context. The idea that art should simply be appreciated on its own merits.  Context does matter.  Intent does matter.  And the views of the creator, the maker, of a product, whether it be artistic or not, is worth taking into consideration.

But I do see a significant difference between publicly shaming such companies or individuals and withdrawing my financial support.  Maybe the real issue is how we go about showing our displeasure or disapproval.  Yes, it is easy to create a meme and splash it all over the internet, but wouldn't it be even more effective to write a letter to the individual or company in question? A thoughtful, expletive-free letter?  A letter explaining why you will no longer consume their product?  Maybe not.  Maybe I'm just being na├»ve.  But whatever, in the end I am still convinced the most productive approach is to attempt to enter into a dialogue.