Don’t Use Your Books For Kindle(ing)

I was going to begin this post with the phrase, “When I was in college,” but I thought that would be disengenuous since it implies that I did in fact graduate from a four year college or university with a degree of some sort.  While its true that I am in posession of a degree of some sort, an Associates of Arts in (try not to laugh) Communications, that isn’t typically what comes to mind when someone references their time spent at an institute of higher learning, as esteemed as the Santa Rosa Junior College may be (after all, it does have ivy covered brick buildings).  And technicaly speaking, I still am in college, still in my ongoing pursuit of that elusive BA in History.  So to say “when I was in college” I feel would mislead the reader, you, and damage any shred of credibility I may have had remaining.  Of course, this little digression probably severed that last shred anyway, so really what’s the point?

Now, what was I going to say?  Oh yes….

My first semester at the two-year junior college I atteneded, into which I crammed a solid four years, I took a class on mass communications.  My main reason for taking the class was that the course description in the catalog seemed to imply that it involved a good deal of movie and TV watching and analyzing of the same.  I did pretty well, except that since it was my first class of the day, I often arrived late.  It was when grades came out that first semester that I discovered that college professors aren’t like high school teachers and won’t sent a note home to mommy and daddy alerting them to your tardiness, thereby initiating corrective parental action in the interest of saving your grade.  The second time I took the class I was in the throes of what I like to call my Educational Dark Period.  This time around I had a different teacher, one who had a very different interprataion than my previous one of what the course should be.  A lot less TV watching, and a lot more reading and thinking.  I was not prepared for this.  The third and final time I took the course, in the dawn of what I like to call my Educational Awakening, I had the same teacher as the first time, took the class in the afternoon, and was mentally prepared for anything.  I got a B.

Somewhere in all or parts of those three tries, we discussed the message and the medium of modern communicaiton.  Quick communicaitons lesson, the message is the content (news, information, etc.), the medium is how we access it (newspaper, TV, internet, etc.).  In 1964 a guy named Marshall McLuhan wrote a book called Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, in which he posits that, to quote his famous phrase, “The medium is the message.”  I won’t go into any more details of his theories, but that phrase is interesting in and of itself and I think is more true now than ever.  In the early days of TV there wasn’t much by way of content.  But who needs content?  There’s a magic picture box in my living room!  Even before content finally became systematic and more sophisticated the television itself, the medium, had changed the culture.  People stayed in, they started eating their meals in front of the tube, hello TV dinners and TV trays.  It had a significant impact on the culture.  The same can be said of virtually every new innovation in mediums since:  audio tape, compact discs, the Internet, mobile phones, everything.

In the New York Times last week, columnist David Brooks wrote an interesting article that is sort of related to this.  In a “Dear Abbey” type format, he traces the history of what he calls cultural one-upsmanship.  Whereas, the heights of the cultural totem pole were, for centuries, things like the opera, literature, poetry and the like, since the 1960’s there has been a change.  Now the totem toppers are those with the newest generation iPhones (that’s not a slam on you, dad, especially since you’re giving me your iPod :]).  The iPhone, and mobile phones in general, have had, and are having, nearly as great a cultural impact as the TV, maybe even equal to.  Think in terms of politics.  Couple the Internet with everyone’s cell phone video cameras, and politicians have to be more cautious then ever about what they say, even in what before would have been considered “safe” environments.

One new media related techno doohicky that is causing a stir right now is the Kindle from Amazon.com.  It’s basically an electronic book.  Or more like an electronic library that’s the size of a book.  You can check out more about it here.  I think it has the potential to be the “next big thing.”  A medium that can have the kind of cultural impact of the TV.  Or it could go the way of BetaMax and Laser Disc; a few early adopting zealots, but no mass appeal.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

I bring up the Kindle because I have heard many Old Media folks (print journalists, novelists, people over 40) lament its inception.  “Nothing beats the feel of wood pulp between your fingers and the musty smell of a real to life book,” they say.  “Who wants to curl up by the fire with a miniature computer monitor?  Not I,” say the aged.  I’m not totally discounting their feelings, but that kind of talk smacks of Not Like the Good Old Days faux-nostalgia.  Like those people who say they miss their old ’53 DeSoto.  Do they really?  It might be a nice thought, but remember how you used to have to start it 20 minutes before you actually wanted to drive it just so it would warm up?  It might be nice for the occasional Sunday drive, but not for everyday.  I love books as much as anybody, to the point where I’ve been repeatedly forbidden to buy anymore until I finish the ones already on my shelf.  But if I had a Kindle I wouldn’t need that shelf, would I?  So in a kind of reversal, its the older folks that are clinging to the medium, rather than the message.

To wrap up this already too long post on things that probably don’t interest you, I will recount one last, very topical story that is especially appropriate given the first part of this sentance.  I was listening to KNBR sports talk radio the other day and the host, Ralph Barbieri, was deriding bloggers as a group, though specifically sports bloggers.  He said something along the lines of, “Who do bloggers think they are anyway and doesn’t there have to be a hefty dose of narcissism involved for them to think that anybody cares what they have to say?”  Besides the obvious irony of a sports talk radio host musing on who is qualified to offer an opinion up for public consumption, the comment struck me as paranoid and a little old-fogy-ish.  He was denegrating a group that basically does the same thing he does, just using a different medium; internet versus radio.  Using sports talk may not be the best example for the point I’m trying, poorly, to make, but it dovetailed nicely with the Brooks article and the ongoing backlash to the New Media by the leery Old Media establishment.

Ok, next time I promise something more fun.

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If I Had A Million Dollars

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Do you ever play that game with your friends where you pretend that one day a million dollars, or ten million dollars, or any unheardofly awesome amount of money just showed up in your bank account and then you all list the things you’d do with it?  Its a good game, especially for long car rides and slow moving amusement park lines.  Everyones got that one friend who goes all Samir from Office Space and gets practical:  “You know what I would do if I had a million dollars? I would invest half of it in low risk mutual funds and then take the other half over to my friend Asadulah who works in securities…”  Really sucks the fun right out of it.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this for some reason the last couple of days and I’ve decided that more than any one thing, or any amount of things, what I would be most happy about finding that kind of money in my checking account is the freedom I would have to do things I really wanted.  For instance, sometime before I die, and it should probably be done before I develop some really impressive bunions, I want to hike the John Muir trail, which starts in Yosemite and ends 218 miles later at Mt. Whitney.  How great would that be?  Jen and I hiking through the beautiful California Sierra’s, taking in the scenery, enjoying the fresh mountain air, not a care in the world.  Except for the bears obviously.  Of course, this isn’t something you do in a weekend.  I’d need a good solid month, at least, for the actual trek and it would probably be a good idea to do a few shorter practice hikes to gear up for it.  Well, at this stage in the game its pretty tough to block out a twelfth of a year or more just to go hiking.  But if I had a million dollars…

I’ve gone on a few missions trips in my time.  Several times to Mexico and once to Ecuador.  I would love to be able to do a short-term mission trip every year.  Not only is it great to get to see and experience another part of the world, but to do so while working for the Lord and helping others is the best possible scenario.  Its an eye-opening and rewarding experience to meet and work with other Christians that don’t look or talk like you.  It reminds you that the Body of Christ is not a lily-white, suburbanite.  But trips like this take time and money not always readily available.  I had a lot of very generous help from folks in my church that enabled me to go to Ecuador last year, but I only have so much vacation time to spend.  If I weren’t having a baby this winter, there was a chance I could have gone to China on a Bible smuggling mission…if I could come up with the time and money.  Those are big ifs.  But if I had a million dollars… 

A couple years ago Master Card was running a series of their “Priceless” commercials during baseball season that followed two guys on a summer long trip to visit every ball park in the majors.  I can think of precious few adventures I would rather undertake than that.  How awesome would that be?  I’ve been to three major league stadiums in my life.  Only twenty-seven more to go.  Of course for that to happen I would have to be able to have a good chunk of the summer off plus the financial resources to fly all over the country, buy tickets, and shell out the $300 for a hot dog and soda.  And I’d just have to get a souvenir from each stadium.  At my current level on the pay scale this just isn’t a reality.  But if I had a million dollars…

Being the history nerd that I am, I really enjoy getting up close and personal with places where history actually occurred.  Its great to read about the Battle of Getteysburg, but to actually stand on the battlefield and see what Joshua Chamberlain and Robert E. Lee saw would enhance it exponentially, at least for me.  Or what would it be like to stand on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, looking up at those bluffs from the sand and trying to imagine what it must have been like to see the muzzle flashes of machine guns aimed directly at you?  They have tours available both in the United States and in Europe that take you to the great battlefields and sites where these historic events took place.  Most of them start at about $4,000 a person, plus airfare to the starting point.  I suppose Jen and I could sell one or both of our cars to come up with the money, but I don’t think the bus system is too reliable in this county.  But if I had a million dollars…

OK, so these things I’ve mentioned cost a significant amount of money to accomplish.  How about something cheap?  I like to read.  I used to hate it, now I love it.  I don’t think I read half the required reading in high school (and still managed a 2.95 GPA) so now I’m making up for lost time.  Reading is the best way to learn most anything.  The kinds of things I like to read are educational; histories, biographies, a little theology, how-to’s of hobbies I enjoy, and recently I’ve started to pick up more of the so-called classic literature, mostly modern at this point, I managed to avoid in school.  So its not like I’d be sitting around all day reading Spiderman comics.  But reading takes time.  Books aren’t expensive (especially through the History Book Club) but the cost to me is in time.  I’m no speed reader.  It takes me a while.  Have you noticed how long that Dean Acheson book has been in my sidebar?  And I’m not even half-way through!  I would love to be able to say on any given day, “You know, I think today I’ll just read all day.”  I don’t think my boss, though a really good guy, would be too keen on that.  But if I had a million dollars…

There’s list upon list of things I would rather do than spend eight hours a day, forty hours a week, one hundred and sixty hours a month at a job, as I’m sure we all have.  From spending more time taking pictures, moving and still, to spending time with Jen and Jackson on a cross-country road trip on Route 66, to having the time to finish all the projects around the house, that’s what my million dollars would buy me.  I’m reasonably content with the stuff that I already have, though there are times when I think it would be nice to have that latest gadget.  But now I want those experiences.  The stuff that can’t be lost in a fire.  That’s one of the reasons I’m so looking forward to fatherhood.  I can’t wait to make memories with that kid.  Don’t misunderstand, I’ve been blessed beyond measure already, with the best family I could ask for, and a wife who means more to me than my own life, and any experience I have wouldn’t be worth having if she wasn’t by my side.  I have a good job, a government job no less, that I like, not love, but like.  So I have no real complaints, just a wish.

Teddy Roosevelt advocated living what he called “the strenuous life” and more than maybe anyone, or at least any politician, he walked his talk.  From Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to the Spanish-American War, to riding the western frontier, to the Presidency, to safari’s in Africa, to floating down the Amazon River, T.R. experienced just about everything there was to experience, save perhaps the life of a pauper.  While I don’t know if strenuous is exactly what I’m looking for, the freedom to have the option sure would be nice.

Speaking of Music…

A few years ago a new radio station launched in my neck of the woods that simply called itself Bob.  Their hook was that they play anything.  A formatless station.  I found it a pretty intriguing concept given my ecumenical musical tastes.  My MP3 player could most certainly be called formatless.  So the station, 96.7 on your FM dial, was granted a place of honor on my car radio presets.  Apparently, this is not just a local trend, but a coast-to-coast phenomenon.  When I was in Indiana last summer they had a similar station, I think named Steve or something, and I also am aware of one in Southern California called Andre or Alex or whatever.  Obviously some big broadcasting conglomerate is pushing this gimmick pretty hard.  As gimmicks go, its not a bad one.  But then something terrible happened.

Over the past several months, I’ve noticed a distinct decline in the quality of the songs in Bob’s playlist.  It seems that recently whenever I “turn my KNOB to Bob” (their catch phrase and call letters, cute) I’m hearing a lot a of really crappy music.  Now, I have been known to have an affinity for the bizarre and cheesy–which I am planning a post about next week–and even went so far a couple of years ago to burn a CD called Assorted Cheeses that had some of my fave bad songs on it.  It was a big hit amongst my friends.  But these tunes that Bob has been spinning are not of the enjoyably bad variety.  I mean, how much Hall & Oates can one possibly endure?  Or Cameo?  Word Up indeed.  They seem to have drifted to the late eighties/early nineties era, which, in all of pop music history, may in fact be the barrenest of barren landscapes.  Then they throw in the occasional current hit so the can maintain their “we play anything” facade.  It just seems unfathomable to me.  They claim they play anything, which gives them literally hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of songs from every genre and every decade from which to choose from, and yet they continually choose songs that no one liked when they were new and popular.  I don’t get it.  On their website they have something called the Station Log where you can see what songs have been played at certain hours over the last few days.  Let’s take a look at 10 AM Wednesday:

The Warrior by Scandal?  Total Eclipse of the Heart?  Oh Sheila by Ready for the World?  Steve Miller, Vertical Horizon, Shakira???  Out of the fifteen or so songs that hour maybe three were decent.  So much wasted potential.

Ando’s Wide World of Sports

vlad.jpgI’m in something equating sports heaven right now.  With the notable exception of the SF Giants (and my fantasy baseball team which finished in the cellar), all my favorite sports teams are doing remarkably well this year.  In the NFL my Green Bay Packers have shocked everyone by starting the season 4-0 (that’s fours wins and no losses, Kludge).  And it’s not like they’ve been playing patsies either.  They’ve beaten the perennial Super Bowl contender Philadelphia Eagles, the enigmatic NY Giants, the San Diego Chargers who were 14-2 last season (that’s fourteen wins and two losses, Kludge), in a game in which they held LaDanian Tomlinson, arguably the leagues most dominant player last season, to under 100 yards rushing.  Then last week they defeated longtime rival, and my dad’s faves, the Minnesota Vikings, at the Metrodome, in a game that saw QB Brett Favre break Dan Marino’s all-time passing touchdown record.  Favre is probably my favorite athlete of all time.  Watching him play in his prime was awesome.  The way he played the game made him extremely fun to watch.  He played hard, you knew he was having fun, and he wasn’t afraid to take chances.  You gotta love a guy like that.  In recent years, his penchant for risk-taking has hurt him, and the team, leading many a sportwriter to say that the Pack and Brett’s legacy would be better served if he rode off into the sunset.  But so far this season he has them eating some savory crow.  He’s thrown eight TD’s to only one interception in leading his very young Packer team, youngest average age in the league actually, to a very hot start.

On the gridiron in the collegiate world, California Berkley is off to its best start, maybe ever.  For the first time in over 50 years Cal is ranked in the top five, coming in at number three.  Their high-powered offense is fun to watch, especially wide receiver DeSean Jackson.  This guy is incredible.  Even his moves have moves and he’s obscenely fast.  I didn’t go to Cal, but my grandpa grew up in Berkley so we’ve all been Cal fans in the family.  He would be so excited at the season they are having.  They’ve got a long way to go yet, and some very tough Pac-10 games up ahead, but its been fun so far and should continue to be so.  This could be the year they finally get back to the Rose Bowl.

As great as my football allegiances have been to me this young season, nothing gets me as excited in the sports world as postseason baseball, with my Angels as participants.  The Halo’s had a great regular season, overcoming a ton of injuries to key players and a late season scare from the Seattle Mariners, to clinch their third American League Western Division title in four years.  Guys brought in off the bench or from the minors stepped up when they needed to and manager Mike Soscia turned in another brilliant season of lineup juggling.  And of course Vladimir Guerrero was awesome as usual.  I love watching him play for the same reasons I love to watch Brett Favre.  He looks like he’s actually enjoying himself out there.  He plays hard and with reckless abandon, which, like Favre, can sometimes get him into trouble.  But more often than not, it leads to something amazing happening (like last year when he scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt!).  The Angels begin their playoff run today against the Boston Red Sox.  They’ve met the Red Sox in the playoffs twice before, in 1986 and 2004, both with disasterous results.  Hopefully this is the year we slay the red stockinged giant.

In the world of sports fandom, things can go from very good to very bad in a heartbeat. 

The Packers don’t have a running game at all, which will allow defenses to key on Favre, forcing him to make those ill-advised throws that have been so lamented.  As Favre goes, so go the Packers.

As I said before, Cal has some very tough Pac-10 oppenents up ahead, including USC.  In college football, all it takes is one loss to drop you from any dream of contention.  Not to mention QB Nate Longshore took a bad hit late in the game last Saturday which could leave him hobbled and less effective.

For the Angels, they couldn’t have drawn a worse card for the first round of the playoffs.  Not only have they struggled against Boston in years past, but this year as well.  Especially at Fenway park.  They are not a picture of perfect health either.  Starting center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. will not be playing in the first round due to a bad knee and ankle.  Other important guys like Chone Figgins and Vlady will play, but are dinged up.

So, you can see that the sports fan has got to appreciate what he’s got when he’s got it.  Which is probably why we do get so crazy when our teams are doing well.  Their’s no guarantees for next year.  When the Angels lost to the Red Sox back in ’86, they didn’t reach the playoffs again until 2002.  In sports you have to live for the moment.

Back To Nature

100_1705.jpgThis past weekend Jen, Jackson, and I took a much needed and spontaneous camping trip to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.  We decided Friday afternoon that Saturday afternoon, we’d back up the Jeep and hope there were campsites available.  There were, so we spent the next eighteen hours in wooded, peaceful bliss.  Except for the group two campsites over who had one very volumous laugher amongst them.  It was nice to relax and hang out, just the three of us, playing cards, reading, and staring blankly into the trees.  Its amazing what just a brief escape and change of scenery can do for your psyche.

I guess that’s why people like to spend extended periods of time sleeping in the dirt, getting smoke in their eyes and lungs while cooking dinner, not showering, and having to do #2 in an outhouse.  For some reason getting back to those very primitive conditions helps us to relax and recharge.  Maybe its the fresh air, or maybe the exercise of building your own shelter (tent) and cooking your fresh kill (burgers) over an open flame (propane Coleman stove).  Whatever it is, it touches some primeval chord in our brain, or at least in mine.  I know not everyone is keen on camping, and I really can’t blame them (see first sentence of this paragraph), but for me at least there are few activities that are as good for the soul, enjoyable, and relatively inexpensive.

I’ve been really into camping lately.  I even requested a tent trailer, or at least contributions toward one, for my birthday.  I didn’t camp much when I was a kid.  My dad has a serious aversion to dirt, dust, and the like, so therefore is physically unable to camp.  I can remember only three times in my childhood where my family did honest-to-goodness camping.

#1 – Burney Falls approx. age 4

 We went with my moms parents and my uncle and I think we stayed in a trailer.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are from this trip.  I remember my dad, grandpa, and uncle walking down near the falls and coming back all wet.  I remember we went to some caverns nearby.  I don’t remember it, but I know I bathed in a very small brown wash tub.  My mom was kind enough to snap a photo of this seminal event.  I also know that my dad, the man who spent the first two decades plus of his life growing up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota, caught his first fish ever.  Just sad.

#2 – Eagle Lake approx. age 10

Our family went with some friends of ours, who had no sons and two daughters much younger than me, and if something could go wrong, it did.  First off, it rained.  Actually, it monsooned and we were staying in tents.  Second, everyone got violently ill from some bad re-fried beans.  Everyone except me.  So here I am, in a drenched campsite, with no one my age to hang with, while everyone is puking their guts out.  Good times.  Third, when Mike, the family friend, was feeling better, he and I got up one morning at six AM to go fishing.  It was early, it was cold, and we got nary a nibble.  The most exciting part of the morning was when I got a pretty bad snag and lost my hook.  More good times.

#3 – Trinity River approx. age 13

This trip was good.  Again, we went with some family friends, different ones, who had no male children, but I got to bring along a friend.  This time we actually caught some fish, the campsite had an arcade, and a bear kept ransacking the garbage cans every night.  Now that’s camping. 

On a related note, when Jen and I went this past weekend, we didn’t really tell anybody we were going, save maybe a couple.  Not because we were being secretive or anything, it just didn’t occur to us.  But when I didn’t show up for my fantasy football draft, which I had half-forgotten about, my buddies got a little worried.  I wouldn’t just miss a fantasy draft without saying anything.  They became more worried when they tried to text me and got no reply.  I always return a text.  Our friend Leslie even called one of the hospitals in town to make sure we weren’t in it.  What can you say about such friends?

Everything Matters

Has anyone else ever noticed this?  That when you’re going through something emotionally intense, whether positive or negative, it seems that everything around you becomes suddenly relevant to the situation?  Every song on the radio seems to relate to what you’re experiencing, every TV show is running the episode that seems to exactly mirror your current circumstance, every street sign is suddenly conveying much more than just traffic regulations.  Am I alone on this one?

If its a happy situation this is great.  Everything you see and hear reminds of what’s made you so happy.  Life’s a bowl of ice cream.  If its an unhappy situation its predictably not so great.  When all you want to do is get your mind off of whatever it is that has got you down, everywhere you turn you’re bombared with unpleasent reminders.  Seriously, no one else is on board with this?

Part two of this quefonda.jpgstion.  If there are indeed others among you who have similar experiences, and this is a human thing and not just an Ando thing, has it always been this way or is it indicative of an over-medied (pronounced mee-dee-ud) society?  Back in the 1500’s, when the only mass media was the Bible and hardly anyone could read anyway, when there was clearly less external stimuli, did people relate to things in a similar fasion?  Or were they more concerned about things like, oh I don’t know, the Black Death?

Speaking of over stimuli, I’m watching the infomercial for the Time-Life Flower Power music collection hosted by 60’s icon Peter Fonda, who was clearly high when they shot this.  He bears an uncanny resemblance to Eval Kineval.  I love these infomercials when they bring in people who grew up when these songs were hits and have them talk about how great the “good old days” were and what this CD collection means to them.  They always give us their names as if hearing recent AARP member and ex-hippie, and now probably attorney, Walter Hutchinson talk about “a time of love and togetherness” and about how these classic hits sound so much better on CD than on vinyl (as if CD’s were some new fangled medium) is going to make me more likely to “call now!”.  Dr. Evil said it best, “There’s nothing as pathetic as an aging hipster.”  Freaky, washed up actors and balding flower children with pony tails aside, I do really enjoy music from that era.  Hmmmm, only $19.95, eh?

I think its pretty obvious I need to get to bed.  Its been a stressful week and I’ve had a lot of things on my mind, so that’s my excuse for this bizarre post.  That is if talking about Peter Fonda and the Black Death in the same post is to be considered bizarre.  Oh right, this is Friday.  Here you go.

The Suddenness of Life

unexpected-02.jpgI was thinking again today about happened with my friend I am calling Jim the other day.  How one minute he was fine, at least externally appearing so, and the next minute he was several chests pumps away from the other side of life.  There was a cheesy song that became a hit about a decade ago called Everybody’s Free (To Where Sunscreen).  Remember that one?  The one that was a man reading a commencement speech, dishing out all kinds of advice set to a basic beat?  Like I said, it was pretty cheesy.  But today I remembered a line from that “song” that has, from my experience, rang true:

  The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind;

the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

This has happened to me on a number of occasions.  Sometimes its something that seems major, but turns out to be minor, sometimes its something that is life altering in one way or another.  On an average October evening in 2004 I got a phone call from my dad telling me my grandfather had leukemia.  Another afternoon, early in my marriage, I came home from work to find my wife very upset about a work incident.  I won’t go into details about what it was exactly, just to say that it was very complicated and could have turned out very badly.  It didn’t, but for about a week things were kind of scary and a more than a little tense.  One fairly recent Friday night I was gearing up for a much anticipated all night video gaming session, when I got a phone call from a friend in distress.  The next thing I knew I was on my way to Sacramento, not to return home for seven hours and with a house guest in tow.  These are just a few examples.  Live long enough and the list will just continue to grow.  Whether its disease, family issues, or finding out a close friend is not exactly who you thought they were, how you react to these times helps to shape and define who you are.

And that’s really trick.  How do you react?  On one hand its an easy question to answer.  In the case of something physical, you obviously do what you can for them to meet those physical needs, whether its CPR or just sitting with them while they’re fighting off the affects of chemotherapy.  If its an emotional or interpersonal problem the answer should be easy too, right?  You do the right thing.  But what is the right thing?  Its not always cut and dry.  What if a friend is involved in something he or she shouldn’t be, but the implications of a confrontation could involve hurting others?  A friend in need may need a place to stay for awhile.  Are you prepared to turn your life upside down to accommodate?  The answers aren’t quite as easy when the right thing actually costs something.

But consider the costs of not reacting at all.  In the long run isn’t that more expensive?  What happens to that friend in need if you aren’t there?  What if you don’t confront that friend that seems to have strayed?  What if sitting in the hospital makes you uncomfortable?  Are we really friends if we don’t do the hard stuff?  Doing the hard stuff is by no means a guarantee that things will turn around, but at least you can have the peace of mind of knowing you did what you thought was right.  That’s all you can really do.

But if you’re not prepared to be blindsided, the right (read hard) thing is going to be that much more difficult.  The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Other than to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, Jesus calls this the greatest commandment.  Why that one and not thou shalt not commit adultery or thou shalt not kill?  Because if you love your neighbor, you’re not going to sleep with his wife or kill him are you?  With that as your focus, you can be ready to help your friends, or strangers, when they show up on your door step on that idle Tuesday.  That will make the right (hard) things easier.  Not easy, but easier.  It takes work, don’t be mistaken.  Its hard to put your own comfort and desires aside.  Left to our druthers, we’re pretty selfish.  We want what we want and we want it now.  We think that fulfilling those desires will somehow fulfill us.  But living for yourself will never satisfy you.  Never.  Maybe for a little while, but all you’re doing is creating a pattern of selfishness that is toilsome to break.  Once your current distraction loses its thrill, you’ll move on the next, leaving a trail of brokenness and hurt behind you.  But what do you care?  Do what you want, right?  You need to be fulfilled.  There was a guy who tried that once named Solomon.  He literally had it all and in the end came to one conclusion:  vanity, vanity, all is vanity (see the book of Ecclesiastes).

The world we live in is corrupt to its core.  People will stop at nothing to fulfill their own selfish desires.  At times it gets pretty downright depressing.  People worry about political correctness so as not to hurt anybodies feelings, but that’s just a superficial way to appear caring when few are willing to actually make the hard choices to help others.  I don’t mean to sound preachy, I’m no exception.  I like my little, comfortable world.  Stepping outside of it is not one of my stronger gifts.  But I’m trying.  With God’s help, I’m getting better.  I hope that I can serve when needed, help when asked, confront when necessary.  The alternative is too scary to contemplate.

(I’ve posted the Sunscreen song in the Box on the sidebar.  For nostalgia’s sake, and to lighten the mood of this post ever so slightly.)