Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Meaning of Life

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”  -Alan Watts

A friend posted this quote this morning and it tracks perfectly with where I have been at the past few years.  In the religious circles in which I traveled earlier in life, there was great emphasis on "living a life of meaning" and finding your "purpose".  I suppose that doesn't sound bad on the surface, maybe even noble, but what I discovered over time was that it was like, as the book of Ecclesiastes says, "chasing after the wind and feeding on it".  It was never-ending and never satisfying.  It keeps you running on a hamster wheel.

In recent years, I have been learning to let go of the rushing... saying no to the panic.

In the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect saves his friend Arthur from the destruction of the Earth.  When Arthur realizes he can't go back, he asks, "What do I do now?"  Ford shrugs, "You come with me and enjoy yourself."  Ford's suggestion has become my life tagline.

In an episode of Rick and Morty, Rick gives the family a device that allows them to see themselves in other universes - lives in which they had made different choices.  They grow depressed and angry as they see how their lives could have been "better" had they chosen different paths.  Rick tells them they would have been happier watching TV with him and Morty and that they, "clearly backed the wrong conceptual horse."  Later, Morty's sister is going to run away due to her frustration.  Morty gives an explanation of why she should stay and ends it with, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, and everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”

For myself, I have spent enough time on the hamster wheel chasing after things and never arriving.  I think Watts had it right.  My time is better spent creating, enjoying, and breathing.  There are good conversations to be had, meals to enjoy, stories to listen to, and walks to take.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

That's How Love Works

Recently, someone threatened me with Hell again. This person had various reasons why God was justified in sending me there, but their chief reason was that I "reject" God.

This is my cat. She rejects me every #$%^&*# day (but she loves my wife). Do you know what my response has NEVER been?

"Let's torture the little shit for eternity!"

In fact, regardless of her response to me, I love Lu. I will always care for her and always protect her.

That's how LOVE works.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Instruction Over Practice

I think one of the major failures of education over the past few decades has been an overemphasis on instruction.  Educational reformers have told teachers, school districts, legislators... anyone who would listen... that a student could become proficient at anything if they were "taught" it correctly.

Imagine a baseball team that avoided practice.  An orchestra that never rehearsed.  A military unit that never drilled.  An officer who has been instructed in firearms but rarely fires one.

What are you good at?  In most cases, it is the thing that you spent time practicing.  Instruction is wonderful, but it doesn't tend to go very far without time spent on the instructed task.

However, an expectation of practice puts some of the ownership on the one being instructed... and that doesn't work for our consumer economy.  No, the customer is always right.  In a student as consumer environment, all responsibility is put on the instructor.

Teachers are leaving the classroom in droves.  People always say we need to raise salaries to stop the hemorrhaging.  It may help a little, but pay for teachers has ALWAYS been on the low side.

I think what really changed was that all responsibility for the child's education moved to the teacher.  It used to be more of a partnership between home, teacher, and child, but now a child's success or lack thereof is resting with the teacher alone.

Joey practices.  Jimmy does not.  When Jimmy fails to advance, no one considers that perhaps it has something to do with his lack of time on task.  In today's schools, the teacher is saddled with extra paperwork and data meetings to try to adjust instruction in such a way that will allow Jimmy to be as proficient as Joey... but never require that Jimmy actually do anything.

Or, maybe, Jimmy really is working at it... but he still can't achieve Joey's level of proficiency. He just isn't as gifted in this area as Joey. Again, in this scenario, the teacher is still evaluated as coming up short.  According to the educational reformers, teachers should be able to move all students to equal ability... regardless of time on task or natural talent.

This is why so many teachers quit within the first 5 years now.  Being responsible to do a good job teaching is one thing.  Being responsible for every x-factor in a student's education is demoralizing.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Teacher Evaluations

Forbes recently published an article entitled "This Decade-Long Experiment In Teacher Evaluation Is An Unsurprising Failure".  The whole article is worth a read, but it can be summed up in this quote-

"a raft of research told us that test scores were hugely correlated to factors far beyond a teacher’s control. The effect is that a “good” teacher is one who’s been put in a classroom with high-scoring students, and a “bad” one is in a classroom with low-scoring students."

I experienced this first hand.  I spent 8 years in a Title One school before the ten in a wealthy neighborhood where I presently teach.  I could go on for pages describing the differences.  

If it were all about the teacher... as present evaluation methods assume... there should have been no change in "my" scores when I moved schools.  Student circumstance, ability, and predilections shouldn't matter.  However, unsurprisingly, "my" scores got a good boost when I switched schools.

I enjoyed teaching at my Title One school.  I knew a lot of amazing teachers there.  But none of them stayed.  It was not that teaching Title One kids was difficult... it was the score pressure.  My admin and our district support staff literally believed that the reason our school did not score as well as our district's wealthy East-side schools was due to the teachers.  As was stated by my admin and reading coach during a staff meeting where teachers were being blamed for low scores, "Backman students will start scoring like Bonneville students when Backman teachers start teaching like Bonneville teachers."

Well, after a few years of being browbeaten like that, I moved to one of our East-side schools.  Apparently, that was all I needed to do to become a "good" teacher.

Underlying all of this is a misguided notion that students can be instructed into proficiency.  Teachers are evaluated as if they are the only x-factor in student outcomes.  This approach has nearly ruined the teaching profession in America.  More troubling is that there is little will in our nation to change it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Does EVERYONE Worship?

This was a bit of a conversation I had with a believer on a thread where the writer was claiming that Atheists "worship" things like science.

Andrew Hackman 
No... this is projection. Having been a believer, I know what that experience looks and feels like. I do not worship. There is something though, in many of those who worship, that needs to universalize that experience. They need to say, "Everyone worships". However, it simply isn't true.

Angela
Andrew Hackman how do you define worship? 

Andrew Hackman 
   NOUN the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. "the worship of God" VERB show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.

I think the dictionary definition sums it up. Now, what usually happens at this point is the meaning of worship gets watered down in an attempt to pull unbelievers into the definition. Having affection, admiration, or interest in something starts to get defined as worship.

Angela 
Thanks, interesting. Wikipedia definition with some of the history of the word below. As a former atheist, I view worship as whatever we deem worthy of our time, attention, adoration, money, and resources. Not all worship is bad, for believers “it” shouldn’t be worshipped more/higher than God. I do sincerely believe for example, modern sports obsession “for some” is a form of worship. From decals to literal idol statues, blankets, hours of focus, clothes, people will spend their time money and focus to a point of obsession... almost like we are hardwired that way. Or to stand in awe at a concert and be obsessed with a singer. Jesus taught “where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” It’s a matter of the heart, and deeply personal for all of us. “The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, meaning to venerate "worship, honor shown to an object, which has been etymologised as "worthiness or worth-ship"—to give, at its simplest, worth to something.” -Wiki

This definition doesn’t say anything about a deity, just putting value on something deemed “worthy”

Andrew Hackman
But again... you are watering down the word worship. You are stating that what you think and feel about Jesus is what I think and feel about Disc Golf. Is that really the digression you and folks like Keller want to make? I don't think it is. I think your elevation of the word worship is much higher in usual circumstances... but for some reason, it bothers you that unbelievers don't "worship" anything... so during an argument, you broaden the definition of the word. Lots of believers I know do this linguistic sleight of hand. I think believers need to do a little introspection into what drives them to do this. 

In other words, why can't believers just say, "We worship a deity, unbelievers don't" and just leave it at that? You could even make the case of why an unbeliever SHOULD worship your deity. But what drives the need to tell someone they DO worship, when they have told you that they don't? 

Rosemary 
Worship is in the context of what the post is ...is to me ...when it comes to saying yes to God. Above all others.  Obedience. Love him with all your heart mind soul. 

Andrew Hackman 
Yes... worship is beyond love, it has that obedience, singular, totality... it is not as trivial as, "Oh, she is really excited about that new novel!"

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Rest In Peace Bishop Spong

I was sad to hear about the death of Bishop John Shelby Spong.  He played a role in my growth as a person over the past decade and I am grateful to him for it.

Two buddies of mine and I were fortunate to have taken a trip up to Montana one weekend in 2012 to hear him speak.  We even got to have lunch with him at the home of the pastor of the church while there.  We stood out as the two Mormons and the atheist who drove in from Salt Lake.  🙂

I remember in my 20s holding one of his books in my hand at the library (Why Christianity Must Change or Die) and saying to my friend Brook, "Why doesn't this guy just leave the faith if he doesn't believe it?"  I had contempt for Spong and ministers like him.  My view of faith and spirituality was so small.  I could have never imagined at that time that I would one day shake hands with Bishop Spong with complete respect.

I don't believe in deities but I am grateful for the hope and goodness that Bishop Spong helped spread in our world.  Rest in peace sir.  You gave people a better vision of humanity.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Forgetting 9/11

I have seen multiple conservative religious friends post about 9/11 today... but they are chastising and bemoaning people for "forgetting" about 9/11.

Forgetting about it?  Every 4th post in my feed is about it.  All the news outlets are running stories.  Every politician is doing memorial selfies.

What "forgetting" are these folks talking about?

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is a character named Lintilla who wears a "Crisis Inducer".  When she hits a button, her mind becomes convinced she is being pursued by hostile forces.  This gives her an adrenaline spike to sharpen her senses and pump up her energy.

I grew up in conservative religious circles.  Their world is guided by the latest "Crisis Inducer".  Someone (in their mind) is always persecuting them, always after them, always out to get them.

So, they are able to take a day like today... and imagine that, somehow, there is a slight out there with their name on it.

As is so often the case, the Bible they use to attack others is actually speaking of them -

"The wicked flee when no one pursueth them."

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Addressing Some Anti-Vax Arguments

Below is a response I read on a thread about the vax.  I don't address the cranks but this gentleman put out there some of the concerns of the more moderate anti-vax folks which I think has sway among folks who are not following this really closely.  Afterward, I put my response.  I post this as a general refutation, but also so I can come back and cut and paste this so I don't have to retype it later.

"I am honestly baffled by people who have so much hate and scorn for others who are simply making a choice, or even a gamble with their own bodies and health. Why are we condemning those who wish to wait until more test have been done on the vaccine or those who have had COVID and are relying on their natural immunity? It takes longer to gestate a baby, build a house, and grow a garden, than the vaccine has been available (not FDA approved). So, let them wait and see. If you have the vax then you are all good. Test continue to show that the vaccine is not as full proof as once claimed and that natural immunity is still outlasting it. Why can't people be patient and not be called "anti-vaxers"? Why is there such a need to ostracize people who want to chose for themselves. Does the irony of pointing a finger and saying, "they are all just wrongly falling for group think" from those who are also in a group of opposite thinkers, strike anyone else as interesting? If you choose to get the jab, great. If not, that is your personal choice. If the concern is that they might spread it to others, we know that those who are vaxed are doing that as well. We also know, there will never be a fully eradicated situation. The fear mongering and scorn is what gets me. Don't forget, Yoda also said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering!.”"

Let's address some of this -

"I am honestly baffled by people who have so much hate and scorn for others who are simply making a choice, or even a gamble with their own bodies and health."

Unfortunately, we do not live in a bubble. I would agree with you IF the consequences fell merely on those making that choice. But their choices are giving the virus new breeding ground to mutate and spread. So, in that sense, it is not a personal choice.

"Why are we condemning those who wish to wait until more test have been done on the vaccine or those who have had COVID and are relying on their natural immunity? It takes longer to gestate a baby, build a house, and grow a garden, than the vaccine has been available (not FDA approved)."

Simply not true. Vaccine development has been going on for a hundred years. The Covid/Sars has been being addressed for the last decade. These vaccines are just the extension of everything that has come before. In the same way Ford is fairly certain its latest model of the Explorer will not explode when you turn the key, science is not unaware of what is happening with these vaccines.

I believe the whole -"the vax is experimental/it is not FDA approved yet" is a distractor. Emergency authorization has been given, and for the FDA it is merely a matter of paperwork that should be complete in the next month or two. In my experience, folks who bemoan the FDA approval will not change their tune once it is given, they just move on to another objection. In that sense, they are not making an honest argument.

"If you have the vax then you are all good. Test continue to show that the vaccine is not as full proof as once claimed and that natural immunity is still outlasting it. Why can't people be patient and not be called "anti-vaxers"? Why is there such a need to ostracize people who want to chose for themselves."

No, not all good. As stated, giving the virus open fields endangers all of us. Every study indicates natural immunity is not enough. We call people anti-vaxxers because they are against the vaccine. As was stated, they are not choosing just for themselves. IF that were true, I would feel bad for them, but it would be no skin off my nose.

"Does the irony of pointing a finger and saying, "they are all just wrongly falling for group think" from those who are also in a group of opposite thinkers, strike anyone else as interesting?"

Nope, do not find it ironic or interesting. Groupthink is not the problem. Wrong thinking is.

"If you choose to get the jab, great. If not, that is your personal choice. "

As stated, not a personal choice. Some things affect the community and there is no getting around it. Denying it is simply self-deception.

"If the concern is that they might spread it to others, we know that those who are vaxxed are doing that as well."

Any mapping of the spread of a virus demonstrates the mathematical decrease a vax has on a virus... you simply reduce its growth potential. Everything is not either/or.

"We also know, there will never be a fully eradicated situation."

Never been the goal... but we can make it so almost no one ever experiences it. Stating arguments in their extreme or as either/or scenarios is a form of gaslighting.

"The fear mongering and scorn is what gets me. Don't forget, Yoda also said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering!.”

Fear of the known can be a reasonable response. Creating fear over falsehoods is what, I believe, the anti-vaxxers are doing.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

DeSantis Is Playing with Loaded Dice

I really don't see us pulling out of this.  DeSantis is typical of where a lot of America is at this point.  This is a culture war issue, not a medical issue.

DeSantis is playing the calculus that it does not matter how bad it gets in his state of Florida.  His people are so driven to believe this is "nothing" that they will dismiss any source that claims the contrary.  Even for people it directly affects... there will be little movement.  Doctors are telling us that there are people dying of Covid denying what is happening to them.

The biggest foot soldiers in this movement are the Evangelicals.  They are raised to resist the culture.  To them, this is just another one of the dozens of issues they have "fought" over the decades.  When they are in berzerker mode, there is no getting through.  No compromise, no deviation.  This is for the faith!


 

Monday, June 28, 2021

June 2021 Movies

This month’s movies -

The Conjuring – AMC “Fan Fave”.  I had not seen this since it came out years ago, but my daughter and I have followed the series religiously.  This one is definitely the best of the lot. A horror movie that draws you into the story so you can be scared and unnerved along with the characters.  Such a movie does not rely on jump-scares.  And in this one, The NUN is truly scary (not so much when she got her solo flick).  B+

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – A worthy successor in the series.  This one focuses a little more on the drama of the Warrens.  In many ways, it feels more like a detective story and less like a horror story.  I liked it but my daughter gives it higher ratings.  B-

In The Heights -  Just a delight.  I laughed, I cried, and was completely swept up in the story.  I enjoyed it more seeing it my 2nd-time last night.  There is a lot of fast sing-dialogue (it is Miranda after all) so I was picking up clever lines and nuances of story I missed on my first viewing.  I will probably catch this one again this week.  A-

The Misfits -  This heist movie felt more like some of the low-range quality we get from Netflix originals nowadays.  It had a few worthy moments but in general, it was just spotty and awkwardly paced. D+

F8: The Fate of the Furious – Another AMC “Fan Fave”.  This was my first for this series of films.  Not my cup o’ tea… but if you like lots of muscle cars and campy dialogue, here ya go.  C-

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard – I would have thought a Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson flick would have been a shoo-in.  However, the actors just didn’t have chemistry, I rarely cracked a smile, a classic flop.  D-

F9: The Fast Saga – Like F8 the week before, this is car chases and campy dialogue.  However, it lacked the presence and banter of Jason Statham and The Rock to keep it afloat.  After an hour and a half, I realized I still had an hour to go… and just couldn’t work up the interest.  So, in a rare move, I left.  F

(BTW, my grades speak primarily to my personal enjoyment of the movie.  You may notice I rarely give A’s.  To me, those are reserved for movies I can see a dozen times and never get bored.  Movies like Tombstone, A few Good Men, The Thing, 2010.  C’s are “average” and still worth a watch, but not a repeat.  B’s are enjoyable and probably worthy of another view or two.  D’s I don’t recommend and F’s I walk out of.)

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