Somewhere in-between

How soon we abandon what is basic for what is “best”,

and what is light for what is “right”.

Oh, to never be simple…

Oh, to never see others as simple…

But, oh to see the simple truth

– to know and to be known all the while not truly knowing anything.

The wisdom of the fool is simplicity.

The wisdom of the wise is simplicity with humility.

The wise know what the fools do not

–  all of us are fools.

Take your place at the bottom without resentment.

Take your place at the back with contentment.

Surrender to life; hold tight to conscience.

Keep your faith in truth and love.

Hope they’re not mutually exclusive.

They may yet be compatible.

They still may be gentle friends.

And you, young one, may yet be wise,

for the lives of stars live in you.

Take heart my beloved.

Somewhere between us lies the strength to carry on.

When Life Hurts

Life is full of various ups and downs. The waves of our own emotions invariably present their crests and troughs in various forms. Suffering is guaranteed to all in the mourning of our lows and the craving of our highs… Or, when highs are in short-supply, in craving the absence of life’s worse pains.

I have yet to taste the bitterness of life’s greatest sufferings, but I’m beginning to feel a greater depth of pain. These pains feel much more intimate and much less negotiable. There’s always the choice to steer away from the troubles of life, but that’s a short-term solution, if that.

If one is blessed to be born into this world, the burden of death and suffering is a nonnegotiable requisite – a sine qua non (“without which not”). Without suffering, life is impossible. Life consists of our journey to death. In On the Shortness of Life, Seneca wrote, “It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and… it takes the whole of a life to learn how to die.” Starts and endings, pleasures and pains… life and death.

It seems, as we grow older, we get to experience these things more deeply. Perhaps, it’s the accumulation of memory in the mind? The gradual increasing information overwhelms our ability to process all that life exposes us to. We may struggle to choose how to cope with life’s new details, to remember how we coped with life in the past, or to even remember life’s old details. We are simultaneously overwhelmed by grief and nostalgia. We recede into apathy, retreat into despair, or resort to anger and denial.

But, there is another way to deal with the deepening waves of life. It has been demonstrated to us by the likes of Frankl and Kalanithi – King and Mandela. When suffering comes for you, sharpen your mind and soften your heart.

There is no solution to some forms of pain and suffering, but there is an honorable way to travel our personal paths to death. That road is paved with striving characterized by the strength to love, sincere kindness, and an attitude of meekness. This road demands courageous work and gentle wisdom from its travelers.

Love is a difficult thing. It will deepen your sufferings and elevate your joys. Love will amplify your life.

Don’t silence the common sensations of love. Invest in and preserve the health of your relationships with others, especially those characterized by reciprocal altruism and mutual encouragement. Love those who love you best and who feel the most loved by you. As far as it depends on you, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Love your “enemies” without surrendering to them.

When life hurts, remember that behavior is about balance and life is about relationships. Don’t drown swimming against the tide. Don’t lose your way trying to avoid bad weather. Take measure of these storms, for they will be the measure of you.

Sail on with a shrewd attitude, a soft heart, and all the savvy you can muster. Ride the waves of life with tenacious joy and peaceful purpose. Hold strong to your principles while curiously exploring the unknowns. Allow kindness and care to flow freely through you to others then back to you. Don’t numb your pain before listening to what it is trying to tell you. Read the skies for what the are, heeding omens and savoring beauty. Smile, laugh, mourn, hope, trust, and learn.

Enjoy your work, prioritize relationships, and pay attention. Allow yourself to openly respond to life’s mysterious seas. These moments are what makes a life. Be joyfully and courageously present in them. When life hurts, you don’t have to fix it or even understand it, to find resonance among the waves.

Returning

He gave me an arrowhead.

He said it represents “faith-healing”.

Not everyone agrees,

but, it encourages me.

Words – I return to them.

 

 

I find it more difficult to fall asleep.

My heart throbs in my chest.

My mind races like a train in the night.

It’s my inner noise pollution.

Thinking/feeling – I return to it.

 

 

The agony of the distance between us…

We individuals – all separated in space…

We groups – all prone to polarization…

Time is all we have to give.

Thinking about you – I return to it.

 

 

I lay my head in my hands.

My eyes well up, but the well is dry.

My chest aches, and my gut gives way.

I spill it all onto a page.

Writing – I return to it.

 

 

The way lies where I cannot see.

I rationalize and justify my choices.

Good or bad – better or worse…

Movement demands a dichotomy.

Choosing – I return to it.

 

 

Life is found in the balance,

but, finding balance is tough.

How can I embrace that beautiful struggle?

Is there any healing on the road ahead?

Faith – I return to it.

 

 

Encouragement – let’s accept it.

Peace – let’s find it.

Quality time – let’s spend it.

Our story – let’s write it.

Choice – let’s own it.

Hope – let’s return to it.

 

 

My judgements judge me.

Things Fall Apart

My shell is not smooth.

Is there any hope in this hateful world?

Life and death are at war in me.

Can I help them find their peace?

This is the beautiful journey.

COVID-19 and Loneliness

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No single state lasts forever. How will you react when things change and you feel threatened? People are creatures of habit, and in 2020 a form of coronavirus has unexpectedly risen to rapidly infect over 300,000 humans while disturbing our daily routines on a global scale. We are geared towards survival, and things that appear to threaten our survival often disturb us.

Our reaction to the virus may demonstrate our desire for predictability more than our frustrations with widespread death and disease. A person often seems less disturbed when that person thinks a disease has the potential to hurt many others. A person seems more disturbed when a disease has the potential to hurt that person or people who feel closer to that person. The speed and urgency with which this virus is spreading is another factor that produces a sense of dread.

If you want to explore this further, take some time to compare the statistics on coronavirus with the statistics on other causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer disease and other dementias, unintentional injuries (e.g. road accidents), and suicide (Center for Disease Control, 2020; CDC, 2017). The reproduction rate of coronavirus is disturbing, but other infectious diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, influenza and pneumonia, HIV, tuberculosis, and mosquito-borne illnesses have killed many, many more people while remaining commonplace (World Health Organization, 2019). It may be that commonplace feeling combined with the privileges of age-group, socioeconomic status, and environmental advantages (e.g. geographic location, economic & technological development, community immunity, etc.) that allow our fears to be stilled in the midst of these other pervasive problems.

Diet, exercise, sleep, and social health habits impact our lives over long periods of time. A motor vehicle accident (MVA) or suicide only requires a few mistakes or a moment of ignorance. These problems can seem more insidious : “developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent” (e.g. heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, etc.) or “awaiting a chance to entrap” (e.g. unintentional accidents such as MVA’s, intentional self-harm, etc.) (Mish et al., 2014).

While it is important to realize that everything develops over time (e.g. even MVA and self-harm risk factors can be identified and addressed), these more insidious causes of death may be less disturbing to us due to their familiarity, slow onset, and rapid culmination. Atherosclerosis (“artery hardening” “…marked by cholesterol-lipid-calcium deposits in the walls of arteries that may restrict blood flow”), accumulation of radiation exposure (e.g. tobacco smoke, ultraviolet light, etc.), chronic sleep deprivation, social isolation, and obesity can all take years or decades to accumulate/develop before resulting in dramatic lifestyle changes over the course of a few months (Chabner, 2015; Venes et al., 2005). Feeling lonely is only a small aspect of one factor of many, many variables that accumulate to influence our health over time.

Coronavirus has spread at an unprecedented rate, and this fact alone is enough to awaken our instinctual fears. This is the time to be listening to local authorities and adhering to recommended precautions, not gathering together in groups. Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the United States, and the longer people ignore social distancing and travel restrictions, the worse this pandemic is likely to be. We need to take this seriously while still caring for each other. See the World Health Organization’s updates on COVID-19, and adhere to their and the Center for Disease Control’s advice concerning this coronavirus (World Health Organization, 2019-2020; CDC, 2020). My goal with this post is to highlight a little of what I have been learning about another problem (loneliness) that could be exacerbated by the quarantine-like measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Loneliness is a common human condition to experience, especially in response to perceived threats (e.g. isolation and coronavirus). Lonely is commonly defined in many ways: “being without company” (i.e. lone), “cut off from others” (i.e. solitary), “not frequented by human beings” (i.e. desolate), “sad from being alone” (i.e. lonesome), and “producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” (i.e. loneliness) (Mish et al., 2014). The last two definitions more closely resemble the way John Cacioppo portrayed loneliness in his 2008 book, Loneliness, co-authored by William Patrick.

When we have feelings of loneliness (i.e. “the anxious, depressed, or dysphoric mood that occurs as a result of physical or psychic isolation”), we need to react to them in a healthy way to prevent those feelings from accumulating over time (Venes et al., 2005). John Cacioppo and William Patrick describe loneliness as “…a stimulus to get humans to pay more attention to their social connections, and to reach out toward others, to renew frayed or broken bonds.” By comparing loneliness to hunger or thirst, Cacioppo is suggesting the feeling is an “…alarm signal…” that “…serves a survival function…”. The authors state, “…chronic feelings of isolation can drive a cascade of physiological events that actually accelerates the aging process.” Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) go on to describe the health implications of loneliness in detail, but the most functional takeaway from the book may be how Cacioppo encourages us to respond to loneliness.

“Whereas kind and generous behavior leads to social acceptance and the healthful feeling of connection, selfish antisocial behavior leads to physical decline and the disruptive pain of social isolation.” (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2009).

The authors are encouraging their readers to engage and invest in their communities in a healthy way. Instead of fearing society, we are encouraged to move towards others with whom we can establish mutually encouraging relationships that foster more kind, deep, and meaningful connections. I came to similar but much simpler and more rudimentary conclusion when I wrote a reflection on loneliness a year or two ago. We are all original and unique people, and the answers we find in life often look at least slightly different. My answers for loneliness often come from the values and people I have encountered throughout my past. You will need to find your own way to healthily respond to loneliness, but in this time of increased physical isolation here are a few suggestions to remain socially engaged…

  • Call or video chat with a kind friend/family member with whom you have a deep, mutually-encouraging relationship
  • Call someone who you want to encourage while expecting to be content regardless of how your encouragement is received (e.g. your friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, or other relatives)
  • Write some thank you notes or emails
  • Volunteer your time or resources to safely support others during this time
  • Hold virtual gatherings around meals or other events (e.g. a movie, a birthday, a spiritual or religious gathering, a book study, etc.)
  • Educate yourself about things that other people are going through or feeling during this time and how you can be helpful to them
  • Practice your artistic talents (e.g. music, crafts, sports, etc.) and practical skills (e.g. cooking, coding, handiwork, etc.) with the goal of being better able to use those skills to personally care for others in the future (e.g. I’m coping with my subjective feelings, expanding my knowledge, and reaching out to others through writing this blog post)
  • If your area is allowing person-to-person interactions in public spaces (the fewer the better at this point), casually screen you friend(s) for recent symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) and meet in locations where social distancing (i.e. maintaining a distance of 6 feet at all times) is fairly easy (e.g. going for a walk in a local park or trail)

If you are curious about the potential consequences and severity of loneliness, talk to your doctor and/or ask for a referral for counseling or behavioral health. You can also consider taking the UCLA Loneliness Scale and reading Loneliness by Cacioppo and Patrick. The book ends with practical ways to “EASE Your Way to Social Connection” (Extend yourself, Action plan, Selection, Expect the best) (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2009). If you want to know the details of and reasons for those strategies, you’ll have to read the book.

“The best ideas are those that benefit the individual, the family, the tribe, and ultimately the species.” (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2009)

If there is something good that is coming out of this pandemic, it is the undeniable interconnectedness of our species and of life on earth. In spite of our best efforts, we cannot yet escape each other. Each of our actions influences this little island paradise and the life upon it in some minuscule or small way. Only those who can decipher the butterfly effect will know the extent of the impact of those actions. We are lucky, blessed, and privileged to be living out our unique life-journeys on this oasis of a planet. If we draw larger and larger circles around ourselves while gladly holding ourselves accountable to our individual and social responsibilities, we will come out of this stronger together.

 

“…the hallmark of a successful, long-lived civilization may be the ability to achieve a lasting peace among the several brain components.” – Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden

 

“I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” – Viktor E. Frankl as quoted by William J. Winslade in the Afterward to Man’s Search for Meaning

 

“Any ideology that needs to attack the thing that least threatens it is an ideology that will not outlive its own generation. Inclusion not exclusion, gentlemen, is the key to survival.” – St. John, fictional character, The Power of One (1992)

 

 

Citations

Cacioppo, J. T. & Patrick, W. (2009). Loneliness: human nature and the need for social connection. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.

CDC (2020, March 13). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

CDC (2017, May 3). FastStats – Deaths and Mortality. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

Center for Disease Control (2020, March 19). World Map. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/world-map.html

Chabner, D.-E. (2015). Medical terminology: a short course (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Inc.

Mish, Frederick C., et al. (2014). The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Venes, D., M.D. et al. (2005). Tabers cyclopedic medical dictionary (21st ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

World Health Organization (2019, May 6). Top 10 causes of death. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/causes_death/top_10/en/

World Health Organization (2019-2020). Novel Coronavirus situation reports. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports

 

“Feed my sheep.”

woman standing surrounded by herd of animals

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

We all get lonely and discouraged at times. Loneliness is a common human condition to experience. So, for all of the lonely people out there, here’s this…

How can one expect perfect love out of an imperfect life? No relationship is perfect. What do you do when things fall apart?

It is easy to look for what one wants to see and search for what one wants to feel. But, love is less concerned with the selfishness of others and more concerned with getting over oneself through focusing on the needs of others. Love is more about giving than taking.

As humans we’re social animals and we’re often inpatient. We can be over-analytical or ignorant. We can be isolated or over-bearing.

People were designed to observe one another in close relationship. Hold people in your heart and hands as loosely or tightly as they desire. They may very much become a part of you, but you will never make their decisions for them.

Your closest friends and family will define your life, for better or worse. Choose people who will love and cherish you as much as you love and cherish them. Make good decisions and anticipate good things. It is better to feel the pain of broken love than to give up faith in its existence.

Hold true to yourself and your values. Hold onto your convictions. Respect your boundaries and the boundaries of those around you. 

Treat yourself and others with honest skepticism and constructive scrutiny while also embracing compassion and forgiveness. Don’t neglect your need for discipline but don’t forget to grant yourself forgiveness. Do not give up the hope that you and others will change for the better. Distance yourself from unhealthy relationships, and hope for the best for yourself and others in the process.

Don’t fear love; respect it. Don’t shield yourself from love’s entanglements, but guard yourself and others from its dangers. Don’t forever fear unknowns. Conquer your fear of failure through learning to understand that which frightens you. Be practical and reasonable in the process.

You will fail time and again in order to succeed. Step carefully and choose you path intentionally while enjoying the adventures and journeys of life. Do your best to clear a better way for those who follow you.

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John 21: 15-19

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Whatever level of appreciation or respect you have for John 21:15-19, there is an important fundamental concept to internalize. Are you lonely and/or discouraged? Are you asking someone, “Do you love me?”, but they are not showing it? Or, are you telling someone “…you know that I love you.”?, but they are not feeling it? Maybe the answer you are looking for is less about words and more about your actions.

I have a deeply Christian background that I’ve begun to distance myself from in the last few years, but I can’t escape who I was because who I was greatly influences who I am. When I become lonely and discouraged, Jesus’s questions and answers to Peter encourage me. When I become overwhelmed with unanswered questions and future unknowns… When feelings of loneliness and grief feel like unwanted guests overstaying their booking… The built-in moral compass of my Christian youth stirs me to think, sometimes aloud, “God if you’re there and you care, help me out… God if you’re real, be real to me.”

There’s no audible answer. There never has been. Always silence.

That may be a good thing, because if I ever heard an audible answer I’m not sure if I would happily listen or go see a counselor. But, the bottom line is that I realize I need help. I am incapable of facing the things of this life on my own. I’m an interdependent creature.

Whether that helps comes only from the actions and ideas of others or also from God(s) working behind the scenes, I don’t know. But, when I do find a satisfactory answer to my questions it often comes in the form of an old familiar thought, returning like an estranged or forgotten friend you didn’t realize you had been missing so much. A thought so practical, so old, so innate – you didn’t think you could ever forget it.

God, what do I do?… Right, I’ve had this conflict and resolution before. I knew that.”

Feed my sheep.

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Photo by EYÜP BELEN on Pexels.com

woman sitting on rock beside wall and near sheep

Photo by Arnie Chou on Pexels.com

woman and sheep beside body of water photo

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The Black Keys

Let'sRock - Edited

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are known for releasing up-beat songs like “It’s Up to You Now” from Turn Blue (2014), “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” from El Camino (2011), and “Everlasting Light”, “Tighten Up”, and “Howling for You” from Brothers (2010). Brothers was the album that introduced me to The Black Keys, and their hearty rhythms immediately impressed me. From their beginnings, the Black Keys have almost always supplied a tune that you can get behind.

It has been 17 years plus some change since The Black Keys released The Big Come Up. Tunes like “Busted”, “Run Me Down”, and “Heavy Soul” felt aged when they were only fresh out of the studio. Now that those songs have aged, so have The Black Keys.

The Black Keys have released 9 studio albums in 18 years, not to mention the duo’s many other projects. They followed The Big Come Up in 2002 with Thickfreakness in 2003 and Rubber Factory in 2004. Magic Potion was released in 2006, and in 2008 The Black Keys released Attack & Release to increasing notoriety. In 2010 they took on a new Label that they would keep for their next three albums. Their songs have been featured in several motion pictures, and they’ve rocked out at Lollapalooza, South by Southwest, Coachella, Glastonbury, and other music festivals.

Auerbach and Carney have been doing some new things (see PBS Newshour story here and Rolling Stone story here) with their time over the past 5 years, but 2019 occasioned the release of The Black Keys 9th studio album, Let’s Rock. The two stay true to the albums title, but it’s the lyrics of this album that seemed to take on a deeper vibe. Shine a Little Light feels existential while Every Little Thing seems to advocate for some moderation and self-love while warning about the consequences of one’s actions. Eagle Birds, Low/Hi, and Tell Me Lies express various familiar themes of human nature, and while Breaking Down and Under The Gun deal with more dreary and dire themes. Get Yourself Together and Sit Around And Miss You add to the list of love-themed songs on the album, but Walk Across The Water may be the song with the purest themes of romantic love.

Regardless of my interpretation of these lyrics and the artists’ intentions for them, they are also up for your interpretation. What seems extra special about Let’s Rock, is that you can enjoy musing on the catchy lyrics or infectious rhythms for a longer amounts of time before moving on to something else. Conclusion: The Black Keys are back with their best album yet.

Let'sRock

Online Dating Review

In The Mathematics of Love author Hannah Fry shares a lot of practical dating advice designed to optimize dating outcomes for those who are looking for an ideal partner. One of the biggest bits of advice she gives is founded on Optimal Stopping Theory, and Hannah Fry gives a neat formula for calculating the best time to stop dating and choose a partner (Fry, 2015). You’ll have to read the book if you’re interested in the formula and all of the other good bits of advice on dating, but the over-simplified gist of Optimal Stopping Theory is that your best option for a life-partner will likely come after the first third of your dating years (Christian & Griffiths, 2016; Fry, 2015).

So, if one has been dating since the age of 18 years and expects to give up on dating by the age of 42 years, that’s a 24 year dating life. According to our over-generalized Optimal Stopping Theory, that means that 8 years into that dating life, the individual should be choosing a partner if that person wants to select the best possible partner. According to this individual’s dating life-span, the person should be choosing a partner at the age of 26 years old.

Of course, this estimation excludes a lot of information and context. In an age when Millennials are marrying later and have different expectations for relationships, we can expect that romantic relationships will take on different characteristics than former generations (Manning, Smock, & Fettro, 2019; Martin, Astone, Marie, Peters, & Elizabeth, 2014; US Census Bureau, 2018). Many other factors need to be accounted for when choosing a partner, but Optimal Stopping Theory does support some conventional wisdom. As a friend recently told me, “Don’t wait too long.”

In 2018, my attempts to optimally stop my search for a significant other were unsuccessful. I attributed this to a small sample size and decided to give online dating a chance. I signed up for a year of online dating on one website, and I was immediately met with a variety of conundrums.

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  • Starting a conversation

Online dating sites have a variety of ways in which one can start a conversation. Instead of sending a message to everyone who captures one’s attention, there are often more ambiguous options that can imply a variety of things (e.g. pleasant disposition, a desire to start a conversation, a passive pleasantry, etc.). Think of sending a “smile” emoji or a “like” to someone or someone’s published content on social media sites. One big difference between a “like” on social media and a “smile” on an online dating website is that in the case of the former it is easier to assume things.

One can often give into gut feelings. ‘She likes me!’ may be a easy thought to have. ‘He’s open to dating me…’ may be another. ‘That’s nice…’ or ‘No thanks…’ or ‘Nope…’ may be other thoughts. In my experience, “likes” and “smiles” mean one is open to starting a conversation, but ultimately, it’s hard to define or attach definitive emotions to these social media tools.

  • Ending a conversation

It’s nice to think people can easily survey a field of potential relationships and take or leave options as they choose without consequence, but is that a realistic thought? As I initiated conversations there were typically 3 defining points – the initial messaging, movement to another media of communication, and meeting up or ending the conversation.

    • Initial messaging or ending the conversation
      • This is the stage when the conversation starts. It can be characterized by a lot of questions with long, explanatory messages or by short, flirty messages. It depends on a lot of factors, but in my experience a lot of these initial conversations fizzled out through one of the conversationalists growing silent or politely moving on.
    • Movement to another media of communication
      • This stage involved a variety of different media, and it was not always solely dependent on attraction or interest. Many times it was simply more practical to move on to another form of communication, and this was often the primary reason for changing media forms. Communication through email is both laborious for long-term communication and impractical for getting to know someone in a personal way. Unless you can easily arrange via email to meet up in a safe public place, you will need to move to another form of communication in order to gain useful information about the person you are interested in.
    • Meeting up or ending the conversation
      • This last stage is the most nerve-racking and the most burdensome, but this is where you want to be if you really want to be in a personal and possibly romantic relationship. Although you can be hurt at any point, this is the stage where you are more likely to be hurt and more likely to actually learn more about yourself and the person you are interested in. If you are on an online dating site and are not reaching this stage, you may want to reconsider your motives and goals.
  • A Note About Cat-fishing (Online Scammers)

I routinely encountered online scammers (probably about one per month), and I have a list of embarrassing messages from one individual who “cat-fished” me for about a week. As the story became more and more outrageous and the person finally asked for money, I realized that my online profile pictures and email correspondence could be used to craft another story designed to manipulate someone else. So, don’t correspond with people outside of the online dating platform, don’t send people pictures or information about you that you don’t want to share with the world, and don’t ever send anyone money. I made the first two mistakes (I corresponded via email and sent pictures that included people other than me), and I regret it. All of this is a good reminder to re-think one’s privacy, social media presence, and online footprint in general.

  • The Overall Effort

I poured a lot of effort into online dating over a period of 7-8 months. I filled out every section of my online profile, often using the maximum allowed word count and photos. I had template messages set up to save time when introducing myself or not introducing myself to people who I was interested in or who were interested in me. I always endeavored to be polite when ending conversations, but I ultimately offended a few people. I filtered through over 1000 profiles and sent or received over 250 messages. I met up in person with few individuals, and I encountered very few online profiles (probably less than 10 in total) of people who lived within a 2 hour drive from me. Ultimately, the people who I did meet up with required me to travel to different states to meet them, and those conversations were eventually ended due to the impractical nature of distance between us.

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  • The Mental and Emotional Struggle

To explain the complicated, emotional roller-coaster that online dating can be, a reflection that I penned during the experience follows:

“Online dating, thus far, has stressed me out a bit because I find myself willing to chat with people and get to know them, but I also find myself realizing that I need to be a little selfish and certainly realistic with my expectations and the expectations of those women I interact with. I can control and be responsible for my feelings, thoughts, and actions but I can’t do the same for others. I have to keep in mind that many women may not want to just chat it up online. Also, I have to say yes to one person eventually and no to all of the rest. I don’t want to reject a lot of people on my way to finding one person – that’s a lot of pain for a selfish reason, but I don’t want to give my future self a bad situation because I wasn’t intentional about choosing to be with someone who can increase my future well-being.

It’s nice to think we can always be friends. It’s nice to think we can find time to hang out, near or far. It’s nice to think that as long as we really care about each other’s well-being and needs that we can be happy with one another regardless of romance or physical intimacy. But, this is a very generous thought. Someone is likely to have expectations unmet. Someone is likely to be the one giving up more to maintain a friendship.

I suspect a lot of people on online dating sites are looking for commitment to an intimate, romantic relationship. That’s something that I want too, but if I could choose one thing to have in a long-term relationship or a short-term relationship, it would be friendship. In other words, I find it very difficult to commit to a long-term intimate, romantic relationship (because I take that type of relationship very seriously), but I find it natural to commit to friendships because I believe friendships are self-sustaining (the interests and past experiences of friends continually revitalize the relationship). Different factors (e.g. geographical distance) often place barriers in friendships, but the best friendships in my life are the ones that I can pick right back up with the commonplace sense of humor, interests, or activities that fuel the friendship. So, my expectation is friendship first, and commitment to an exclusive relationship is something that, for me, must come after long, careful consideration.

People are naturally selfish, and it’s difficult to feel and think that we have found a good match. There will always be something right about someone and something wrong about someone. Every person is beautiful in one way and ugly in another way. To not see both the beautiful and the ugly in a person, is to ignore their humanity through elevating them to a god or demoting them to an inanimate object. When I think about the practicality of a long-term intimate friendship, I think it makes sense to look for someone easy to love well and someone who finds it easy to love me well over a long period of time. The problem is that love is a choice more than a feeling and that love is, at its essence, characterized by self-sacrifice. Also, the multiplicity of factors and variables that contribute to long-term compatibility is staggering and seems impossible to accurately predict. So, the two intractable problems related to love seem to be compatibility (i.e. love as a natural feeling) and plain choice (i.e. love as a sacrificial action). Humanity seems to lack the intelligence to predict or create the former and the strength of character to produce the latter.”

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  • Things To Learn From Online Dating
    • If you cannot or are not meeting up with people, it’s not personal and it’s not worth it…
      • If your goal is a romantic relationship outside of the virtual world, do yourself a favor and safely meet up with people in public places or don’t waste your time.
    • Be kind, and don’t be offended…
      • You will stop talking to someone and you find people who will stop talking to you. Be as polite as you can be, and don’t get upset when people stop talking to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean they think you are a terrible person. If people are trying to make the best decisions for themselves, we cannot reasonably expect those decisions to be found easily. Try not to imagine that people are rejecting everything about you. It’s more likely that they didn’t like a few things, and those things were their “deal-breakers”. If you can figure out what those things are and if you want to change them, please do. Otherwise, be aware that the person who you are will be rejected by many, especially when it comes to romance, and unless you are apathetic toward a pattern of problems in you life that need to be addressed, that’s okay.
    • There are a lot of amazing people out there…
      • I met some amazing people living in other nations and cultures. I had great conversations about culture, work, and life. I tasted foods I had never tried before, and I was introduced to ideas I had never thought before. I considered what it may be like to be a responsible single parent – reflecting that it’s both difficult and that it’s a privilege that needs to be protected. I empathized with fears, desires, and experiences that I had not previously considered. I thought about what it may be like to live in other nations and/or on other continents as foreigners or nationals. I considered what it would be like to live life absent from some of the voluntary constrictions that I currently place on my life. I was introduced to some really intelligent people, adventurous people, and some really grounded people. And, If I got nothing else out of the experience, I can recall the individuals who introduced me to the ideas of circus and R-stats. I had conversations that helped me to understand that elevating cultural, biopsychosocial, and socioeconomic needs above the manufactured idea of race may help to soften the dangerous rhetoric and divides arising from people’s innate and developed prejudices. Of course, I took and left a lot of ideas I was exposed to. The point is that I was exposed to new people whose personalities, experiences, and ideas enriched my life.
    • Go on some dates…
      • When I was online dating I went on a few dates. While those dates were with some pretty cool people and while I experienced some new places along the way, it’s way easier for me to date people who live where I live.
    • If you live in a rural area, you may want to try multiple online dating sites, be open to long-distance relationships, or not try online dating at all.
      • While I thought the online dating would help my chances of finding a partner, I only signed up for one dating site and I went on a few dates as a result of my search. I drove or even flew to meet up with those people. If, like me, the small town and rural area that you live in decrease the sample size of your dating pool, and you have discovered that you are not good at nor have a desire for starting relationships over a long-distance, do yourself a favor and move or date locally.
    • Study yourself (i.e. learn your strengths and weaknesses)…
      • As my online dating experience progressed I began to realize that I have issues with trust and commitment, among other things. I already knew about my fear of failure and my analytical nature, but after my online dating experience, I better understand that my perception of the lack of commitment trending in my generation is something I am not immune to. I wanted a romantic relationship to be easier, and my embrace of online dating was likely fueled in-part by my own fears and lack of commitment. If you, like me, have a desire for a long-term, monogamous, and romantic relationship, you should gird yourself with practicality, patience, and courage as the journey is fraught with as much if not more risk and rebuke as reward. If you want love to be as easy as possible, focus on compatibility. If you want your love to involve devotion, self-sacrifice, and conscious choice, focus on practicing that love and finding someone who shares that conception. If you want a joyful long-term love that embraces compatibility and sacrificial love, focus on both compatibility and conscious choice (i.e. friendship, values, intentional practice, reconciliation, etc.).
        • Note: One piece of advice that I have always found beneficial is to write out a “Top 10 List” for your “Top 10 List”. In other words, you should be able to find 10 characteristics that support or complement the 10 characteristics that you desire in a significant other, then you should practice those behaviors. I have also find it helpful to make the “Top 5” of that list most important and the “Top 3” of that list non-negotiable (for both you and your future partner).

There’s plenty of online dating advice freely available on the internet. Here and here are a few of my favorite Technology, Education and Design (i.e. TED) Talks addressing online dating. Also, Hannah Fry’s book, The Mathematics of Love, is an intelligent resource for dating in general.

MathematicsOfLoveFry

If you don’t know how to create an algorithm to find your best potential mate or if you grow fatigued with the online dating journey, join the club. My intuition was that online dating was not for me. In 2018, I abandoned that intuition due to my feelings of loneliness and desperation to find a partner. Now, I’m embracing that old intuition once again. After 7-8 months of what often felt like online shopping for a romantic relationship, I quit the online dating scene. I have heard that it works out well for some, and I certainly learned a lot from the experience. So, if you are considering online dating, I encourage you to be careful with your expectations and vulnerability, heeding some of the above advice, as you give it a try.

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Resources

Christian, B., & Griffiths, T. (2016). Algorithms to live by: What computers can teach us about

solving human problems. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Audiobook.

Fry, H. (2015). The mathematics of love: Patterns, proofs and the search for the ultimate

equation. New York: TED Books / Simon & Schuster.

Kang, A., & Kang, D. (2015, July 27). The Beautiful Truth About Online Dating. Retrieved July 4,

2019, from http://www.tedxucdavissf.com/talks/the-beautiful-truth-about-online-dating/

Manning, W., Smock, D., & Fettro, P. (2019). Cohabitation and Marital Expectations

Among Single Millennials in the U.S. Population Research and Policy Review, 38(3),

327-346.

Martin, P., Astone, S., Marie, Peters, N., & Elizabeth, H. (2014, March 31). Fewer Marriages,

More Divergence: Marriage Projections for Millennials to Age 40. Retrieved July 1, 2019,

from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED575460

US Census Bureau. (2018, November 14). Historical Marital Status Tables. Retrieved July 1,

2019, from https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/families/marital.html

Webb, A. (2013, October 2). How I hacked online dating. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from

https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_webb_how_i_hacked_online_dating

 

Strength to Love

In Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. concentrates his word skills and expertise in philosophy and theology on a variety of social justice initiatives. Strength to Love received its copyright in 1963 which was the same year as Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a year before the 1964 Civil Right’s Act. The book is a collection of some of Dr. King’s sermons that demonstrate his passion for a more loving and peaceful world. Common themes of Dr. King’s life, such as non-violent protest, addressing racism and race prejudice, and opposition to war, are brought to the reader’s attention.

“…life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.” – Strength to Love (King, 1963, p. 9)

The book opens with a verse from the Gospel of Matthew that emphasizes a need for balance between toughness and gentleness. Dr. King states, “…life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.” Dr. King encourages is readers to strike a balance between toughness and softness, and the old common sense cliche “Everything in moderation” may also be applicable here. Dr. King goes on to suggest a relationship between “soft-mindedness” and lazy thinking.

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” – Strength to Love (King, 1963, p. 10)

Dr. King was not shy about sharing his conception of truth, but it’s clear that he deliberately prepared and reflected upon the social justice issues he addressed. Dr. King was not a lazy thinker, and in Strength to Love he calls upon the reader/listener to boldly align his or her convictions with his or her actions (King, 1963, p.17-25). Dr. King talks/writes about the need for higher standards of love and human behavior (King, 1963, p.33-34), and he asserts that truth can be pursued by all, not only those in academia or positions of authority (King, 1963, p.45).

In chapter 5, Dr. King encourages the reader to respond to aggression and offenses with peace and forgiveness, and in chapter 6 he continues his admonishment and encouragement of the church. In chapters 7-8, Dr. King opposes materialistic and superficial world views through emphasizing the importance of relationship and faith, and in chapter 9 Dr. King continues his previous themes of faith and hope during times of trial. In chapter 10, Dr. King, no doubt speaking to Cold War tensions, provides cautions on his listeners/readers’ interpretations of communism, and in chapter 11 he notes the sufferings and trials of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. In chapter 12 Dr. King speaks to what may be a common underlying reason for hate and racism – fear, and in chapter 13 Dr. King briefly critiques naturalistic humanism and reasserts Christian themes of redemption.

“I have discovered that the highest good is love” – Strength to Love (King, 1963, p.145)

In chapter 13 Dr. King makes another petition to a divided and segregated American church. He encourages unity action concerning the Civil Rights Movement, and he uses the doctrines of the Christian faith to bolster his argument. In the same chapter, Dr. King makes what could be his thesis statement for the book, “I have discovered that the highest good is love” (King, 1963, p.145). In Chapter 15, Dr. King ends the book with some background on his beliefs concerning non-violence.

Strength to Love is an easy read that can be taken up and set down at a whim. The book can be consumed chapter by chapter, in 20-30 minute reading portions, or fairly quickly over the span of a few days or weeks. Because the book is fashioned from some of Dr. King’s sermons, the language is clear and concise. If you are curious about Dr. King, his beliefs, and his life work, Strength to Love, written in the midst of the Civil Rights Era and sandwiched between the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, may be a great place to start.

 

References

King, M. L. (1963). Strength to Love(1st ed.). Glasgow, GB: William Collins.

 

An Update on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

If you’ve visited the “about” page on this website/blog you may have noticed the ambitious vision statement that is somewhat similar to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The vision statement reads, “Worldwide access to quality healthcare, life-long education, and clean energy by 2030”. Like this vision statement, the United Nations’ (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are very ambitious. Why?

Well, an old cliche from Norman Vincent Peale might tell the story most succinctly – “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Now, for the analytical perfectionist, there’s a lot wrong with this quote, but the point is that when one is endeavoring to achieve big goals, it’s often better to err on the side of too much rather than too little ambition. The future will tell us if the UN’s STG’s will support or undermine this quote.

With a desire to be a part of such an overwhelming set of goals, it’s easy to avoid action. So, if you haven’t already learned about the goals, you can check them out through the link above. If you want to have someone tell you about them and give you some ideas of how you can get involved, Michael Green (Author of Philanthrocapitalism) seems to have a great deal of expertise on the subject. His first TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk on the STG’s can be found here.

If you already know about the STG’s, but haven’t heard Michael Green’s recent update on the subject, check it out here.

“He who would rise in the world should veil his ambitions with the forms of humanity.” – Chinese Proverb