Category: Lessons Learned

How To Silence Flat Earth Lunatics

Stephen Covey famously wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In the case of Flat Earth Lunatics, this sagacious suggestion falls flat on its face. In other words, I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot seem to win one single debate with FELs, despite putting the best success advice into practice.

If up until now you have avoided the pleasure of engaging an FEL, count your blessings. If not, then you will surely know my pain. I feel like I’m a fairly sharp cookie and yet I have always left the encounter a failure. So after much thought, and an even greater desire to not lose the day to these fellas, the following is the best I have come up with when it comes to silencing the recently mad.

Believe me when I say that, like you, I would have thought that, “Does your basement have a bathroom, or do you always have to use one of the one’s upstairs?” or, “A lifetime lived and still no friends?” or, “Okay, then where’s the end of the Earth?” would have had a much stronger affect on these folks. Unfortunately, experience proves that these approaches simply do not work. Regarding debate skills, it seems FEL’s might be the most potent group of lonely men in America.

(Before I pronounce the surefire strategy to silence them, I want to say one thing. When talking with one of these guys, my aim is no longer to win the argument. Instead, my desire is to simply bring them back from the edge. They have clearly been hurt, and I believe it is my duty–I believe it is our duty–to love on them until they release their stranglehold on sanity.)

The strategy is simple. It came to me while fabricating circuit boards at the A&D manufacturing factory where I work.

Step 1: ASK, “Can I ask you a question?” (Most FEL’s love to answer questions about their theory, so this will work flawlessly.)

Step 2: ASK, “Have you ever manufactured something, and then sold it for a profit?” (The outcome of uttering this question will be new and unexpected each and every time. Think ahead. It wouldn’t hurt to position yourself out of arm’s length beforehand.)

Step 3: ASK, “So what you’re asking me to believe is that the thousands upon thousands of people who manufacture and fabricate and test and assemble–not just the individual components of space-bound vehicles and satellites–but the materials of the buildings that shelter those people from the elements as they work, plus the materials that house the final products and their necessary rockets and all their parts and pieces, not to mention the specially designed railways, runways, and launchpads, and all their associated construction materials–including manpower–you’re asking me to believe that all of them operate apart from the otherwise observable influence of value?”

Step 4: SAY, “Noooo, I don’t have to answer your questions or explain anything to you. I have heard you and I have seen your animations. Now it is your turn. You said you would answer a question, so I asked one. Now answer it. Or don’t. But know that I love you and unlike people from your past, I am not giving up on you. I just don’t think you’ve thought through what you’re suggesting, and so I’ve now given you a very precise weak link to your theory that you need to answer in order for me to agree that I’ve been lied to my whole life.”

By my thinking, that should do the trick. They’ll have come across a question they can’t answer, and as they YouTube it, they should be able to imagine putting it into play against other FEL’s, which of course they’ll desire to do when they feel the joy of no longer disagreeing with everyone on the globe.

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The Divine Answer

I don’t know exactly where the time went, but the other day I just realized that I am thirty-seven years old. Wow.

After considering the matter, it occurred to me that I aged three years while at Seminary. (To be clear, this means I now have righteous reading skills, not major math skills.)

Additionally, I just realized that I finally have the clearest and most truthful answer to the question that has been nagging at me for some time.

The question: What did you do at Seminary?

The answer: I got older.

Boo ya.

Covering the Outside

The drawstring on my gym shorts has never retracted all the way into the band, but it seems like it may if I’m not careful as I put them on.

My forehead has a skin irritation that I do not believe I can cure with the limited amount of time and skill that I possess this morning.

The one on my upper left arm is prime for attention and now healing.

Remembering that I felt my big toenail snag on the blankets last night, I leave my anklet socks on the kitchen table as I return to the bathroom.

After clipping, the metal file is put to work.

Donning my shirt first, I then pull on my socks. Next, my glasses. One more look in the mirror to make sure that the additional light didn’t reveal any embarrassing and correctable flaws.

I’m good.

Well, my forehead still has the acute pain, but I’m good.

And I’m failing as I try not to think about the shooting, and what, if anything, it means, but I’m good.

ThenToo Versus #MeToo, Review of David Balfour, by Robert Louis Stevenson

I just love Robert Louis Stevenson–love him.

Check this out. I’m reading through his David Balfour, itself the sequel to Kidnapped. (Kidnapped is far superior, so start there.)

Here’s a scene in DB. The young Davie is trying to decide whether to move in for a forbidden kiss with a lass as he departed her company. (This scene takes a moment, but stick with it. It is so worth it. I’m especially talking to you Nazi-handbook-reading feminists and all the letting-you-drive men you’ve enchanted recently.)

The day came round at last when she and I were to separate. We had been extremely intimate and familiar; I was much in her debt; and what way we were to part was a thing that put me from my sleep, like the vails I was to give to the domestic servants. I knew she considered me too backward, and rather desired to rise in her opinion on that head. Besides which, after so much affection shown and (I believe) felt upon both sides, it would have looked  cold-like to be anyways stiff. Accordingly, I got my courage up and my words ready, and the last chance we were like to be alone, asked pretty boldly to be allowed to salute her in farewell.

“You forget yourself strangely, Mr. Balfour,” said she. “I cannot call to mind that I had given you any right to presume on our acquaintancy.”

I stood before her like a stopped clock, and knew not what to think, far less to say, when of a sudden she cast her arms about my neck and kissed me with the best will in the world.

“You inimitable bairn!” she cried. “Did you think that I would let us part like strangers? Because I can never keep my gravity at you five minutes on end, you must not dream I do not love you very well; I am all love and laughter, every time I cast an eye on you! And now I will give you an advice to conclude your education, which you will have need of before its very long. Never ask women-folk. They’re bound to answer ‘No’; God never made the lass that could resist the temptation. It’s supposed by divines to be the curse of Eve; because she did not say it when the devil offered her the apple, her daughters can say nothing else.”

Curse of Eve. Ha. Sounds about right. (Ms. magazine subscribers, you better be smiling at this point.)

Now, for something from yesterday, check out this NPR news story quote.

At Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., psychology teacher Sarah Soileau wants her class to consider some of the questions raised by the #MeToo movement — questions like verbal consent.

“What did we learn?” says student Marcus Bright, 17. “Each base. Each base. First base. Second base. Third base. Each base, I’m asking.”

“That is a good rule to live by,” Soileau says. “Each base you better ask, all right?”

As for me, I’m sticking with Stevenson.

So, to all the single ladies, “Wuh, uh, oh-” -Watch out! Big ol’ smoochie, smooch attempts are headed your way!

Stay Terrified

Transmitted through my helmet’s CEP’s, the phrase “tail’s hit” will forever be connected to the word “fear” for me.

Immediately I wondered whether my formation lead’s pilot meant that the tail of his helicopter was hit or that his tail gunner–the human–was hit.

And immediately I began to scan the monochromatic green terrain one hundred feet below for shooters.

And immediately I was overwhelmed with the reality that they could be anywhere and if they weren’t presently firing, I would likely not notice them.

And at the occurrence of that precise thought I became afraid.

I felt fear for the first time in my life.

Eventually, in a matter of seconds I mean, it was clear that the tail gunner was the victim of the “hit” and our direct action mission was aborted in favor of flying him to the nearest ‘cash.’ (Combat Support Hospital.) He lived.

But me? I was incapacitated for a little bit and I had an overwhelming desire to cry. Let me repeat that first part: I was incapacitated for a little bit. Luckily, I was the inexperienced co-pilot at the time.

Years later, I was the instructor pilot on a night sortie at the schoolhouse, and one of our other Huey’s had stopped checking in with HUB–or on any other radio or frequency we all tried. (That usually means the crew had crashed.) Soon after, my student was on the controls and hover taxiing to hot refuel at Andalusia. He was all over the sky, as they say. Too high, over-correcting to too low. So as my aircraft commander did for me in Iraq, I took the controls without comment. The student was clearly going through the realization that his friends might be dead–that we might later die on the job–and he didn’t need any more input. (They lived.)

Dr. Ford (et al): Stay terrified–it lets me know that you’re not a leader, that you’re not worth following.

Or you could apologize for lying. Or you could forgive.

But I can’t/won’t/don’t want to join you in your fear. I’d be trading in every ounce and moment and piece of hard-earned experience I have for nothing–no reason, no action, no sound, no light, no nothing–for darkness. In other words, I’d be exchanging it all for fear.

And I am not afraid.

Here’s a Better Suggestion

What?! You’re kidding me, right? Dying newspapers are banding together against President Trump?

Most Americans cannot even read.

Even more do not read.

Rather than joining forces against perceived attacks, newspapers and other written news mediums would be more likely to defeat President Trump’s attacks by publishing early-readers like Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks. Or Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever.

The president’s words cannot possibly threaten the literate.

Ever, Ever Again

As a child I remember hearing and repeating one disparaging joke about Ethiopians. That was the breadth of my awareness of that people. As an adult I find myself working alongside them. Just before taking this job, for a different reason, a white South African friend shared with me that what he knows of Ethiopians is that they fight, meaning they still have backbones–regardless of which side they’re fighting for.

A seemingly unrelated second memory from when I was a child is that my dad owned his small business. One day he came home from work and shared with my mom that his secretary essentially gave him the what-for about how he didn’t know how to do anything right. I can’t remember all the details but I remember how angry my mom was that my dad didn’t stick up for himself. My dad would tell you to this day that he does not like or believe in confrontation, and that he intentionally searches for the way forward that includes everyone being happy.

So, here’s the memory merge. Just over one year ago I began this new job. Shortly after beginning in one department I was moved to another. The man that trained me in this new department, on day one, lambasted the workers in our department on the earlier shifts. (It’s a 24-hr factory.) I remember thinking, “If he’s saying that to me about them on day one, then what’s going to stop him from saying that about me if I’m ever on another shift than him?”

Suffice it to say my suspicion was correct. The minute another worker quit, I switched shifts and subsequently discovered that my former-trainer was talking shyat about me during the pass-down every morning.

Dread, in any form, is no fun. Over the course of time I shared the situation with my Ethiopian co-worker and friend, and at first he thought I was probably not assessing things accurately. After a bit of contemplation he changed his mind and said, “You know what? If you’re complaining about him, something is off.”

To my sheer delight, my Ethiopian friend later initiated the following conversation. He said, “You know what, Pete? K- and I used to argue and get into it with each other every day. Then one day I said to him, ‘K-, if you have a question, something work related, you can ask me. Other than that, do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talk to me again.’ After that he stopped talking to me. These days we talk, sure. But it was only after a long time had passed.”

The funny thing about the entire thing is that when it comes to watching someone else be attacked, I won’t stand for it for one second, and I will shed any and all concern for myself and my circumstances as I move in to defend. But when I’m the recipient, I just absorb it.

Other advice includes the following gems. My mom says, “Be happy there is only one.” One of the Reverends from church says, “A lady once told me she had a similar situation at work. She prayed that the LORD would bless the co-worker. In three days they were promoted to supervise another department and peace was restored.” A friend from school, also randomly South African, said the biblical course of action would be address the dude one-on-one, then escalate to supervisors and HR when he doesn’t change. He also exhorted that I ask the LORD to change both our hearts.

Here’s what I did. Well, first, you need to know this. One night at the club, one of the girls told me that some guy was getting a little too handsy during the lap dance and so she stopped and then he stiffed her on the money. She came to me because I was the manager at the time. I asked her what she wanted and she wanted both her money and him to be thrown out. After entirely too much talking with the dude, I got her the money, but decided that he could have another chance. When I reported this news to the woman, well, let’s just say that the look this woman gave me was something I would not wish on anyone. I said to her, “Okay. You’re right. He’s leaving now. I’m probably gonna get slugged though.”

Sure enough, I told him I changed my mind and his friend and him had to leave. While looking at his friend, I felt the dude’s knuckles against the back of my skull. After slight and inconsequential chaos he was then escorted out. (It never ceased to amaze me how the party never hesitated, no matter if fights were happening, or where–including on stage between girls. Customers just wanted to get wasted around women, girls just wanted money. But everyone expected these things to happen and the company to have staff that was able to handle them surely and painlessly.)

The lessons were many, but most notable for my current predicament was that I went alone. I should’ve had another guy with me. And I did from then on.

So I didn’t have the one-on-one chat with my co-worker last week. I prepared to head to HR and get the third person involved from the get-go, especially because the problem is exactly that this guy is a hot-head and totally unapproachable. Upon resolving to get HR, I decided I wanted one more instance before I went, and as these things go, the week went off without much drama, especially considering there’s a new trainee that keeps him occupied.

What’s so funny to me about it is that I know myself so well that I know I won’t refrain from answering his BS responses in words and tones that must-needs compel him to action during the consequently never-gonna-happen one-on-one chat.

Is this self-awareness what my dad felt? Is he a all-or-nothing guy that just chooses nothing? Who knows. Pretty sure we’ll chat about it after he reads this.

Okay. Not to be picky, but I’m really only looking for stories about how you got the person fired. We’re fooling ourselves if we think these people change. I can only think of one sure way, but I don’t feel like getting hit. Whatcha got?

Women Are Safe

For Matt

I’m just saying that Robert Louis Stevenson is masterful. Check out this little section I just read from his The Master of Bellantrae.

Let anyone speak long enough, he will get believers. This view of Mr. Henry’s behavior crept about the country by little and little; it was talked upon by folk that knew the contrary, but were short of topics; and it was heard and believed and given out for gospel by the ignorant and the ill-willing. Mr. Henry began to be shunned; yet awhile, and the commons began to murmur as he went by, and the women (who are always the most bold because they are the most safe) to cry out their reproaches to his face. The Master was cried up for a saint. It was remembered how he had never any hand in pressing the tenants; as, indeed, no more he had, except to spend the money. He was a little wild perhaps, the folk said; but how much better was a natural, wild lad that would soon have settled down, than a skinflint and a sneckdraw, sitting, with his nosed in an account book, to persecute poor tenants! One trollop, who had a child to the Master, and by all accounts been very badly used, yet made herself a kind of champion of his memory. She flung a stone one day at Mr. Henry.

“Whaur’s the bonnie lad that trustit ye?” she cried.

Mr. Henry reined in his horse and looked upon her, the blood flowing from his lip, “Ay, Jess?” says he. “You too? And yet ye should ken me better.” For it was he who had helped her with money.

The woman had another stone ready, which she made as if she would cast; and he, to ward himself, threw up the hand that held his riding rod.

“What, would ye beat a lassie, ye ugly—-?” cries she, and ran away screaming as though he had struck her.

Next day word went about the country like wildfire that Mr. Henry had beaten Jessie Broun within an inch of her life.

Makes me wonder. Where is the woman who admits her safe status today? Seems out-of-fashion. And if she is in danger, what factors contributed to the change?

I say you’re all still very safe, safer in fact than you were in the nineteenth century–and that this still explains your boldness.

Another One For Only My Christian Readers

This Sunday, the church I have been a member of for three years now will recognize any/all graduates. It’s a fairly depressing ceremony as the congregation has lost so many members over the years that there are only a few remaining “youth” or “grandkids” that can be mustered out for display. For my part, I will be recognized for my post-undergraduate certificate thingy.

This calls to mind two things. First, I am sure I know more about the Bible, text-criticism of it especially, than my pastor and I’m not sure what to do about that. Second, I am sure someone will suggest I finish the master’s degree proper at some point when they realize I didn’t get one.

Here’s the thing. I will never attempt to do this. My reasons are not difficult to understand to me, but to all you encouragers I feel like my reasoning requires moving a mountain.

This is my final attempt. I stumbled upon this little gem in my Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 2. On the topic of “being” the following is included.

“It has seldom been supposed that reality exhausts the objects of our thought or knowledge. We can conceive possibilities not realized in this world. We can imagine things which do not exist in nature.

Every professor at the school I attended for three years, including those who sit on the NIV translation committee, believe that reality does exhaust knowledge. For example, they believe numbers are not imagination, but real. (As are triangles, nouns in the genitive case, and the like.)

Folks can believe what they want. But coupling this belief about the world with the one painted by the Bible makes it flatly a lie. They are wrong at a level which touches evil. Worse, in all my discussions with them, they never even acknowledged that they knew there was another option. Well I’m it. And I won’t fight them. I won’t. It’s foolishness.

There is huge trouble brewing–like you should be afraid–when men-of-god do not discern the difference between a circle or noun and the Exodus. One is only in our mind, the other happened. In that moment, the instant separation fades, the moment the circle “happens,” pride envelopes them and the meaningful distinction between creature and creator blurs. Aside: One thing I haven’t yet had time to research is just when precisely the academic types stopped declaring themselves divine. We know the infamous and hell-bound Greeks used to, and we know that they don’t anymore. But I’m curious when they stopped actually asserting it. By my thinking, the folks who think the LORD is in some way involved with grammar etc. are just closet-deity-declarers. Here’s the test question for you laymen. Can the all-powerful LORD make Frodo not throw the ring into Mordor? If you think the LORD can stop Frodo, how would He? And if you think the LORD cannot stop Frodo, what is preventing Him?

Do not mis-read me. Men-of-god can have as deep of imaginations as Anne Shirley. But they have to admit when they’re using them.

For example, I have reached far enough back into Ancient Near Eastern history to believe that the reason the adversary in the Garden is “the serpent” (versus some other predator) is because of how serpents bind their prey. Sin–disobedience to our Heavenly Father–binds us up just like the serpent binds its food. Serpents don’t use fingers, they don’t use arms and legs, they use everything that they are. That’s precisely how the adversary works. He doesn’t mess around and he desires us. And a really neat part of this is that no matter how much we struggle, we cannot get free. It takes someone outside of us to save us. Just like the Gospel recorded happened some two thousand years ago.

But that is all part of my imagination. The Word of God says no such thing. It draws no connection, and it never seeks to answer my question of, “Why the serpent?…besides the fact that it was the serpent.”

So that is my imagination. You don’t have to believe it. It probably isn’t true. But it satisfies me.

Finally, you may ask, “Why not track down some seminary that is in line with your understanding?” Ah, but there couldn’t be one. The LORD holds all power. Christ holds all power. It is His to give. Understand?

In retrospect, I should’ve went to Law School. Or Engineering.

Oh well. I can translate some cuneiform. That’s something.

I Think I’ve Lost My Grip…

…on the rental market in Denver.

Just a few short weeks ago I was mentally preparing to begin seeking a one-year lease on a house. Pretty soon, I discovered that if I was willing to sign a lease for longer than one year, it may move me to the top of the applicant list.

Yesterday I visited a nice home that would work, and submitted an application for a two-year lease. Within hours I received an email from the owner detailing that he went with an applicant who would sign a five-year lease.

Five years! Wow. What rules govern the market in Denver?

Any help, blogosphere?