he must represent his world with full confidence

I respect everything in change and the solemn beauty of life and death… and therefore, while man is amidst the immense beauty of objective bodies, he must possess the capacity of self-perfection and must observe and represent his world with full confidence.
–Ansel Adams

Does it every bother you that not many years ago we — as a nation — were able to produce men and women of insight and intelligence and principle and ethical character, and that today all we seem to be able to produce or celebrate as a society is greed and violence and public lies?  It seems lately there’s an awful lot of excuse-making for the actions people take.  I can’t do anything about them, but I can do something about myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blind to the millions of citizens who give of their money and time as volunteers and who donate to charities, etc.. There’s a lot of good being done in the world today.  But people in the spotlight today — the people to whom others look for inspiration and for approval seem to be ones who have succeeded by society’s standards and today’s standards seem to applaud greed, and ignorance, and unethical behavior.  It’s cliche that politicians lie. No one is surprised that lobbyists buy votes.  Businesses intentionally break laws and go to great lengths to hide their complicity. The rich hide their wealth offshore so as not to pay taxes.  And no one obeys the speed limits.

What is troubling though is not merely that public figures seem to think nothing of doing the wrong things and then excusing their behavior when they get caught.  What bothers me most is that people are making excuses for things like hate speech and racial violence by citing the actions of those in elected office.  “He can say that stuff, why can’t I?”

If I want to make a difference in this world I can’t be like such people.  I may avoid crowds, and keep largely to myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be an influence for good — because I really do believe there IS such a thing as objective good; I really do believe that everything is not relative, or that my behavior ought to be determined by my circumstances not by arbitrary standards of right or wrong, good or evil, truth or lies. It may not be popular but a person CAN stand for something; a person ought to stand for something.  And on my level, in my life, I’m going to continue trying to do just that.

I’ve left jobs on principle; put my family at jeopardy and resigned/quit/left.  I understand that it means to go from having a regular paycheck to not having one.  So when I listen to professionals — the likes of which we hear in Washington bemoaning how they were “troubled” by how something was done, or how they didn’t think that what they were being asked to do was the right thing — I can only say “well you must not have been very troubled or you would have refused and dealt with the consequences of your refusal, or raised questions with others, or quit the job.

I don’t get why people think that just saying something bothered them is an excuse for their behavior.  You have the power to say you aren’t going to do a thing.  Just because you hold a position does not mean you are powerless. But of course no one wants to do something that will jeopardize their income.  Because, you know, income/wealth/success are measured in dollars and if you have no dollars you are a failure. We, as a society, seem to link our self-worth to our bank account.

And yet it needn’t be that way.

The fact of the matter is that most people only believe ideals are possible when they see someone else actually living out those ideals.  When I was a bi-vocational pastor I had people come up to me and say, “You know, I never thought it was possible to really live by faith until I saw….”  And then they would name a very specific act, or happening that meant something out of a real person’s life — mine or someone else’s.  That’s the way with honesty too.  And love.  And compassion.  All of the “hard” character traits only become livable, doable, when humans see that someone else has successfully done that thing.

I was tickled at my grand-daughter’s wedding when on separate occasions two people came up and told me that of all their Millennial friends that Mel & Drew were the first ones of their contemporaries to show them that “real love” was possible. That said to me that all the hard work that our daughter and Michael did in patterning Melanie was a success; and the same was true of Drew’s parents; such that these two young folks could go out into their new world and pattern what it’s like to truly care for someone else, to let their joys be your joy and their sorrows your sorrow; to share you life with with them, and your goals and your aims and your dreams — not just your body.  It warmed my heart to hear that there are still shining lights in another generation.  It’s hard — from outside a generation to know how things are perceived.  To be told, straight out what is thought is rare.  And I was thankful.

Living isn’t easy.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  If a thing is worth anything, it’s worth the price of doing it right.  Sometimes that means standing up for things.  Sometimes it means saying”No, I will not do that.” This artificial idea that it’s never a good thing to quit is a bunch of baloney.  There are times when “NO” is the only right answer.


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