Posts Tagged ‘variety

14
Jul
22

Viva la difference!

I’m sorry, but it’s true; I am married to the best cook in the world.

Sorry. This picture of the leftovers just doesn’t do justice to the thing in its prime.

The votes are in… tallies have been verified by Price-Waterhouse… the verdict is final.

How she does it – consistently night after night– I’ll never know. But mine is not to question why. Mine is just to dine and sigh. 

Just two nights ago, for example, Joan made some chicken thighs. “No big deal,” I hear you say. “What’s so amazing about chicken thighs?” But these were MIND-BLOWING chicken thighs. I can’t offer 100% validation on this, but I am reasonably sure Joan had at least DOUBLE the Colonel’s trademark “…eleven herbs and spices…” sprinkled on those bad boys.

I detected salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, a little Turkish spice we picked up at the Istanbul Bazaar a few years ago, garlic salt, cayenne, and a couple of other things my tongue is not sophisticated enough to discern. 

But here is the thing: in the realm of cooking and the enjoyment of food, DIVERSITY seems to be the key. Our (between 2,000 and 4,000, according to the interwebs) taste buds get all excited and LIGHT UP when they encounter a multiplicity of stimuli. They cry, “MORE! MORE! We LOVE this avalanche of input you’re giving us!! Pile it ON!!”

Our visual receptors work the same way. We see something and label it, “beautiful,” or “awesome,” when we see a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, all converging in the same place. 

[Unless, of course, they happen to converge in the form of that blue and yellow plaid leisure suit I owned in 1983]. 

The same thing happens in the world of SOUND. One musical note is great. But add two or three other, different notes to that one and you get what we call HARMONY, which most of us call “pleasing to the ear.”

All of which brings me to the question that is the real point of this post; if you and I are hard-wired to find beauty in diversity and variety in sight, taste, and sound, why doesn’t this same wiring extend to our SOCIAL world?

That is, why do we seem to continue to insist that PEOPLE all adhere to a lockstep line of undifferentiated homogeneity?

Our nation’s horrible history of segregation, for example, suggests we once believed people should associate with only ONE race… their own. Maybe some still do.

We also seem to have an extremely hard time accommodating more than one OPINION or VIEWPOINT when considering the issues of the day. Anymore it isn’t just, “Sorry… I disagree with your position, and here’s why…” Today it is more like, “People who see things THAT way (meaning NOT the way I see it) are wrong, evil, and should honestly not even exist.”

“But wait!” you say. “Aesthetics and sociology have absolutely NOTHING to do with one another! Beauty is in the eye (or ear… or taste buds) of the beholder, whereas truth is ABSOLUTE and unwavering!”

Wise old King Solomon gave us a warning about our commitment to absolutism when he said, “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end, it is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25, NRSVU). Even earlier in his book of wise sayings he helpfully advised us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5, NRSVU).

And remember… this comes from the man widely considered to be the smartest guy who ever lived. Yes… even smarter than Elon Musk!

True. The world today is filled with wacky and outlandish ideas. There is, for example, an active Flat Earth Society… there are moon landing deniers… 9/11 conspiracy theorists… Bigfoot chasers… even (if you can believe it!!) people who still deny the reality of climate change and the 2020 presidential election results! 

Am I saying that we ought to give even these a place of honor and legitimacy in our picture of the universe? 

No, I am not. Not when the item has been thoroughly and repeatedly proven to have no relationship to reality, as is the case with all the above.

What I AM saying is: let’s worry more about our level of COMMUNITY than our level of CORRECTNESS. Let’s make the search for ACCURACY secondary to the quest for AUTHENTICITY. Let’s prize KINSHIP over KNOWLEDGE. 

Does that mean smiling silently and nodding at Uncle Billy while he sits down at the Thanksgiving table and starts railing about Bill Gates planting microchips in your COVID vaccine?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

But if you do, you might just find Uncle Billy doing the same for YOU!

Abundant blessings;

14
May
21

News to Me

In the morning it is usually NPR’s Morning Edition, followed by 1A, and then – time permitting, of course – a smidgen or two of The Takeaway with Tanzina Vega.

NBC Nightly News and Dateline anchor Lester Holt poses for photos on the Nightly News set, at NBC headquarters, in New York, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In the evening we rarely miss a date with Lester Holt and the NBC Nightly News, even if it means catching him on the DVR. Rounding out the day is usually the local TV news at 10.

Each of these programs helps put Joan and me in touch with the news of the world. Each delivers the news in its own unique way, shedding light, insight, and perspective on the events and issues of the day.

There have been a few times during the past year, however, when we have turned, looked at each other, and said – in unison – “Why bother!?” Every newscast seemed to be a carbon copy of the night before; here are today’s COVID stats… here is how COVID is affecting the economy… here are the political fights around dealing with COVID… here is how other countries are handling COVID… and just to mix things up a little bit, let’s throw in a mass shooting somewhere in the U.S. once a week or so.

And there for a while we did shut it off… electing instead for double episodes of JEOPARDY! 

But as election season ended and COVID began to abate, we returned to our nightly newsviewing practice. Most of the time, I’ll admit, tuning in to the news is an act of pure habit. And yes, a whole lot of the time it is just more of the S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff, of course).

Lately though, I’ve thought about it and concluded that I really WANT the news of the world in my life. 

  • I want to be reminded that there are other people and other stories besides mine out there. 
  • I want… no NEED… to be reminded that the realities of tragedy, heartbreak, war, disease, and despair exist even if they have not come home to roost on my doorstep at the moment. 
  • I need to see faces that don’t look like mine, beliefs that don’t square with mine, experiences and art and landscapes and foods and clothing and lives that remind me of the unimaginable blessing of living in such a rich, textured world as this. 

So far, the news has been that vehicle – whether delivered by my radio or my TV set – that has consistently put me in touch with the people, events, and realities that keep taking me outside my cozy little comfort zone. 

And besides… if the news gets too crass, dull, or grotesque, there is always JEOPARDY!

[“I’ll take Potent Potables for $400, please!”]

Abundant blessings;

11
Dec
20

Oddball World

“They are SO ODD!”

“I mean, look at that guy over there! What is up with that jacket he’s wearing? The sleeves are WAAAAYY too short and it’s not even zipped up all the way. Makes you want to shout, ‘DUDE! It’s 25 freaking degrees out! Bundle UP, for crying out loud!’”

“And what about THAT couple? I THINK they are together, but he is walking at least three steps in front of her. I’m tempted to wonder if it is a cultural thing, but they don’t look foreign. I mean, why even bother if you’re not even going to stay close enough to have a conversation with each other?”

“Good Lord look out. Here they come. It’s that young family with their two ‘cute’ kids in tow. Except for the fact that their kids are shouting at each other, falling down in the grass and just generally running amok. Don’t they care that some of us are out here trying to have a peaceful walk in the park? Folks… can’t you just control them for half a minute? Is it really necessary to visit this chaos on everyone around you?”

These days it seems that everywhere I turn I run into oddballs… you know, people who don’t LOOK like me, ACT like me, BELIEVE like me, or even SMELL like me. 

I mean, they’re EVERYWHERE! They seem to have gathered together (no doubt in some clandestine location somewhere) and brainstormed all the possible things they could do to unsettle and confound me. 

  • “OK, you, Bill; why don’t you hit him with that goofy walk of yours. You know, the one where you kind of drag your right leg behind you every three steps?”
  • “And Sylvia; your assignment is to post something on social media that is going to just send him up the WALL! You know the hot buttons pretty well, don’t you? Good!”
  • “Which brings us to you, Wally. I want you to try to get in front of him there on the freeway, drive in the far left lane, BELOW the posted speed limit, and just STAY THERE! Think you can handle that?”
  • “Are we good? OK… BREAK!”

Of course, I exaggerate… but only a little.

On way too many occasions I awake to discover that I have once again contorted my stereotypically human desire for peace and order into a less-than-godly antipathy for DIFFERENCE and DIVERSITY. 

I cast my eyes skyward and beseech my Creator, “Please, God! Things have to FIT! They have to MAKE SENSE! Why do you keep throwing me all of these CURVE BALLS? Why are there so many ODDBALLS around? Surely you know how much they UNSETTLE me?”

And God, smiling that perfectly serene (though occasionally annoying) smile, looks down and replies, “Oh my poor, confused child. You are so adorable sometimes in your misguidedness. This world you gaze upon with such disdain is EXACTLY the world I intended. It’s not a mistake.”

God then continued and said, “I made reds, and blues, and greens, and yellows. I also made aquamarine, and chartreuse, and puce, and tamarind…

“… ON PURPOSE!”

“I made short people, tall people, fat people, and skinny people. I made white folks, dark folks, Asian folks, and mingled-color folks. I made Christians, and Jews, and Muslims… Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and atheists…”

“… also ON PURPOSE.”

“I made Republicans, I made Democrats. I made fans of the Labor Party, the Communist Party, the Torries, and the Bharatiya Janata Party in India. I made people who are members of the Polish Solidarity Party, and – just because I have a sense of humor – members of the Polish Beer Lovers Party*…”

“… ALL of that, totally on purpose.” 

“Somewhere along the way, you seem to have forgotten that I am the God of VARIETY! I paint with a wild palette and bold strokes. I never wanted a monotone world, filled only with people who look and act and talk and speak like YOU.”

“In case you are not tracking with me here, Russell, ALL of this ‘oddness,’ as you call it, is absolutely according to my plan. Yes, it does frustrate me a lot when people like you forget that central truth and gripe and complain about the rich variety of my world.”

“You call yourself a student of my Word, but you seem to have forgotten the part in the very beginning – in the book of Genesis, in fact – where it says that I finished my act of CREATION, stood back, looked at it, and called it, “…VERY GOOD.” (Genesis 1:31, NRSV).

I bowed my head, chastened and humbled. “Of course,” I whispered. Of course God created a world of rich variety, texture, color, and depth. OF COURSE God intended us each to find our own place in the midst of this awesome tapestry and still appreciate the differences surrounding us.

“Thank you, God, for explaining all that to me. But God,” I whispered softly. “There is one thing I still don’t understand…”

“Diversity notwithstanding, how is it that people can still root for the RAIDERS??”

Abundant blessings;

* A real thing, by the way

08
Sep
18

The Perfect Day

Weather radar picHere where I live, it has been raining all day today.

It also rained a bit yesterday, but then it rained a LOT the day before.

All this rain helped me remember an innocent, idle thought from Monday… the day before all the rain decided to come calling. It was nothing… just a blip that briefly flitted through my brain.

When the thought came I was out walking. The sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing, and the temperature was a perfect 73 degrees.

In fact, everything about that moment was perfect… including my health and overall disposition. In concert with this amazing symphony of perfection, I thought, “Wow! How cool! I wish I could hang on to this moment FOREVER!”

I am sure everyone has had at least one “golden moment” like that… if not recently, then certainly in the not-too-distant past.

I hardly had time to wipe the smile off my face when that thought balloon popped, only to be replaced by the next one, which said, “Are you sure you mean that?” followed quickly by one that read, “Do you realize what you are actually saying?”

“Well, yes, I thought I did,” I said. “What’s wrong with yearning for a perfect life and perfect world?”

But then I began to visualize the answer to my own question. What if it was ALWAYS 73 degrees? What if it NEVER rained? What if clouds never formed in the sky above me? What if I was always chipper and pain-free and strong?

I suppose residents of San Diego, CA can cope with that kind of horrible nightmare, but the more I thought about it, the less that vision appealed to me. I realized it would be a life of utter monotony. All of the color and texture and variety of life would dry up and blow away… not to mention the grass and trees in my front yard.

And then I wondered; is that really what I mean by the word “perfection”? An endless monotone progression of bland, pleasing sameness? Do I really yearn for a life devoid of change, challenge, or uncertainty?

Taken to its extreme, of course, the concept of “perfection through uniformity” is the vision that gives birth to systems where difference is punished and variation becomes the enemy.

On second thought, no thanks. I’ll opt instead for the world God created. And by that, I mean the world where the weather changes, where seasons are different, where people speak different languages, prefer different foods, love different movies, and vote for different candidates.

Yeah. Give me that kind of perfection. Give me the perfection of change, difference, diversity, novelty, and surprise.

Bring on the rain!




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