WISDOM FOR A TIME OF FAKE NEWS

I heard a quote recently that seems to speak to the cultural phenomenon of fake news. Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  In the digital era with high-speed internet, we could say, “A lie gets all the way around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”

And I have discovered that the experience of instant access to anything that anyone has to say leaves me in a very reactionary position. I see headlines and they provoke anger, fear or anxiety. And I  have then wasted precious moments of my life reacting to something before I have a chance to explore the truth of what really happened.

What do we do in this environment.  I have to stop the constant stimuli that is accessible to me when I am bored and have nothing else to do. I need to be suspicious of what I read. I need to get over the impression that I was given as a child that if it is written down it must be true.

And, I need to slow down. I need to access input from the world when I am ready to think about it. I need to slow the scroll. If I am scrolling through the distracting and chaotic feed of Facebook or of a news feed, I need to limit my time by giving privilege to more active endeavors. When I was working as a minister I was told, “Work expands to fill time.”  I have now discovered that “Information has expanded to fill time.”  I may not be able to limit the information that is available to me, but I can limit the amount of time I will expose myself to it.

So, I still have to work to manage my reactive spirit.  But, I think I will try slowing my scrolling and limiting the time I am exposed to input. And I will wait till the truth gets its pants on.

POSITIVE ACTIVITIES

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the constant flow of news of humans hurting and wounding each other. The nature of news is to report that which attracts attention. That is most often the scandals and bazaar activities of individuals and groups.

But, there are times that we get to participate in events that build up rather than tear down. “Spirit and Place” is one such activity in the Indianapolis area. I am privileged to share in leading one of the events this year.

Each year dozens of city-wide events are created and shared around a given theme. This year the theme is “Home.” I and delighted to share with The Threshold Singers in a Spirit and Place event which will take place at Central Christian Church, 701 North Delaware in Indianapolis. On Sunday, November 6 at 2:00 p.m. we will share in offering a program “Being at Home with Loss, Death and Dying.” The Threshold Singers is a group who provides comfort to those who are dying by singing at their besides. They will share their story and some of their music.

I will then follow with a conversation about how to grieve the losses that come to all of us. I will point to the love, the faith and the hope that sustains us in our various journeys through loss and change.

These presentations will be followed by opportunity to visit a dozen booths of organizations who offer assistance to those who are dying and those who love them.

I hope you will join me in supporting these positive activities that are happening in our city. These opportunities can enrich your life and the lives of those you love. 

For more information click https://gallery.mailchimp.com/81fb7b49a3aabfa33c30cc402/files/Spirit_and_place_flyer_2016.pdf

WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HURTS

We all hurt at times. But, when someone we love is hurting deeply, it is really hard. I know it is harder for me when my wife, my children, my grandchildren hurt than when I hurt. The hurting of others reaches deeply inside of us.

We try to find words that reach into our loved one and ease the hurt. But, words are really hard to find. When pain is pressing in on another, the words feel as if they don’t reach in far enough to ease that pain. We feel helpless.

When we do speak words, we sometimes try to talk them out of their pain. We try to remind them that it will get better. We try to reason with that which, inside our bodies or hearts feels unreasonable. Sometimes we find ourselves talking just because it feels like we need to do something.

When the pain continues we may find that we get angry. We don’t know where to focus the anger. The person we love doesn’t deserve our anger. The pain is stealing the spirit of the one on whom we depend to be who they were. Our anger is a response to not having the power to make the pain go away. We might even pull away to protect ourselves from hurting so much.

But, I think that the most important thing for us to do is move closer. When words don’t ease the pain, maybe a touch will. When pain persists, maybe silent embrace could give comfort in thepain. When pain does not go away, maybe trying to share the pain will make it a little easier for our loved one to bear it. Maybe a sharing a cup of tea or a taste of chocolate will allow some pleasure to seep inside the suffering spaces. 

Life has its suffering. Be present to it. Hold it with each other. It won’t necessarily go away but maybe we can help each other live more fully in the pain.

 

EVERYONE HURTS

Everyone hurts. Some have external signs they are hurting. They may have an obvious physical wound that creates pain. They may have physical limitations that make it painful to do daily tasks. They may have been injured and their body is bleeding. They may have signs of pain on their face that communicates to those around them. 

But the hurt of others may be deeply buried. A childhood abuse—the death of love—the shattered dream. Some may have deep wounds of rejection or so ridiculed as children that they feel unable to make it socially. Some may live such lonely and desperate lives with such a smile that no one around them can believe they have very little desire to continue.

Whether the hurt is obvious or hidden, it exists. And I try to remember that when I am engaged with others. Our souls are repositories of painful events and those events generally shape our reactions to what is going on around us.

Because I believe this, there are a couple of things that I try do. One is to give others the benefit of the doubt. When someone flips me off when I inadvertently cut in front of them in the car, I try to remember that they may have had a terrible day.  When someone responds angrily at something that I say or do, I try to remember that they may be speaking out of a pain about which I know  nothing.

And because I believe everyone hurts, I try to be patient with others when they are impatient with me. Their hurt may be so deep that it causes them to fear something that I say or some action that I might take. They may react rather than respond. If I am patient, I may be able to help them speak their fear and then I can approach them with tenderness are care.

When we assume that everyone hurts, being patient and giving the benefit of the doubt is a kind thing to do.

IMPACT WE WILL NEVER KNOW

Nicholas Zeppos is Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. He is a US citizen. He is a lawyer. He is a professor. He is a man of letters.

His grandfather was not. He was a man of few letters. He was illiterate. He was not a US citizen.  At least not originally.

But, in 1926 he petitioned for citizenship. And when he did, John Zeppos signed with an X. It was witnessed by two men, Arthur Schiefelbein  and George Lang, a merchant and a molder.  They testified that Mr Zeppos was a person of character and should become a US citizen.

In his speech to 2900 graduates and their families, Chancellor Zeppos reasoned that 

he would not likely now be chancellor of Vanderbilt university if Schiefelbein and Lang had not vouched for his grandfather back in 1926.

“I finally came to realize that I am here because I am educated,” he said. “And I don’t simply mean ‘hear’ today as your chancellor and as a professor at Vanderbilt. I mean ‘here’ today unburdened from worry about the basic necessities of life, able to educate my children, to have good health care, to drink clean water, unafraid to vote, free to experience a broader, more diverse world.”

And what lesson was the class of 2016 to take from the story?

“Do whatever you can to lift others up,” Zeppos said. “Who knows? Someday  you  may do nothing more than affix your name to a document in support of someone who needs your help.  And while it may take eight decades, someone, someday, may just become a college president out of this act of kindness and generosity.” (Vanderbilt Magazine, Summer, 2016)

Most of us are like Schiefelbein and Lang. We will never know what our signature will mean to someone else. That’s why we should always lift others up. Doing the right thing for people who need help is never the wrong thing. Someday, long after we are gone, someone’s grandchild might make an impact that we could have never imagined.