Guns, drugs and homosexuals and why I hate discussing politics

At our Christmas dinner, we ended up discussing guns, drugs and homosexuals. Plus some politics.

I hate discussing politics. And I had a hard time with the guns, drugs and homosexual conversations too. Not because I don’t hold opinions. Not because I don’t care about them. Not because I’m afraid to share my opinions. And not because I’m afraid of controversy or loud arguments.

I hate discussing these hard topics because I know I haven’t set myself up to succeed – to convince the other person my view is right. Words and facts and heated discussions rarely change anyone’s mind.

If you really want to change someone’s mind, you have to truly understand why they think they way they do. I can show people how open source software will help them because I understand why they are suspicious of free software. I understand what their concerns and hesitations are. And I don’t just understand them, I can feel their anxiety. I can imagine what they have to explain to their bosses and how they’ll feel responsible. I also know enough about free and open source software to address all their concerns and point out what’s a myth.

I truly don’t understand why people think sending millions of people through scanners at the airport will make us all safer. And I truly don’t understand many people’s positions on homosexuality, religion, guns and drugs.

If I did, perhaps I could convince them my views would lead us to a better world. But until I can truly understand why they feel the way they do, I feel very under-qualified to change anyone’s opinion.

To top it off, I think we also spend too much time avoiding the root of the problem and discussing how to fix the symptoms. For example, take abortion. Nobody wants an abortion. Nobody goes out and gets pregnant because they want to get an abortion. So why do we spend millions of dollars, lots of emotions and tons of time debating whether abortion should be legal or not? Because we’re avoiding the real problem – why people who didn’t want to get pregnant, got pregnant and how we might help people like them avoid that in the future.

I think the same problem (abortion vs getting pregnant) applies to most emotional topics. When discussing guns, drugs, homosexuality, etc, we tend to focus a lot of our energy on things that are symptoms (unwanted pregnancies) rather than on the root cause (helping people avoid getting pregnant if they don’t want to be.)

Oh, and we didn’t discuss abortions at Christmas dinner. Maybe next year.

Bill Gates’ thoughts on why we don’t give more to charity: we don’t know what to do

Bill Gates’ graduation speech at Harvard is well worth reading.  He uses it as a call to arms.  As his mother said, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."  We all need to work on the world’s inequalities.  In his opinion the biggest obstacle to giving is complexity, "To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact" and we can’t see the solution and when we do we don’t measure the impact.  It’s not that we don’t want to help the dying children of the world – we just don’t know how to save them.

Market forces aren’t going to solve the world’s inequalities – we have to do it.

So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it.   We asked:  "How could the world let these children die?"

The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not
reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not
subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their
fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.

His advice is to spend a few hours every week learning about a problem, meeting others who want to fix it and working on solutions.  So – go save the world! 

Would you rather be dead?

My vet says my dog would rather be dead.  Actually, he didn’t say it like that and he’s a great guy but he does really think I should euthenize her.  I don’t agree.  As of yesterday she was still walking around, following us everywhere, tail wagging.  Not her usual self, but she still wanted to be a part of things.  Today I’m not so sure.  She slept most of the day and she had to be coaxed out to the car to see the vet.  But he assures me she’s not in pain, she’s just extremely uncomfortable.  So how do you decide whether she’s so uncomfortable that she’d rather be dead?  Personally, I think she’d rather be alive.  Am I making the right decision?  Nobody can know.

As for what’s going on – Teddy was diagnosed with kidney failure last September.   The vet gave her two months to two years to live and it looks like it’s going to be within the next week. She’s down to 35 pounds – from 75 pounds a year ago and she hasn’t eaten anything for the past week.  I’m going to miss her!

Challenges in life are fun!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life and I had another ah-hah moment this weekend.  I spent the whole weekend with Caleb in the hospital and it didn’t bother me at all – once they figured out that Caleb was going to be ok that is.  I did feel extremely grateful that we had health insurance – I might not have been as calm through three days in the hospital without insurance but that’s another topic.  So being in the hospital with a sick kid didn’t bother me.

We have also been spending a lot of money and vacation time lately.  Some of it planned (like for vacations and treadmills) and some of it unplanned (like for hospital stays and snow storms.)   And that didn’t bother me.

And I realized a while ago that if I won the lottery I wouldn’t want to go sit on the beach for the rest of my life.  I’d want a few interesting things to do.

While I was thinking about all this, I ran across Steve Pavlina’s Life – The Ultimate Game post.  And it made sense.   He writes that life is like a video game and you don’t play the game because winning is fun.  You want to win, but you don’t play just because you want to win.  You also enjoy all the challenges along the way (can you get past that hairy monster or collect all the right objects?) and all the places you explore.  Even when you are losing, you might be having a lot of fun.   You might play one game for days, weeks or even months without "winning."

That explains why people hike the Appalachian Trail, sky dive or even raise kids. The challenges and the journey are as rewarding as the end goal.

I’m not big into video games, so I’d rather think of life as a game of cards.  You start out with the hand you’re dealt and play it the best you can.  If you get all top cards, you’ll win fast and it’ll be exciting for a minute, but if you’re dealt a not so good hand and you make it work, it’s so much more satisfying.  You prove that you are good, not just lucky.  The way I see it I started out with a pretty good hand, my parents added a few good cards (like self-confidence and a college education) and now I’m playing the best I can.  When I get a bad card (like a hospital stay or an unexpected bill), I just add it to the mix and see how I can make it work out. [And sometimes you need that low card to get the straight!]

I’m having fun playing and I’m winning! 🙂

Book review: The Secret

First off, there are three versions of the Secret by Rhonda Byrne:

  • the book, The Secret.
  • the audiobook, The Secret.  This contains many different people’s voices, presumably from the movie version.
  • the movie, The Secret DVD!  Most of the reviews you’ve seen are about the movie.

I listened to the audiobook version.

I think how you are introduced to a book greatly influences how much you like it or at least how open you are to liking it.  I first heard about The Secret from a group of friends who watched the movie together and they couldn’t say enough good about it.  I was supposed to beg, steal or borrow a copy to watch!  So I downloaded the audiobook version.  I enjoyed it but if I hadn’t listened to The Attractor Factor first, I would have dismissed it all as hokey.  The Secret introduces the law of attraction with a lot of hype and very big promises.  They make it seem like it is possible to wish a bike or a winning lottery ticket into existence through sheer will power.  Now while I believe that remaining positive and open will mean that many more opportunities will be available to you than if you are always negative, I don’t think you can wish tomorrow’s winning lottery ticket into your hand.  So while the audiobook was uplifting and positive, it was a bit unrealistic.  So, I wonder, if I’d read this negative review first, or if I hadn’t learned about the law of attraction from The Attractor Factor, I wonder if I would have liked The Secret at all?  Would the negative review have set me up to think negatively about it, would I have concentrated on the hokiness and would I be writing a really negative review now?  If so, it just goes to show you that thinking positive brings positive results (I enjoyed listening to the book) and thinking negative brings negative results (I might not have made it through the book!)  On the influencing positively side, The Secret made the top ten list at and The New York Times.  Does that make you want to read it now?

Generations and life goals

The other day Dad was trying to tell me that young people today don’t care as much about politics and social causes. I wasn’t sure whether I agreed or not but I did take umbrage at his example of a dad who drove a pinto and whose son drove an SUV.  Dad seemed to think that was a good example of how the child didn’t believe in social causes.  I didn’t get it.  How did having a nice car relate with not believing in social causes?

Well, this morning in the New York Times I read a stat that seemed to imply that young people are focusing on money at the expense of philosophy.  Who Americans Are and What They Do, in Census Data – New York Times:

In 1970, 79 percent said their goal was developing a meaningful philosophy of life. By 2005, 75 percent said their primary objective was to be financially very well off.

So there you go, Dad.  Your argument holds because the time invested to earn an SUV is replacing the time spent on social issues.  (Assuming people spend time on their primary goals!)