Beam me up Scotty there is no intelligent sign of life!

Oh, how I miss Star Trek.  Even though it portrayed a future period of space travel, it presented many critical questions about race and culture that we face today.  I remember the one episode titled “Let that be your last battlefield” that had two people from Cheron and Ariannus, both with half white and half black faces, but on opposite sides.  “When the ship arrives at Cheron, Spock can find no sign of intelligent life. Lokai and Bele realize they are each the only ones left of their peoples, who have completely annihilated themselves in the civil war. Enraged, they attack each other, their force fields threatening to damage the ship. Lokai breaks away, Bele pursues him, and the two eventually beam down to the planet. The bridge crew remark sadly on their unwillingness to give up their hate.”

Do I need to say more? As many of you know, I occasionally teach an adult Sunday School class and rely heavily on storytelling.  One of my favorites is that of a Native American child asking the Chief about what he was feeling inside himself.  He was perplexed by his emotions.

As the story goes, the Chief tells him there are two arguing wolves inside each of us.  One sees the good in people and life, is loving and caring.  The other hates people and harbors envy and strife.

The child then asks, which one wins the argument?  The Chief says it is the one you feed.

I rest my case.

Seeing is No Longer Believing

We all grew up with the phrase seeing is believing as kind of an obvious statement.  Few, if any of us learned that the phrase originated, at least as far as the written records show, from a 17th-century English clergyman, Thomas Fuller.  It was recorded as “Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth.”  I am amazed at how many things we have taken for granted for decades are now thrown into doubt.

However, when taken as a continuum of bad behaviors in our frail human species they should not be a surprise at all.  After all, why would drugs be planted to apprehend someone you didn’t like?  Or, why are we surprised when some write scathing untrue things so that others can quote them as if they were facts, and frankly believe they are true.

Today’s fact-checkers point out that internet sites like are almost pure satire and should be considered that.  However, things posted on that site are then quoted and used to support broader statements about what we should believe about them or an issue.  Perhaps worse yet, we now have “university” in the names of some sites that are not universities and of course “research institute” can be added to almost any online source even though they are far from certified academics.

Couple this with our technological capabilities to produce deep fakes and you have the formula for some truly manipulative media. Lately, I have seen some tricks performed on America’s Got Talent TV series that defy anything I can believe can actually be done.

Never the less, I know I am watching magic … I know I am being deceived.  My head throbs trying to explain it to my engineering mind.  But, I still know it is not true. Maybe we all should realize that the news cycle is prone to the same tricks.  Why are we so prone to believing what we are seeing?

That is where we are today:  Seeing is no longer believing … or at least it shouldn’t be.

Perhaps it is because that is what we want to believe.


Are We Listening?

Perhaps you have seen the intentionally provocative video circulating on the Internet of a young woman complaining about an aching pain in her head.  If you would like to watch for yourself, just Google “It’s NOT about the nail!”  As the scene plays out, it is obvious she has a large nail in her forehead.  Listening to her complain about her debilitating headaches and how her sweaters snag when she pulls them over her head conjures up images that make it painful to listen.  Trying to help, her boyfriend offers, “I think I see the problem, there is a nail sticking out of your head.” She immediately jumps down his throat angrily shouting, “It’s NOT about the nail!”

While obviously contrived, it points out that people desperately want to and need to be heard and validated.  It is so hard to listen to a person complain when we know what they should do.  Here in the South, I have come to learn we use the expression “well bless your heart” to affirm the person.  I have grown to understand that the underlying thought, not spoken, is “you idiot!”

Let’s face it, friends.  It is so hard to sit quietly and listen to another person complain when it is so clear to us what the problem is and how it should be solved.  Sadly today, too often, dialogue is not accepted on important issues.  Debate is no longer welcome.

As just one illustration, consider the reaction to a tweet from Harald Uhlig, a University of Chicago professor, indicating that the Black Lives Matter movement “torpedoed itself, with its full-fledged support of #defundthepolice.” Instead of defunding, Uhlig suggested, “train them better.”

Hundreds of people then signed a petition demanding that Uhlig resign. Even prominent economists like Janet Yellen and Paul Krugman joined the mob. Krugman called Uhlig, “another privileged white man who evidently cannot control his urge to belittle the concerns of those less fortunate.”

Today’s racial tensions are a lot like the “It’s not about the nail!” dramatization.  It no longer matters that we care and try our best to help fix the problem.  Correcting those complaining only heightens their anger.  They want to be heard above all else and we have heard this so many times before it is very hard to listen to it and not try to just confront and solve the issue.

So, how do we heal a polarized nation where kneeling during our National Anthem greatly offends some but not all and protests against police turn somehow into justified burning and looting of innocent store owners?  We seem to be at war fueled by a militant insistence on self-worth.  Dialogue is no longer acceptable: former President Obama’s term “woke” meaning we have a new awareness, has now devolved to “cancel culture.”

I know it’s hard, but maybe we need to restart with Stephen Covey’s Habit No. 5:  Seek first to understand before we ask to be understood.”  My wife Susan has taught me that the skill of listening is one of the most important life skills we can all learn, but it’s a hard skill to master.  We tend to stop listening once we think we have the right answer to the problem.  After all, we are superior to those we are listening too, right?  Nope.  That is the problem.   The ability to hear is a gift.  The willingness to listen is a choice…a very difficult choice.


COVID: “we must all hang together, or … we shall all hang separately,”

Most historians give credit to Benjamin Franklin for saying this, but all will agree that the signing of the Declaration of Independence put their lives at risk.  There was no question at that point that our nation was going to fight a war with Great Britain.

We seem to all be facing another war right now with another invader: COVID.  Perhaps then it is good to dust off this famous phrase and look at it’s intent… getting everyone on the same page.  It is a well-established fact that our politicians then were not on the same page.  That was the problem then, and it once again is our problem now.

We are all in this together whether we like it or not.  COVID is a common enemy to us all, regardless of political persuasion, race, creed, or gender identity.  Wearing a mask should not be in question, yet it still is.  Social distancing is not just a good idea, it is essential.  Hopefully, we will soon hear of a vaccine, but immunization of the country is a long way off even then.

Our society seems to have lost its commitment to each other.  We are not dedicated to mutual wellbeing.  We have become terribly self-focused. Sure, I don’t like our restrictions, but we have proof that loosening restrictions quickly results in more rapid infection statistics.

Perhaps the reason we have become this dysfunctional is because there is so much misinformation out there on terribly important issues: faulty test data reporting, diagnosis bias (hospitals making more money in the mortuary with that rather than whatever else might have been the cause), and whether this or that existing medication alternatives work or are at least helpful.

I have become suspicious of everyone because almost everything I read seems to be politically motivated.  COVID is not about any one perspective being right.  We all have to be “on the same page” or we are all victims.  COVID Is our enemy and defeating it requires that we hang together.

Click to Listen to Mercy Mercy Mercy by Cannonball Adderley

A song comes to mind that needs to be brought back.  It was made famous by Cannonball Adderley in his song: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.  Here is the introduction to that song by Adderley:

“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens sometimes, we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes, we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over. (chuckle). And I have advice for all of us, I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune. And it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kind of problem. It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy.”

That seems like part of the answer for sure.  I hope you enjoy it. Listen here. 

From a Distance

Bette Midler Singing From a Distance

Maybe you remember Bette Midler’s beautiful rendition of this song.  It rose to the top of the charts in 1990 and even received a Grammy.  The reason I picked this is that I was alerting a friend that I meet them tonight at a spot … with the admonition that we would keep our distance.

Here are the lyrics to that song:

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance, the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man

From a distance, we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They are the songs of every man

God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance, I just cannot comprehend
What all this fightings for

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it’s the hope of hopes
It’s the love of loves
It’s the heart of every man
It’s the hope of hopes
It’s the love of loves
This is the song for every man

God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

I really don’t think I need to say anything else.  And, if you want to listen to this here’s the link: FzxtdE