Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Know Who You Are

I recently stumbled upon a bunch of quotes that came under the heading, 30 Thoughts That Every Introvert Has Had.  If you are an introvert, you will appreciate these quotes.  I am not really sure who the individual was who found all of these, but I imagine that he or she probably banged them out on the computer from the safety of their home . . . alone . . . in a semi-lit room . . . alone.  I felt a kindred spirit to the words and whoever the individual was who shared them.

“Clothes don’t make the man, the ability to stay at home for long periods of time watching Netflix makes the man.”  I am not sure that I agree with this one . . . I don’t watch much of anything (until college football kicks off, and then only the University of Nebraska) on television or my computer.  I agree that “clothes don’t make the man”, I am not much on dressing up . . . I am who I am no matter what I wear.  If I were to wear nice, fancy clothes . . . well, I’d still be an introvert who wears nice, fancy clothes that no one ever sees.  I do like staying at home for long periods of time . . .

“True love is never dropping in unexpected.”  I hate it whenever someone drops in to the homestead unexpectedly.  I am not prepared.  I haven’t take anything to dull the pain yet.  Makes me anxious.  Usually I stand at the door (screen door still closed) and talk to the invaders . . . usually small talk and “what do you want?” talk.  The wife, who is an extravert, stands behind me poking me to let them in . . . it is party time!  Not me . . . if you want to be my friend, do not drop by unexpectedly . . . call first . . . at least a week in advance.  Give me time to get ready for the invasion.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him socialize with the other horses.”  Ask the wife . . . she will verify this one.  Ask the people I work with at the university . . . they will verify it too.  They all know that if there is somewhere to go with a lot of people I do not know . . . well, the bubbly, vivacious John they all know and love won’t be there.  He will be hiding in some corner hoping like hell that no one comes near him to start a conversation.  You might take me to the party, but I sure won’t be remembered as being the life of the party . . . odds are I won’t even be remembered.

I had to laugh at this one: “The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.”  People who know me . . . well, they can’t just say “hi” and move on . . . noooooooooooooooooo, they want to stop and speak.  Just what any introvert wants to do.  Now, I was raised to be cordial and greet people when I pass them . . . you know, things like “hi” or “how are you” . . . just being nice.  Why is it when I am being nice to people they think that it is an invitation to talk?  I am learning to walk with my head down . . . or, if I see someone I know before they see me, I cross to the other side of the street or duck into an alley.

“Misery loves company, so avoid people.”  I don’t know too many people who enjoy misery . . . and, it seems that whenever two or three people are gathered, someone spills the milk.  Misery ensues.  As an introvert it seems that it is best to just avoid people . . . avoid small talk, but mostly avoid people.  Which doesn’t really bother introverts because we know: “You can never be truly bored, so long as you have yourself for company.”  Hey, I am my own best friend . . . and, I like myself most of the time.  Life couldn’t get any better . . .

The reality, though, is that short of being a hermit, you cannot avoid people.  Seems that there are people everywhere a person goes . . . even in Montana!  This is a sad fact that we introverts have to accept . . . no matter how hard we attempt to avoid people, people are going to be a part of our lives.  We introverts have come to accept the fact that “No man is an island, unfortunately.”   Thus we introverts put a whole lot of stock in our instincts to weed out those people who we do not like . . . do not want to hang out with . . . and, it is a tedious and long process that takes a while . . . a long while.  It would be nice if we could like people from the first time that we meet them, but that is asking a lot.  As one of the quotes stated: “Liking a person on the first go is the closest thing there is to a miracle.”  As an introvert I have not experienced too many miracles when it came to liking people at the first meeting.

“In unity there is anxiety.”  Crowds make me anxious . . . can’t control them . . . they are unpredictable . . . and, they invade my space, trample on my privacy, lay waste to my little kingdom.  Now, I am all for one and one for all, but on my terms.  Because I don’t like crowds I do not enjoy going to the movies . . . movies are like going to the stockyard and being herded into the theater.  I want to “moo”.  So, I take the advice in the next quote: “When in doubt, don’t go out.”  The wife does not like this one . . . she’ll say, “Let’s go do something” . . . and I will stammer around for hours trying to avoid going out . . . there are lots of days when she just doesn’t even ask.

Of course, people want to know . . . what is that guy’s problem?  Is he a little off course?  Is he anti-social?  No! NO!  I am just an introvert.  As an introvert I get tired of explaining to people what that means . . . over and over again.  I get tired of trying to tell people that it is just a preference.  They don’t get it when I tell them: “It’s not hiding. I’m recharging my creative juices.”  Also, “Less time spent with others, means less time suffering through small talk.”  Small talk kind of cuts into the recharging of creative juices . . . sort of like someone dragging his or her finger nails down a chalk board.  I just don’t understand why people don’t understand it.

I loved this next one because I have often done this dance.  “Get in and get out.  Get in and get out.  Get in and get out.”  It is a dance introverts know well . . . I do it whenever I go to Wally World, the movie theater, restaurants, and any other place where people gather to be social.  It is the introvert’s two-step . . . we just need to put it to music and sell it.  Of course, no one else hears it but the introvert.

There were others, but these are the ones I resonated with the fastest . . . the ones that brought a smile to my face . . . the ones in which I wanted to proclaim, “Heck yes!”  If you are an introvert these quotes will probably resonate with you too.  If you are an extravert . . . well, good luck.  You won’t know what any of them mean; but, being the extravert that you are . . . ask an introvert and they’ll explain it to you.  That is if you can find an introvert.

You know who you are . . . keep quiet, avoid people, and remember, “The best things in life are silent.”   

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Different World

This past week University of Michigan basketball player Mitch McGary got busted for a positive drug test that took place during the NCAA basketball tournament last month.  According to the NCAA rule book the consequence for being busted for this infraction—in this case, smoking marijuana—is to be suspended from the team for a year.  Facing the year-long suspension, McGary declared himself eligible for the National Basketball Association draft that will be held early this summer.  Instead of being suspended for a year, he is now probably going to be a possible first round pick that will make a couple of million dollars playing basketball.

Of course, he apologized.  I imagine it was a difficult apology as he attempted to keep from smiling throughout the statement: “Being a part of a program that values integrity, it is important to let everyone know of a poor decision I recently made. I tested positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament. We were notified of that result after the Final Four. I regret thoroughly disappointing my family, coaches and administration. Despite all of this they have been understanding and helpful over the last couple of weeks.”  It is hard to feel bad when you know you are going to be banking a couple of million in a few months for doing something stupid like smoking a doobie during a basketball tournament.  The guy was busted and he walks away smelling like . . . well, a million bucks!

This guy lives in a different world than I . . . and, probably a different one than you do.  I was always taught that there are consequences to for the choices that I make in life . . . you screw up, you pay the price.  Consequences are supposed to teach us lessons . . . lessons so that we do not make the same mistake twice.  You break the law, you go to jail . . . lesson that is learned: don’t break the law.  This guy didn’t learn anything . . . I doubt if he can even count to a million.  He faced no consequences.

Man, I wish I had his life.  Driving down the road, nailing the highway at 90 miles-per-hour, I get pulled over by the state patrol.  “Boy,” says the trooper, “Do you realize that you were going twenty-five miles over the posted speed limit!”

“Really? I was booking!”

“You were speeding.  Speeding in the state of Montana is illegal . . . thou shalt not speed.  Commandment number eleven.”

“Ninety . . . whoa, dude, that is fast!”

“Fast enough to get you a ticket and a date with the judge in court.”

“Naw, I don’t think so . . . I’m going to start driving for NASCAR.  I’m going to declare myself a race car driver.”


“I’m going to NASCAR . . . be a race car driver.  There is no need for that ticket.  Shoot!  I will be a shoo in for NASCAR . . . they drive fast all the time!” 

“You can’t just skip your consequence . . . your punishment.”

“Sure I can!  Athletes do it all of the time . . . they move on up to the next level.  Make the big bucks.  Hey, I was going ninety miles-per-hour!  I’m the next Richard Petty!  Just keep your ticket!”

“But . . .”

Not even in my wildest dreams would that ever happen.  No, with my luck I would get nailed with a ticket worth a couple of hundred dollars, lose two points on my license, and see my insurance go up a couple of hundred dollars.  That would be the real consequence of me tooling down the road at ninety miles-per-hour.  If I even mentioned that I was even thinking about NASCAR, the officer would probably drag me out of my car and proceed to administer a sobriety test.  Only the government would be smiling all the way to the bank.  That is the world I live in.

McGary gets caught  smoking an illegal drug . . . he is underage . . . he broke the team and university rules . . . broke NCAA rules . . . broke state laws . . . let down his teammates, university, family, and friends . . . and, he gets to say, “I’m sorry.  Just send me to the NBA.”  Something is wrong with this picture.  Something doesn’t make sense.  But this guy is playing that card.  What world is he living in?  What is the address?  I want to live in that world.

Of course I am not even six foot tall.  I cannot dribble or shoot a basketball with great skill.  This guy is over six foot five, can dribble quite well, and he can score points . . . heck, he was a pre-season All American at the start of the season.  The guy can play basketball.  Me . . . well, I’m just a lowly preacher . . . a lowly person who provides professional development to teachers . . . who just scrapes by.  Nothing real important or valuable . . . the spiritual lives of people is not important . . . who cares whether they go to heaven or hell?  Educators are not important . . . who cares if they have the training they need to teach children for the future.

What does this say about our society?  What does this say about what our society values?  The NBA didn’t refuse his application for the draft.  The coach of the university team gave him a rousing recommendation of support.  The team that drafts him won’t care as long as he keeps his nose clean . . . shoot, a failed drug test in the NBA is a short vacation for a couple of days—not a suspension for a whole year.  Since when should people get rewarded for breaking the rules?

Yeah, it is a different world than you and I live in.  And, yeah, it is not fair to those of us who live in the real world . . . the other ninety-eight percent of us.  But, that is the way it is.  We can moan and groan, but it won’t change anything for us.  Me, well . . . I have been practicing my dribbling out in the garage.  I have been working on my jump shot.  And, I found a pair of basketball shoes with ten inch lifts that make me six foot eight.  Next time I get into trouble, I’m declaring myself for the draft.  Watch out Celtics . . . here I come!  If Mitch McGary can do it . . . why should we all?

Friday, April 25, 2014


“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
(Mahatma Gandhi)

A couple of years ago, sitting around the dinner table, I heard my father’s voice . . . as plain as day.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I knew the second that I said it that it was my father’s voice.  It was a voice that I had promised myself I would never use with my own children . . . but there it was . . . loud and clear . . . my father’s voice.  In that split second of hearing that tone . . . that inflection . . . those words, slip from my lips, I was thrown back into my own childhood . . . my own memories.  It was like my father was sitting right there.  It was scary . . .

. . . but, not uncommon.  I have heard many people and friends tell me that the older that they get the more they have become like their parents.  They tell me that they use the words and phrases that their parents used.  They use the tone of voice . . . the mannerisms . . . and, it amazed them.  It amazed them because—like me—they swore they would never be like their parents, and then—many years later—they are slowly becoming their parents.  I think that it happens to everyone to varying degrees.  I think that there are always echoes of our parents in all of our lives . . . some good, some bad, and some indifferent. 

And, why shouldn’t there be . . . after all, who we spent the majority of our developing years with as we grew into what we thought was independence . . . our parents.  By word and example our parents molded us and shaped us—at least a good portion—into the people we are today.  Their good points, bad points, and all the points in between.  They stuff our minds, or as in my case—the rock garden, with their thoughts, opinions, words, and actions.  As impressionable, malleable, simpletons that we were as we grew up . . . they had a lot to do with who we grew up to be.  That is a proven psychological fact . . . they mold us and shape us until we begin to exert our desire for independence . . . to be our own person.  This happens psychologically and spiritually . . . around the time we hit the age of 18 years old.  That is the age we begin to “distance” ourselves from our parents and other adults . . . the age we begin to explore the world on our own . . . that we begin to test the lessons we were taught.  And, not surprisingly, the age that we declare that we will never be like our parents.

The funny thing—or should I say, the peculiar thing—is that few us ever really fall far from the tree no matter how hard we work at not being our parents . . . no matter how much effort we put into differentiating ourselves.  Our parents still show up.  Their voices echo through our voices . . . and, it can be shocking.

Shocking when the words we say . . . or the actions we take . . . are the very words and actions we swore we would never take part in because they were so painful the first time we experienced them.  Usually it is those words and actions that shock us . . . flinging back to those moments we worked so hard to bury and forget.  It is rarely the happy words or actions we catch ourselves echoing, but the more negative one that make us shake. 

But, it is not only our parents who fill our minds as we grow through life.  There are the words and actions of others . . . the words and actions we read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, or view on the television.  They are sneak into our minds as we are growing.  They are stuffed in there too . . . good, bad, or indifferent.  These players also do their part to make us the people we are today. 

Now, I imagine that there are a lot of folks out there that would tell me that I am full of hooey . . . full of proverbial b.s. . . . liberal babbling.  Yet, I don’t think that I am.  I think that they say that because . . . well, because they are scared to face the truth.  The truth being that they are not as independent as they think they are . . . they are not that far removed from their parents . . . that they did not accomplish the goal of distancing and differentiating themselves from the very parents they swore they would never be like.  The truth is . . . very few of us know how to think for ourselves.

I remember a time when a friend and I got into a hot and heavy discussion, or should I say argument, about politics.  Over and over again I heard the rhetoric spewing from my friend’s mouth . . . in the end we agreed to disagree and move on.  Then he took me to visit his parents.  In a conversation with his father I thought I was in a time warp . . . a déjà vu situation . . . in which I was hearing my friend’s words again, but they were not my friend’s words at all . . . they were his father’s.  His father echoed through my friend’s words and so-called beliefs.  They were two supposedly individuals who were actually cut from the same cloth.  It did not matter which one I asked, they always said the same thing . . . which happened to be the rhetoric of others before them.  They could not think for themselves.

It is no different in the church.  Try this sometime . . . ask a person a question about what some important theological fact means to them.  If the person tells you that what they believe is what the pastor or Sunday school teacher taught them . . . odds are that someone has been walking across their minds.  Then ask them what they personally believe.  If they cannot answer the question without quoting someone else . . . odds are that they are just echoing the words of others.

It is sort of like the analogy of sleeping with another person.  I was told that when you hop into bed with another person that the two of you are not alone in the comfortable confines of the bed . . . there are all the other people that each person who has slept with prior to that moment in the bed too.  That could be a really crowded bed for some folks.  I think it is the same when it comes to our minds . . . who else is trampling around up there in our minds at any given moment.  The question becomes, why are we letting others walk through our minds with dirty feet?

Now, I do not mind my father walking through my mind.  For the most part, my father was a caring and loving man even though he had a difficult time saying it to others.  He was a man who could be funny and fun to be with . . . but, there were times when his father echoed through him and it made life for everyone else difficult and sad.  Yet, he was a good man doing the best that he could do with the cards that he was dealt.  He father—my grandfather—was a hard man who lived a hard life.  I imagine that his father—my great-grandfather—was just as hard of a man as he was.  It has been said that our children pay for the sins of their grandparents.  As much as I wanted to distance myself from my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather . . . they still came through despite my best efforts.  Their voices echoed at my table . . . with my children . . . and, it was scary.  They were trampling through my mind with their dirty feet.  It was scary to be confronted by the past and all that it did to impact the person I am today.

So, what did I do?

I didn’t invite them back to the table . . . at least not the negative ones.  I did not invite the hurtful words back . . . I did not invite the mean sarcasm back . . . the ridicule . . . the shame.  I did not invite back the tone and the feelings back.  I started to make a conscious choice to listen for the voices that were attempting to echo through me.  And, I also began to make a conscious choice to not allow other voices to echo through my voice no matter where I was.  I chose to speak and think for myself . . . to admit that maybe I did not know the answer, but that I was still searching . . . still looking.  Chose to consciously make it a point not to force someone else’s opinion as my opinion onto someone else.  I chose to recognize that there are those who walk through my mind with dirty feet, and that it was time to clean it all up.

Yeah, I know . . . easier said than done.

My father and a host of others still make their unexpected appearances in my life . . . still make their opinions known . . . still make me uncomfortable.  Now, though, I am quicker to realize that their presence is in my midst.  Quicker to know that it is not my voice speaking, but the voices of others.  And, I am quicker to step back and claim my own voice . . . my own mind . . . and, admit to others as I apologize that I was not speaking for myself but for those who came before me.  It is not easy . . . and, I fail quite often . . . but I am working hard at claiming my own voice.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a hit song a long, long time ago called Teach Your Children.  It was a song asking people to consider how important it is to be that example of what you want your children to be once they grow up . . . in words and action.  And, it is a reminder that no matter how hard any of us tries, we will still fail . . . that the journey is always before us to keep growing . . . and, that despite the worse, we still love those who came before us.  We know that those before us loved us.

Though I don’t think that my adult children have recognized it yet, their parents speak and echo through them.  From time to time I catch glimpses of the wife and I in our children . . . some good, some bad, and some that don’t make a bit of difference.  They haven’t fallen as far from the tree as they imagine themselves to be.  As Joni Mitchell wrote in Circles:

and the seasons, they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down
we're captive on the carousel of time
we can't return, we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round in the circle game

And, so it is with all of us as we travel through life.

The pattern can never be broken if we do not become conscious . . . conscious of the game . . .conscious of the circles we spin around in . . . conscious of the voices that echo through our voices . . . conscious of the people trampling through our minds.  It is a choice we have to make . . . not an easy choice, but a choice none the less. 

I loved my father.  My children love me.  Who will my grandchildren love in the end?  Either way . . . it is scary.  It is scary, but I am trying my darnedest to break the pattern . . . to silence the voices . . . and, to walk with clean feet through the minds of those I love.