Be Kind Again

Our country, and our world, is swimming in hatred and anger. The cause is entirely self-inflicted. We’ve backed ourselves into personalized corners of reality. In doing so, we’ve weakened our natural abilities to empathize and connect with other humans. This isn’t a right or left, old or young thing, it’s all of us. At least all of us reading these words. Which is part of the problem.

Surrounding ourselves with those that disagree with us will help, but it’s no silver bullet. Quitting the internet is not the cure, but some distance is healthy. We must return to kindness. Assuming the best in others. Seeing the potential not the threat. And we must do this both online and in-person. The internet needs to become more human. Otherwise we, or it, will not survive. 

We must remember that our world is more prosperous, safe and accessible than it has ever been. The roar we hear is artificially amplified and mostly fiction. And it is obscuring the real pain that fellow humans experience every second of every day. There are real problems but we lose them in our personalized roar.

Let’s not value our personal safety over the critical need to stick together. Let's find and fight a common enemy, not each other. 

Humans can choose how they behave. Let's use that power. Let’s be kind again. 

I Make It Ok

I was reflecting recently on how we all give each other permission. Every day my actions and words, present or absent, give permission. I make it ok...

to be cruel, to lie, to love, to laugh, to drink, to mock, to help.

Humans are tribal creatures. We mimic each other. One person's behavior makes it ok for someone else to do the same.

Whether we like it or not, our behavior is greatly driven by those who surround us. This is rarely a conscious thing. We just follow along.

One study found that if you had a friend quit smoking it increased your likelihood of quitting by 36%. 

So If you want to change your life, change your friends. 

I love this "In A Nutshell" video that argues convincingly that addiction is more about "the cage than the chemicals". Although there is no denying chemical addiction, it's clear that there is more at play. The people we surround ourselves with may be the biggest determining factor in our overall happiness and longevity.

So what's a person to do? Are we all each other's "keeper"? In essence, yes, but I think we also have to balance that with the reality that there is no perfect path. Can we look at our life and see it as an overall positive contribution? Is the example we are setting for others building them up or tearing them down? Are we making it ok for others to forgive, to love, to grow, to be kind? 


RFRA and the Urban/Rural Divide

The recent RFRA law has been an awakening for many Hoosiers, certainly for me. We had been lulled into complacency by a string of moderately moderate Republicans. It’s pretty certain Mitch Daniels wouldn’t have signed such a terrible piece of legislature. Our Republican mayor here in Indy wants nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure if Pence could go back in time he wouldn’t sign it again. He’s too much of a politician to walk into this firestorm twice. Right now it’s hard to find anyone willing to defend it. How did this happen?

Yeah, sure, a bunch of zealots wanted a reason to not make gay wedding cake, that may be true. But lots of crazy ideas never make it to the Governor’s desk. But this one did. Here’s why- Indiana's legislature is mostly rural but our population is mostly urban. We are ruled by rural. Especially now with Republican majorities in the statehouse. Here’s the Indiana senate and house wikipedia pages. Some good ol’ Gerrymandering going on here to make sure Republican’s retain control. When 80% of the senate and 70% of the house is controlled by Republicans in a state that went for Obama in 2008, you know something is up. Most of the urban districts are extended into rural areas to make sure they don't turn "blue". Here's the Indiana senate map. Some nice slicing and dicing of urban areas going on. Also, a recent post on the 2010 redistricting that heavily tilted towards Republicans.

It's no secret that rural people tend to be more conservative. Personally I think it’s good to have people on all sides of the issue.  On the positive side- conservatives value individual liberties and an open market. On the other side- there is more than a little religious zealotry and fear of progress.

So, overall, this brings us balance. The progressives/liberals pull us forward. The conservatives hold us back. My mother once told me “the extremes reveal the middle.” But right now the balance is out of whack. That’s how we got RFRA.

But I see the reasons for concern. Our culture is changing very quickly and change is scary. It’s human to want to protect what you know and love.

I think we sometimes forget how quickly the tide has turned on homosexuality. This is a very recent thing. It was ok just a few years ago to say “that’s so gay” about stuff that was dumb. 

I grew up in a mostly rural community, southside of South Bend. I had lots of friends that lived on or around farms. Everyone I knew was a Christian. It was a given that being gay was about the worst thing you could be. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that my thinking changed- when I actually got to know some of these “gays” and they were great people. Nothing about their lives seemed fake. 

The reality is that there still exists a group of people that don’t seek or want that exposure. In the back of their mind they might be afraid that becoming a friend with an LGBT person might change their thinking. That’s totally valid, because it probably will! 

But here's something us city folk need to admit- we embrace change too willingly, unquestioning. Especially technology. Looking at our screens, not each other. Tech zombies. We get caught up in progress, believing every step forward is a good one. But we know that’s not always the case. We are balanced by the rural communities that tend to question progress. Let’s admit it, they are sometimes right. 

Unfortunately the urban/rural tension is being acerbated by the accelerated pace of progress. While some of the urban communities explore, some of the rural communities retreat- frustrated by the rate of change. I am speaking in generalities of course. 

As our connectivity increases, our collective social development speeds up. New standards are made. What was once considered acceptable is now considered hateful. Sure, we may be racing ahead of our rural counterparts. Shouldn’t that mean we are even more understanding when they aren’t on the same page as us?

In the heat of this debate I keep reflecting on my own experience and remembering that there are things we all do now that will shock our grandchildren. For instance- pollute, eat meat, etc. We can’t get so self righteous as to lose our human empathy for those that may be fearful of change. We have our own irrational fears and we are far from perfect. 

So let’s remember to “judge not, lest you be judged” and “love one another”. Instead of hating those that wish to discriminate, let’s show them love and seek to understand. Let's remind them of how Jesus lived. He welcomed all.

My 2015 Wish List

I've been making a wish list of stuff that would be awesome to have happen in 2015, mostly Indianapolis related. This is an experiment, putting ideas out there to see what happens. Anyway, here are 5 things from my list. What’s on your list for 2015? What would you love to see happen?

Space for Musical Family Tree- MFT is now a 501c3 and needs a space to take its mission (to spread Indiana music) to the next level. We feel strongly that this starts with having a space- to host shows, recording/mixing, after-school programs, a store, meetings, tech for musicians to use, etc. We are currently looking at spaces in the Fountain Square area. We need a larger space with some separate spaces internally (ideally) and some help with funding as well.

20th Anniversary Re-issue of Sardina's "Presents" album- Sardina remains my favorite band to come from Indiana and their 1995 album "Presents" is one of the lost gems of the 90s (local or otherwise). It would be great to see some kind of re-issue for this album with outtakes, etc. I know the band would get behind it.

Cultural/Community Center in Broad Ripple- this is one of the missing ingredients in Broad Ripple and very needed at this time. The library isn't it, the Art Center isn't it (too far from "downtown" Broad Ripple). It's been great to see the BRVA open a retail location on Guilford. I'd love to see a larger community center that brings the community together, holds events, etc.

Co-working Space Downtown- despite the strong technology presence downtown we don't have a good co-working resource. The Hinge is great but in Fletcher Place. The Platform isn't really a co-working space, at least yet. A larger co-working environment (club structure like Speak Easy or Launch Fishers or just traditional day/week/month structure) is very much needed downtown.

Sake Brew House- this is a little out there but I strongly believe in the potential of a Sake brew house here in Indy. We are flooded with micro-brews, and that is awesome. But for those of us that avoid wheat/gluten (since Sake is gluten free, made from rice) along with the fact that people are just getting burned out on beer leads us to Sake. I love Sake and it is a very versatile drink. I went to a Sake brew house in Minneapolis (Moto-i) and it was awesome. They had 5-6 different Sakes on tap, served Asian inspired food and had a great info graphic about how Sake is made on a chalkboard. I think this would work in Indy. 

So what's on your list?