Beth Moon, a photographer based in San Francisco, has been searching for the world’s oldest trees for the past 14 years. She has traveled all around the globe to capture the most magnificent trees that grow in remote locations and look as old as the world itself.
One of the deepest diseases of human nature is lying. And I am talking about something far more subtle and destructive than bearing false witness to a teacher or police officer in order to get out of trouble. One of the darkest elements of broken humanity is to lie about who we are. To create a false identity and then try to maintain it. The need to hide our pain and sin behind a mask of smiles and virtue.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word for a person that wears a mask. It originates with the Greek theater, where actors wore masks to disguise not only their identity but even the sound of their voices. A hypocrite is a kind of actor that pretends to be someone they are not. Traditionally this concept has been reserved for people pretending to be moral, for example religious people, public leaders, or politicians. But the concept is broader than preaching abstinence while practicing indulgence. It includes those of us who stay in character once we have left the stage. The hypocrite is essentially an imposter. We are disgusted to find out that people we respect because of their public persona are actually using their image to cover up a life of corruption and debauchery.
Well, it appears that what was once reserved for politicians and the religious is now a growing temptation for the masses. Perhaps it was there all along. But social media has provided a window into the ubiquity of human deceit. This article in the New York Post discusses growing darkness that lies beneath the surface in social media. The author cites some extreme examples, but anyone with a Facebook account understands this. We are subject to two related temptations: To lie about our own life while believing and comparing ourselves to the lies that our friends are telling. This is no joke.
Maureen Callahan, the author of the article in the NY Post cites an example of Zilla van den Born. “Last year, she uploaded a monthlong series of photos taken on her travels in Southeast Asia — scuba diving, praying in a Buddhist temple, sampling local cuisine — then revealed those images were all the work of Photoshop. She had hidden in her apartment the entire time, duping even friends and family.”
Wow, how bad does life have to be to want to do this? For those of us old enough to remember the ancient world of 10 years ago, all of this is pretty frightening.
Technology is the great magnifier. It has the potential to draw out and magnify the dark side of human nature. And can do this by several magnitudes, all while maintaining the filtered image of a smile.
Here are a few important parts of the article. The whole thing is worth reading and very important.:
‘Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston, has spearheaded a similar study [concerning social media].“The idea came to me when my little sister, who was 16, wasn’t invited to a school dance,” Steers, 38, tells The Post. “She told me about logging on to Facebook the very next day and seeing all these pictures of her friends at the dance, and that actually made her feel worse than not being invited.”
“Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” was co-authored with two other social psychologists and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology last year. Steers cited the work of social psychologist Leon Festinger, who, in 1954, came up with “social comparison theory,” the idea that we measure ourselves in relation to others’ failures and successes.’
Again Callahan writes,
‘Then there are those who aggressively seek out admiration and envy. Google “GoPro proposal” and you’ll get 428,000 hits — people who planned and recorded the moment they got engaged, then uploaded it for global consumption. Some couples live-stream it. Others stage-manage the “set,” then hire professional photographers to capture the moment.
“The engagement thing is so creepy,” says Chelsea Fagan, 26, whose website, The Financial Diet, covers the impact of social media on young women. “There’s this weird arms race now where everything has to be a moment, no matter how private. We always get a lot of responses with weddings and engagements — women spend a lot of money to look ‘Pinterest perfect.’ ”
It’s not just weddings or special events, though. Social-media users spend exorbitant amounts to look like their daily, everyday lives are spent eating the finest food, wearing the most on-trend designs, living a stylish, well-appointed life — no problems.’ (emphasis added)
This is an amazing account from Mark Buchanan. It is a strange story that illustrates how we are often prisoners to our own appetites.
“Thomas Costain, in his book The Three Edwards, relates a historical episode from the fourteenth century. Two brothers, Raynald and Edward, fought bitterly. Edward mounted war against Raynald, captured him alive, and imprisoned him in Nieuwkerk Castle.
“But it was no ordinary prison cell. The room was reasonably comfortable. And there was no lock on the door—not a bolt, not a padlock, not a crossbeam. Raynald was free to come or go at will. In fact, it was better than that: Edward promised Raynald full restoration of all rights and titles on a single condition: that he walk out of that room.
“Only Raynald couldn’t. The door was slightly narrower than a typical door. And Raynald was enormously fat. He was swaddled in it. He could not, with all his squeezing and heaving, get himself outside his cell. He might more easily have passed a camel through a needle.
“So in order to walk free and reclaim all he’d lost, he had only to do one thing: lose weight. That would have come easily to most prisoners, with their rations of bread and water.
“It did not come easy to Raynald. Edward had disguised a great cruelty as an act of generosity. Every day, Edward had Raynald served with the richest, sauciest foods, savory and sweet, and ample ale and wine to boot. Raynald ate and ate and grew larger and larger. He spent ten years trapped in an unlocked cell, freed only after Edward’s death. His health was so ruined, he died soon himself.”
Buchanan’s book “The Rest Of God” is delightful and full of great content and excellent writing. It explores something that is oddly missing from many discussions of the Sabbath, the issue of rest.
Buchanan, Mark (2007-03-11). The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (pp. 165-166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Here is a fascinating article on an unexpected subject: Men crying in public. Sandra Newman writes about the literary and cultural history of masculine weeping. She makes a good case that our current western practice of restraint is not the norm throughout history. The Greeks, the Bible, Christian history, English literature, and even Japanese literature is full of mass, public, unrestrained, and unapologetic weeping by manly men.
Based on research men today cry far less in public than women do. And the author tries to challenge the idea that this is a result of genetic differences. She does this based on her journey through history and literature. But I am not convinced. Even if men in other cultures and eras cried more than they do now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that public crying is biologically a gender neutral affair. She has made a good case that modern men do not cry as often as the men of other cultures. But that is not the same as saying men and women are identical. In fact, if anything is a cultural anomaly it is our attempt to prove biological equality between the sexes.
She suggests that the change in our view of crying can be tied to 2 things: First, we moved from an agrictultural economy into the industrial revolution. Second, we moved from living in small villages with close relationships to big cities where we lived with strangers. In I opinion, these ideas have merit.
Also interesting is the idea that crying serves an important social purpose. When we cry, especially in public, it is good for us as a release and it is a call for help to those around us. If this is true, then failing to cry would not be good for us.
The Bible does say, “Those who sow in tears will reap in joyful shouting.” Psalm 126:5
“However, human beings weren’t designed to swallow their emotions, and there’s reason to believe that suppressing tears can be hazardous to your wellbeing. Research in the 1980s by Margaret Crepeau, then Professor of Nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, found a relationship between a person’s rate of stress-related illnesses and inadequate crying. Weeping is also, somewhat counter-intuitively, correlated with happiness. Vingerhoets, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has found that in countries where people cry the most, they also report the highest levels of satisfaction. Finally, crying is an important tool for understanding one’s own feelings. A 2012 study of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome – whose sufferers are incapable of producing tears – found they had significantly more difficulty identifying their emotions than a control group.
“You might also suffer if you simply hide your tears from others, as men are now expected to do. As we’ve seen, crying can be social behaviour, designed to elicit care from people around you. While this might be inappropriate in the context of a performance review, it could be an essential way of alerting friends and family – and even colleagues – that you need support. Taboos against male expressiveness mean that men are far less likely than women to get help when they’re suffering from depression. This, in turn, is correlated with higher suicide rates; men are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as women. Male depression is also more likely to express itself in alcoholism and drug addiction, which have their own high death toll. Think of stoical Scandinavia, whose nations rank high for productivity – but also lead the world in rates of alcoholism and suicide.”
“Time management has nothing to do with the clock, but everything to do with organizing and controlling your participation in certain events that coordinate with the clock. Einstein understood time management is an oxymoron. It cannot be managed. You can’t save time, lose time, turn back the hands of time or have more time tomorrow than today. Time is unemotional, uncontrolled, unencumbered. It moves forward regardless of circumstances and, in the game of life, creates a level playing field for everyone.”- Myers Barnes
Quoted in: Maxwell, John C. (2008-11-16). Today Matters: (p. 67). Center Street. Kindle Edition.
My friend Katie shared this article with me. It is simple but still good. It might not seem like a big deal at first. But these discussions about how to do something simple, like talk with your kids, are important because it is easy to try, and fail. Try again, fail again. And then give up. Sometimes perseverance combined with a little wisdom can win the day.
Mark it down, having lots of conversations with your kids should be at the very top of your priority list. This might be the key (in broad terms) to raising your kids. It is not a silver bullet, but it is probably the next best thing. Talk to them about everything. Mingle it with love, grace and truth. Sadly, most of us are looking for something more expensive, and more exotic, more worthy of social media. But the best things in life often seem ordinary. Your kids don’t need more activities, and more technology. They need more time with you. The Bible is clear on this in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which basically says we are to be talking with our kids all the time (and especially talking to them about God).
By the way, you need to build a conversational relationship with your kids before major problems enter your household, and they will. This means you need to do this before the teen years arrive. And you need to maintain this relationship during the teen years. If you regularly talk to your kids– all the time– then when they fail a test, get in a fight, crash the car, try out drugs, look at porn, (and fill in whatever other parenting nightmares you have) then you already have a well worn pathway to help shepherd them through the problems they are facing.
And yet…. talking with our children can be hard work. It can be draining to push for a conversation when they don’t want to talk.
Well, don’t give up… Try some of these. It is a silly list, but fun. There is much more to be said.
This one was one of my favorites:
“8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?”
Common sense tells us that we should learn from our mistakes. Well, as Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.”
Some of the best learning available comes from failure. This learning can be intellectual- like trying and failing to solve a math problem. Or this learning can be moral- realizing that revenge and bitterness is self destructive, it eats away at your own soul.
In order to really learn from our mistakes we need to be deliberate. We need to spend time thinking about why we failed. The kernel of folly is to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. Every time we complete a project, achieve a milestone, or fall on our faces we have a chance to become our own teachers. The opportunity is especially rich when we fail. A lot can be learned in the post-mortem examination of disappointment. About life. About ourselves.
Nothing shocking about that.
But there is another amazing opportunity that is lurking in our failures. And that is the idea of serendipity.Serendipity is an accidental discovery. It is a happy accident. It is the pleasant surprise of looking for one thing, and finding something else, often something entirely different yet wonderful. And many of the most amazing advances in human knowledge and culture have been made “by accident.” And this is more common than you might think. Penicillin, microwaves, Velcro, Teflon, vulcanized rubber, Coca-Cola, radioactivity, the Post-it note, and Viagra were all the result of “accidental discoveries.” In reality the list is much longer.
According to Steven Johnson in his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From,” one of the key elements in taking advantage of serendipity is paying attention. Evidently small versions of these accidental discoveries are all around us, but we may miss them if we don’t recognize them. And we won’t recognize them if we don’t slow down and pay attention. This involves taking the time to think about what is happening and why.
Here is another reason to be willing to fail and to learn from your failures. You might learn how to do better next time. Or you might discover something else altogether. Something that could change the world forever.
“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove.”