Letter To Ponder

I appreciated Tim Alberta’s clarity about what is really at stake with the rise of far-right evangelicals. The unholy alliance between radically conservative Christianity and radically conservative politics doesn’t seek the kingdom of God; instead, it wants to impose a theocracy on the United States of America. Such a theocracy would cheapen the foremost requirement of the Christian faith: humbly carrying one’s cross daily.

Early Christians believed that following Jesus Christ transforms a person into a well of compassion, humility, kindness, and generosity. They put the needs of others before their own.

Theocracy does not require such an inner transformation; the evangelical-right base and its prophets are quick to condemn cherry-picked sins. Jesus, by contrast, said that the important matters of God’s commands are “justice, mercy, and faith.” I don’t think Jesus himself would fit with today’s evangelical base.

Reverend Vanessa J. Falgoust
Natchitoches, La.

You’re Vacationing All Wrong

Opines Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“The truth is, when it comes to vacation, rest and relaxation aren’t just overrated. They might even work against the very things a trip is meant to cultivate: a mental reset, a sense of relaxation, happiness. A better vacation is one in which vigorous exercise features prominently. That way, you can take a break not just from work and routine life but also from the tyranny of self-absorption.”

Okay doc, what do you suggest then?

“Recently, a close friend and his wife invited my husband and me to join them on a cycling vacation. I was a bit nervous; I’m a serious swimmer but not an experienced cyclist. Riding 30 to 40 miles a day through Vancouver’s impressive hills for five days sounded like hard work, not pleasure. But by the end of our first day of riding, I was overtaken by euphoric calm.

The work of managing hills by bike has a special way of commanding your attention. I was so busy thinking about whether I could hold my pace for the next rise and how fast I could go downhill without wiping out that I had no time to think about myself. I started looking forward to getting up early and hitting the road. I took in the mountains and forests, dense with cedar and fir, but my focus was really on the bike and the road.”

But this entire Humble Blog is based on the need for more introspection. If everyone is just hammering up hills on two wheels, are we really better off?

“In fairness to the rest-and-relaxation lobby, some introspection is indeed good for you, and being able to tolerate idleness and boredom is a sign of psychological strength. I’m a clinical psychiatrist, and I know well that self-understanding is a cherished goal of therapy. But too much self-examination doesn’t make you happier or more enlightened. Besides, vacation is not the time to work on that skill. You can incorporate moments of idleness into your daily life if you want to get better at sitting with yourself, but vacation is a time for feeling good and escaping responsibilities, including the ones to yourself. Accordingly, you should do what makes you feel good, and that’s activity, not idleness.”

Got it.

As an endurance athlete, I’m keenly aware of how my brain waves fluctuate markedly during most workouts. If I’m going uphill and/or into the wind, my focus narrows a lot on the task at hand. If I’m descending and/or with the wind, my mind drifts to numerous other non-athletic things. I might even begin writing the next blog post.

All movement is good, but add some intensity in on occasion. Even on vacay.

Why Did The Former Guy Pilfer Highly Classified Documents When He Left Office?

Fred Kaplan wonders in Slate. After some informative context setting, Kaplan cuts to the chase:

“And so we are left to ponder the final, most puzzling question: Why did Trump hang on to these documents? What could he gain from doing so? Some on Twitter speculate that he might want to sell the documents to foreign governments. I wouldn’t put much past Trump, but even I consider this theory extremely unlikely. (That said, storing these materials at a public place like Mar-a-Lago is stunningly irresponsible. It is proper that the FBI also sought surveillance video showing who was wandering into the storage area.)

My guess about Trump’s motives (and, at this point, it can only be a guess): pure, testosterone-driven ego.

The Washington Post reported back in February, when the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of materials from Mar-a-Lago, that Trump retained much of his correspondence, including the ‘love letters’—as he once described them—with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The Post attributed this information to ‘two people familiar with the’ documents. This suggests that Trump showed the letters to people. Who were these people? We don’t know. Was he showing the letters in order to show off? It seems likely.”

Put me firmly in the “might want to sell the documents to foreign governments” camp. That’s what I concluded when the story started to take shape. There’s a lot I don’t understand about The Former Guy, but there is one thing I believe to be irrefutable. Having more money has always been his primary motivation. Follow the obsessive drive for more money.

And if your righty friends try to ruin your weekend with talk of Hillary’s emails, lay this little bit of Kaplan on ’em:

“While we’re on the subject, what about Hillary’s email? Of the 30,000 emails that the FBI examined, eight were found to contain Top Secret information. Seven of them were about CIA drone strikes, which had been reported in the newspapers (but were still technically classified). The other one was an account of a telephone conversation with the president of Malawi. (All conversations with foreign leaders are, by definition, Top Secret.) In other words, she revealed nothing remotely about nuclear weapons, signals intelligence, or anything that might have enlightened a foreign spy.”

When it comes to cattle futures, Vince Foster, and Benghazi, you’re on your own.

To Get Out Of Your Head, Get Out Of Your House

Advises Arthur Brooks in the Atlantic.

“In one study from 2015, researchers assigned people to walk in either nature or an urban setting for 50 minutes. The nature walkers had lower anxiety, better mood, and better working memory. They were also much less likely to agree with statements such as ‘I often reflect on episodes of my life that I should no longer concern myself with.'”

This morning I went on a short run. I listened to Apple’s Barefoot Acoustic playlist and admired the light fog and dug the slightly cooler morning temp while realizing fall is coming. Still, by the end of the run, I worked up enough of a sweat to head down to the water, (mostly) disrobe, and slip into the Salish Sea. I sat perfectly still in the perfectly still water, up to my chin, admiring a couple birds. A few sculls materialized nearby. They no doubt were intimately familiar with the power of nature.

I felt lucky to be alive.

Half And Half

It’s come to my attention that half of humanity would benefit from being much more introspective. From pressing pause, stepping off the treadmill, turning off the screens, and carefully examining their life. Truly getting in touch with their feelings by breathing, journaling, talking to someone who is empathetic.

The other half, the “overthinkers” get more anxious the more they think about past problems and current challenges. Their thinking spirals. One anxious thought begetting another. They might benefit from doing more and thinking less. Such as being an empathetic listener for others, walking a dog, tending a garden, cycling*.

To flourish interpersonally and positively contribute to the common good one must routinely “work on” themself, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Except for me, No one strikes the perfect balance, so extend grace to people in both buckets.

*extreme exercise can be a serious detriment to being introspective

Maybe All Isn’t Lost After All

RAGBRAI, Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is more than just a bike ride, it is an epic eight-day rolling festival of bicycles, music, food, camaraderie, and community. It is the oldest, largest, and longest multi-day bicycle touring event in the world.

Here’s a great intro. Ryan and his newish girlfriend’s first day. If you don’t know Ryan, you should.

And here’s a wonderful “photo story” of RAGBRAI compliments of National Public Radio. The second picture is worth at least 1,000 words don’t yah think?