Don’t Just Follow The Money

Saturday night the Gal Pal and I (and Kris and Brian) went to a concert at Traditions Cafe in downtown Olympia. When we go out, we go all out, which means some grub beforehand. Traditions concert tickets are $15. I counted about 40 peeps tucked into the small cafe. So I started to do the math because I’m always doing the math, can’t help it. Actually, MaggieZ does math, I do arithmetic. $600 divided between three musicians minus one-third to the cafe (guessing) equals $400 divided between three or $133/per. Don’t forget to factor in a few CD sales, but still less than $200/per.

And yet, all three musicians, Larry in particular, performed like it was a stadium concert with 40,000 people. His technical prowess as a guitar player and singer was impressive, but not nearly as much as the profound joy he had for sharing his gifts. The intrinsic genesis of his art was a beautiful, downright spiritual thing to observe.

And it got me thinking about whether I’d share my teaching gifts with the same committed passion if I only had a few students. And how I like to be well compensated for my time. And how I want to be more like Larry when I grow up.

Fast forward a few days to a story our local on-line paper ran on a local citizen who is doing a mindfulness workshop for local educators. Interested in mindfulness, I snooped around her website only to find a “shopping” section with bullshit mindfulness products. And her teacher workshop costs twenty Tradition’s concert tickets. I don’t begrudge her the right to run a profitable business or her desire to build wealth as a young person. Also, people pay decent money for yoga classes, but the overt commercialism and explicit selling of mindfulness, not only makes me want to run the other way, but likely turns off others who could benefit greatly from it.

Granted, it’s easier to take my advice to be like Larry and not just follow the money all the time, when you have some money. But whether you do or don’t have money, nonstop selling becomes habitual, meaning the extrinsic overwhelms the intrinsic until one’s work contributes very little to the greater good.

I’ve referenced two PressingPausers—Kris and MaggieZ—whose loyalty to the humble blog I greatly appreciate, but I’m thinking about a third who shall remain nameless because that’s the way he’d want it. Check out this other article from our same local on-line paper, “Puget Sound Honor Flight Recognizes Veterans One Flight At A Time”. When I first saw it, I immediately skimmed it for my friend’s name, but somehow he didn’t make it into the article. The fact that no one is watching him get up at 4 a.m. to drive to Sea-Tac Airport monthly, or watching him sometimes accompany local veterans on the actual flights, or watching him attend board meetings, makes all those activities much more meaningful.

Larry didn’t need much if any money. All he needed was a small group of people to share with. Same with our esteemed, third PressingPauser. All he needs is an appreciative veteran or two to share with.




Rubio, Veterans’ Day, and Default Hawkishness

They will not raise the minimum wage, but Marco Rubio and three-quarters of the Republican’s on stage last night, are playing on the American public’s fears in the hope that we spend a whole lot more money on a larger, stronger military*. “People are being beheaded, Christians are being crucified.” Repeat that enough and no one will ask where. Each candidate is more appalled than the next that President Obama has failed to invade some countries and kick some ass. How dare he refuse to send more young men and women into wars that only have political solutions.

They all suffer from a collective amnesia that is extremely dangerous unless you like repeating mistakes of the past. They refuse to honestly assess how the last few wars have gone. How much money was spent, how many people’s lives were irrevocably changed for the worse, how many were killed, how the initial problems worsened.

The Republicans would have Rand Paul and the rest of us believe it’s un-American to question whether military might is always right. I will ask questions, resist knee-jerk hawkishness, and support this President’s more conservative and disciplined alternative to mindless militarism. All in the the hope that we have fewer vets to celebrate on future Veteran’s Days.

* all while lowering our taxes

Veterans’ Day—Be Very Careful

I woke up yesterday to a Daily Olympian headline that read “Attacker ignored cries of ‘We are children,’ Afghan witnesses say. The article described the trial of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians and wounded six more in a nighttime rampage on March 11th.

After skimming that news article, I started pancaking while listening to a story on National Public Radio about the Obama administration’s 300-person Al-Qaida Yemeni “kill list”. A few years of pilotless drone bombings later, there are around 1,000 members of Al-Qaida in Yemen.

To many military readers and listeners those stories were more evidence of the media’s anti-military bias. The implication being we’d all be better off if the media just reported on all the good the military does.

Then I went to adult Sunday school where Melinda, our young intern, was leading a discussion on our church formally becoming a “military friendly” congregation a designation that requires meeting a few criteria. I like Melinda. Married to a three tour Iraqi war veteran, she’s personable, articulate, and  a huge NASCAR fan.

She shared a story about a veteran who returned to a church that strongly condemned him for his wartime activities. Understandably, people were dismayed. Melinda added that now he is among the “most anti-Christian people you’ll ever meet.”

It’s more common she said for churches to fail veterans through a debilitating silence, which they interpret as negative judgement. Logically then, the only option is to proactively and positively embrace military veterans and their families.

I did the unthinkable. Asked a question. Unless my attorney has a better one, my defense is maybe the maple syrup went to my head. You would think I would have learned by now that you can’t question the military, especially on Veteran’s Day. The bumper sticker “Dissent is patriotic” is what liberals wish was true. You cannot question the size of the military, military strategies like the drone program, or even the effects of war on its victims without raising the ire of the pro-military super majority.

The default thought process is you can’t question the military because we’re all indebted to them for our freedom. Unquestionably, that’s been true in the past. Between 1941 and 1945 we were indebted to all Allied forces for our freedom. Apparently, once true always true. The specific thinking being that current military campaigns against Yemeni Al-Qaida or Iraqi insurgents keeps the U.S. safe from foreign invasion and/or terrorist attacks, preserves our constitutional government, and makes it possible for dovish bloggers to question the military. To question is to be ungrateful for their sacrifices including extended separations from their families, risk of serious injury or death, and endless challenges upon return. The ancillary question is “What have you done for your country?”

I told everyone that I understood the aforementioned church silence of which Melinda was critical because I interpreted it as confusion which I share. A few people pushed back because it’s not even okay to be confused. You have to be all in, all the time.

Our military, I added, is fueled by nationalism which doesn’t factor into the New Testament. More specifically I asked, “How do we embrace the Beatitudes, which I think are the essence of the gospel, and the U.S. military whose values are often antithetical to the Beatitudes?”

Some of the Beatitudes from Matthew Chapter 5:

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.

Had there been one large cartoon cloud above everyone’s heads, it would’ve read, “No he didn’t!”

Melinda replied confidently. Too confidently. “Lots of military are anti-war. My husband is anti-war.” The message being that one has to separate individual members from the actions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines more generally. On the surface that’s sensible, but as could have been predicted, a few people questioned my question, and Melinda elaborated. The gist of her message was it’s okay for people in the church to be anti-war as long as congregations are pro-military.

The inherent tension in that seemed lost on her. It seems to me, truly anti-war servicemen and women would not re-enlist or they’d band together to change the military’s culture and mission.

We need anti-war military personnel to take the lead in creating a new military. A multilingual one that is steeped in the social sciences. One that’s smaller, less misogynist, more knowledgeable about world religions, more transparent, and more adept at winning the hearts and minds of people intensely wary of American power.

There’s little hope for reinventing our military without impolite questions and uncomfortable moments in adult Sunday schools around the country. My hope is some of you will join me in breaking the silence and daring to be impolite.