In the Garden of good and evil

“In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.” — Jimmy Page

There are few things in the world that can be known for sure. One of the teachers I work with tried to give examples of conspiracy theories and used the whole idea of the Earth being flat. Suddenly, several students stood up and starting arguing. So, let’s just acknowledge that there will never universal agreement and move on.

I usually don’t put art up here, but a picture paints a 1000 words as they say. Many critics would point out that I can be rather wordy, but we will let this stand for now. Saturday Night Live did a sketch years ago where they made fun of “undecided voters.” It was pretty direct, but maybe not quite as direct as the cartoon above.

The picture was purposefully vague because all of us have elections in our locales and states that are good examples of this. Obviously, this fits a particular narrative and a particular point of view, but the point is true in general. The choices in our races are very clear and to come away undecided is unfathomable.

In Texas, we have the gubernatorial debate between Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott. I usually pride myself in being measured and rational. However, there is no rational basis for coming into such a debate undecided. We know who Greg Abbott is at this point and given the fact that O’Rourke ran for president and senator, we should know who he is as well.

Notice I didn’t say that either was definitely right or wrong on any one issue, overall, or that either was good and the other bad. Remember the whole flat earth thing above? People here know who I’m voting for. That was true from the moment that the two challengers were announced. Hell, it was true the moment the last election ended.

That’s my failing. I often joke with friends and loved ones that if the Taliban were to come to Texas and form their own football team that I would have to think for a few minutes on who to root for if they decided to take on the University of Texas. Is that level of dislike rational? I suppose not. I suppose my level of animus for Abbott and Dan Patrick may not be completely rational or healthy.

While I cannot know with 100 percent certainty which party is right most of the time, I can say with absolute certainty that one of them is. They cannot be much more different these days. This doesn’t come down to a minute disagreement over the amount of farm subsidies we should doll out. We aren’t arguing whether the public library should be open until eight or nine. The days of small and seemingly insignificant disagreements are long gone.

In their wake are very definite and significant cracks in the foundation of our democracy. Are we still going to be a republic? Do we believe in personal freedom? What does that even look like in the modern age? That’s on the ballot. I respect people that think differently than me. I don’t have a monopoly on the truth. I have a hard time respecting those that don’t think at all. We better think quickly or we might not be able to anymore.

Commercials Continued

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” — Network (1976)

When I write these I am assuming that the majority of people reading them are like-minded individuals. Maybe the occasional person stumbles along and wants to hurl projectiles at their computer, tablet, or phone, but for the most part I’m not playing the role of raving lunatic here. So, allow me to have a polite conversation with the like-minded people that read these posts.

The thought occurred to me when I heard the third version of the Abbott attack ads against Beto O’Rourke. It seems he is too extreme on gun control. They played what was obviously an abrupt cut of him saying he would confiscate everyone’s AR-15. Then, they went on to talk about how he has an F rating according to the NRA in terms of his voting record.

I could say a lot of things here and did when I was in the car by myself. A few of those things are words that shouldn’t be said around young children or anyone of a delicate nature. I could also say a few choice things about the NRA and have before. If I ever run for office they will be data mined and I’ll have to explain them off somehow. That’s kind of the point. This is the world we live in now.

If I translate my inner thoughts in the most delicate way possible, I’d say I couldn’t care less what the NRA thinks of me or my stances on gun control. I’m not looking for NRA approval after all. I’d rather be a good human being and promote policies that support life and public safety. If they would like to abrupt cut that and infer that I am saying they are not for supporting life or public safety they can go ahead. Hell, I’ll even underline and bold it for them.

As much as I or anyone else would like to call them domestic terrorists or people that sponsor domestic terrorists it wouldn’t be responsible for me to do that. After all, most people don’t make complex distinctions between sane and responsible gun owners and those that are insane and unreasonable. They think we would be painting with a pretty broad brush there and I get it.

The point is that when we advocate something we have to consider the feasibility of it getting approved and whether it would actually work. There are any number of ways of taking guns off the streets that don’t involve going door to door and taking it from their cold, dead hands. The unfortunate reality is that if you used the door to door method you would likely invite that outcome more than a few times.

Few things in this world make me more angry than gun violence. When I hear the stories of dead children, scared children, or frightened multitudes in any public place it makes me want to scream at every Republican politician and anyone with an A grade with the NRA. I’d like to say they can take their A grade and thousands in PAC contributions and shove it up their ass. Of course, we can’t do that in a polite society, so that will have to serve as internal monologue for now.

As Democrats, liberals, progressives, leftists, or caring moderates we must agree on one thing and only one thing. We want to make the world a better and safer place. I think all of us can agree on that. We may not agree on how to completely do that or what lengths we need to go to so that can happen. We need to focus on what we do agree on and move from there. In terms of gun control, we agree on background checks, waiting periods, and the ban of certain weapons. We agree that other weapons shouldn’t be legally owned or wielded by teenagers.

We need to enact these laws on things we do agree on and put our heads together on the rest. Confiscation is way too controversial and likely to dangerous to enact. Let’s think of other ways to regulate behavior without punishing responsible gun owners. We are smart people, so we can make this happen. What we can’t do is allow the forces of darkness to cherry pick awful things we may have said to use against us.

Commercial Interruption

“Politician granny with your high ideals
Have you no idea how the majority feels?
So without love and a promise land
We’re fools to the rules of a government plan.” — Roland Orzabal

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to take a look at a couple of commercials from the Texas governor’s race between Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke. As it stands, I only hear pro-Abbott commercials. I suppose sports fans must all be conservatives. Three things have struck me from these ads.

Beto O’Rourke is for defunding the police.

If there are any dedicated Democrats reading this please read the following sentence carefully. For the love of everything good and holy, please stop doing this. You come up with these slogans you think are winning slogans, but the other side just uses them against you. This has been an ongoing problem for as long as I have been following politics.

People don’t understand nuance. I know you don’t literally want to eliminate police departments. I know you are not literally for anarchy. The average voter doesn’t understand the idea of spreading resources around to other agencies that would be in a better position to handle certain issues. They just see a hoard of criminals coming to your door.

Of course, Abbott has to throw in a reference to Black Lives Matter. Again, they have successfully linked BLM with crime and anarchy. Is it fair? Of course it isn’t. Are most of them lawless thugs? Of course they aren’t. People don’t stick around long enough for a lengthy explanation. So, being for BLM and being for police reform means you are pro-crime and for the forces that are bringing crime to our neighborhoods. It’s a bunch of excrement, but it is all most people hear.

Beto is for Open Borders

Clearly he isn’t. He has said this multiple times. What he is for is streamlining our immigration policy and process so that people can enter the country safely when they need to or be sent back when they need to. He has talked about tearing down the wall because most experts agree the wall is virtually useless. Of course, most people only hear the first half of that particular statement.

So, this argument came down to two statements. First, hoards of drug dealers and mules are bringing over fentanyl. That’s oddly specific. That statement is both true and misleading. China actually produces the most fentanyl, but Mexico is seeing an increase. The one that got me was that the border between Mexico and the United States is the most dangerous border in the world. I almost pulled off the road into a ditch laughing. Apparently the border between Syria and Iraq is a bunch of snow cones and rainbows.

Beto is too dangerous for Texas

So, you see where this is going. As we teach our students, pathos (emotion) is the most effectively logical appeal there is. To hell with facts or credibility. We just want you to believe that Beto O’Rourke would somehow kill thousands because he’s inherently dangerous. What happens if you are dangerously incompetent or reckless? A simple Google search on COVID showed that over 90,000 Texans have died from COVID since March of 2020. Most of those came in the first year when our beloved governor decided to lift protocols and keep local governments from imposing their own.

Everyone remember the great freeze in December of 2021? You know the one where our grid virtually shut down statewide because we were in a hurry to deregulate everything that moves. Yeah, this is the one they still haven’t fixed and came close to having more blackouts this past summer. Yeah, THAT freeze cost 246 Texans their lives.

If you count the period when Greg Abbott was attorney general in Texas, we have had a rash of mass shootings in Texas. Take a look at the timeline. Most happened under his watch as governor. Yet, he and the legislature have hurdled head first into policies that would virtually give anyone unfettered access to any weapon they might want. Yet, we cannot predict or control what might happen at our schools and are just dumbfounded when these things happen. So tell me, isn’t Greg Abbott too dangerous for Texas?

The Prodigal Son

“To be is to do.” — Socrates

As we continue with our theme of converting from grievance to gratitude, I’m reminded of the story of the prodigal son. In general, the parables that Jesus used in the gospels are rich with lessons and jumping off points. This story might be one of the most complex and misinterpreted in the Bible.

For those that aren’t regular church goers, essentially the second son in a rich family demands his portion of his inheritance early. He squanders it and eventually returns home prepared to be a servant. Instead, his father showers him with gifts. The other son is pissed off because he always followed the rules. Why didn’t he ever get these gifts?

It is common to talk about how the world wants us to be. This is usually a way to separate all of us into an us vs. them paradigm. So, anything negative must be of the world and everything positive is of the church. In this case, I think many forces within the church are actually pushing us into behaving like the older son. I’ll start with my own experience within education and hopefully we can expand from there.

The hardest thing to overcome as a teacher is the notion that are ultimate goal is to get students across the finish line. When students do the wrong thing we want them to either be punished or suffer some kind of consequence. We often don’t feel good until something punitive happens. This can be true in literal cases of behavior or simply students that fulfill their academic obligations.

This is admittedly a delicate balance and one I have been working at for 25 years. I’m not sure I’m where I should be and don’t know if I ever will be. A kid doesn’t do their homework or classwork. What should happen to them? A kid is tardy to class. What should happen to them? They aren’t paying attention and they wake up midway through class. Should we call them out for their lack of attention or simply meet them where they are at?

Fast forward a few years or more and they are working minimum wage jobs because they didn’t do what they should have done in school. Do we continue to put up road blocks because they shouldn’t have done that? Do we limit their access to assistance or prevent minimum wage workers from earning more because those jobs should only be for teenagers?

Suddenly you realize our entire outlook is based on being the older son. Our little brother squandered his inheritance. He was foolish and he should be punished. Maybe he or she did. Maybe they did the wrong things when they were young. Maybe they could have paid attention and done their work. Maybe they could have followed the rules and avoided the mistakes we told them not to make.

What’s also possible is that they might have been a victim of circumstances beyond their control. We can’t assume everyone in a bad way is in a bad way because of their own life choices. However, let’s assume they are. Are we really supposed to withhold assistance because of previous mistakes they made? Do we withhold our compassion and care or do we simply meet them where they are and go from there?

The older son exists in a place of grievance. It isn’t fair that people get free stuff. I worked hard. I deserve that stuff. I followed the rules and now you are giving your time and energy to that good for nothing miscreant? They should be punished. You should let them bask in the soup of their own transgressions. Gratitude cannot accept such an outlook because gratitude does not assume we did anything. It assumes we were the recipients of our fortune and not its architect.

From Grievance to Gratitude

“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.” — Don McLean

On some days I know exactly what I want to write about and I can sit down and bang out a post in ten minutes or less. As Tony Shaloub’s character said, “it’s a blessing and a curse.” There are other times when there is a complex subject in my head and I need to few posts to flesh these things out. I promise to refund you all the money you’re out.

These ideas are swirling around my head and they need to come out. I am responsible for planning a prayer meeting for our pastoral council and there is only one thing I want to communicate with them. The question is the how. There is so much there and so many different places I’ve seen it. You end up taking a little from each and hope that the combination produces something worth listening to.

The challenge in this space is to carve out a message that can be digested by people of all faith (or no faith) traditions. The message is simple. In order to experience true conversion one has to transfer themselves from a state of grievance to a state of gratitude. It’s a simple enough message, but there is a lot to unpack there, so we should try to do that while I’ve got your attention.

What exactly is a grievance state? Simply put, it is when we get into a head space where we are worried about what we don’t have, can’t have, or what someone gets to have. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for our rights or to get the needs to any particular group me. It means we need to move beyond the whole idea of “why does group A get this when group B doesn’t get that?” Usually, group A and group B have nothing to do with each other. So, asking such a question only ends up resulting in anger towards group A.

There are forces of darkness out there that don’t want Group B to get what they need. The easiest way to keep from having to give groups what they need is to get us to remain focused on groups that get stuff they “don’t deserve.” See, there’s that nasty word again. So, instead of being upset about needs not being met is to get people to focus on groups that are getting assistance and “shouldn’t be”.

It even sneaks into our theology. How often have we heard the phrase, “God helps people that help themselves.” The phrase is actually not in the Bible. It was originally attributed to Ben Franklin. Yet, it has become our number one reason for not helping those around us. They don’t deserve our help. They ruined their own life. They made bad choices and that is why they are in the state they are in. This may even be true in many instances.

However, a part of that gratitude mindset is the understanding that many of us are where we are because someone was there to help us when we made many of those same mistakes. Someone was there to help us when we didn’t make mistakes, but something horrible happened just the same. There was a shoulder to cry on. There was someone with a couch we could sleep on, someone with a few extra bucks to help us through, or with connections to help us get back on our feet.

When we have a focus on gratitude we are more likely to be that for someone else. We are more likely to take bad news in stride. We are more likely to understand that some people will need more help than others. They may make mistakes and seemingly make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe they are capable of standing on their two feet on their own. They can still use our help until they do.

In the public arena, we can focus on fighting for people that have yet to have their needs met. We can ignore the voices of darkness that want us to focus on what the undeserving are getting. After all, foaming at the mouth about what one person gets doesn’t get us or anyone else any closer to what we/they need. Plus, a gracious person is a lot happier than a grievous person is.

The Virus of the Mind

“I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made.” — Mick Jagger

Ask most biologists what scares them most it is the viruses and diseases we once thought were eradicated. Admittedly, my knowledge of immunology is limited to how my wife dumbs it down for me, but you see this every once in awhile. Someone somewhere will come down with the plague. Someone else will come down with measles. We get the occasional bout with whooping cough and polio as well.

When diseases are eradicated people and experts naturally let their guard down. They let strategic supplies of key medicines and vaccines go away. After all, we don’t need them anymore. So, we focus our energies on the newest threats and the diseases that claim millions. After all, cancer, HIV, and diabetes claim a whole lot more than whooping cough.

Unfortunately, when you find someone that has developed one of those conditions we thought was a distant memory we find ourselves flabbergasted. We don’t know what to do. The same happens when we find arguments we thought were long since settled. Someone comes out and defends the indefensible. If you are anything like me, you have that moment where you are frozen in time. Are they really saying what I think they are saying right now?

Congressional candidate John Gibbs is the latest to do this. In all fairness, he did this in college in the early 2000s, but he very clearly argued that the 19th amendment should be overturned. For those that don’t remember their U.S. History, that gave women the right to vote. That happened over 100 years ago. This is settled law and settled as an issue. At least we thought it was.

Gibbs is an originalist in the stupidest way possible. He wants everything returned to the factory settings which means he would become three-fifths a person and ineligible to run for office. At least, that is where he was in the early 2000s. Maybe he has wised up since then. Gibbs is hardly the point. Unless you live in Michigan, he really isn’t your concern.

What is our problem is that this phenomenon is growing. You can hardly live anywhere where there isn’t some idiot arguing for things that were long since settled decades ago. We have people like Gibbs arguing against women’s rights. We have people arguing against interracial marriage. We have people arguing against other civil rights. Hell, our very own senator (John Coryn

Fear is a Drug

“I’ve had enough of danger
And people on the streets
I’m looking out for angels
Just trying to find some peace.” — George Michael

As I try to put together the pieces of the complex web we weave I begin to see a number of patterns. The number one arrow in the conservative quiver is fear. The fear of the “other” will do in most circumstances, but the most insidious fear is the fear of ideas.

We spent the last day or so talking about the fear of the immigrant. While I think there is credible fear of the immigrant themselves, most of that fear actually surrounds the idea of opportunity. That never gets wrapped up in its own packaging. Instead we attach the very worst to those coming. They are murderers, terrorists, drug dealers or mules. They are coming to steal our homes, our resources, and maybe even our women. Better not leave any beloved family pets outside because they might steal those too.

Drill down to the base of that well and you’ll find little to not justification for any of it. The most hilarious example was the Minnesota woman that was just sure that immigrants would steal her lakehouse…in Minnesota. These aren’t Canadian immigrants she was talking about. Mexican and Central American immigrants would steal her lakehouse…in Minnesota. Somehow common sense isn’t so common.

I also made mention of someone at my church praying for an end to critical race theory and gender affirmation in public schools. We shouldn’t be teaching these things. Except we aren’t teaching critical race theory and never have. They can’t even tell you what it is for crying out loud. Of course, the gender affirmations are another thing entirely.

A colleague just today complained about pronouns. Somehow we have conflated simply accepting people where they are and who they want to be with teaching people to be those things. Somehow being those things becomes conflated with grooming. Hearing this from government officials and thought leaders that have credible accusations against them for sex trafficking and sexual assault is like a bizarro universe where up is down, left is right, and right is wrong.

At the center of all of this is fear. It is fear of the other, but it really is fear that we exist in a zero sum reality. When one group gets more rights and more opportunities then rights and opportunities are taken from us. We cannot acknowledge that African Americans and other ethnic groups have had the legal deck stacked against them. If we acknowledge that then we give them more opportunities, more justice, and more tolerance. That would somehow mean fewer opportunities for us, less justice for us, and less tolerance.

Even if we were to agree to certain economic realities we would have to acknowledge the fact that not everything has to work that way. Justice doesn’t have to go to the highest bidder. Tolerance doesn’t have to bend to those that are already winners by a genetic lottery. We can all have justice. We can all have tolerance. We can all have love and be loved. There’s more than enough to go around as long as we break away from the shackles of fear.

Don’t Be Afraid to Care

“Long you live and high you fly
Smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.” — Roger Waters

This weekend I did one of those things I always promised myself I wouldn’t do. Facebook is a place for silos. People form groups of likeminded individuals where they can complain about how stupid other people are. Occasionally, I make statements on my public wall. I always live to regret this. People jump in and comment. Others come in and retort to those comments and a whole war of words begins.

In this case, I published an modern adaptation of the story of the good Samaritan. One of the things I love about Jesus’ parables is how they challenge our sensibilities. When they are modernized or fully explained through historical context they throw everything on its ear. They punch you right in the gut which is what they were precisely designed to do.

The adaptation addressed immigration generally and the collective stunts by Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis more specifically. The answers to the screed demonstrated both the mental gymnastics we subscribe to make ourselves feel better and the misinformation we see put forth on a regular basis. As a general nod to my regular readers, I thought I’d recap some of those.

  1. Liberals are for open borders

I should point out here that one of my friends (and a regular reader here) pointed out that leftists are for open borders. Liberals are not leftists. It would be similar to the difference between moderate Republicans and libertarians. It’s a pure form of ideology most of us do not possess. All that being said, most Democrats are not for open borders as any reasonable person would define them.

More migrants have been arrested under Joe Biden than ever under Donald Trump. The same was true under Barack Obama than Trump. Trump has always employed a “speak loudly and do little” approach to key issues. Now, whether these record arrests are a good thing or not is open to debate. I respect leftists even if I don’t always agree with them. So, we will leave that debate for another day.

2. Those coming are illegal and it amounts to an invasion

Someone actually used the invasion term in their response. Both terms are inflammatory. However, this is one of those areas where I get the backlash. Those that are sympathetic to the cause of migrants insist on calling them undocumented saying that a human being cannot be illegal. It can’t be illegal to exist. Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where the politically correct term probably triggers conservatives more than it helps the conversation.

However, this is where the truth needs to repeated. If I want to claim asylum I have to do so in person. That’s the law. Once I claim asylum then I am officially an asylum seeker until my case is adjudicated. Therefore, whether you prefer undocumented or illegal is irrelevant because neither apply. As one helpful commenter pointed out, the vast majority of asylum seekers actually appear at all of their hearings. That of course goes against the popular narrative that they just skip them.

3. They are criminals that come here to commit crimes and steal essential services

This didn’t come out in this particular discussion, but it undoubtedly is in most people’s minds. Let’s consider this logically. Most people that come want a better life for themselves and their family. Maybe they get a temporary visa, are seeking asylum, or maybe they skip that part of the process.

Let’s even assume the last one is true. What would it benefit them to participate in activities that would get them deported? They don’t want to call attention to themselves. Most just want to work hard, save as much as they can, and improve their situation long-term for their families. Are there bad actors? Sure, but they commit far fewer crimes per capita than those that were born here.

They aren’t invading our country. As a general rule they aren’t bringing drugs, terrorizing citizens, or invading your home with pitchforks, weapons of war, or any other such nonsense. They are people. They love their families and want what is best for them. They want to work hard and follow the rules. It is fair to question how many of them we should allow in. It is fair to determine if their fear is credible if they are seeking asylum. It isn’t fair to treat them inhumanely or to use them to score political points. It also isn’t fair to lie about them or characterize them as something they are not. They are human beings. They deserve better than that.

Awaiting Conversion

“I can’t stand this indecision, Married with a lack of vision.” — Roland Orzabal

I used to write these every day. Schedules change and with those changes in schedule routines also change. Yet, more than different schedules comes the changes of priorities and life circumstances. Simply put, these topics are a little heavier and with increased heft comes the need for more down time so these thoughts can hit with the right gravitas.

The conversion thoughts hit a number of people in different ways. That’s always the hope as people are in a different head spaces at different times of their lives. For most, the question came down to what to do when a friend or family member gets stuck in a silo of hate and self-centeredness. As Mick Jagger said, “I spent our first trip I tries so hard to rearrange your mind, but after awhile I realized you were disarranging mine.” There has to be a line somewhere we draw in the sand where our efforts have to stop.

All the while we can never truly give up. It’s like a beloved family pet that has gotten away. There will come a time when the posters around the neighborhood come down and you stop circling the block looking for them. You stop calling the vet to see if anyone had turned them in. Yet, there is that lasting hope that one day they will come back. Occasionally they do. When they do we rejoice just like the shepherd with the lost sheep. If they don’t we try to remember the good times and remember them in the best light possible.

I sat there at my last council meeting (pastoral council) and listened as one of the members prayed for an “end to critical race theory, gender affirmation, and all that jazz” in our public schools. At first, I was gobsmacked that someone would pray for an abandonment of tolerance and understanding. How does one reconcile what seems to be a good and decent person with sentiments that seem so indecent? This is when we have to remember that the forces of darkness have somehow taken something that was already there (anger, fear, insecurity) and planted seeds that have taken root.

We make our mistake when we attack the plants that have grown from those seeds and not the source. The anger, fear, and insecurity is real. It’s there for a reason. It is legitimate. We just find that others are using those things for their own ends. So, when we attack those ideas and call them out as intolerant then we are in effect “cancelling” them because we are discounting that anger, fear, and insecurity. We are discounting them.

We cannot let the wayward members of the flock escape into the wilderness of despair and hatred. We must continue to reach out. We must show that there is a better way. It will be rough and there will be times where we will need to temporarily retreat for our own sanity. Yet, we can never completely write them off. One day they may return to our door and we can rejoice how he or she that was once lost has been found.

Conversion

“Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” — Steve Winwood

We often reach the moment when we realize that we are arguing over the same thing over and and over again. I’m reminded of that Yogi Berra quote about Deja vu all over again. We choose our words carefully and we make points artfully, but often our best laid plans come undone because we just don’t have the right words at the right time. So, we try and try again.

Given all of this, I know this is covering old ground. The most powerful moment of the Anderson Cooper interview that I shared earlier came when Stephen Colbert shared a powerful thought on grief. Cooper asked him if he agreed with the statement that punishments from God are not also gifts. Then, asking whether he was grateful for that thing he wish had not happened.

“I want it to not have happened, but if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do, not everybody is – and I am not always – but it’s the most positive thing to do, then you have to be grateful for all of it.”

Stephen Colbert

A visiting priest made this connection last night in a way I had not previously thought of. Essentially he said that gratitude leads to conversion. The world conditions us to exist in a grievance state. It is not fair that he/she has that thing, that success, or that person in their life. It is not fair that I worked harder than that person and that they got something. They got that adulation. They got that recognition.

Approaching gratitude from a non-faith perspective might be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Essentially, we are given so much and yet so much more is expected. The world has conditioned us to be the oldest child in the prodigal son story. We’ve followed the rules. We did what we were supposed to do. The spoils should be ours in the end.

It’s a powerful story and it’s a powerful draw. So many around us are caught up in this web. Those people are the faith leaders around us. They look at those with the free health care and scream unfair. They look at those with the loan forgiveness and scream foul. I worked hard. I played by the rules. Why are you taking my money and giving it to them?

Except it was never ours in the first place. At least it wasn’t in any real sense if we think of the cosmic forces of the universe. In a cold, hard sense those funds were already taken from our checks. Someone just made a decision about where those resources would be pooled. In the cosmic sense, we really shouldn’t be here in the first place.

My wife and I have enjoyed watching a video series called “What if..” Essentially they ask what would happen if any particular disaster were to befall Earth. Maybe it’s a flood. Maybe it’s a series of storms. Maybe it’s something crazy like a second moon or larger moon. Each one results in a horrible death. Tweak the structure of our atmosphere just a little and you get the same result. Death. Move the planets or change the sun and you get the same result. Death. It can either be frightening or awe inspiring depending on your particular perspective that day.

Now, one could jump off this line of thinking into an environmental hysteria, but that’s not really the point. If we are people of faith then we believe that something more powerful is out there looking over and protecting us. If we aren’t then we know nature is far more complex and powerful than any of us could ever imagine.

The point is that we don’t even deserve to be breathing right now. We get to breathe right now. We get to live. We get to enjoy the bounty of this creation. Life is a gift and no matter which cosmic force we believe created it, we should live our lives at least giving a simple nod to that force. When we realize we are the lucky ones then we also realize that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else gets. Justice obviously should exist and should play into these things, but worthiness of luck is not a thing. None of us are truly worthy of the luck we have been given. Rearrange one molecule here or there and it all disappears in the blink of an eye. So, who cares if someone is given a free phone or a bailout check?