Latest entries

Vague concerns about digital future leave me mourning an analog past

by David McElroy

I don’t know where the woman and the little girl in the image come from. I don’t know where that train station is. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I just know the picture is burned vividly into my brain like a still frame from an old Technicolor movie.

It’s an image which has haunted my dreams for years, but I’ve never experienced the scene in real life. I’ve never been to this place. The girl and the woman both have blonde hair. One has a red coat, because it’s cold outside. The other coat is gray or black. The trains lining the platform are pulled by steam engines, so there’s the sound of hissing pressure lines and the air is heavy with the mist of steam.

Much of the picture is fuzzy. I’m meeting the woman and the girl at the train station. Who are they? Are they arriving? Or have they come to greet me as I arrive? I can’t quite tell. I know it’s my wife and daughter, but the image is like a dream that dangles something in front of me and never quite resolves itself.

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What if the biggest risk to our lives comes from our own unhappiness?

by David McElroy

I like to pretend death doesn’t exist.

When reality forces me to admit death is waiting — even for me and for those I love — I like to at least pretend that life and death are purely mechanical processes. I like to pretend our bodies are just sophisticated biological machines.

Most of all, though, I like to pretend I don’t understand the role my emotional health plays in the physical health of my body. I like to pretend I don’t know that what goes on in my heart can kill me.

It’s as though there’s a self-destruct sequence in each one of us. When acute emotional distress hits us, that self-destruct sequence is activated. I’ve felt a nagging suspicion lately that the sequence has started for me — and I saw evidence this afternoon that terrifies me, because I’m not ready to die.

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We love romantic tales of salvation, but genuine change rarely happens

by David McElroy

If our culture didn’t believe so much in tales of redemption, what would Hollywood have left to make movies about?

You’ve seen that movie. You’ve read the book. They boy mistreats the girl. He doesn’t appreciate her. He takes her for granted. He has some serious weakness — an addiction to booze or pills or work or sex or ego — which causes him to risk everything he has.

Then something happens. It might be a dramatic speech. It might be the pain of losing the girl or his family. In some variations, it’s a religious experience. But the dramatic thing happens. He’s at his lowest. He realizes he’s been a terrible person and hurt people. In the climactic scene — frequently in front of many others as witnesses — he confesses what a wretch he’s been. He promises to change. She takes him back.

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There are more of us than ever, so why do many of us feel so alone?

by David McElroy

Loneliness is the most deadly disease a human soul can suffer.

It wounds a heart. It numbs a mind. It breaks a soul. Worst of all, it’s invisible to the others in the crowd.

Nobody spots the lonely man or woman going about his or her business — working, talking, laughing, caring for others, pretending all is well. The lonely soul wears a mask — and nobody sees what lies underneath until something inside breaks.

Around 1960, there were 3 billion souls on this planet. Less than 60 years later, there are around 7.5 billion of us. Those of us in the West — and particularly in the U.S. — are wealthy enough to be around as many or as few others as we want.

We’re more connected than ever. At least theoretically. A couple of centuries ago, a man might never know more than a few hundred people. He would marry from among a limited number of women. He would have few opportunities to make a living. He had no hope of making something better of himself.

With the Internet and modern transportation, I can get to know the right woman — wherever she is — and marry her. (Theoretically, at least.) I am surrounded by people with money and resources and ideas. I can travel to whatever opportunity I want. I have every hope and expectation of making something better of myself.

So why do so many of us feel most alone in crowds? Why do so many of us walk silently around in a bubble — in a lonely fog — reaching out from wounded hearts and whispering, “Are you the one who will know me? Will you be the one who will love me and never leave?”

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Youth and death are life’s bookends pointing toward the truth between

by David McElroy

I had come to the restaurant to write. The place was mostly empty in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. I should have gotten a lot of writing done, but Robert had other ideas.

Robert is a talker. His dad works in the kitchen of the restaurant and had been called in to finish someone else’s shift, so Robert tagged along to wait for him. He quickly struck up a conversation with me.

Robert is in the third grade and he wanted to tell me all about his life. He’s a golfer, he said, but people frequently ask him whether he’s a quarterback on a football team. He and his family have five cats and the one called Boo Bear is is favorite. (Boo Bear sleeps with him.) He’s going to be a firefighter or maybe “something easy” like a landscaper.

There was nothing extraordinary about Robert’s story, but everything about this sweet kid sparkled with life and wit and happiness. That such a thing is so ordinary is extraordinary in itself.

I’m not exactly sure whether children gravitate to me or whether I gravitate to them, but I constantly seem to end up interacting with them. In another restaurant this week, I had another “ordinary extraordinary” encounter.

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Lives change in moments of truth when we stop lying to ourselves

by David McElroy

I looked across the table at Nicole’s face. I was intimately familiar with every single bit of her beautiful face. We had dated for several years and we were engaged to be married. But I suddenly saw her as though it was for the first time.

“I can’t marry you,” I thought to myself. “I absolutely can’t marry you. We’re not right for each other.”

I had known this for a long time, but I had been lying to myself. On the surface, Nicole was everything I could want. She was a tall, beautiful and well-educated woman from the Midwest. She had moved to Birmingham because she loved me and wanted a future with me.

I had been lying to myself about her for quite some time. After I broke up with her early in the relationship and she begged me to give us another chance, I relented — even though I knew better. When she told me she wanted to move down here for us to date full time, I didn’t promise her anything, but I also didn’t tell her what I knew — that it wouldn’t work.

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Fear blocks us from experiencing reality deeper than physical world

by David McElroy

I know things that I should have no way of knowing. I always have.

This is something I rarely admit to others, because I’ve been taught not to trust what I know. We live in an age when bright people learn that the only things to trust are reason and science. We learn that if something can’t be proven, it must not be true.

And yet — I know things. I’m scared to trust them, but I know things.

Science and reason have brought us amazing things. I have no desire to toss them aside. But I also know that I have knowledge and wisdom which come from somewhere else. I admit this with fear of what you’ll think of me, because I know materialists scoff at such irrational thinking. They see it as magical thinking. But something inside you knows the Truth.

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An emotional vampire craves you, but he doesn’t know how to love

by David McElroy

Ellen was sobbing as she told me her story. She was confused. She said she knew she wanted to leave Andrew, but she felt guilty.

“He kept saying how much he loves me,” Ellen said through tears. “Mostly he talked about how much he needs me and counts on me. He said, ‘Can’t you see how much I need you?’ over and over again.”

I’ve heard this story before from Ellen, because she’s gone through this more than once with the man she’s married to. Andrew ignores her and treats her badly. He’s more interested in spending time with his friends than in building any family life with her. He’s disdainful and critical of Ellen, openly mocking her in front of friends and family.

Being treated this way kills Ellen inside.

She married Andrew because he swept her off her feet and he treated her like a queen in the beginning. But his behavior was erratic. He gave her attention when her devotion to him waned, but he pulled away as soon as she was committed again. This happened several times. She broke their engagement once, but Andrew talked her into going ahead with the wedding. He kept telling her how much he needed her — and Ellen found intense comfort in having a man need her that much.

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Children’s simple joy and innocence pierce my heart and bring me hope

by David McElroy

It always starts with children’s laughter and joyous shouts.

Their laughter can turn pain to joy. Their excitement can bring new hope. Their infectious smiles can make me feel that I can once again join them in their innocent love of life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m at a Chick-fil-A and there are lots children here for a Thursday night. I’m watching families. Parents and young kids. There are a couple of small groups that seems to be just mothers and children. There’s a father who’s come to eat alone and visit with his son who works here at the same time.

I’m at a table near the back and it seems as though every child has to come by here with a mom or dad on the way to a restroom, either skipping along on foot or riding in a parent’s arms. It’s loud and it’s busy. But something about it all makes my heart happy.

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Emptiness can bring sudden panic that feels like being stalked by fear

by David McElroy

It happens when I’m driving. Or when I’m taking a break from work. Or in the split second when I’m waking up.

It happens a dozen times a day. Maybe more.

It’s a sudden realization that something is wrong — but I can’t remember what it is. That jolt makes me feel panic, as though there’s some terrible unspoken thing that threatens me — something I just can’t put my finger on. Something I can’t quite pull from my foggy memory.

The panic is physical. It does something in the center of my chest.

My heart starts to pound. In a brief instant, I become something like a caged animal ready to strike out at danger. But what is the danger? What is the threat? Why can’t I see it? What can’t I remember?

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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