Latest entries

As humans live in slums, why do I complain about my privileged life?

by David McElroy

I’ve had a terrible day. It’s Friday evening after work. I’ve just eaten dinner. I’m sitting in a restaurant feeling frustrated and anger — partly at myself, partly at others.

I’m unhappy about multiple things. I’m lonely. I want to quit my job. I miss someone. I feel alienated from the people around me. I find myself thinking that life hasn’t been fair to me. (I could tell you why. I have plenty of reasons.)

And then I randomly saw this photograph.

Gautam Basu took this photo of an Indian mother and two of her children. The mother is dressing a daughter while a smaller child clings to her. The pipe in which they’re standing is their home.

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Why does the current concept of ‘human rights’ leave me queasy?

by David McElroy

Nobody could possibly be opposed to “human rights.” The idea sounds so pure and noble. So why does the phrase make me cringe?

When I speak of rights, I tend to speak of individual rights. That’s what the classical liberal thinkers had in mind a couple of hundred of years ago when they started recognizing rights. They realized that individuals had certain rights — to be left alone to live, speak, worship and trade as they wished. Politicians attempting to implement some of those ideas — such as the founders of this country after the split from Great Britain — did imperfect jobs of implementing the ideas, even though they were really good at quoting the rhetoric of individual rights. (If they had really understood their rhetoric, slavery wouldn’t have been made part of the Constitution, for instance.)

But since the beginning of the Progressive Era, people have talked about something entirely different. Influenced by Marxist ideas of rigid class structure, they slowly evolved the idea that groups have rights. To them, rights weren’t natural things which apply equally to every human. Instead, “workers” had certain “rights” just because they were part of a social or economic group. The idea was extended to other identifiable groups — women and racial minorities to start — and then kept expanding.

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If you made an error yesterday, it’s ‘foolish consistency’ to stick with it

by David McElroy

Most people are afraid to turn around when they’ve made a choice they’ve determined to be wrong. If they turn the wrong way down a road — confidently declaring it to be the way to go — they persist with the error long after it’s obvious.

We humans hate admitting we’re wrong.

We trap ourselves with our desire to be consistent, even if we don’t consciously know what we’re doing. Most of us are terrified of being seen as contradictory, so we’re afraid to reverse course and say, “I know I said X, but I was wrong and I’ve realized Y is the truth.”

Most people keep themselves locked into X long after they’ve realized Y is true, because they’re too weak to admit to having been wrong and forthrightly turn around. This is what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant in a widely misunderstood passage in his 1841 essay on “Self-Reliance.”

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Reaction to Googler’s memo says, ‘Diversity is good if you conform’

by David McElroy

I have no idea whether Google engineer James Damore is a bigot or not, but I am convinced that most of the people attacking him have proven themselves to be bigots by their responses.

Last week, Damore shared a 10-page memo on Google’s internal communication system. His thoughts have pushed buttons of millions of progressives, sending many into hyperventilating attack mode — because Damore outlined his views about why Google is approaching the issue of diversity very poorly. He claims that the company’s drive to promote women and minorities has resulted in a lack of ideological diversity instead.

Damore has been called all sorts of names, most of which use language I wouldn’t even repeat. If I ignore the attacks containing profanity, most of the least offensive among the rest claim he’s sexist and bigoted. Many people have called for him to be fired. Why?

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I want my children surrounded by tools of creation, not consumption

by David McElroy

I haven’t been able to quit thinking today about this picture of little Macey Gaines sitting with her father as they edited video two years ago.

I shot this picture for a magazine story about a Birmingham couple who have a very successful YouTube channel with half a million subscribers. Cullen was a software developer and his wife Katie was a psychologist. After they launched a YouTube channel just for family and friends, it mushroomed.

After Cullen lost his job in a downsizing, he dove into making the YouTube channel grow. Katie eventually got to quit her job, too — and they now make a nice living from home producing videos for their fans, who come in droves to keep up with the couple and their two children. (Their son Brooks has been born since I photographed the family.)

So why is this little girl — and this picture in particular — on my mind today?

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If we don’t obey Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies, it will destroy us

by David McElroy

Nothing that Jesus taught was as difficult for human beings — then or now — as when He said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Much of what Jesus taught was exactly opposite of the way of this world. Much of what He taught was at odds with what the religious leaders of His day allowed. Roughly 2,000 years later, those things are still true. Despite billions of people claiming to follow Jesus, most of us don’t exhibit the love He taught. And the religious leaders of our day still find ways to justify hating — and even killing — those we consider enemies.

I saw a casual example tonight of hate for political enemies. The details don’t matter. You’ve seen plenty of examples, so you know what I’m talking about.

We justify such things so easily — even those of us who claim to follow Jesus. It’s almost as though we believe there’s an asterisk in His teaching during the Sermon on the Mount — as though we believe there’s an exception for us in the footnotes of the page that says, “Unless your enemies are really bad people, of course.”

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‘You cannot love in moderation’ — lukewarm love is worse than none

by David McElroy

You can’t live halfway between love and indifference. One or the other has to win in the end.

I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately because I continue to struggle to love in the ways I’d like to. A year ago this week, I wrote something fairly long about love in the broadest sense — and it’s something I’m still trying to come to terms with.

The natural way of this world is to ultimately experience something worse than hate. It’s for indifference, but it’s broader than that. The way of the world leads to a cold, hardened and callous heart. Hate can sometimes be part of it, but in its most extreme form, it’s indifference and a complete lack of feeling anything.

I believe we ultimately face two choices.

On one side, there is turmoil, anger, envy and judgment. Most “realistic people” — who have had their hearts hardened by disappointment in others — default to living closer to hate than to love, but ultimately they settle into a cold indifference.

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Storms can end without warning, bringing hope of blue skies ahead

by David McElroy

It was already raining lightly when I left the office late Friday afternoon. By the time I merged onto the interstate, the gentle summer rain had turned into a gushing torrent of water. Somewhere along I-459 south of Birmingham, I could barely seen the tail lights of the car creeping along in front of me.

Traffic was bumper to bumper in all three lanes of each direction. We inched along dangerously. I was afraid of what I might hit as I kept going forward, but I was equally afraid of being hit in the rear if I didn’t move fast enough.

I simply couldn’t see what was going on — and I was afraid that trying to pull off the road was no better since I couldn’t see anything and others couldn’t see me.

So I moved along blindly — barely moving — as buckets of rain continued to fall from the sky.

And then I saw something that seemed like a faint shaft of light in the sky off to my right. The rain still beat down furiously, but where was that light coming from?

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Despite intentions, ‘net neutrality’ gives Internet control to politicians

by David McElroy

Everybody knows “net neutrality” is a great idea. Right?

Ask any self-respecting member of the digerati and you’ll get the same response. We need net neutrality to “save our Internet.” That’s what all their slogans say, so it must be true.

But do you know what the real issues are? Do the people leading the pro-net neutrality crusades even understand what they’re advocating? Or are they just going along with what seems like a good idea since it’s aimed at big companies they don’t like?

There are few issues today which are as dishonestly framed as “net neutrality.” Although I like many of the outcomes which its advocates favor, the idea is a massive intrusion on private property — and it sets up government to control the Internet.

Briefly, the idea of net neutrality is that any Internet provider must treat every packet of data coming through the network equally. The provider isn’t allowed to charge more or less for one type of data — video or traffic coming from one particular site, for instance. An Internet service provider isn’t allowed to have plans that give a user all the data he wants from one company but have metered access (or no access) for data coming from a different company.

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Faith’s all we have to bolster belief that the rebirth of spring is coming

by David McElroy

Humans tend to hate change. We fight the cycles of change by clinging to the past. We pretend if we hold onto something from the past, the present will make sense — and maybe some internal pain or emptiness or loneliness will go away.

But Nature is all about cycles. Last autumn, I wrote about a lesson of Nature which I saw in the dying leaves near my front door. In those dry and golden leaves, I saw the message that dead things must be cleared away before rebirth has a chance to come.

In late October, death and decay were evident all around me. By this mid-June Sunday evening, the new life of Nature’s renewal is just as evident. The leaves you see above are on the same tree limb — in the same place — as the picture I shared with you last October.

I’d like to briefly suggest two things based on the brilliant green of rebirth that I see today.

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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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