Latest entries

Loving heart, willing spirit can turn burdens of parenting into happiness

by David McElroy

Father and son

The little family stood out because of the mixed skin colors but mostly because all three children were so young — enough to keep both parents constantly dealing with one or another as they ate dinner at Chick-fil-A in Birmingham on a Saturday evening.

The parents were both white and appeared to be early to mid 30s. A boy who appeared Latino was about 4 years ago. A black boy and girl were both about 2 or 3, I’d guess.

The table was a constant buzz of talk — children asking questions and wanting help, parents correcting and guiding. But it was all orderly and the tone of voice was always loving and kind. One of the boys seemed fascinated by my MacBook and he had trouble understanding his mom’s explanation that it’s impolite to stare at strangers.

After they ate, they pulled out little books and read together. Each child had a different book. I couldn’t tell what the books were all about, but I saw the younger ones pointing to cows and dogs and pigs and correctly identifying each. Both parents worked with each child from time to time.

It was like controlled chaos, but full of love and happiness.

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Being treated with respect changed black teen’s racial beliefs in 1974

by David McElroy

Bank lobby-70s

Larry was 17 years old in 1974. He had lied about his age to get his first job, working at a steel fabrication shop. As he approached his 18th birthday, he had been working for nearly six months. Getting a loan to buy an inexpensive used car changed his life.

Race relations weren’t great between blacks and whites in Birmingham in 1974. Larry had started his education in all-black schools and then been part of integration, something that had been very controversial and at times confrontational. It was a time and place when many black people and many white people were suspicious of one another.

Larry’s attitude toward white people was guarded and suspicious. Who can blame him for feeling that way? He knew that many white people around him didn’t want him as part of their society. His attitudes hardened because of small battles, too. When he was in high school, the principal told him he had to shave off his afro or leave the school — so he transferred to a vocational school rather than comply.

By the time Larry had that first job, he was wondering whether a young black man could get a break from a society that had been dominated by racist white men. And then he needed to buy a car.

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Political systems built on coercion will always produce cheats, liars

by David McElroy

Ted Cruz speaks at RNC

Ted Cruz broke his promise to support whoever won the Republican nomination.

Hillary Clinton lied regularly about the circumstances surrounding her private email server (and many other things).

Somebody on the Donald Trump campaign lifted some ideas and phrases from a speech which was performed by Michelle Obama four years ago.

Bernie Sanders spent the last year telling us what an evil candidate Clinton is and now he tells his voters to support her.

In all four cases, I say, “So what?”

I hear some Republicans today screaming bloody murder that Cruz didn’t endorse Trump when Cruz spoke at the convention in Cleveland Wednesday night. On the other hand, people who hate Trump and are eager to see him embarrassed are calling Cruz principled for telling Republicans they ought to vote their conscience. Almost everyone seems to see the matter through the lens of what he wants to happen in November.

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What if we’ve completely missed the entire point of loving other people?

by David McElroy

Hearts

I don’t really know how to love human beings.

Not really. I can love those who are a lot like me and those who treat me well. That’s easy. I don’t know how to love those who seem unlovable to me.

It’s easy for me to condemn people with hateful attitudes, especially those among them who call themselves Christians. It’s easy for me to look down on them and say, “You have no idea how to love other people. What’s wrong with you?”

But when I’m honest with myself, I realize it’s easy to love people in theory. It’s easy to read the words of Jesus and realize very clearly that it’s my responsibility to love everyone — those who aren’t like me, those who treat me poorly, those who are my enemies, even those who cut me off in traffic and leave me seething like an idiot with bad priorities.

What’s not so easy is putting love for others into practice. I realized recently that I’m still not certain what it would look like for me to genuinely love those I’d rather not love. I’m not even certain I always want to love the all-too-real people around me.

But I had an epiphany recently about loving the unlovable — and it’s left me wondering whether we’ve missed the entire point of loving others. What if the people who are changed for the better by our loving other people isn’t those others?

What if we’re the real beneficiaries of learning to love? What if real transformation of the heart and mind isn’t even possible without learning that kind of love?

What if learning to love others is what saves us from ourselves?

• • •

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As world descends into madness, back away and guard your heart

by David McElroy

Descending into madness

I fear the devil has lit the fuse on a long-dormant stick of racial dynamite.

And now the shadowy figure with a red suit and a tail is in the shadows chuckling as outraged people on both sides of an ugly divide prepare to go after each other — completely uninterested in why the other side sees what it sees.

As the anger builds, more and more people are pulled into the maelstrom. Everybody is suddenly an expert. Everybody knows who’s to blame, but they all disagree with each other.

I’m no different. I have my own narrative. I place the ultimate blame on the idea that any group has the right to use violence or threats of violence to achieve their purposes. But even though I have my favorite explanation, I know it’s complicated and there are many historical factors — and that other people see things in very different ways.

Many books could be written on how we got here and who’s to blame, because the causes are tangled and go far back into human history, even though almost everybody tries to oversimplify the problem. I think it’s a tangled web of centuries (or more) of wrong thinking involving race, class, slavery, tribalism, populism, fear and the continuing desire of some people to control other people. (No matter what I include, I’m failing to include other factors.) They all blend together in a toxic stew — and whichever part happens to be nearest and dearest to you, that’s the part you tend to see and assume is the cause.

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As I grow and learn, I have to leave more and more of my ideas behind

by David McElroy

Transformation

Almost every day, I find myself disappointed about things I wrote four or five years ago — but I think that’s a good thing.

Even though I don’t publish many new articles anymore, my old ones are read hundreds and hundreds of times each day. The software I use tells me which articles are most popular each day and how many times each was read. The idea is that writers can see which things are attracting an audience and write more things like that.

In my case, though, I feel as though the numbers — and the old headlines — mostly serve to mock me. I certainly don’t shape my writing by what people want to read. Instead, the old titles serve as a roadmap showing how my ideas and my priorities have shifted radically since I started writing here.

The old things I wrote remind me how shallow my priorities once were.

Old articles frequently become popular again for reasons I’ll never know. Someone presumably finds something through an online search and then shares it on social media, where it will sometimes be shared enough to attracts tens of thousands of readers in a brief period.

There are times when it’s not so bad. Other times, the title jumps out at me and makes something inside me ask in an accusing voice, “Why did you ever bother to write that?”

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Third ‘Atlas Shrugged’ film horrid, but message inspires me anyway

by David McElroy

Atlas Shrugged 3-still

I finally got around to watching the third film in the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy. It’s awful.

I can’t think of anything good to say about this movie, just as I haven’t had anything good to say about its two predecessors. (Here are my thoughts about Part 1 and Part 2.) There’s a reason it lost lots of money and there’s a reason that reviewers trashed it. As a film, everything about it is bad.

As with the first two films, the core problem is that the producer was intent on translating Ayn Rand’s book to the screen faithfully, without having any real understanding of the differences between books and films as art. He also doesn’t seem to have any understanding of the book’s weaknesses.

The result is a film that manages to misunderstand the medium of film — by giving awkward speeches that work acceptably in print but are laughable in a film — yet retains all the dramatic weaknesses of a book in which no character ever undergoes real change. Good people are always good and heroic. Bad people are always bad and despicable. Nobody has a real character arc in which he learns and grows and changes.

Since the script essentially transfers as much of the book as possible to a screenplay — and does it in a way that violates film’s “show, don’t tell” ethos — I assume better directors weren’t willing to touch these three films. The result of the awkward production and slavish faithfulness to the book is a result that feels as though there was no director. It’s as though actors were given scripts and a cinematographer simply shot them saying their lines — with no film professional bringing cohesion to the whole.

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Feral cats and hurting people both require trust, patience, time to heal

by David McElroy

Bessie1

Although Bessie has lived inside with me for more than seven years, she’s still a wild, untamed and terrified little cat — just as she was when I brought her in from the cold on a freezing December night years ago.

Bessie and her sister, Molly, had lived on the streets around my house with their mother. They were a few months old when their mother suddenly disappeared. I took them in with the assumption that I could teach them to trust humans if they were loved and cared for. After all, I had done that repeatedly with other cats who had turned into loving companions.

But Bessie and Molly never learned to trust. They enjoy food and a safe place to sleep and live, but they have never accepted that it’s safe for me to touch them. Something in their feral genes or their early life on the street has taught them that humans aren’t to be trusted. So I just accepted long ago that I could give them a safe place to live but that they would never want human love.

In the last month, I’ve had reason to think I might have been mistaken. Maybe with even more time and work and love, Bessie might change.

Nearly a month ago, I had to catch Bessie to shave some mats out of her fur. She had gotten something into the fur of her back and she hadn’t been able to clean it out, so it had matted. She has only three legs, so it’s harder for her to clean some parts of herself than it is for other cats.

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Accepting happiness tomorrow does no good if tomorrow never comes

by David McElroy

Waiting

When I was a child, the days, weeks and months took forever to pass.

A day seemed to drag on. A week or a month seemed forever. The time from one Christmas to the next might as well have been a lifetime.

And then I got old enough to start thinking about my future self — the adult self who would conquer the world, make a fortune and be loved. I longingly looked forward to that day. I made childish plans. I had fantasy stories in which I was the beloved hero.

When I grew up, I would do all the things I yearned to do — and I would be happy in that distant tomorrow. The picture was crystal clear in my young mind.

Decades later, tomorrow has never come.

I’ve known people who live in the past, but I’ve known others who live in a perfect future that never comes. They think if some particular thing can happen, it will allow something else good to happen — and then they’ll be happy. Until then, everything is on hold.

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I choose love over hate, because the Author of the story isn’t finished

by David McElroy

Heart graphic

We all have a natural inclination to hate those we see as our enemies. We hate those who hate us. We hate those who hurt us. We hate those who threaten us.

The righteous indignation of anger leads to burning hate — and it feels so justified. We’re the ones who are right. Everyone else is wrong. It seems so simple.

Hate is easy. Love is staggeringly difficult.

Hate is the default reaction for all of us, me included. It feels so good and so right to burn with rage at certain people, even if we claim principles that teach love.

Love isn’t a default reaction. Instead, it’s a difficult choice, especially at first. But as you continue to make that choice, you change. Your heart softens and gets bigger. Eventually, love seems like the only viable choice — even though you know it will remain difficult as your choice is tested again and again.

If you read or watch news — something I strongly advise you to avoid — you’ll soon be filled with reasons to hate people, both individuals and groups. Everybody has a good justification for their hate.

“They hated us first.”

“Those people have been killing us for generations.”

“My group has always been oppressed and hated.”

All of the justifications will be true on some level. History is full of groups hating each other. Humans have murdered and stolen from each other, almost always blaming the victims or — even worse — saying, “God told us to do that.”

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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 don’t always have the time to respond. 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.”
I’m currently taking a break from Facebook, but I periodically use Twitter, although I have very little to say that takes 140 characters of fewer.
On Twitter, it's @David_McElroy.
You can check out pictures of my cats by following the McElroy Zoo on Instagram. I rarely post to my other account on Instagram, but if you like shots of nature, follow this account.

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