Archive for December, 2014

When you’re sure what’s important in life, everything else seems trivial

by David McElroy

Last sunset of 2011

It was three years ago today when everything in my life changed — when I realized that I had cancer.

I don’t remember now exactly when I had noticed the small lump in the flesh of my left breast. I probably realized it — and acknowledged it to myself — in stages that took a few weeks or a month. I’m not sure. At first, I figured it was something that would just go away, but it didn’t.

It was the late afternoon of the last day of 2011 when I finally decided to call a doctor friend about it. I went over to his house for him to take a look and give me an unofficial opinion. Although the official diagnosis wouldn’t come from a specialist until a week or so later — and the surgery a few weeks after that — it was Dec. 31, 2011 that I really knew what was going on.

There was a realistic chance that I might die.

Since the surgery removed the lump and there’s been no sign of any trouble since then, that might sound overly dramatic. At the time, though, it was an emotional wake-up call. It forced me to think about what mattered and what didn’t matter in my life.

After my friend checked out the lump and offered his opinion that it almost certainly was cancer, we sat on his front porch and talked about life. We talked about things we had both wanted to do and about how certain things hadn’t gone as we wanted them to go. I shot the photo above as we sat and talked in the fading light of the year’s last sunset.

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Peshawar murders show need to support those who share our values

by David McElroy

Peshawar-school-attack-child

For those who are committed to the idea that Muslims are evil, the vicious school attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, must be confusing, because it doesn’t fit their script.

Nearly 150 people are known dead in the attack so far — almost all of them children. For Pakistanis, this is the equivalent of about five or six of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. We were traumatized in this country when 20 children and six adults were killed by a mentally ill man two years ago. The tragedy for my Pakistani friends is far more deadly.

It’s natural for us to see tragedies close to us as more serious than tragedies on the other side of the world. Tragedies in which the victims look like us seem more important to us than those where the victims belong to some other group. But imagine a school attack like this — with at least 132 children intentionally slaughtered — in California or Ohio or Alabama or New Jersey.

This is a tragedy that’s hard for us to comprehend, because we haven’t faced one bigger than this since Sept. 11, 2001.

For those who see the world in terms of “evil Muslims” vs. “good westerners,” the Peshawar massacre doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t fit within their understanding. Instead, the attackers and the victims were all Muslims. If you start to understand the significance of that, you can see the error that many people make in seeing Muslims — all Muslims — as their enemies.

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Good riddance, UAB football: Taxes shouldn’t subsidize college sports

by David McElroy

UAB game at Legion Field

The University of Alabama at Birmingham announced this week that it’s shutting down its football program. All 17 fans are really upset about it.

For 20 years, UAB football has struggled to attract fans and donors. For the most part, its attendance has been a joke. The photo above is a fair representation of what it’s like to see a game at 71,000-seat Legion Field.

For last year’s football season, the Blazers averaged 11,589 tickets sold, but anyone who thinks there were that many people actually there is lying to himself. As part of that average number sold, however, the city of Birmingham bought 5,000 tickets for each game, costing city taxpayers $225,000. So fewer than 7,000 tickets were actually sold on average if you don’t count the tickets the city bought for politicians to give away. The 11,589 average was the second lowest in all of big-time college football last year.

The program has been a joke.

Now that the university has announced plans to shut the football program down, news stories are filled with outrage about this alleged travesty. The president of the Birmingham City Council called rumors of the impending shutdown “an attack on the city of Birmingham.” Many supporters of UAB claim that a powerful trustee of the University of Alabama system — the son of former Alabama Coach Bear Bryant — engineered the shutdown out of revenge for a letter written 20 years ago by UAB’s former basketball coach and athletic director.

All of these stories are silly and speculative. Even if they were true, though, they’re irrelevant. All that matters is that Alabama taxpayers are subsidizing this rather large hole in the ground to the tune of $20 million a year.

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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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