Archive for July, 2015

Am I betraying the truth if I don’t preach to the converted each day?

by David McElroy

Preaching to the converted

Why don’t I write more about politics these days? It’s mostly because I’ve already said what I need to say on the subject. I don’t really want to keep repeating myself.

I got an email earlier this week from someone who says he used to be a regular reader of my site. He was writing to complain that I’m no longer attacking politicians on both sides of the mainstream based on topical news. He said he used to enjoy reading articles that I wrote excoriating people based on the hot topic of the day.

“Your blog was my biggest source of news a few years back,” he wrote. “Whatever outrageous thing was happening, I could count on you to give it a libertarian spin and show how both sides were full of bull. Now I spend more time reading other libertarian sites where they have stories and links about whatever crazy things the statists are doing and showing how stupid they are. I liked the way you wrote it so I miss you doing those. You were entertaining to me and other libertarians. How come you won’t write like that anymore?”

Although I do still venture into political subjects in the news every now and then now, it’s true that it’s rare. I’ve written bits and pieces about the reasons, but I’ll say a little bit more in reply to my former regular reader.

I’ve made a fundamental shift in the way I view what I’m writing here. In a way, I guess it was an evolution of what I believe about myself and my relationship to the world. When I started this site, I was still looking at things from the point of view of attracting a bigger audience and from the point of view of convincing people to see things my way. Neither of those is true anymore.

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Why is real love so hard to find?
Look into a mirror for the culprit

by David McElroy

Waiting for a train

I had a dream last night about a woman who ran away from me. The more I think about it today, the more I think about a question that a reader sent me last week. She’s heartbroken about something right now and she wrote to ask, “Why is it so hard to find true love?”

Why are so many of us alone? Why are we looking for love?

In my dream, I saw a woman who I wanted to talk with. I somehow knew that I’d love her. How? I don’t know; it was a dream. We were both leaving a grocery store and she was ahead of me. As I sped up slightly to overtake her so I could speak, I noticed that she had lost one of her legs and walked with a prosthetic leg.

As we walked through the parking lot, she sped up when she realized I had picked up my pace behind her. I sped up further, but she started running as well as she could run on a prosthetic leg. Before I could get anywhere close to her, she was gone. She had run away because she saw me as a danger — when all I had in mind was the possibility of getting to know her. Maybe loving her.

I got into my car and drove very fast and very recklessly through the parking lot. I have no idea why. I almost hit a couple of people. It wasn’t anger, but I seemed to have a desperate need to — I don’t know — find something. Anything. It didn’t make rational sense. As the dream ended, I was close to wrecking the car and possibly hurting someone in another car because I didn’t know how to get my foot to the brake.

Somehow, I knew that I was doing this because the woman had run away and there was something self-destructive about me because of that.

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Spending all of life in politics leaves many out of touch with real people

by David McElroy

Political crowd

Someone told me Friday that there’s a new local website that someone has set up to compete with the Birmingham newspaper. Because I’ve thought seriously of the same idea for years — and because I despise what that newspaper has become — I was eager to see the site.

Sadly, I was very disappointed.

It wasn’t that Alabama Today isn’t a decent site or that the stories are poorly written. As soon as I saw the mix of stories being promoted, it was very clear that the site reflects the world view of someone who assumes politics and government are the most important things in the world.

I spent years working among people like that when I was a political consultant — and I know that people who believe that can’t produce anything I’m going to want to read.

The site is called Alabama Today — a name which I once considered using on a statewide newspaper — but it’s really Conservative Alabama Politics Today. The name suggests that it’s a general-interest website for news from the state, but it’s clearly directed at the things on the mind of a very tiny political class — a group of activists who tend to be out of touch with the people they claim to be working for.

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Brutal truth is that you will never
be able to fix all the world’s evils

by David McElroy

Evil in the world

There was a shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., today. Four Marines were apparently killed by a gunman motivated by religious hatred. That’s as much as I know about it — and that’s all I want to know.

When I was growing up, I thought it was everyone’s duty to be informed. By that, I meant one should read newspapers and watch news on television. It somehow seemed like the responsible thing to do. I thought news was important. That’s probably part of the reason I ended up spending a decade in the newspaper business.

But I pay little attention to news today. What’s more, I pay very little attention to the larger evils that I’m aware of. I know people are being slaughtered in various countries because of political and religious conflicts. I know that people are sitting in prisons — in the United States and around the world — who have no business being punished for things that shouldn’t even be crimes. I know that there is open slavery in some parts of the world. I know there is underground sex trafficking in most places. I know that women are abused and children are being taught to continue ugly cycles of evil all around the world, including near me.

I know that children and adults suffer in violent and dysfunctional households. I know that kids are being beaten and sexually abused pretty much everywhere, mostly hidden. I know that animals are being tortured and abused for the pleasure of evil people. I know that people mistreat each other and hate one another and excuse it in the name of religion or other beliefs.

There’s so much evil that it’s impossible to list it all. In fact, there’s so much evil in the world that much of it is so routine as to seem banal.

I’m not paying attention to any more of it than I have to, but it’s not that I’m callous. I actually care too much.

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Taking risks, working for big goals can create success, joy, exhilaration

by David McElroy

NASA staff react to Pluto probe

I can’t stop looking at this photograph tonight. I don’t know a single person in the picture, but it represents much of what I want to experience in life.

When NASA’s New Horizons probe made contact with Earth Wednesday to say it had arrived on schedule at Pluto, the most excited people in the world were the men and women of the project staff in Maryland. This picture shows the jubilant reaction of the employees to the successful achievement of what some of them have worked for many years to achieve.

This picture of that moment captures something fundamental about the human experience — and it reminds me of things I still want in my own life.

It wasn’t that big a deal for me when New Horizons reached Pluto, but it was huge news to many scientists. I can’t imagine, though, that anyone on this planet felt the kind of joy and exhilaration the success brought to the project team. What I see in these people is the pure joy of being part of something big and feeling happy about being alive to be a part of it.

I wrote just a few days ago about my realization years ago that it was certain emotional or psychological states we really seem to want, rather than the actual goals we attach those feelings to. This is an example of that. In the practical sense, nothing that this probe accomplishes will changes the lives of these excited people at NASA. It might help the careers of a few of them, but most of these cheering people won’t be objectively changed by the discoveries.

But they will be forever changed in some fundamental way by the exhilaration of this experience — of the feeling they had of being part of something big and important.

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What if our craving for dopamine drives our desires and addictions?

by David McElroy

Craving for love

When we feel a strong craving for another person, we sometimes say the two of us have strong chemistry. What if that’s more than a metaphor?

It was almost 10 years ago when something hit me which seemed like a major revelation at the time, even though I realize others had already figured it out. I realized that the things people wanted in life — myself included — weren’t the actual material things or the achieved goals. Instead, what we really want is the emotional or psychological states that come with those things.

Once I’ve satisfied my actual physical needs, I don’t actually want money. Instead, I want the feelings that I’ve attached to money and having more of it.

I don’t have to have one partner I’ve committed myself to as my wife. After all, I could make the wrong choice. But I’m driven to find the right wife anyway, because I want the feelings I’ve attached to being loved and understood by a one special woman who is my partner.

In an objective way, I don’t want the extra responsibility and headaches that come with having children and raising them, but I want the emotional state that I attach to reproducing and having a loving family.

Plenty of people have money and spouses and children — and hundreds of other things that we attach to this sort of emotional state — and they’re miserable. So just having the thing itself isn’t necessarily what we need or want.

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‘Heroes’ such as Atticus Finch and
Bill Cosby don’t belong on pedestal

by David McElroy


Years ago, a woman told me that her husband was “my Atticus Finch,” someone who she could admire and count on in every way.

I was vaguely disturbed at the time by the comparison, but I marked it down to jealousy, because the man was once a romantic rival. At the time of the conversation, the woman was defensive about having married him, so she seemed to feel the need to explain — very unconvincingly — why he had been the right choice for her.

I later realized what had bothered me about the comparison. It wasn’t just that I was jealous — though there was that — but something rang false about what she was saying. It was clear to me that she had placed him on a pedestal as this ideal character in this particular way — and she was clinging to that two-dimensional vision to justify something she was dreadfully unhappy with.

(To be fair, she would probably disagree with my interpretation. We all have our own narratives about the past. But I think the evidence supports me on this. Even though she will never read this, I would feel as though I were doing her a disservice not to be clear that she wouldn’t accept my interpretation of the path she took.)

I thought back to that discussion Friday afternoon as I read the New York Times review of “Go Set a Watchman,” the book Harper Lee wrote about the characters from “To Kill a Mockingbird” even before she wrote her classic novel.

In the new version of Atticus, he’s a far more three-dimensional character. He’s the same loving father, but he’s flawed. He exhibits a lot of the racism one might expect from a small-town lawyer in the South of the 1950s. He’s still the loving father at 72 years old that had been described in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but he’s not a saint. He’s a balanced character with good and bad sides.

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Why let your enemy control you by listening to his words about you?

by David McElroy

Listening to hate

The man ran over to the television and got close so he could hear what was being said. I was watching the scene unfold in a restaurant where a television is permanently set to show cable news.

“He just makes me so mad,” the man muttered with intensity. I wasn’t sure whether he was talking to me or to himself, but he was clearly referring to the media personality talking on the screen. He was upset, but the flickering image commanded his attention and his eyes were glued to the TV.

I watched him for a minute and finally asked the obvious question.

“If he makes you so angry, why do you listen so closely to him?” I asked. “Why not just ignore him?”

The man first looked puzzled, as though I had asked him a trick question. Then he finally responded with the tone one might use when explaining something obvious to a child.

“Well, he’s on television,” the man said. “He doesn’t like [my political group] and he’s always saying negative things about us. He’s on the news. I have to know what he says — because he makes me furious!”

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Birmingham man offering $10,000
to whoever finds him a girlfriend

by David McElroy

Man searching for girlfriend

There’s a Birmingham man who’s so desperate for a girlfriend that he’s willing to pay $10,000 to whoever introduces him to a woman he dates at least six months.

But it’s not me. Honest. But it does make me think about how my ad would read if I did the same thing.

Ren You moved to Birmingham last year when he took a job here at a private equity firm just after he finished grad school in Boston. He’s from the Washington, D.C., area, so he has no social connections in Birmingham, and he says he works long hours which leave him little time to search for a girlfriend.

So he’s put up a website outlining who he is and what he’s looking for. He’s accepting applications — and he promises to pay $10,000 to whoever finds the right woman for him.

I’ve playfully kicked this idea around before, but more as satire than as something serious. Years ago, my friend, Whitney, used to threaten to post up posters on her college campus to find a wife for me. She was going to set up and plaster the campus of Washington University in St. Louis until she found the right weird young woman for me. It was a running joke that she threatened to turn serious.

Whitney never did the flyer or the website. She got married and moved to California instead. But the idea of satirizing an online search for love never left me. As recently as a few months ago, I kicked around the idea with a friend of setting up such a site for April Fool’s Day.

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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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