Archive for December, 2016

To stay sane and fight life’s battles, we aliens need places of sanctuary

by David McElroy

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God….
— Psalm 73:16-17 (ESV)

As I listened to the people around me squabbling with each other Monday night, I felt a vague sense of unease. They snapped at one another. They were petty. On the surface, things were almost civil, but you could feel the hostility of unhappy people taking their feelings out on others.

I felt completely out of place.

I felt as though the boiling anger in these people’s spirits should be obvious to everyone. Much of what I was seeing seemed to be outward projections of internal rage at self. The tension in the air felt emotionally painful to me.

Once more, I felt like an alien among creatures who made no sense to me. Once more, I needed to find peace somewhere. I needed sanctuary from the world. I needed a person, a place or a loving spirit which made sense — which gave me refuge from the storm of this world’s banal and routine hatred.

Again and again, I’ve tried to make sense of this world — and of the people of this world — and I’m left frustrated and feeling alone. What’s more, I can’t find a sense of peace. And like the ancient psalmist, I found myself needing sanctuary — where there might be refuge and understanding.

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Christmas stands for quiet truths: love, faith, community and family

by David McElroy

In my dream of Christmas Yet to Come, I see a loving mother and I see our children. I see us in a church service together on a Christmas Eve.

I see bright and curious faces experiencing the wonder of something transcendent. I see two parents who love each other and are eager for their children to feel the wonder of something bigger than themselves — to feel the joy and love and connection of Christmas with people who know there is some mysterious power bigger than themselves, something which binds a community of people together through some wisp of spirit inside each heart.

I grew up in churches where the brain was more important than the heart. Nobody would have said it that way, but what mattered was doctrine and rational explanations, not experience or any powerful sense of wonder. We were vaguely disdainful of people who felt too much or expressed too much from the heart.

We quietly extinguished the transcendent from the sacred in most respects — and I believe we lost something important as a result.

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Reality frequently doesn’t match fantasy when you know full story

by David McElroy

I hate wedding photos.

It’s not that I hate marriage or the people in the pictures. I just don’t see the glamour or fantasy or happiness that so many people associate with those photos. Instead, I associate them with shallow fantasy and excess spending by people looking — consciously or not — to paint a false picture for the world.

I’m often asked why I don’t make money on weekends by taking wedding photos, but I could never be a wedding photographer unless I could take the photos the clients want and tell myself I’m doing parody instead. My over-the-top satirical take on cliched “life event” photos would be exactly what many others truly want and find meaningful.

I’m really big on symbolism and finding meaning in metaphor. I find that wedding photos tend to be shallow expressions of fantasy to cover up the reality of relationships that are shallow and unhappy. Those photos let people lie to others about their marriages for years. More importantly, those photos let people lie to themselves.

My friend Keith Hall shared a story Sunday that neatly illustrates the unintended irony of the American obsession with the wedding facade, which I see as representative of the marriage facade.

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Tools don’t make you a great artist, but great tools change how you feel

by David McElroy

It happens all the time. Someone sees a photo I’ve shot that he thinks is good and he says, “Wow. You must have a really great camera.”

Many people believe great photos come from great cameras and that good art of any kind comes from superior tools. I never know quite how to respond to such people, because that attitude reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between an artist or craftsman and his tools.

A good photographer can make the most of a cheap camera and an untalented person can make horrible images even with a great camera — but that doesn’t mean a talented photographer doesn’t crave a great camera. And it doesn’t mean he can’t do better work with great equipment.

There’s an old adage that says, “It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.” And it’s true.

On the other hand, a good craftsman doesn’t use lousy tools for his work, at least not very long, because he knows the difference. So which matters to doing good work? Is it the artist’s talent or the tool which matters?

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If an election can destroy your life, your priorities are out of whack

by David McElroy

clinton-supporters-reaction

Much of the reaction to Donald Trump’s election can be described only as mass hysteria.

I’m never happy about any president and this one is no exception. I would have been disgusted with either alternative, of course, and I’ve made it clear that I see Trump as especially dangerous. But some people are acting as though the world has ended for them and there’s no future to live for.

This is insane.

I’m seeing a lot of such mass hysteria and I’m appalled at it, because it shows a lack of perspective and a lack of understanding about which things matter most in life.

There are dozens of examples, but a piece in Monday’s Washington Post exemplifies it best. In a personal column called Trump’s election stole my desire to look for a partner — seriously, that’s the headline — a mother of two in Montana says she’s lost interest in finding a romantic partner. She tells of having found a man she was interested in — and who seemed interested in her — but how the election changed everything.

“There is no room for dating in this place of grief,” she concludes. “Dating means hope. I’ve lost that hope in seeing the words ‘President-elect Trump.’”

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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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