Archive for December, 2017

Something in us usually wants to believe next year will be different

by David McElroy

The sun has set on another year — and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

It seems as though I feel this way every year. At least for the last decade or so. I start each year with unreasonable hope that this year will be different. I keep hoping this year will be the one when some of the things I need start to come true.

A few years ago, I heard an interview with Harvard University psychologist Dan Gilbert in which he explained that people are terrible at predicting their own futures. In the abstract, people will tell you they know bad things can happen just as easily as good things.

But Gilbert said a consistent pattern shows up when you ask people to predict things in their own futures. If you take all their predictions and group them into a positive pile and a negative pile, the positives they predict for themselves far outweigh the negatives. They simply can’t see that bad things are going to happen.

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Live in a way that allows you to be the ‘light’ in the life of one you love

by David McElroy

Alice Hathaway Lee was only 17 years old when she met Teddy Roosevelt in 1878. The future U.S. president was a student at Harvard University. Roosevelt was a classmate of Lee’s cousin and it was at their house they met.

As soon as Roosevelt met Alice, he wrote of her constantly in his diary. He was smitten with her. He found her beautiful and charming. He was so obsessed with Alice that he wrote of her all the time. He chronicled her acts of recognition of him, her quiet smiles, her silences — every action he saw her take, as though he never wanted to forget the slightest detail.

Eight months later, Roosevelt proposed marriage, but Alice was in no hurry. She made him wait eight more months before she agreed and the wedding was later that year.

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We all know fairy tales aren’t true, but maybe we need such illusions

by David McElroy

When did you stop believing in fairy tales?

You might say you never really believed such stories. Maybe you knew Snow White and Cinderella and the rest were impossibly unreal. Maybe you never even believed in Santa. Even if you’re among those who never believed — who always recognized a delightful fantasy instead — I’m certain you’ve believed other fairy tales.

In fact, you almost certainly believe fantastic fairy tales today. I probably still believe in some of my own. But I’ve been thinking today that we might need such illusions in order to survive — as individuals and as civil societies.

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Maybe it wasn’t the correct choice,
but I’m not having surgery Friday

by David McElroy

If I had taken the advice of my emergency room doctor tonight, I would be in a hospital bed — getting ready for surgery in the morning. I didn’t take his advice, though, so I’m back home. Only time will tell whether I made the right decision.

I started feeling lousy on Christmas Day and I felt worse as the week went along. At first, it was just discomfort in my chest and back. I felt terrible in multiple ways. I went to work each day but I barely pulled myself through each day until it was late enough to go home and collapse.

By Thursday morning, the discomfort had turned to serious pain. I went to the clinic of a friend who’s a doctor about 11:30 a.m. After examining me and taking X-rays, he suspected the problem was my gallbladder, but he couldn’t be sure without an ultrasound.

He suggested I immediately head to a hospital emergency room.

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Genetics, culture work together to drive us to pursue what we want

by David McElroy

Some people believe holidays change people, but I think they’re far more likely to bring out what’s already inside — for good or for bad. Holidays that center around family frequently tell me who someone really is.

I pay more attention to children than most adults do. I watch families. I talk with children when I can. I take them seriously and I play with them frivolously. I love their world and I love the ways in which they can change how I see my own world.

That’s never more true than around Christmas.

Whether children are from families which are religious or not, there seems to be something magical that takes over around this time. (I presume the same is true in cultures where there are other religious and cultural traditions, but my experience is in an American Christian cultural context.)

Something I experience in these children at this time changes me — or at least brings out something in a stronger way that’s always there.

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Lost in the Mail: My new podcast
is scheduled to debut January 1

by David McElroy

At the first of the year, I’m launching a limited-run podcast called Lost in the Mail. The title will make more sense after you listen to the first episode.

For a long time, I’ve struggled with what sort of podcast I wanted to make, mostly because I was concerned about what would attract an audience. I finally decided to make something that might attract no audience at all. I’m making what I’d like to listen to — and what I’d like to say.

The 30-second theme below will appear early in each episode.

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The best romantic relationships
end up becoming mutual rescue

by David McElroy

The most lost people are those who don’t know they need to be rescued.

Needing others is discouraged in our culture. We get the message that we need to be tough — that we need to hide our wounds and fears and doubts. We’re told to put on a brave face. We’re told not to cry. We learn not to show our feelings. We learn to hide our vulnerability.

Mostly, we’re taught not to need anyone, because that’s a sign of weakness. In extreme versions, we even have labels such as “co-dependency.” It’s a psychological dysfunction. And that helps us justify our practice of numbing ourselves to our feelings in order to shut others out.

But what if we are designed to need each other? What if our nature means that every single one of us has deep needs and scars and vulnerabilities? What if we all need mutual rescue — a relationship where we can rescue each other?

I’m thinking about that today because of what a friend posted about his wife. She died today — and he’s grieving for the woman who rescued him.

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If you allow anything to be priority over love and beauty, you’re a fool

by David McElroy

“What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?”

The question was deceptively simple, but I wanted to give a useful answer. A high school student told me his teacher had assigned him to ask this question to 10 random adults — outside his family — and then write about what they said.

There’s so much I could say to that question, because I’ve learned so much. I constantly feel as though I have to throw out at least half of what I’ve learned and start over, because I keep finding flaws in beliefs I used to accept as obvious. Much of what I write here is an attempt to chronicle what I’m learning and discarding as I change. What could I possibly say now to this teen?

“Love and beauty,” I finally said after I thought about it for a long minute.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew this was going to be hard to explain. The teen looked confused. So I tried again.

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I still have trouble accepting that
my idealized world doesn’t exist

by David McElroy

I feel most alone when I’m in groups of people. I’ve always known that — and I’ve talked to others who feel the same — but I might have figured out tonight why I feel this way.

I grew up expecting an idealized version of humanity. Maybe it was the futuristic utopias that I saw in much of the science fiction I read and watched. Maybe it was the idealistic spirit of the age in which I grew up — a time when there seemed to be a widespread belief that an amazing future was right around the corner.

Or maybe it was just something about my own personality. I wanted the world to be amazing — and I wanted to be the one to make it amazing. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to lead the world. I wanted to be at the forefront of creating an amazing, loving and humane world.

Everything I imagined seemed so right and good — and so achievable.

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I hate the intense pain, but I don’t know how to live without longing

by David McElroy

Imagine living in a world where everybody sees black and white and shades of gray — and you realize that you’re different from everyone else, because you see the world in vivid colors instead.

The experience of color is amazing, but how frustrating would it be if you couldn’t explain to others what you saw? What if others didn’t understand, because they had no frame of reference? How painful would it be to want to share that experience of color — but you couldn’t share it with anyone? How lonely would that be?

For much of my early life, I assumed everyone experienced emotions in the same intense ways that I do. When I discovered otherwise, I was confused and struggled to explain how my interior experience of painful emotion works. I’ve almost given up, because so few are even interested.

I was reminded of this again tonight because of what I felt during a movie. It was just a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, so it’s not something most people would have seen as intensely emotional, but interaction between two characters struck me in that oddly intense way. Two characters each experienced painful longing for the other, even though they couldn’t be together.

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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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