Archive for February, 2018

Constant quest for perfect certainty leaves us uncertain and paralyzed

by David McElroy

As I stood in the ankle-deep water of the Cahaba River late Tuesday afternoon, it was so serene that time seemed to stand still.

I had ditched my shoes and rolled up my pants to wade into the water for a better view of a warm golden sunset. The water was unseasonably warm for a late February day. I stood there feeling the water rush against my legs as my eyes took in the color and majesty of another perfectly routine Alabama sunset.

In the stillness, I couldn’t help but think that the scene before me had played itself out — like perfect clockwork — for many hundreds and thousands of years. It occurred to me that if I could somehow transport myself back in time — say a thousand years — to this exact spot, I would be watching a sunset that would be essentially the same, depending on the clouds that day.

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It often doesn’t matter who’s right; just fix the problem and move on

by David McElroy

My dogs and cats have taught me a lot of things over the years, though I’m sometimes slow to learn. Lucy taught me something this weekend — and I now feel foolish to realize she had to teach me something that should have been obvious.

Lucy hates vacuum cleaners. This is common with a lot of dogs and cats, but her fear is the worst I’ve ever seen. She seems to think her life is in danger and she goes into a terrible panic.

You might remember that when she came to live with me two years ago, I was told that she would always be a “special needs dog,” because she was terrified of the world. She’s made so much progress that I almost never see that side of her anymore — but the vacuum cleaner still brings it out.

I can be stubborn, for reasons that have to do with both personality and training, and I’ve been stubborn about the vacuum cleaner. I’ve said all this time that she had to get accustomed to this device eventually, so I’ve not kept her away from it.

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From the hole I’ve fallen into today, the world is a very alienating place

by David McElroy

I’ve fallen into a hole today. Call it alienation. Call it depression. Call it longing. Call it whatever you want. There is loneliness in this hole. There is bitterness. There’s hurt and anger.

I need to stay away from most people today, because I’m not my best self when I’m in this hole.

In a private letter, the writer Edna St. Vincent Millay once gave me this metaphor. She wrote, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

I woke up feeling this way — as though I had fallen into a hole during the night — but it was hours before I was conscious enough of it to realize what was going on.

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Unless your spirit has been broken, there’s nothing to put back together

by David McElroy

Western culture loves perfection. Anything that’s imperfect is rejected or at least offered at a steep discount. When someone asks about a newborn baby, you might hear the cliche, “He has all his fingers and toes.”

In our culture of mass production, we judge quality by how perfectly the widgets pressed out of industrial machinery match each other. It doesn’t matter how boring or soulless or poorly designed a thing is. It’s a quality item if it matches its specifications.

I grew up steeped in that culture of perfection, but the more of life that I experience, the more I’ve found beauty in a kind of imperfection that comes only from brokenness.

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Maybe we’re all doomed to replay
our past until we finally get it right

by David McElroy

My friend asked the question out of the blue. I was spending the night with my friend, Larry, and I was lying on a twin bed in the corner of his room.

“What do you think about your mom being gone?” he asked.

It didn’t strike me as a difficult or important question, but something about the experience has burned everything about it into my memory. I was about 10 or 11 years old. Although my mother had been away from us off and on for years, the divorce had been final only for a year or two. She had no custody or official visitation.

I considered Larry’s question for a long moment. I felt very cold. Very hard. There was no emotion in my voice.

“I couldn’t care less if she moved to the Sahara Desert,” I said.

That’s all I said and Larry didn’t ask any more. It’s a good thing, because I might have cried if he had pushed to know what I meant. I was confused. I couldn’t tell if I felt nothing or if I felt more than I could handle. I swept the feelings under a rug in my heart — and I left them there.

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Here’s Valentine’s Day music for lonely folks with nobody to love

by David McElroy

Valentine’s Day in this culture is all about love stories and feel-good fantasy. But what about those of us who don’t have love — those of us whose hearts are broken by need and emptiness?

For me, love has been closely associated with painful longing recently. I’m torn about what to think about this, because I feel something strongly that I perceive as the truth, but some psychologists and writers say that’s not healthy.

“Deep painful longing, yearning and craving are not characteristics of love,” writes Shari Schreiber, for instance. “If you think they are, you were emotionally programmed to believe this in childhood, when you couldn’t get your adoration for mother returned.”

If I’m deceiving myself about love, then our culture is filled with music from people who are similarly deceived by their longing. For Valentine’s Day, I’ve created a list of 10 songs that fall into that category. These aren’t songs about happy love. These are songs for those of us who are alone — and who are longing for love we can’t have.

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Moral rot on progressive left makes totalitarians want to seize your cash

by David McElroy

If you want to see the moral bankruptcy of the modern progressive left, the UK’s Guardian newspaper is often a good place to find it.

After the successful launch of an innovative new rocket by SpaceX this week, the intellectual rot was on full display at the Guardian Wednesday with an article called, “Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch is utterly depressing.”

The brilliantly successful launch and landing are depressing, according to the article, because there are people with basic needs around the world, so a billionaire such as Musk has no right to go spending his money on something the writer considers frivolous.

The writer laments that wealth isn’t “distributed fairly,” which he says is the only reason Musk has his billions.

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Death of a parent pushes primal buttons, even for estranged families

by David McElroy

I watched the white-haired man walk slowly into the bank. He used a cane to steady himself. He moved slowly. He looked very frail.

I knew the face, but I didn’t really know that face anymore. I had known this man when he was young and strong and vibrant, not when he seemed more like the men from my grandparents’ generation.

But though I hadn’t seen him for years — and though he had changed a lot — this man was still my father.

Until today, I hadn’t seen anyone in my family for roughly 8 years. Although I never would have called us this when I was a child, the truth is that we were a seriously dysfunctional family. We didn’t know that phrase then — and even if we had known it, we would have been in denial.

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All offers eventually expire, so do your best to ‘come before winter’

by David McElroy

After weeks of house-hunting, my clients had finally settled on the new home they wanted. They made an offer on a Thursday and waited for an answer from the seller.

Speaking through her agent, the seller promised an answer by Sunday morning, but by the middle of the day, she still hadn’t accepted or rejected the offer. By Monday, she sent word that she was ready to accept, but then she changed her mind and asked for more money. My clients made a compromise offer and the other agent said the seller had accepted. We waited for a signed contract.

But she didn’t sign. We didn’t receive the contract back.

My clients grew frustrated. After waiting nearly a week while the seller refused to make a decision, they had me send word that their offer would be withdrawn if the seller didn’t sign by 5 p.m. that day. The woman never signed. The offer was withdrawn.

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Man who’s leaving infertile wife thinks world revolves around him

by David McElroy

Josh was already sitting at a table when I came into the restaurant late Saturday afternoon. He had finished eating and was drinking a beer as he watched a basketball game.

I wanted to watch the same game, so I ended up at the table next to him. We chatted off and on about the game as it went along. He was friendly and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. At halftime, though, something came up about marriage — and he mentioned that he just left his wife today. He wasn’t wearing a ring.

I cautiously responded that he didn’t seem to be very upset about it.

“Yeah, it’s not really a big deal,” he said. “We’ve been married for four years and it turns out she can’t have a baby. Just found out for sure this week. I want to have kids to carry on the family name, so I told her I have to cut it off with her and find another wife. I hate it, because I loved her.”

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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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