Latest entries

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

by David McElroy

atticusfinch

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 www.MarryDavid.com 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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‘What are we Christians to do?’
Jesus has already answered that

by David McElroy

Jesus-Sermon on the mount

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, I’ve seen a lot of ugly things said by those on both sides. I’ve tried not to read much of the reaction, because the vitriol depresses me and it makes me angry when people are unfair to those they don’t understand.

I have an opinion about the subject, which I’ve expressed before. I don’t have anything new to add on the basic issue, but a question Sunday from a social conservative — and fell0w Christian — has been gnawing at me for hours.

Speaking at the Kimberly Church of God in Kimberly, Ala., today, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court railed against the marriage ruling. Chief Justice Roy Moore is expected to try to stop probate judges in Alabama from granting marriage licenses to gay couples, and he’s been one of the loudest political voices insisting that the state has a responsibility to enforce God’s morality (as he sees it).

“Is there any such a thing as morality anymore?” asked Moore. “Sodomy for centuries was declared to be against the laws of nature and nature’s God. And now if you say that in public, and I guess I am, am I violating somebody’s civil rights? Have we elevated morality to immorality? Do we call good, bad? What are we Christians to do?”

I’d like to suggest to Mr. Moore and many other sincere fellow Christians that Jesus Christ answered that question long ago.

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Time and maturity should change what we believe we need in mates

by David McElroy

Intimate conversation

When I was in high school, my desires for a girlfriend were simple. I just wanted a girl who was attractive and was interested in me. Yes, I wanted someone who was smart, but when I look back on those I fell for, I realize I was willing to sacrifice that requirement as long as a pretty girl showed me any attention.

I certainly wouldn’t have considered myself shallow — and I still don’t see my young self as having been shallow. I confined my interests to girls who shared my own values, at least as far as I could tell, in a broad societal way. (At the time, that would have meant “a church girl who shares my moral views and is consistent with what she believes.”) So I wasn’t completely focused on just finding a pretty girl.

I was simply ignorant of what really mattered in the long run.

As I think about this tonight, I’m thinking of a couple of situations among people I know.

One woman wanted a husband who was very “impressive” and she got what she was looking for, but she’s miserable. He makes a lot of money. They live in an impressive house. He moves among “important” people. From the outside, he looks like a great catch. But she’s miserable, because except for the times when he wants something, she doesn’t exist to him except as someone to serve him. Her needs are non-existent to him. Everything in their world revolves around taking care of the needs and ego of this narcissistic man.

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Forgiveness has more power than political agenda in hateful tragedy

by David McElroy

Charleston shooting

The murders of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church this week were a tragedy, but I’m just as appalled by the reaction to the shootings as I am by the murders themselves.

Nine peaceful human beings were worshipping and praying at Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston. They were joined by a young man named Dylann Storm Roof, who sat among them for some time before pulling out a gun and murdering almost all of them. This story would already be a horrendous tragedy, but it’s been turned intensely political by the fact that the victims were black and the murderer is a white man who hates black people.

Nobody on any political side has anything to say that would solve the problem of racial hatred or bring back the dead victims, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to prove themselves right by turning this into an excuse to push their existing political agendas.

I’ve seen some conservatives try to turn this into an argument in favor of having more people armed. Those people say that if the victims had armed themselves at their prayer meeting, someone would have pulled out a gun and shot Roof. I’ve also seen some conservatives who say that racism wasn’t an issue in the shootings, despite the fact that the murderer has made it very clear he hates black people and wants to start a race war.

I’ve seen some progressives try to turn this into a debate over the Confederate battle flag. Those people apparently believe that if that old symbol of the South didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be racists and the murders wouldn’t have happened. I’ve seen others — including both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — use the murders as an excuse to push their existing anti-gun agenda, apparently forgetting that those who want to murder people doesn’t necessarily need guns.

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If you wait til you’re ‘good enough,’ you’ll never even start to be yourself

by David McElroy

Not good enough

It’s hard for me to explain “the voice” to anyone, but it’s constantly there.

I’m driving into a parking lot to go to a bookstore. There are half a dozen different routes through the parking lot and I randomly choose one. The harsh voice screams at me.

“You should have turned at the other entrance. You’re wasting time. What’s wrong with you?”

I’m sitting alone in my own home and I have my legs propped up on my own coffee table.

“What are you doing with your feet on the furniture?” the voice snaps in anger, as though to a child.

I’m exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything this particular morning, so I sleep late. But I have trouble sleeping, because the voice is yelling at me.

“Why are you so lazy?” the voice shouts. “I’m disgusted with you. Get up. You are lazy.”

In big ways and small ways, the voice is with me much of the time. When I eat poorly and I’m “self-medicating” with sugar, the voice attacks me. It viciously points out the weight I’m gaining. It reminds me that no one likes a fat man. It reminds me that a woman isn’t going to love me like this, because fat people are disgusting and embarrassing.

The harsh and critical superego inside my head is always there. It’s always telling me that I’m a failure. It’s always telling me that I could do so much more with my life if I would just fix everything about myself. There’s always “one correct way” to the voice. Unless I do things in that one way, I am a failure.

That harsh voice constantly reminds me that I’m not OK — that I’m not good enough.

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Thirst for love and understanding drives all of us until it’s quenched

by David McElroy

Looking for love

Let’s say there’s something you need and want badly. It’s something you’ve spent half your life trying to find, because the lack of this thing has kept you from being happy. Now let’s say you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. It’s in a box in the next room. You’ve examined it and determined that it’s what you need. What do you do next?

If you’re like most people — and that thing in the box you need is love — you start inventing reasons to walk away without the box. And then you leave it behind, relieved that you made the right decision before you were stuck with what was in that box.

I’d say this is precisely what most of us do at one point or another. And though many end up being thankful about the decision to walk away, many others look at themselves quizzically and wonder, “What was I thinking when I walked away from that?”

I think most people today are desperate for love. I think it’s what we need and want more than anything else in our lives. Sure, we’d all like to have more money or more success or more power at work. Or some other random thing. But I think we pursue many of those things as substitutes for the love that’s missing from our lives.

Researcher Brené Brown has studied connection and vulnerability between people and has come to a simple conclusion about love. In her lecture series called “The Power of Vulnerability,” she was emphatic about what she has learned about what people need.

“…Love and belonging are irreducible needs of men, women and children,” Brown said. “I will go on the record as saying, in the absence of love and belonging, there is always suffering. Period.”

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Shame almost got me fired — and shame still haunts me years later

by David McElroy

David-business card

After my junior year of college, I was offered a full-time job that was too good to turn down. The daily newspaper where I’d been working part-time for three years had a weekly newspaper in a smaller town about 15 miles away. The publisher of the smaller paper had taken another job and they needed a new managing editor, too.

Company management decided to take a big chance and offer the job to a brash 20-year-old who hadn’t even finished college.

I didn’t think much of my new boss. He had been the advertising director of the newspaper and had been promoted to publisher. After a couple of meetings with him right before I started the job, I was disdainful of him. Frankly, I thought I was too good for him. I was like an arrogant little child.

My new boss was named Jim. He was fat. He didn’t dress well. He didn’t present himself in an impressive way at all. He constantly smelled like a cigarette butt. He was so fat and out of shape that when I talked with him him on the phone, I would hear him wheezing a little, as though it was hard for him to take in enough air to support all of his weight.

I just saw him as a divorced loser who was alone in the world. How dare someone make him my boss?

As I started going out into the community as managing editor of the paper, I felt such a sense of shame about being associated with such a loser that I made it clear — quietly and subtly at first — how I felt about him. I was afraid of people thinking I was like him. I was embarrassed — more like humiliated — at the thought of anyone thinking he was really my superior.

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If you believe porn you’re watching isn’t hurting anyone, you’re wrong

by David McElroy

Hot Girls wanted poster

When I was 19 years old, I’d never seen any porn, but as a hormonal teen-ager with a normal sex drive, it sounded like a wonderful forbidden fruit. So I decided to buy a copy of Playboy to see what I had been missing.

I was nervous about it, but I went into a convenience store on Green Springs Highway in Birmingham and asked for a copy (since it was kept behind the counter). This was the first and only time I’ve ever bought any porn.

At first, I was amazed at what I saw. These were physically perfect women who were clearly ready to have sex with me — or pretty much anyone who would pay them, presumably. But after the initial rush of hormonal excitement died down, I quickly realized that the pictures didn’t arouse me in the same way that my own girlfriend did.

Let’s be honest. The women in the magazine were physically perfect in a way that my girlfriend couldn’t be. (I didn’t understand at the time that not even those women were actually physically perfect.) Physically, everything about them was just right. But I realized that I was far more attracted to my own girlfriend and to other women who I knew — women who couldn’t possibly be that “perfect.”

Why?

It didn’t take me long to learn something that I’ve never forgotten.

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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 don’t always have the time to respond. 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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