Hanging out

It is probably good for adults and youth to have a place where they can go and just hang out with some friends. Hanging out should take place somewhere that is convenient and comfortable for everyone in their group. It may be public, like a restaurant or bar, private, like a VFW post or special club, or semi public, like a church or synagogue or mosque. It may be the home of one of the group to which everyone seems to gravitate.

For this type of gathering there is probably no one “in charge”, although there is probably a “host”, if the group meets in someone’s home. There is probably no “official” schedule for meetings of the group, but everyone in the group understands when individuals are usually getting together. Basically the activity of this type of group gathering is very unstructured and informal, except for those activities that promote the common friendship and personal support that is the reason for coming together.

There are probably no “official” rules for such gatherings of friends as they hang out with each other, but some basic rules are probably clearly understood by everyone in the group. One of these is a rule of privacy that what happens and is shared in the group stays in the group. Individuals trust each other not to “gossip” about what they are sharing with each other.

Hanging out …Illegally?

For the benefit of civic order neither the group or any of its members should be regularly engaged in “illegal” activities. This factor marks the difference between a group that can have positive benefits for its participants and a group that is only a gang of individuals that is out to impose its selfish and brutal will on others.

That is why another one of the basic rules for the positive gathering of friends who just get together to hang out with each other is a rule against compulsion, which means that no one should be forced to participate in any activity or discussion that is contrary to their free choice. Yet, this rule against compulsion has a flip side to it that states that everyone should respect the personal rights and freedom of each friend in the group. This means that individuals have a right to be “different” and to hold different opinions about various matters without such differences becoming personal points of verbal abuse or criticism. Different opinions can thus be discussed without the differences becoming “personal”.

Such groups of friends with which individuals choose to hang out are probably never going to very large, maybe at the most 25-30 individuals. It is difficult to maintain an ongoing consistent friendly relationship with too many individuals at the same time. Such relationships just require a lot of time and energy, which can’t be spread too far. So it is recognized and accepted that within such gatherings of friends it is OK for individuals to have some specially selected individuals who are their personal clique. And the existence of such cliques and the activities and sharing that takes place within them is not seen to hamper or to threaten the bonds of friendship that extend throughout the larger group as they hang out together. It is OK for the same individuals to sit together at the same table at each meeting.

I could suggest some other “rules” and guiding principles for the operation of such gatherings of friends as they hang out together, but I invite you to make any additions to those above that you care to make. What do you think are the positive benefits that come from a gathering of individuals who just like to hang out together? What makes such hanging out together good? What can hamper or damage such groups? Let’s talk about this.

Brand new day

I believe that today is a brand new day. I don’t think that there has ever been another day just like it in the history of the world. Many of the details of life throughout the world and even in your own personal situation are different today than they have ever been before. A simple example is the fact that you are now another day older than you have ever been before.

Other examples of differences can be cited in the fact that throughout the world thousands of individuals have died in the last twenty-four hours and thousands of babies have been born, so thousands of families have been changed in our world. And one of these families might be yours. Thousands of changes are taking place moment by moment in the lives of people in their families, neighborhoods, villages, towns, cities, and nations of the world as each day comes and goes. The weather is never exactly the same in any particular area from day to day, and even the time of the sunrise and sunset varies from day to day throughout the seasons, so no two days can ever been exactly the same in regard to all of these details of this basic factor of weather.

Each day is a brand new day

Change in the circumstances of our daily lives is the only constant that we can really see. Nothing remains the same from day to day, so each day is a brand new day. And we should be excited about that. The problems and poor decisions that we made yesterday are each gone, and we have new opportunities to address the changing circumstances of our lives in the brand new day in which we are living.

What are you doing today, in the moments that you have, to make the best use of this brand new day in which you are living? What decisions and actions are you taking that may provide some really good benefits for you and others with whom you are directly involved in the course of this brand new day? Let’s talk about this.

Good manners

Good manners are one of the primary supporting qualities for civilized behavior between people. Good manners provide attitudes and behavior that demonstrate personal respect for others, even those who are “different”. Good manners demonstrate a person’s respect for law and order between people and within groups of people, including neighborhoods, communities, and nations.

Good manners can seldom be consistently required by the force of laws. Parents or police departments cannot always require by the force of punishment that their children or the citizens of their communities treat each other with good manners. They can’t require others to say “please” and “thank you” when making personal exchanges of resources, doing business, or just trying to get along with each other. And they certainly can’t require people to say “I’m sorry” when they have been rude, disrespectful, or unkind to some one else.

Good manners are taught to children and reinforced with adults by lessons for good manners that are conducted by living day by day in families where good manners are consistently practiced. Individuals are not going to be taught such lessons in schools or in on-the-job-training workshops.

And lessons for good manners may not even be personally learned and put into practice if they come from the teachings of various religions and groups of their practitioners. Centuries of history have demonstrated how difficult it is for Christians and Jews to consistently live in close proximity to each other without them experiencing some incidents of prejudice or disrespectful behavior. And the examples of this difficulty become more evident when the groups represent Christians and Muslims or even Protestants and Catholics. It appears that many people, including many Christians and Jews, have not really learned the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach the crowd of people who followed him around that they should “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). And his summary of God’s laws, with the second summary commandment being to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) has not been easy to keep for any of his followers.

Failure to practice Good Manners

Two recent incidents in distant communities and cultures demonstrate the consequences of people’s failure to practice good manners in human civilized behavior in our world. The burning of a copy of the Quran by pastor Wayne Sapp, an associate of pastor Terry Jones, at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL on March 20, 2011, was used by a group of Muslim in Mazar-e Sharif Afghanistan to stage a riot and to attack a group of innocent residents killing many, including some humanitarian workers from the U.N. Violent riots like these in Afghanistan and disrespectful protests like that of these pastors in Florida are common reminders of the consequences that we all face as we try to live with other people who are “different” from us without practicing good manners.

Good manners have a lot to do with respect for what people consider to be “holy” in their lives. They teach respect for “doors”, personal property, and borders. They serve as guides for good communication, even between people who may not agree with each other regarding the matter being considered or discussed.

Why is it so hard for individuals to learn and to consistently practice good manners with others? What needs to be done to more effectively teach the lessons regarding personal respect for others and law and order in our civil lives together that are represented by good manners? Let’s talk about this.

An invitation

This is an invitation to the viewers of this blog and my website to join in the discussion of the various issues and topics that I address in my posts. I know that some of you have listed my site and this blog among your “favorites” and set “bookmarks” to frequently open it, and I appreciate such sustained interest. I am going to continue to try to keep my posts and statements interesting and my site and its features easy to view and to use.

An invitation to express your opinions

In order to handle a large amount of spam that gets submitted to this blog, I am now making it necessary for anyone who wants to leave a comment on this blog to register with my blog and to follow the established procedures for leaving legitimate comments. These include the use of a personal password to confirm your membership as being registered and the passing of a simple test to demonstrate that you are a human being and not a spamming machine.

Although I like compliments about my blog and its posts, I’m really more interested in getting people to talk with me and others about the various issues that I address in my posts. Therefore I will be checking all comments to evaluate how they add to the discussion of these issues before they are accepted for publication. If anyone has other comments of a more personal nature or general nature regarding this blog and its material, they can send those to me in email messages from the tab for my “Contact Form”.

An invitation to contribute to the discussion

There are a lot of severe challenges and intense struggles facing many people around the world today. And in many cases the proclaimed “experts” don’t seem to be able to effectively handle them. The theme for this blog is “What is good?”, and that is what I want to discuss with you. Let’s talk about this. I look forward to your participation in the discussion of these matters. If you are really interested in these matters, please accept my invitation to become a registered commentator to my blog.

Disaster in Japan

People everywhere are very sympathetic to the millions of people who have been personally affected by the tremendous earth quake and tsunami that caused so much widespread death, destruction and disaster in Japan. Numerous videos continue to show the world the unbelievable power of the shaking earth and the high surge of the tsunami wave that swept villages away and piled houses, buildings, cars, trucks, boats, and debris in the streets and fields and harbors of many Japanese cities and towns. Reports continue to be made regarding aftershocks and the ongoing dangers of nuclear contamination from the three nuclear power plants that were damaged by the tsunami wave that slammed into them. Crews are seeking to find missing relatives or at least the bodies of the thousands of people who are believed to have been killed by this disaster. And just getting basic supplies of food and water and shelter to thousands of people who have lost everything is a huge task.

It is understood that the Japanese people will recover from this disaster, but it will probably take years. In the meantime many of their basic services, including that of their currency, have been seriously hampered. Money and basic resources and relief workers are being brought into the cities, but the extent of the disaster is unbelievable. The whole earth has been affected!

Did engineering play a part in the disaster in Japan?

Apparently Japanese engineers and experts in dealing with earthquakes had done an excellent job of designing the buildings for their cities and even the nuclear reactors to withstand severe earthquakes, but this one along with the tsunami wave overpowered many of their safe guards.

So there is a lot of talk taking place now among the “experts” and the national and international leaders of highly developed countries, like Japan, that face the potential of similar natural disasters. The questions that they are all discussing have to do with how they can provide for the safety of their citizens, as well as how they can help,  in the face of such powerful natural forces.

I would hope that this disaster in Japan has caused many people around the world to reconsider what they really see as being “stable” and of lasting value in their lives. So many of us in the well developed countries of the world are surrounded by attractive homes and offices. In our daily lives we are made very comfortable by many things. We can get around in nice comfortable cars and easily communicate with our friends and relatives with various hand-held devices, so it is natural to begin to take such resources for granted as a part of one’s rights to daily life.

Lessons learned from the disaster in Japan

But such daily comforts and resources are not guaranteed as “stable” always present commodities for one’s daily life. In this blog I’m trying to get people to talk with me and others about “What is good?” in their lives.  See these posts for related issues of concern: balancing budgets or lessons from the oil spill or this statement on my website at economic security . What good can come from this disaster in Japan? What is there in your life that is really stable and dependable? What has ultimate value in your life? What is there in your life that can’t be piled up in a mound of broken “stuff” or swept away by a huge wave or destroyed in a flood or a fire? Has the disaster in Japan helped you reconsider anything in your personal life? Let’s talk about this.

Balancing budgets

Before we jump first-hand into the topic of balancing budgets, here is a good analogy for the scene that many people in the world today are seeing as they look around them. You are in a very high class restaurant on the top floor of a tall public building in the center of a big city. It is evening, and you and your lover are enjoying the beautiful view of the dazzling city stretched out below. You have ordered a full course meal of delicious entrees from the highly rated menu. You have already enjoyed your appetizers and are now waiting for the waitress to bring you the specially prepared entrees that you have been hungering for since you left home.

Just as you see your waitress emerge from the kitchen area with the tray of your food balanced on one hand above her right shoulder and the folding stand for the tray in her left hand, you feel the floor quiver beneath your feet. The water in your glasses begins to stir. The table begins to bounce and slide around. The beautiful chandeliers of dimly lit lights throughout the restaurant begin to sway, and you realize that the city is undergoing an earthquake. You catch a glimpse of your waitress as she tries to maintain her balance as everything is shaking beneath her feet. For a moment you wonder if she is going to be able to serve you the delicious entrees for which you have been waiting. Your ears are filled with the sounds of falling dishes, shattering windows, the screams of other guests, and the cries of frightened rioting children who are wondering what is going to happen to them and whether or not they are ever going to get the great desserts for which they have been waiting. You look to your lover as together you wonder when is the shaking going to stop and where you should  go to be safe.

This analogy is not that different from the reality of the scene that now confronts many people in the world. The foundations of much that they assumed were solid are shaking. Many of the pleasures and the comforts that they anticipated receiving are now in jeopardy of being destroyed. They don’t know where to turn for help or where to go for safety. They don’t know how to calm the screaming crying rioting people around them. They don’t know when the shaking is going to stop.  Those individuals who are in charge and on hand don’t seem to know exactly what to do or they can’t agree on a reasonable course of action. And you and those you love and many of the other “guests”  may be really wondering about their ability to personally survive the chaos and the crisis that you all see unfolding before your eyes.

Balancing Budgets of Nations

The economic structures of some of the major nations of the world are shaky, including that of the United States,  and even the economy of China is reported to be quivering. The budgets for many states within the United States are in serious danger of collapsing.  The budgets for some major cities and areas in the United States have been damaged almost to the point of being unworkable, and many residents have left for safer more stable “ground”. Riots are breaking out in unexpected places around the world. “Experts” and responsible civic administrators and even some dictators are scurrying around in their bunkers,  various school districts, town hall meetings, and union halls to try to negotiate some reasonable acceptable solutions with those “in charge” and the “guests” in the “restaurant” to the economic crisis that fills their fields of vision. And the value of currencies and the supply of its “notes” in the various economic systems of the world that must be used to  pay for all of the damages and to rebuild the “restaurants” have been drastically changed by all of the “shaking” that has taken place and the various financial adjustments that have been quickly made to try to prevent a disaster.

I don’t think that there are any quick ways to stop the shaking or glib speeches that can silent the screams and cries of those who are frightened or stop their riots. There aren’t any familiar stable fixtures that staggering “waitresses” can use to regain their balance as they try to finish their immediate tasks or running guests can use to keep their feet beneath them as they try to find a safe refuge, and there are no ways to recover many of the joys and comforts that have been lost when our luxurious surroundings have been shaken apart. There isn’t enough money to pay for the damage and the losses that have been experienced.

For an additional commentary on this matter see my statement on economic security .

What do you think of the “scene” that lies before you? What are you experiencing in your personal situation? How are you going to maintain some balance in the midst of the current chaos? Have you heard the term balancing budgets before? What can we do to restore some order to the “restaurant” in which we all live? Let’s talk about this.

A good story

Everyone likes a good story, especially children but also adults. A good story gets a person involved in dramatic activity. It stirs one’s emotions. A good story attracts one’s attention, but it also holds that attention over the course of time. And a good story is repeatable. Its benefits don’t wear out,  and its drama never really becomes old.

I’m sure that most of you can remember such stories that you have enjoyed. I’m fairly old, but I still remember some stories that I read as a child, “Wolf” by Jack London, “Lassie Come Home” before it was made into a movie, “My Friend Flicka”, “The Secret Garden”, “The Last of the Mohicans”,  and others. I can remember my wife and I reading “bed time” stories to our children each night before they went to sleep. And it was obvious that these young children were learning from these stories. If we tried to skip a few lines to finish quickly, they would stop us and insist that we repeat the story line for line and word by word. They knew the stories, and they didn’t want to miss any part of them.

A good story for children

I believe that children learn language and how to read from stories, probably before they begin to read English grammars in school classrooms. And I believe that youth learn some valuable lessons about growing up from stories like “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and adults learn about history from stories about George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone, and other famous figures from our past. So stories have many important benefits for all of us beside those of just being interesting entertainment.

I think that the particular format for a story has some important effect on its benefits. I think that it makes a difference whether the story was one that we heard read to us, or one that we read from a book ourselves, or one that we saw depicted in a movie or video like the movie “The Passion of  The Christ” or “Saving Private Ryan”. Some TV dramas, like “Star Trek”,  have taken on the aura of great stories with an almost timeless appeal.

A good story in tradition

And I think that often times embellishments that are added to stories from other stories and cultural traditions hamper or destroy the value of the initial stories. I think that this is what has happened with the initial stories of God’s incarnation in human flesh through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb in Jerusalem thirty-three years later. These stories have been initially recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.

There is a very interesting and dramatic story about an earlier revolution in Egypt that had some significant consequences on the world. It is the story of God’s deliverance of about two million foreigners after 430 years of service under the dictatorial rule of various Egyptian kings.  The actual exodus of these people occurred with the leadership of Moses who delivered them with God’s help from their positions as slaves under the control of Pharaoh, and the story even includes an account of the destruction of some of the Egyptian army without any of these Israelites even throwing one stone or a spear at their oppressors. It is an amazing story that is found in the Bible in the book of Exodus, chapters 1 through 14, and it really happened although the exact date is uncertain.

And CNN recently reported that the comic book version of ” Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story”, which was published in Arabic and distributed in Cairo in 2008 may have had some influence on the young adults who led a non-violent revolution in January and February of 2011 in the streets of Egypt and in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

So what good stories do you remember? What stories have made a real impression on you and why? What recently popular stories do you feel may have some really good lasting qualities about them? What are those qualities? Do you know a good story you’d like to share? Let’s talk about this.