All together now – “We Are Family”

I was drawn to the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri on Michael Brown’s death and have been following it on Twitter. With mass media so biased in its reporting, it’s good to have a source like Twitter that appears, at least, to be an open forum for all to express their perspectives. I have long come to believe that there is no truth, there is only perspective.

There are many references on Twitter to diatribes on both the left and the right, so by reading both, you can sometimes get pieces of the events that took place. Unfortunately, it is intertwined with the prejudices on each side of the issue.  From reflections on the events of the last several days, some voices of reason are beginning to draw realistic conclusions. Reference:  little-league-world-series-jackie-robinson-west-and-michael-brown

I grew up in the 60s in white, middle-class Davenport, Iowa, a bedrock of farm implement manufacturing factories. My high school was 99% Caucasian, which was allowed because the high school on the other side of town was still 77% Caucasion. My first experience with a real live black person was in my assisting in the reading lab at the high school. I knew his name because I heard it often at the high school football games. He was a star player and a really good athlete. When he came into the lab for help, I was flattered that he would allow me to help him knowing his status in the school. He talked to me as one human being talks to another, and I never knew to treat him differently than anybody else. 

I was a bit of a wimp and a nerd in high school but he was one of the few people who never played these factors against me, and I respected him for that. He always showed respect to me, and that pretty much sealed it for me. Whenever I meet somebody, I see a human being, not the color of their skin. I don’t try to determine their ethnic background  because, seriously, what does it matter?

However, I am not ignorant as to other people’s bigoted beliefs. I heard enough of it expressed while I was growing up. Even today, some 50 years later, I will hear an opinion expressed against an entire class of people, and I will think to myself, “Really?  There are still people who think like that?”  Apparently.

I was having a hard time connecting with the sting of degradation, detachment and discrimination caused by such expression, so I picked up a copy of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, and began reading it again. The sensitivity to the plight of the black person in the hundred and fifty years since Lincoln freed the slaves came rushing back to me.  I know why they are protesting in Ferguson. I don’t know if we will be able to eradicate all bigoted thinking, but I know we have to keep trying.

Hi. How are you?

I saw a Stanford professor get ripped by a troll on Facebook because as he blogged about the tragic death of Robin Williams he mentioned a passage in a book he had written. “How dare you use the suicide of this great entertainer to promote yourself,” the troll said.

In fact, Robin’s death connected with people all over the world, not to mention the platforms of more than a few bloggers. Days later, many of us are still saddened by it. Without ever meeting him, we loved Robin Williams.

I lived most of my life without being personally touched by suicide other than the occasional thoughts of it myself. Then suddenly in a period of about 18 months, there were six. One so close, he could have been my son. In fact, he was my son’s best friend.

As a psychology major in college, I learned about the chemical roots of clinical depression. I learned that given enough hours, days, weeks or months, most bodies will self-correct the chemical imbalance. While it may seem like we are in despair for an eternity, we are often out of it in much less time than we think … if we survive that long.

There is such an attitude of “get over it” that many people take with depression. You can tell when they ask, “What are you depressed about?” You know they are blaming rather than looking for an answer. Depression is often confused with situational sadness. An abundance of situational sadness can cause depression as in severe grief. Depression after grief is the body’s defense, slowing our reactions while our mind is preoccupied. Yet there is such intolerance with people in a state of depression. “Leave Joe alone. He’s really depressed.” Leaving the depressed alone is often the last thing you should do.

Depression often appears in puberty and can carry on for the rest of a person’s life. Factors can certainly add to it, one of the greatest of which is alcohol. Almost everyone experiences depression at various times in their life. If you are depressed, there are things you can do to reduce the symptoms or at least survive them until your body gets in sync again. Research it or get some help. And if someone near you seems to be trying to isolate themselves away, that is one good indication that they are depressed. Excessive sleeping is another, but so is insomnia. Monitor them closely. Let them know that their body is not right, but will be again soon.

Depression is a demon that you have to fight with all your might. I’m sure Robin waged many battles not only with it but with the self-medicating he did to try to deal with it. I congratulate Robin on his many years of fighting the good fight. We only wish it could have been longer.

The View from 30,000 feet

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My wife, Kim and I had a rare opportunity to get some ice cream yesterday, sit in the park and eat while we talked. We talked about events that had taken place and tried to put some perspective to them that we could not get when we were in the throws of the situation. It was a very pleasant time, a destresser to the usual hub-bub of life. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of finding times like that.

In the midst of drama, Kim frequently finds the ability to take a view from 30,000 feet. When you can’t see the forest for the trees, it helps if you rise above the forest. That is, you take the long range perspective of things.

For instance, you’ve laid out a plan, determined who you want in which positions to accomplish the next goal in your mission, and no sooner is it on the table than you are approached with “I can’t work with that person.”  Do you revamp your strategy to accommodate this person?… or perhaps a reminder that this isn’t forever is sufficient.

My business partner, Dave has reached the point In his career that he spends most of his time at the 30,000 foot level. I am still in the trenches, trying to execute a fine business model and plan that he has laid out for the firm. If all works according to plan, I will join him at the 30,000 foot level laying out the next phase of development, but we have a long way to go before then.

So whether it is in business or in life, take time to destress and use that time to force yourself into a new perspective. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and can help you find that perspective. When you are with them, remember God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Use them proportionately.