Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for October, 2023

It’s About the Other Person: Sunday musings…10/29/2023

1 Value. A measurement of the relationship between quality and cost. In its simplest stating value would be defined as high quality at low cost. This could be something quite rare and very expensive–think maybe a base-level Ferrari–or something that provides almost the same quality as that rare thing but with less scarcity and a dramatically lower cost. Sticking with cars, your average Corvette fits here quite nicely.

Thinking along these lines can be kinda fun no matter what your predilection might be. Very shortly I will be heading out to buy libations for a large upcoming family gathering. I plan to stock up on one of the best values in all of winedom, the most recent version of Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. Once again it is rated above 90 by pretty much everyone, is made is massive quantities so is not difficult to find, and is ludicrously inexpensive (~$14 or so).

Pretty much the definition of value, soon to appear in a wine glass near me.

2 Did. There is a nearly endless number of gripes I have with autocorrect and spellcheck. Microsoft Word seems to have some sort of stylecheck built into both of the above. Maybe it’s just me, but it sure feels like the mean-spirited bot behind the curtain has it out for me and my very personal writing style.

More than that, the modern whateverchecks seem to have been co-opted by the pervasive deviations from the English I was taught as a child in school. T’was a time when dictionaries and English teachers could be counted on to hold the line against the incursion of the vernacular, both standing strong against the various vagaries of the trendy.

Need an example? Hows about the “who” and “that” of “did”. I was taught that when someONE did something the reference was “who”. “The teacher who did that should receive a medal.” A non-person, whether animate or not, would receive that reference “that”. “The chair that keeps biting my pinky toe is on its way to the dump.” And yet, each time I write “who” in reference to a person who has done whatever I get red underlining or a blue-out. When did the rules change, and if they really haven’t changed how come those of us who remember the rules are forced to suffer this indignity?

I’d like to get ahold of the person what did this.

3 Cellphone. Our texts are polluted with ads and admonitions to purchase the latest iPhone. Mine is 2, 3 yrs old, max. Admittedly there is a software update waiting for download, and last time I looked all 40 or so apps taking up space on my screen need to be updated. Still, all in all, my apparently ancient cellphone continues to provide me with everything I need, while at the same time giving me all kinds of things that I could want. Pretty sure Beth and I spend way more than $100/month just for the phone and the stream of electrons flowing in and out of it.

Among the things coming across my screen on some of the stuff on my phone I don’t need are stories about how important it is that every human, certainly every American human needs to have a cellphone. Has a need for a cellphone that borders on having a right to have a cellphone. But not just a cellphone mind you, a cellphone that has as much unnecessary stuff on it as mine does. In a time of meaningful inflation that has had an impact on the real ability of folks to afford housing, healthcare and food, we are informed that an iPhone or the equivalent is a comparable need.

In all honesty I can readily get on board with the contention that having the ability to make and receive a phone call, send and receive a text or other type of message, and participate in the basics of commerce (buy necessities, communicate with government, landlords, school, etc). To do this you need a phone, a browser, and a very basic camera. Memory needs are negligible. Excepting mandatory job-related apps there is nothing else you need.

Such a phone can be made for a few dollars, and connecting to the network can be accomplished for a few dollars a month. I am on board with the need for having such a basic cellphone. The basics of modern life almost demand it, and we aught not deny anyone the ability to obtain that which they need for want of such a basic implement.

4 Wedding. Or more exactly, Vance, Steph and a wedding.

As I foreshadowed above in “Value”, we had a family wedding here this weekend in Cleveburg. It was a new experience for most of us, a second wedding. Doesn’t matter at all why the celebrants were coming together in a second marriage for both; we were all together to celebrate them, and that’s where my friend Vance Thompson and Steph Curry (who I have never met) come in.

Steph Curry of basketball fame once gave an interview in which he was asked what the most important ingredient was that explained his success on the court and in life. Mr. Curry has been quite successful in pursuits that range far beyond the 3-point line, as it were. His response was: “It’s about the other person.” My friend and professional colleague Vance Thompson is wildly successful in our shared profession, and like Steph Curry he has been similarly just as successful in pretty much everything he has done outside of eye care. Vance goes one step further than Steph when asked how he has pulled this off: “It’s about loving the other person.”

About now you are probably asking yourself what the heck does this have to do with a wedding? Think for a minute about the difference between getting married and having a wedding. To get married all you need is about 15 minutes, a working pen, and $50 or so to get your marriage license and cover the costs of the Justice of the Peace in whatever ‘burg you call home. Voila…married. A wedding, on the other hand, is a whole nuther kettle of fish. A wedding is about a bunch of folks, including the bride and the groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom, or…) gathering together for the other person. Clearly the couple at hand are there for one another, but the rest of the guests are there for AT LEAST the couple on stage.

Especially if it’s a family wedding. Then you really want Vance to be the one who’s right, that it’s about loving the other person.

And for this one weekend at least, that’s what we all saw and did. Family came from all over the country to join with the “chosen family” of the couple’s friends in an intimate display of love. If there were conflicts afoot you’d never have known; inside the venue there was nothing but love. Everyone was about the other person. Everyone was about loving a bride and a groom who were getting a little bit of a mulligan in the game of life, one that they deserved as much as anyone ever has. Every guest, whether family born or chosen, was there for this very special couple, and in so being ended up there for each and every other guest.

As you probably know I often end this tiny “musings” with some sort of teachable moment or take-home message, but I’m not really sure there’s too much more than this: in a world in which it seems everyone is about no one but themselves, that no one seems able to think beyond the tip of their own nose when it comes to what someone else thinks or feels, in reality we all have it within ourselves to let it be about the other person. To MAKE it about the other person. And yes, even to LOVE the other person, even if you’ve never met them before that very moment. We were, all of us in that room over those hours, there for the happy couple, and indeed, for each of the other people gathered to celebrate them.

I guess if there is a lesson here it’s that Steph Curry is right: it’s about the other person. And if you’re very lucky, well then, Vance Thompson is right, too: it’s about loving the other person, because they just might be loving you right back.

I’ll see you next week…

Good and Bad; Right and Wrong

There is such a thing as right and wrong. Sadly, we have been brutally reminded of this over the last week or so. Where once we believed that the great wars of the 20th century had relegated a certain level of bad off of the front pages of our newspapers and sent it to the purview of history, we are now confronted with bad in a Medieval, barbaric sense. Our regulated floor, if you will, emanating from the Geneva Conventions has been trampled in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Conventions of right and wrong are ignored on the streets of our cities and towns. Unthinkable behaviors (wanton theft, random attacks) occur daily.

We find it necessary to be reminded that good and bad exist, and that they are different from one another.

My latest reminder came not last weekend but weeks ago while re-reading a little piece about Dale Murphy, the retired baseball player most famously remembered for his days as an Atlanta Brave. Mr. Murphy was noted for his career-long insistence on doing the with thing. If you are a baseball fan you may remember that he retired 2 HR short of the magic 400 that likely would have guaranteed his election into the Hall of Fame; he could no longer stand to be the shell of his former self and so he went home rather then extend his career with PEDs. Dale Murphy is a good man who prided himself on doing the right thing.

We so not need the atrocities of a type of war-making we thought banished, and the attendant “justifications” trumpeted by the war-makers to know that we have been living in an age of moral equivalence for a very long time. Certainly no less than 30, 40 years. A time in which the ends somehow justify the means. Something is not really wrong if it was done by or directed at the right people. Generations ago one could enunciate a coda of what was nearly universally recognized as good, as right. Be honest. Don’t steal or cheat. Work hard. Don’t cause harm to another on purpose. Look upon others, even those with whom you have generational conflict, as fellow humans of equal worth sharing space on the same rock hurtling through space.

As a society Americans had an ethic of working together toward a common goal, a common idea of what was good. None other than de Tocqueville observed this and included it in his historic musings about America and Americans. As a people we had a sense of what was right and what was wrong, a clear understanding about the difference between good and bad for a couple hundred years. Sometimes we got it wrong, but in general we and our leaders strove as a people to be better.

This is the place where naysayers jump in with comments about various types of discrimination, about groups for whom this ideal was simply not a reality. Or groups we barely knew existed who have found their collective voice in recent years and pointed out continued discrimination. I fully acknowledge these facts. Racial discrimination was terrifically worse in previous generations, as was the unconscionable treatment of women (entire categories of people could not vote for 150 years). All true. Still true. But as de Tocqueville anticipated, there has been an inexorable (albeit painful and often excruciatingly slow) movement toward more of better. It has hardly been a straight line from bad to better, and it could still stand to include more, but that is the journey we have taken as a people. It is a journey toward better, toward good and away from bad, that however halting and indirect we continue to share.

Still, in this fraught age the Dale Murphy’s of the world are looked upon with a kind of wonder, as if he and his life are somehow not of this time. Marry someone you love. If you have a family prioritize raising your children to be good citizens who know the traditional difference between good and bad. Be honest. Don’t hurt people. Be kind and generous to those outside of your family whenever you can. Do these things in a quiet manner, not out loud in self-aggrandizement as you build “your brand”. There are certainly well-known others who fit this mold; Denzel Washington and Neil Patrick Harris come to mind. Lots of no-name folks, men and women you will never meet who will never be famous are doing the same thing.

You could say that what I bemoan about our present society has always been thus; that I, we, simply know more about it now because of newer, freer information streams. I cannot argue against this possibility. Still, it seems as if even knowing this, that a return to an acknowledgement that there is a clear difference between good and bad, between right and wrong, can only strengthen the fabric of our societies. Different, on its face, is neither good nor bad, it is simply different. Something that is unattractive or distasteful may be just that and nothing more. We can disagree in the great middle. Good and bad is bigger than taste or style or personal preference, or even history. We should not need the atrocities of wars we thought banished to know these things.

In the dark we are all the same. We live together unseen. We have the same dreams and the same fears. Though we cannot see in the dark we still feel. That which we have in common dwarfs all that we do not. Right and wrong are different. There is such a thing as good and bad. These things do not change when the lights are turned on. When the lights come on we must remember that there is good and bad, and there is right and wrong.

And each of us must choose.

I’ll see you next week…

The Weight

Last week our SkyVision family suffered a tragic loss. One of our team members lost a child.

The details don’t matter. They never do when a parent loses a child. Nevertheless, in our modern times I do feel compelled to say that this tragedy did not involve either an overdose or suicide. Horrible misfortune, the bane of our species over the millennia, was the cause. Even in these days of extraordinary, sometimes miraculous medical care, sometimes the medicine doesn’t work and a parent loses a child.

There are so many occurrences that are labeled a tragedy, and some of them even are. But for my mind there is nothing as tragic as losing your child. It is such an unnatural occurrence, so dramatically counter to the expected course of life, that there is not a single language in the entire human race that has a word to describe a person who occupies the space of a parent who lost their child. One who loses their spouse is a widow or a widower. When both of your parents die you become an orphan. Having lost a child, though, does not give you a moniker in any language in the world.

It doesn’t matter how old you are. A friend has a sister who sits on the brink. Their parents are alive and in their ’80’s. Both would gladly trade places with their child. Think about it; even in your ’80’s with children in their ’60’s, you’re just not supposed to lose a child.

Years ago I went through a bit of time during which several acquaintances lost a child. Chatting with one who had since become a good friend, she described her life as thus: each morning you awaken, get out of bed, and pick up the weight of your loss. The weight changes day by day. Sometimes it is a bit lighter, but it is always there and it is always too much to bear.

It is a weight that you will carry for the rest of your life.

What is there for the rest of us to do? Indeed, is there anything that we can do? Experience tells me that the unfortunate answer is no. We cannot carry any of the weight. We will not, cannot understand what it means to have been cast over the abyss and into the black hole of such a loss. And yet we must try. We must look for even the smallest of chances to to help in any way. Sometimes what is requested is simply space. Space and time. As hard as it is to provide this we must be ever mindful that we do not, cannot know what the bearer of this loss needs and therefore to take them at their word. I don’t know what our friend at work will need. What they may want. If they will ask. Only that each of us will answer if given the chance.

So rare that the bearer of the weight doesn’t even have a name. May the rest of us never need to learn what that means.

I’ll see you next week…

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