Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Easter Sunday musings…

It’s Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian year. This year is the 65th Easter for me. Many of the recurring themes that roll around the space between my ears seem to coalesce each year on Easter Sunday. Family and friendship. Faith, religion, the unbreakable connection, and friction, between them . Whether or not there is an afterlife, and if there is might it be explainable through the concepts of Quantum Physics. Role models; the essential nature of Christ as the ultimate role model (“as you do unto others…”). As Christians we “celebrate” the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate expression of altruism in the “history” of mankind. Men and women are tasked with following Him as the ultimate role model for how we are to live our lives.

If one does, indeed, believe, and if one does follow Him as the role model in one’s life, then all other talk of role models is irrelevant. Like so many other goals and targets, though, the Lamb as role model is ultimately unachievable by any and all, and thus we have the all too human phenomenon of other, human role models.

What then constitutes a role model? Who is qualified to fill this role? Who would be willing to do so? How do we find these people, these role models? In a world that was much less heterogenous, where people of all stripes had more in common than not and acknowledged that fact, role models seemed to be a little easier to come by. Audie Murphy. Stan Musial. Jackie Robinson.

Heck, even a politician or two filled the bill, although we certainly seem to be rather bereft of those at the moment, don’t we? The wonderful writer Joseph Epstein wrote an insightful column in yesterday’s WSJ lamenting the fact that we haven’t had a President that we can feel good about, let alone emulate, in 50+ years. It is his contention that Ike was the last such President, although he admits to a fondness for Reagan that may not have been universal (more in a moment).

Every town had a teacher or a coach or a cop who everyone looked up to. Why then and not now? Partly because of that sense that we were all more the same than less, but partly because we only knew the good stuff about our role models, and on top of that we only really wanted to know the good stuff, ya know? Returning to Epstein, the last time I thought about this “out loud” a friend offered JFK and “ask not what your country can do…etc.” And yet now, in 2024, we know so much more about him that in hindsight, well, you know. But at the time, thinking of JFK and Gerald Ford and Reagan as role models, unaware of the brilliance of their speechwriters or any of their peccadilloes, for many they might have been candidates for the role.

On a local level, face to face (IRL as the digital natives describe it), once upon a time to be a role model meant to be always trying to do the right thing for the right person at the right time. We forgave the occasional slip because we saw the work it took and appreciated the ongoing effort. It inspired us to do better ourselves. We forgave the occasional failure because we knew how hard it is to always look to do that favor, to offer the helping hand, to put forth the best effort. Our sense of our own humanity was extended to our role models as a gift to them such that they would continue to lead us.

How different are our times now. The perceived lack of role models in society today says more about us than it does about any role models that we may have discarded. We accentuate our differences rather than our commonalities, no matter how far on either end of the curve lie those differences; someone with whom we share 80 or 90% of our opinions, of our guiding beliefs is no longer an ally or a potential friend but rather an adversary with whom we battle 100% of the time over that 10% delta.

We not only accept too much information about our all too human potential role models, we actively seek the “smoking gun” that will bury them. See above Epstein and Kennedy, or spend 15 minutes with the archives of any national newspaper during a Presidential election year. The marvelous baseball player Ohtani will now spend literally years having every non-competitive minute of his life dissected over the indiscretions of an employee. Any and all of the good things he does will be buried under whatever clickbait might arise. We are all the lesser for all of that, for we deny ourselves the potential that could come from having a role model just a little bit better than ourselves.

Today, on Easter Sunday, whether through true faith or simply the mechanics of religion practiced over a lifetime, in the Christian world we celebrate. We see in ourselves our faults and our failures. After 40 days of contemplation, we seek a better version of ourselves in the coming year. We seek role models near and far, and if we are so inclined we may seek to be, in some small way, a role model for others. If we do make that effort we hope for the grace of yesteryear extended to us for our efforts. For the only perfect role model continues to set an unachievable goal, however noble might be our effort.

And He has been dead for some 2000 years now.

Happy Easter. I’ll see you next week…

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