Archive for November, 2010

Contestants in a suicidal race

I think Sting had it right when he penned the phrase: “contestants in a suicidal race” in the song “Synchronicity II.”  For years, I actually thought he was singing “despots in a suicidal race,” which would also have worked (A despot is an absolute ruler, a lord or prince – a tyrant.).  At least where I drive, there seem to be a lot of “despots” around me; most of these self-important drivers are in SUVs (talking on cell phones!).  They routinely try to push me off the road, since they apparently own it.

With my particular “shiny metal box,” I get no love.  I drive an old civic hatchback.  Most would assume that since this is a commuter car, it doesn’t go fast and that I’m not much more than “road furniture” – in the way and easily dealt with.  In my case, they would be wrong.  Sure, the little car takes 11 seconds to get from zero to 60, but once it gets there, watch out.  It’s nimble and it corners great.  I put performance tires on my car!  The nimbleness of my car surprises the average driver.  In a straight line, I get passed all the time, but once we come into a corner, I’m in and out of there rather quickly, retaining much of my speed.  This is where my little car becomes a go-cart, stealthy and low to the ground.  It zips on by those SUVs, and frustrates the drivers who want to pass me.  This is the part of the contest that I win.  Once we’re back in the straights, my job is to then use the other cars to block anyone who wants to pass me (if they’re being jerks, or if I’m feeling like a jerk).  This is a game I like to play, and it’s a lot like chess, except with one wrong move, you can get a big owie.

Some have said that driving with me is like having a religious experience, though most will also admit that I’m a better than the average driver – I’m always thinking ahead, thinking in contingencies, and I do not lose focus.  I am an attentive driver.


My first two cars were old GM racers, but they only went straight.  They also got lousy gas mileage.  When I got the civic, I gained an air of respectability, and I no longer had to go to driver’s training courses on a regular basis (I could teach that class!).  My driving habits didn’t change much, but anyone looking in my direction (like the police), wouldn’t give me a second thought because no one driving a civic could possibly be a miscreant driver (though I do get looks for my off the line reaction time and initial speed – from zero to 20, the civic actually goes really fast, it’s in third gear where things start to fall off).  Because I own a civic, I have a “cloak of invisibility” with regards to the police.  This would change if I drove a performance car (say, a bright yellow Porsche) because guys will look at such a car even if it’s not moving.  I sense that this kind of car would be a dangerous and expensive car for me to drive on many levels.  It’s probably best that I stick with the civic for commuting, though maybe I should mash up the sides a bit, put a spiked metal grate on the front, and find a bumper sticker that says “ramming speed” for the back bumper.  This would signal to anyone: “he’s crazy and he’s not afraid to make contact – give him some room!”  Yes, if I did that, I think my commute would improve.  I would be the Kim Jong Il of my commute – crazy, but with nukes.

Meeting someone with my name

Ever since I’ve been web-savvy, I have occasionally searched for… myself, just to see what’s out there about me.  I would usually find my yahoo website, some devotionals I wrote at my church’s website, a cathedral project I did in college, and the M.O.F.L. site (The Mt. Olive Football League, which I ran {and often won} over the past 15 years).  With the advent of Google Scholar, I have recently found my Master’s Thesis online as well (wow, I’m published!).

One day, there were additional entries – entries I couldn’t connect to me, something about coaching soccer at a Michigan university.  Someone else was using my name!  It turns out that there was another “me” in Michigan.  For years, I thought I was unique; after all, there aren’t many people with my last name in the world.  Now there was at least one other on the web, a verifiable presence, and alternate me.  How strange!

With the advent of Facebook, I decided to “friend” him to see what he would do.  He accepted, and we were, for a time, Facebook friends.  It was weird – the other “me” thought so too, which is why he eventually un-friended me.  Now, we just continue to live our parallel lives, and try not to think of each other too much.

These days, there are even more “me’s” out there.  Some have come late in the game with regards to the internet, like “me” of Wisconsin (he spells his name wrong, so Michigan “me” and I will have nothing to do with him!) and… “me” of Wisconsin (two in one state! – this guy’s a bee keeper).  We’ll call him me2.  Then there’s the “me” who runs a laundry service in Pennsylvania; there’s a “NASCAR me” in Indiana; and one, we’ll call him “ludite me,” who does not have much of an internet presence at all – he may not even have a computer – but he got listed in some work-related document.  That “me” works for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

And then there’s a “me” with a one letter difference in the last name who is an author of Windows XP books.  If I ever get published (like, for-real; not just my thesis), boy will people get confused!

Alas, I am hardly unique anymore; I am pedestrian…


Facebook Friends

As I was going through all the recent comments in Facebook, it occurred to me that for many of these folks – those I know well – Facebook is like catching up.  I know what they’re up to in real life, and their Facebook comments reflect that.  It’s sort of like an extended party, and I like it!

Then there are those I don’t know well – acquaintances.  We rarely speak in public, and I often have no idea what they are up to.  I certainly don’t know what they are thinking.  But when I read some of the stuff they publish, I am amazed.  It all seems so intimate.  He or she would never tell me this in public, yet in written form, their mind is revealed.  It makes me feel like we are closer than we really are, which can make things very awkward in real life when we meet.  We may pass each other on occasion and barely give a nod, yet I know what they are thinking, and they may be thinking the same thing about me.  We know a part of each other, but not the whole thing.  We know secrets.

I sometimes feel like a stalker or a voyeur when I’m on Facebook, especially with some of the younger kids who are on my friends list.

Is it my fault that they are so open with their thoughts?  No, but I also really, really shouldn’t know some of the stuff I know thanks to their posts.  Some of their secrets should be kept secret.  They have no filters (yet) for appropriateness, and even though I love how young people think, I sometimes see things I probably shouldn’t.

It used to be that I had to invest a ton of time in a person’s life to get to know them well; now, all I have to do is get them to friend me.  It’s instant intimacy… without true intimacy.  It’s “plastic” intimacy, which has no substance.

I think that in the next 10 years or so, we will see an increase in the number of extremely lonely people who can’t function well in the real world.  Facebook is great and all, but it can never truly replace live contact.  People will eventually (re)discover this fact, but I think it will take time – a breaking point of some sort – before the pendulum of societal norms swings back.

Yeah for the youth

Our youth were part of the sermon on Sunday.  I highlight this in my blog because what they did was amazing – they stated a problem (a sin most often) on one side of some cardboard, and how God took care of it on the other side.  The Youth were forthright and very, very honest – I doubt you’d find 10 adults in the whole church who would have been that honest with their sin-issues.  It was moving.  Issue after issue was shown, and some pretty spectacular, life-altering changes were shown on the reverse side.  God was clearly touching these youth, and the youth in turn were clearly touching us as they made their presentation.  Most of us were crying by the end.  Thirty-five youth, and five adult leaders showed how God can change lives, and how He can do so in very specific ways.

Young people experience some very unique struggles – they are faced with all these adult things, yet really have no expertise on the subject or past experience to fall back on.  They rarely know what to do (I sure didn’t when I was growing up!), and without an adult mentor of some type, they are forced to rely on less trustworthy sources for their information – themselves, friends and acquaintances.  This never works out well!

It has been a long time since I was a youth, yet I remember all the problems I faced as I struggled to become an adult.  Nothing has changed, and in fact it has probably gotten more difficult.  Growing up in a church youth group myself, we often talked about relationship issues, abuse, drinking, sex, drugs and rock & roll and how our realities often differed from what God would have us do.  In my formative years, I was truly blessed to have great church youth leaders, great Boy Scout leaders and great parents.  They all kept me on the straight and narrow.  They also answered a ton sometimes uncomfortable questions (like most youth, I had no “filter” for what was appropriate to ask, so I asked!). When I got older, I became a youth leader so I could mentor the next generation of kids.  I did this for ten years and would do so again in a heartbeat!

Based on what I saw yesterday, our church youth – my son included – are in great hands.  It gives me hope.  In five to ten years, the kids in our youth group will be running our church, or other churches depending on where they wind-up.  At least one in the group is planning on becoming a pastor.  I am so proud of our kids, and feel truly blessed to have such wonderful youth leadership; thanks be to God!