Monday, March 19, 2007

God Loves Boating!

I have seen the same bumper sticker on two different cars in the past two weeks, and I have started to take notice. It is a plain white bumper sticker with royal blue lettering that proclaims, "God Loves Boating!" Now, the "loves" part is actually communicated with a red heart, not the word, "loves." But that is the general message. God loves boating. Did not know that.

It made me think about how convenient God is. Since He is not here on land to defend Himself, we can decide what His interests, or apparently, His hobbies are. It reminds me of those motorcycle drivers I see wearing jackets that announce that they are "biking for the Lord." For the Lord? Are they on an errand? Is the Lord out of milk?

Now let me get one thing straight: I believe in God and am not scorning Him or people who believe in Him. Quite the opposite, actually. I just doubt that He, though divine intervention, asked those families to place that message on their cars and tell the world about his love of the open water.

I believe that there are messages God wants us to share with each other. Love thy neighbor. Honor thy mother and father. Do not kill. Its where people start putting words in His mouth that I become skeptical.

At funerals, you hear people say, "it's God's way." When we're confused about why something happened or didn't happen, we shrug and mutter, "well, the Lord works in mysterious ways." And my favorite, when we're faced with a situation where we can either make a right or wrong decision, someone will ask, "what would Jesus do?" I can't help but think, "Call his Dad."

In wars across the world, everyone feels as if their version of God is on their side, justifying their fight. God has been both blamed and praised for things that were done by mankind. Ben Franklin even claimed that beer is "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

What I'm trying to say is, at what point are we guilty of exploitation? If God is a convenient scapegoat for feelings we don't want to deal with, issues we can't explain, or vices we want to justify, does that detract from the human qualities we possess for critical thought, problem solving, and self-control? Or does looking for a comfortable way to sweep our issues under the rug make us all the more human?

Something tells me I am reading too much into a silly bumper sticker.

To be honest, I hope God does love boating. I'd like to think that every once in a while, God gets up on a beautiful Sunday morning and decides to go out on His boat. It would make me feel less guilty about not going to church.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

President for Hire: Experience a Minus

Cold and flu season is behind us, but some of us are still feeling queasy...and its because another season is getting close: presidential campaign season. Soon we won't be able to sit through an episode of, "America's Next Top Model," without being inundated with messages from special-interest groups telling us not why their candidate is better, but why the other is worse.

A lot of attention is being paid these days to whether Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama will receive the Democratic party's nomination, attempting to place our first female or first black president in the White House. Arguments are made on behalf of each one, and one of the reasons justifying Hilary's nomination is because she is a more experienced politician. Experienced politician? Pardon me, but am I the only one who thinks an experienced politician is the last person we need leading us?

"Yes, I am an experienced politician! I have had 25 years to hone my skills of manipulation, back-stabbing, truth-twisting, and talking out of both sides of my mouth!"

If you can't tell, I think politicians are the slimiest of the slimy, the scummiest of the scummy, and the last species of person I would want having anything to do with my well-being. So to tell me that I should support someone because they are an experienced politician...well, that's just scary. Experience what got us in this mess in the first place. Our current president comes from one of the most experienced political families in America, and we've ended up the most-hated country in the world. I don't think experience is what we need. In fact, we might need the opposite.

In job interviews across America, people know that a good attitude and a strong work ethic can usually beat experience. Why isn't that the case in public office? We don't need someone who has mastered the art of telling people what they want to hear. We need someone who can bridge the gap between the two feuding extremist groups battling it out for dominance in our world. No, not the Sunis and the Shiites. I mean the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Am I just a jaded 30-something who feels lost in the shuffle and doubts the value of a vote? Kind of. I'm not a bleeding heart liberal or a Christian conservative, I'm just a middle-of-the-road American who thinks each party makes some good points but is equally delusional on others. Either way, when I go to the polls to vote I can't help but feel like I am choosing between Equal and Sweet-n-Low. Does it really matter when they're both fake anyway?

What I'm trying to say is, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, why do we keep electing experienced politicians and expecting our problems to be over? I don't have the solution, but I feel like I could be part of it if the right kind of person was leading the charge. No, Dad, that person is not me. But it isn't an experienced politician either.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Attractive People Are Successful: Shocker!

I read an article today that revealed a chilling insight into reality: attractive people are more successful at work.

Well, duh.

The article said survey results indicated that people are perceived to be more competent at their jobs if they are attractive, and that ugly people are lazy and stupid. Okay, so the article used more politically-correct language, but that's what it was getting at.

I don't think it is any shock that the beautiful people get ahead in life faster than us average-looking folks, but it did get me thinking. Attractive by whose standards? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Well, then who is beholding us at work? And more importantly, how can we become more attractive to them?

Our entire society is built upon appearances. There are image consultants who make a living off of the concept that perception is reality, there are television shows dedicated to turning ugly ducklings into beautiful swans, and hoards of magazines promise us the secret to ageless beauty and sex appeal. A lot of people spend a lot of money to appear to be something they may not by purchasing expensive cars, homes, and clothes to create a certain image. Our economy depends on a certain level of vanity!

But is being aware of how appearance affects your success such a bad idea? I think there is truth to the adage that when you dress up and put some effort into your appearance, you feel better about yourself and as a result, perform better at work. Granted, there are a variety of ways we can define "effort" in this case. After all, you can spend a lot of time looking like you just got out of bed, but I don't think that's going to help you get a promotion. Unless you work for a bunch of college students.

I guess what I am trying to say is, no matter how evolved we think we are, appearance still counts, and I don't think that is a terrible thing. No, its not fair, but its true. But the good news is that research shows that while the beautiful and fabulous still end up getting the benefit of the doubt more than they might deserve it, most of being attractive to others at work is having a smile on your face. And maybe using some mousse. After all, if you want to win, you gotta play the game.

On a somewhat related note, I also read an article that said more Americans hate their jobs than ever before. I wonder if those people are ugly.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Life WIthout Regret? No thanks.

A lot of people like to say that they live their lives without regret, and I've been thinking about that lately. I've been wondering if that is really a good idea, if its really something smart to do. They are so proud..."No regrets, baby, no regrets!" They say it like they have some kind of secret weapon for a long and prosperous life, like if I regret things then I am really wasting my time when I could be out doing something meaningful. I don't live without regret, and I think my regrets are part of what has made my life what it is. Let me explain.

To say that you live life without regret is like saying you don't make any mistakes. And saying that you don't make any mistakes is like saying you either always make good decisions or you always decide to like the decisions you made regardless of whether they are good or bad. And to say that you always make good decisions or you always decide to like your decisions, in my opinion, robs you of the opportunity to realize what could have been.

What I'm trying to say is, if you never regret anything, you never think to yourself, "I would rather have done this instead of that." And you'll never really know if you're happy or not.

I think what the "no regrets" people are really saying is that they don't want to dwell on the past, that they want to move forward and focus on the future. I agree with them, but I think ignoring the past and our regrettable decisions is a mistake. By recognizing our regrets, we allow ourselves to admit that we made a mistake, that we would do things differently if given the chance at a "do-over".

Regretting something isn't a waste of time, but what is a waste is letting that regret paralyze you in time, reliving the decision and renewing the feeling over and over. I've been letting a recent decision paralyze me in time, constantly wondering what could have happened if I had done something differently. The truth is, I'll never know. Maybe everything, maybe nothing. That's not the point. The point is that by regretting my decision, I learned something about myself and what I want out of life.

Which brings me here. Part of my regret is realizing that what I want out of life is to be part of the world, to leave some kind of legacy behind that says, "I was here." I like to talk, I like to write, and I like to think big. So instead of editorializing to my steering wheel, I am going to do it here.

Regrets? You bet. Mostly small, unimportant things that don't matter...and a few that keep me up at night. But a life without regret is kind of like a birthday cake without a spot where someone tasted the frosting with their finger. How else do you know if its any good?