Refugees: Defining moments

Appreciative of all those posting about refugees over the past few days and particularly those focused on the responsibility of Christianity.

I was moved to tears last April when I heard Patrick Kearon’s speech.

Hearing portions of it again, with the addition of images, music, and stories, brings those feelings back. I agree with his sentiments:

“This moment [of being a refugee] will not define them, but our response will help define us.”

Personal experience with refugees, right off the plane, and with those working to rebuild their lives, having escaped war and the horrors that come with it, has shaped my outlook on life.

There is some Mormon specific terminology in his speech but otherwise, it is simple Christianity. A Christianity I think even an atheist can appreciate.

Recreational Criticism and the Shelter of Anonymity

We live in an era of recreational criticism. For many, being critical of nearly everything and everyone has become an acceptable form of entertainment. This is nothing new for government officials and others in the public eye. They have long been targets of criticism. Rightly so, in many cases, yet the rush to find and magnify less developed or unrefined areas within organizations and individuals typically serves no purpose.

What is troubling is the tendency among critics to continue to criticize long after the events of their angst have passed without looking back, evaluating the current situation, and determining if their criticism is still valid. As if the critic reserves the right to dictate who can change and progress and who cannot.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than among those who post comments online anonymously. The temptation to throw rocks from behind the shelter of anonymity is intoxicating. The thrill and vanity of being a faceless voice in the public square keeps the critic from recognizing that the gift anonymity has become a cloak of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy never looks back at its own shadow. It has no rearview mirrors. It expects but never offers apology. What power is there in an anonymous apology? The shelter of anonymity eliminates the need for the critic to account for anything.

In a day of increasing transparency, perhaps it’s time for the critic to reevaluate the point of aimless words and find a more constructive hobby.

There is no shame in admitting the present is not the past. Everyone has the right to change. Even the critic.

Why we know less than ever about the world

I watched a brief yet revealing TED talk this morning by Public Radio International CEO, Alisa Miller, titled “Why we know less than ever about the world.” Sadly, American news media spends most of their resources focusing on myopic issues, like personal tragedies in the lives of pop stars, while ignoring the rest of the world. Watch this four minute and twenty nine second clip to see the statistics and hear Alisa Miller in her own words.


Note to news media: Next time you’re tempted to report on something relatively trivial, like an athlete turned actor running from police in his white Ford Bronco, chances are high that something of true importance, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, is happening at the same time. If you don’t tell us, how will we know?

Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3)

Last night one of my sons asked me if we, the American Cancer Society, have a cure for cancer. I told him no, there is no all-encompassing cure for cancer. There are effective treatments and prevention methods but no “cure” in the sense he intended.


We’ve had several conversations over the past few weeks about the purpose of suffering and why so many seem to suffer without answers. What he was really asking is why do bad things happen to good people and who decides.


This weekend I’m taking him to Relay For Life, one of the American Cancer Society’s flagship events. I hope he will gain a wider perspective on suffering, hope, and the importance of perseverance. To see how powerful it is to give to those we don’t know, simply because we can.


I’ll also participate in the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). If you’re over 30 and under 65, have never had cancer, and are willing to fill out an annual survey for the next twenty years, I encourage you to come and participate in the study. There are several Relay For Life events across Georgia but this year the CPS-3 is only offered at Adams Stadium.


The data collected will be used to track life style, ethnicity, gender, and other factors against cancer rates in the 500,000 project volunteers.


If you want to give back in a personal yet private way, come to the Relay For Life at Adams Stadium  this Friday, 05/16/08, between 6:30 PM and 10:30 PM fill out a few forms, give a blood sample, and make a difference. What else could you be doing of greater importance this Friday night? It’s free.


Adams Stadium

2383 N. Druid Hills Rd

Atlanta, GA 30329


Enrollment Hours 6:30pm – 10:30pm


For more information on CPS-3, or enroll in the study in your area, go to cancer.org/cps3.


Living in a “Fill the Space” Age (Or the myth of emptiness)

Life is great and small

We are living in the “space” age. Not the science fiction version with flying cars and tight pants but an age where every moment, every space, must be filled.

In our cities homes are stacked on top of each other. We build in as much as we build out. Hollow space is considered either a potential commodity or a design flaw. If you have empty space, or “free” time, the American question is; what will you do with it? What will you do to fill the space you’ve been given to make it larger, to make it better?

In our market economy product saturation, or infiltration, presides. Competition for space in the most precious of all real-estate markets, the human mind, is in constant flux. It seems no space is too sacred for the adviser’s pen. The desire to fill ourselves, to fill our own sense of emptiness, makes nearly every space, and every item, exchangeable.

Nothing is its own for its own sake. All can quickly become a token, a trading card for something else to fill the ironically increasing void in our expanding world.

As we look deeper into the origins of life and farther into the expanse of the heavens we find that both are endless. The visible world is growing as we gaze into what we thought was invisible, with new eyes. Yet there is a harmony in what appears to be chaos. The order runs deep and balance is maintained. There are limits keeping order between the spaces.

While in this accelerating age of space filling I hope we will choose to value the sacred space of the human mind and stop catering to those who would exploit our most vulnerable locations.

Do We Know Enough?

 Collective

Today, as I look across Atlanta from my desk, my thoughts are drawn to the challenges of life. When I consider the thousands of people within my view on the downtown connector, in office buildings, and on the streets I’m led to ask this question; do we know enough? Do we know enough collectively to solve the big problems. Problems like violence, dishonesty, and apathy.

I’m optimistic. I believe we know enough to end dishonesty and violence in all their malignant forms. The question is; do we want them to end?

Here is one example. Are the millions who say they would never steal or kill willing to give up the rush of violence by proxy? It seems to be a great contradiction to praise peace while conditioning the heart and mind to enjoy brutality via the entertainment industry. If digital thieves and assassins are the heroes, who are we?

Of the thousands of people in my view every day, how many are suffering right now because the rest of us are slightly off course? Is our fast paced proxy culture distracting us from fulfilling our human design?

Are we willing to examine our collective appetite and make personal changes?

I’m not suggesting more laws or regulations. I’m suggesting we stop and ask ourselves if we know enough to make more of a difference with our time and our talents, than we’re making today.

We are each endowed with the right to self regulate. What will be our social foot print?

Conflict and The Law of the Instrument

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Abraham Kaplan, a Ukrainian born American philosopher, expressed what he called the “Law of the Instrument” in his 1964 publication “The Conduct of Inquiry”, as follows;  

Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.  

This describes the challenges we face when we attempt to apply one fix, or one answer, to everything. Particularly when dealing with conflict. When we discover a method for dealing with conflict that works for us in one situation, we begin to apply it universally. Intellectually, we know this doesn’t work, yet our response under pressure is a bit like the boy with the hammer. 

It can be tempting to formulate problems in ways that support our favored solution. If all our conflicts were exactly alike, without change, this might work. Fortunately, life has more than one variable and every situation requires flexibility in our approach.  

So what are the tools you pick up when a significant conflict enters your life? Is it time to revisit the tool box, explore your underlying interest, and discover new methods?  If you can improve your conflict resolution skills, you can increase peace in your world.