Monthly Archives: March 2020

Mercy in a time of fear

I’ve been sorting out my responses to the crazy going on… it’s not like I’m not stressed, although coming down with Corona isn’t what fusses me.  It’s the other humans.

I have to admit, I have lacked grace.   I have let a lot of anger come into my heart and take up residence.

I don’t like it when the people around me aren’t chill.  I feel like I have to DO something to fix… when sometimes, that’s not my job.  I want us all to work together!  I want us all to be positive!  Let’s make the best of things and help each other!    Rah!

-puts down her pompoms-

But the folks who don’t have hope – those folks aren’t cooperating.   They’re sitting in fear, feeding it.   No amount of pompoms and positivity is going to change how someone whose hope is in this life feels when mortality knocks on the door.

I’ve been letting other people set my emotional tenor.  My reactions to other people’s reactions.

I’m not going to beat myself up – in the flesh – because it is natural that my flesh responds like this.  It is natural to pick up the vibe when you’re in a crowd (well, not in a crowd, in the grocery store separated by blue tape on the ground).   That’s flesh.   Okay.  That’s MY flesh.  -deep breath-  But from where should my attitude – and my actions – originate?   Not my flesh.  Not MY strength.   God.

I’m going to have to lean very very heavily on Him to get through this with mercy.    To speak, act, and THINK  with grace.

It’s time to give up doing on my own strength, holding on to my own ability to self-control, and turn myself over to God.  That’s my self-control now – controlling my thoughts enough to say, “God’s ways, not my ways” and asking for His perspective.

I’m not going to do it on my strength, and I’m not going to try to grit my teeth and force it.  I know where I stand – and I’m angry.   I’m hurt.  That’s as it is.   I can’t fix me, but God can.  I choose to let Him do what He will.

Ecclesiastes 7: 9-10 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.

We’ve been put here for such a time as this.   Time to play the cards we’re dealt.

Book Review: Social – Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect


“Why do we do what we do?  What are humans hungry for?  Why?”   Lieberman wrote a book taking a physiological tack at the human problem.   What is this social urge?  Where does it come from?  What makes our brains do the things they do?  He did testing with MRI machines and looked at which parts of the brain lit up for various events.

Lots of items of interest in this book!   I picked up any number of great nuggets of information, including the fact that, “Our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connection in much the same way they experience physical pain”, as well as confirming other reading I’d done about the approximate maximum size a person’s friend group is (150 – not much different than Aristotle would tell you).   It’s INTERESTING how much of our energy we put into other humans, and how profound our need is for other people.

Reading fiction and avoiding botox is good for your social IQ, and a mirror can help you with your efforts in self-control.   Change in your personal income doesn’t actually make you happier.   Watching people makes you better at figuring them out, which makes you better at life.    Some very interesting observations about the autistic community.

So what have we learned thus far?   PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT.  Community is important, incredibly important.   But what do we do about that?  Hmmm… well, first one identifies the problem, then one works on solving the problem.   That’s not what this book is for, although it did have some interesting things to say on theories of education.  (Teach them WHY and WHAT will follow – this is true for me, I do much better if you tell me “why”).

Having given Bowling Alone five stars, this book gets four.   It didn’t go in depth as much as I’d have liked on the results of the tests, preferring discussion of the brain itself.   There were any number of paragraphs and pages that could have been twice the length they were!  Not bad info, just… hello – can you expand on that a bit please?

Would you be interested in this book?   If you’re interested in the info nuggets, yes.  I think if you were just there for the nuggets, you could easily skim the other 1/2 the book about the way the testing was set up and which bits of the brain did what.  Grab it from the library sometime if you’re bored.

Book Review: Bowling Alone


20 years late to the party is better than never….

It’s the habit of most of my readers and friends online to discuss the whys and wherefores of community involvement, religious involvement, and “how did we get into the mess we’re in”.   This book looks at the correlative and causative factors in the demise of community involvement (from politics to religion to the Lion’s club) and gives some theories about what we might do about it, now that we’re here.

A short quote to sum things up:

“To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all, how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends, and neighbors are.”  (p. 120-121)

In other words, being a member of the Bumble Bee Association makes you more likely to vote or pick up trash – even those things have nothing to do with the Bumble Bee Association – at least, it does if you have to go meet with the other association members, not just cut a check and put it in the mail.    It’s extremely good for your children – and the other children in the neighborhood:

“Statistically, the correlation between high social capital and positive child development is as close to perfect as social scientists ever find in data analyses of this sort”.  (p. 296-97).   Correlation is not causation – but if you have that strong a correlation, it’s certainly worth sitting with!

Having social capital is a strong predictor of your income, your happiness, and your health.   Yes, joining a club is good for your health!  VERY good for your health.  Disturbingly so.

“Statistically speaking, the evidence for the health consequences of social connectedness is as strong today as was the evidence for the health consequences of smoking at the time of the first surgeon-general’s report on smoking”  (p. 327)

It’s not surprising that social capital benefits society.    It did surprise me how far the tendrils creep.  It surprises me further that this isn’t being trumpeted – perhaps that’s because the three things that seem to have the strongest correlation with a reduction in social capital were:  1) Watching TV as your major source of entertainment* 2) Increased commute times (even by as much as 10 minutes) and 3) Living in major urban areas (at least outside of close-knit neighborhoods, which have – to be fair – largely disappeared anyway).  Women working outside the home was somewhat correlative, but not causative – PT working moms were the most involved, more so than fully SAHM or WOHM, both of whom saw equal rates of decline in social connectedness.

That might be cause for some behavior change – if we took the information seriously.   You can’t do this alone – you can’t make social capital by yourself.  But you can take advantage of what appears, and you can encourage others to do so. .. Can you not?

The book itself was 400+ pages of social research with charts and discussion.  As a sociology nerd, I enjoyed it but it was …. long.   I recommend it to those prepared to do the work.   Or even those prepared to scan and snag ideas.   To those looking for a fun read?  Nah.

Data is always good.   Has anyone else read this?  I know I’m really late to the party.   What did you get out of it?



*This would, I should think 20 years later, include watching Youtube videos online or gaming as your major source of entertainment…. but I don’t have data.  In June, an update with a chapter about the internet will be available.