Don’t Be a Dick

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 The Pacific North West, or Cascadia, is said to have the largest percentages of Nones in the US. Nones are those individuals who, when asked to state a religious preference on a form, enter None.

Nones are often atheists, sometimes agnostics of one kind or another, frequently people who were brought up in a Christian denomination and have left it, and very often people who say they aren’t religious but are spiritual. Some are very clear about what they mean by spiritual, others less so. But in any case, pretty much all of them, at one time or another have questions about morality, mortality, society, inter-personal relationships and lots of questions that start with ‘Why?’

As a minister, these are the people I seek to serve. I really don’t care if you believe in God, or the Goddess, or a Supreme Being, or Higher Power, or Odin, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Nothing at All. To me it doesn’t matter what you believe in, but how your belief effects your daily life. Does it give you strength? Does it guide your actions? Does it give you inner peace? Does it make you a better person? Does it allow you to get away with being a self-satisfied, egotistical, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, judgmental dick? Does it provide you with justification for doing exactly what you want and ignoring the wellbeing of others?

If it’s one of the last two, then we need to talk.

But you can be an atheist and be a dick as well. In fact, anyone can be a dick at times.

And that is what this blog is about. Not being a dick. How to avoid being a dick by accident, and even more so, how to stop being a dick on purpose

I don’t intend to talk about what I believe, because, for a start, I’m not going to try and sell you anything. And furthermore, what I believe in has nothing to do with whether or not you chose to act like a dick.

For example:

Today I was driving along a typical Seattle street; one lane east, one lane west and one turning lane in the middle. Up ahead was a traffic light, red. There were ten or twelve cars waiting for the light; a good number even for five o’clock. The car in front of me moved over into the turning lane, which changed into a left turn lane just before the traffic light, with a dedicated arrow signal. He did not signal, he just crossed the yellow line into the turning lane, and drove alongside the cars in front. Now he was the first car in the left turn lane.

When the left turn arrow turned green, he crept forward and started nosing in front of the first car in the right lane. As soon as the light turned green, he shot off down the street.

Leaving aside that driving in the middle lane for more than a car length or two is illegal, what a dick! I wondered, as I pulled forward and got to be the first car in line as the light turned red, how many of the drivers in front of me felt like chasing him down and ramming him, before beating him to death with a tire iron. (This is not a recommended response, by the way.)

However, the question that came to me was what led that driver to think he was entitled to do that? To randomly break the law and ignore the desire of the other drivers to get on with their lives without some idiot cutting them off?

Now this is a small, thing, perhaps. But put yourself in the place of the driver in the right lane, patiently waiting for the light to change, and suddenly, from your left, here comes another car just…taking over. I would not be surprised it this kind of thing annoyed you. And how many irritations does it take to ruin your day? To make you bad tempered and just a little bit more likely to do something dickish yourself?

In short, why did the driver do that, and what was the result?

Exploring what constitutes being a dick and what to do about it is what I will be considering in the weeks ahead. Until next time, be on the lookout for dickish behavior and ask yourself, “Do I do that kind of shit?”

 

 

 

So Much Anger

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For a lot of reasons I’m not going to look at Facebook today. I’m not going to listen to NPR, and I’m certainly going to avoid televisions. I might check up on some of the non=political people I follow on Twitter. Because I don’t want to get sucked down by the level of anger I see around me.

Not face to face, thank goodness. People still are mostly governed by social standards when they are dealing with real people, but Facebook has turned into a cesspool of bad language, insults and anger. Mostly anger. The other stuff seems to rise out of the anger.

As far as I can tell, people go online pre-set to lose their tempers. They have an insult ready, just in case. They know that as soon as they read something from someone they disagree with, they are going to want to scream at them in all caps. In short, they are primed to be a dick.

And even if they start calm, it doesn’t take long for the insults to fly.

Why is this?

What happened to disagreement over principals? To rational argument? To honest difference of opinion? Why, when you read something you disagree with, do you get angry?

Well, today there are a lot of people who are predisposed to getting upset, because they feel cheated. Other’s feel frightened, because they feel threatened. Still others feel like they somehow are being slighted or insulted, because other people don’t agree with them.

There was an election a few months back. Well, there are elections all the time in this country; we are kind of known for having them. And of course, if your candidate lost, it is quite understandable that you might feel disappointed. Maybe even sad. But many people are angry. Furious.

And on the other side the winners are angry that the losers are so upset.

Elections are won and lost all the time, and most of the time, people don’t even care. A lot of people don’t vote! But this time….?

Well, doubtless there are a lot of reasons. A lot of it stems from the fact that the campaign was so uncivil. The candidates were much more dickish than usual. This seemed to set the tone for everything that followed. Now everyone is expected to be aggressive.

Why? What are they so upset about?

In a word, disappointment.

People feel cheated.

Cheated out of what?

Out of getting what they wanted. Even the people who won feel like they are not being allowed to win fair and square, and get the spoils that so rightfully belong to the victors.

Now this is not the place to discuss the fairness or otherwise of our electoral system; everyone wins and loses using the same set of rules, stupid and unfair or not. It’s like a goal-kick shoot off at the end of a soccer match: nobody actually likes it, but you have to have a winner sometimes. It’s nice to win, but seriously, it’s terrible soccer. Same with the electoral college.

But going into a contest knowing that it’s rigged really leaves no room to complain afterward.

Now I understand that we all get upset when we don’t get what we want, or what we expect. Fair enough. But angry? How does getting angry help? How does anger get you what you want? How does the desire for revenge take you one step closer to where you want to be? How does calling people names solve any problems? And what makes you think you have a special right to feel disappointed? To be angry?

Some people say that it helps to let off steam. Alright. But if you are steam-powered, you just threw away some of your otherwise useful energy.

I have said in the past that anger is like holding a flaming coal in your hand, because you want to throw it at someone and hurt them. And who is it hurting, while you hold it? You. Just you. And even if you hit the person you want to hurt with your anger, how will this make anything better?

It won’t. The only thing that will help you get over disappointment is to make the things the way you want yourself. Does the world feel a little less safe than before? Work to make it safe again. Does it feel a little less caring? Show others that you care. Are you unhappy with the way things are going? Then work to push them in the right direction.

And honestly, the people you meet every day, face to face? Are they so different? And even if they are, and they behave like dicks, be the change you want to see in the world. Being angry will not help. It’s the first step to being a dick.