Worldview: An Open Letter to the Wizards of Smart

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

 

Dear educated so-and-so’s of every stripe,

We need to have a heart-to-heart. I admire the years of work and dedication you’ve put into getting where you are. I know, from my own intellectual and professional pursuits, how difficult, expensive, and time consuming your journey from layman to expert has been. I acknowledge without hesitation that your expertise does now and shall always exceed my own in your chosen field, and I am most often happy to pay you for the use of your advice or services.

That said, I need you to understand that I may know more about my situation and circumstances than you, and I may be far more educated on the topic at hand than you at first assumed. Just because I am a layman does not mean I am illiterate, and we now live in an age of instant, free access to virtually all of the amassed knowledge of mankind, which can be usefully navigated with a healthy dose of common sense and discernment. This recent revolution should be seen and utilized as the boon it is, rather than scorned and disregarded as noise.

I realize that this leads to an obvious problem. How can you tell me, the person who takes the time to know about things, from the other four hundred people you might see each day who simply don’t care? Well, at the risk of sounding trite, ask me. I want you to spend the first five minutes of our professional relationship talking to me, finding out what I know, and filling in what I don’t. You certainly have enough experience on the topic to know, in short order, whether I’m speaking from a point of sound knowledge, or simply blustering. It may seem frustrating and needless at first, but I promise you that it will save both of us time in the long run, since it will make our future communication far more efficient and effective.

In return, I promise to be open and honest with you about what I know and how I came to know it, as well as what I don’t know. There’s an equal chance that I have received bad information, as that you may have made erroneous assumptions. The truth, as they say, is most often in the middle. I would ask that you react to both my knowledge and my source with respect uncolored by your experiences with the customer before me. I am not them, just as I trust that you are not the same as the last professional I engaged, who fancied themselves as the sole arbiter of scientific knowledge.

So when I come to you to help me fix my car, or my computer, or my body, or my diet, or my exercise, I ask that you would do us both the favor of establishing a baseline of mutual respect and knowledge. We will both get more out of our interaction, and our business, that way.

Respectfully yours,

Cephas

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Is your coffee worth experiencing?

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

I can’t do much else when I’m drinking good coffee.

When I was a kid, I remember that my Mom was famous for never finishing a cup of coffee. It’s actually how I got started drinking coffee in the first place. She’d make a cup of Folgers Instant, drink two or three sips, and then set it down to go about the business of taking care of a home, a husband, and four kids. Inevitably, there would end up being a half-consumed, lukewarm cup of coffee laying around that I eventually started sampling (shudder).

At work, restaurants and elsewhere, abandoned cups of half-consumed coffee are a regular sight. People start them and get bored, or distracted, or otherwise just don’t want the rest. (The same thing is common with beer, come to think of it, and I suspect it’s for many of the same reasons.)

But I’ve noticed that I just can’t seem to replicate that scenario. When I drink coffee, that’s pretty much all I’m doing.

Seems counter-intuitive, right? Coffee is the perfect social beverage. It naturally lends itself to conversation, concentration, creativity and, generally, action. But so often, when I pour myself a cup of freshly roasted, just-ground, French-pressed Sumatra from my brother’s roastery, I can’t do much else but sit down and thoughtfully drink it.

Sure, I can write something, or have a quiet conversation with a friend, but those things become merely accessories to the experience of the coffee, rather than the other way around. Good coffee is dimensional. It tells a story with every sip, and the ending, at the bottom of your mug, is every bit as good as the first sip. It’s not just worth your attention, it grabs it with intense opening paragraphs, stirring plot lines, and compelling characters. Conversing over a cup of coffee becomes (at least until it’s gone) a lot like reading a book with the radio on.

We’ve all been at a good restaurant with good friends. The conversations and laughter are almost deafening, and the group is as boisterous as the proverbial three ring circus. But when the main course comes, there’s a sudden hush. The first bite of the carefully prepared, expertly cooked entrees seems to take each patron by surprise, and suddenly their focus is on nothing but the artistry laid out before them, until it’s done. Conversations and debates, however passionate, are abruptly abandoned.
If the coffee is good enough, such is the experience of drinking it.

If your coffee doesn’t compel you to stop, sit down, and experience it, maybe it’s time to ask why. And maybe it’s time to buy a pound from your local nano-roaster, and find out what I’m talking about.

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Is your coffee worth experiencing?

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

I can’t do much else when I’m drinking good coffee.

When I was a kid, I remember that my Mom was famous for never finishing a cup of coffee. It’s actually how I got started drinking coffee in the first place. She’d make a cup of Folgers Instant, drink two or three sips, and then set it down to go about the business of taking care of a home, a husband, and four kids. Inevitably, there would end up being a half-consumed, lukewarm cup of coffee laying around that I eventually started sampling (shudder).

At work, restaurants and elsewhere, abandoned cups of half-consumed coffee are a regular sight. People start them and get bored, or distracted, or otherwise just don’t want the rest. (The same thing is common with beer, come to think of it, and I suspect it’s for many of the same reasons.)

But I’ve noticed that I just can’t seem to replicate that scenario. When I drink coffee, that’s pretty much all I’m doing.

Seems counter-intuitive, right? Coffee is the perfect social beverage. It naturally lends itself to conversation, concentration, creativity and, generally, action. But so often, when I pour myself a cup of freshly roasted, just-ground, French-pressed Sumatra from my brother’s roastery, I can’t do much else but sit down and thoughtfully drink it.

Sure, I can write something, or have a quiet conversation with a friend, but those things become merely accessories to the experience of the coffee, rather than the other way around. Good coffee is dimensional. It tells a story with every sip, and the ending, at the bottom of your mug, is every bit as good as the first sip. It’s not just worth your attention, it grabs it with intense opening paragraphs, stirring plot lines, and compelling characters. Conversing over a cup of coffee becomes (at least until it’s gone) a lot like reading a book with the radio on.

We’ve all been at a good restaurant with good friends. The conversations and laughter are almost deafening, and the group is as boisterous as the proverbial three ring circus. But when the main course comes, there’s a sudden hush. The first bite of the carefully prepared, expertly cooked entrees seems to take each patron by surprise, and suddenly their focus is on nothing but the artistry laid out before them, until it’s done. Conversations and debates, however passionate, are abruptly abandoned.
If the coffee is good enough, such is the experience of drinking it.

If your coffee doesn’t compel you to stop, sit down, and experience it, maybe it’s time to ask why. And maybe it’s time to buy a pound from your local nano-roaster, and find out what I’m talking about.

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Uncomfortable Infamy

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941

 

It’s another one of my favorite and least favorite days. Like Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, and now Patriot Day, Pearl Harbor Day is one in which people update their Facebook statuses with pictures and quotes, briefly put on somber faces, and talk about remembering and honoring those who died. And then they tick the box of their annual moral obligation for another year, and go on looking at pictures of cats with things on their heads.

I submit that while remembering and honoring are fine and noble things, would it not be more useful, indeed more appropriate to talk about what happened and why? Would not the voices of those honored dead beg us to prevent future tragedies in any way possible? I don’t think we can honor their sacrifice properly without diligently trying to learn from and prevent the circumstances that precipitated the necessity of that sacrifice. This sort of discussion, while uncomfortable, is important, and today is an appropriate time to have it, lest we put it off indefinitely and fail to take its hard lessons.

The most painful lessons of days like today and 9/11 was that they didn’t have to happen. In the weeks, days and hours leading up to each of those attacks, there were signs that were ignored, intelligence that was discounted, and warnings that went unheeded. More than that, the circumstances that facilitated the possibility of those attacks were rooted in flawed policy and naïve beliefs about the nature of the world. Almost inexplicably, there are many today pontificating that we should again espouse those very same policies and beliefs.

I believe that the men and women who died on those days would be far happier if we were trying to figure out how to prevent future similar events, rather than simply “honoring” them with some sort of superficial sobriety.

This is part of a larger issue, for me. It is “impolite” to discuss difficult things (like politics) in polite company. It is “inappropriate” to talk about the reasons we have to send our young men into battle on the days we have selected to honor their service and sacrifice. The result of this mindset is, to me, that we never discuss those difficult things because they are uncomfortable, and that has led to redundant wars that cost us lives and strain our nation, and a political system so broken that no one believes it can be fixed. We should, and we must start having these discussions, and I can think of no better time, so long as it is done respectfully, than days like today.

An objective assessment of the histories of the two largest attacks on American sovereignty in the past century lays bare the fallacy, still being advanced as truth today, that if we leave the world alone, it will return the favor. One of the principal challenges of being a global superpower is that we must, in the interest of our own survival, discover and engage threats to us, our allies and our interests at home and abroad, before they precipitate into full scale assaults on our homeland and civilian populace. If we fail to do so, if we forget or ignore the lessons offered by the catastrophes of our past, we are guaranteeing that in the future, we will have to set aside yet more days to remember our fallen. And that in no way honors those who have already died.

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Why I Am Pro-Life

Or, “Stop Insisting that I Hate Women and Thump Bibles Just Because I Take a Viewpoint You Oppose.”

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

 

I am a Christian. I am a conservative. I am Pro-Life. But I am not a Republican, nor a fundamentalist, nor am I part of any alleged war on women. I am a libertarian (lower-case “L” intentional), who believes in things like the Fair Tax, limited drug legalization, electoral reform and a host of other causes that are as excellent as they are unlikely to ever be enacted. I draw the ire of friends and family members of all political persuasions with at least one of my views, such as my refusal to vote for a Republican candidate who I believe to be disingenuous just to oppose a Democrat candidate.

But nothing will so quickly alienate me from many of my friends and family than my stance on abortion. I am ardently and unabashedly Pro-Life, something that can bring even the warmest of friends to the verge of hurling obscenities. I must hate women and disrespect them. I must not believe that women have authority over their bodies. Surely my poor wife must be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, while I drag my knuckles around my cave and grunt. Equally, my Christian friends would shun me because I believe the Christian Right has done more damage than good to the Pro Life movement, and I’m not afraid to say so. To them I must be an atheist in Christian clothing, a heretic, a sympathizer of evil.

None of that is true, and this is why. My Christian faith does establish for me the sanctity of human life, and by that the evil nature of murder. But even most of my atheist friends would agree that innocent human life must be protected. Whether you believe, as I do, that we are made in the image of God, or that we are all simply stardust, everyone recognizes that the human race is something special, something different, something entirely apart from all the rest of known creation.

So the issue was never about protecting human life, because we all agree that that is a noble thing. The disagreement lies in the qualification of human life, and the characterization of the development of that life within the womb. And this is where I believe abortion advocates, more than those who oppose it, suspend their belief not in God, but in science.

At the moment of conception, the genetic information of each parent is combined into a new, unique, distinct and wholly other entity. It is a new, living organism by every definition, and so is no longer a part of the woman’s body, only contained within and supported by it. Further, the new organism is most definitely human, because its genetic makeup says so. It could not become a frog or a chicken or a palm tree, only a human being.

Inasmuch as one’s rights extend only to the point that they violate someone else’s, there is no such thing as a one’s right to terminate the life of another innocent human being. The new organism inside the woman is human, and it is alive. This is according to biology, not theology. It has committed no crime against the mother or society, and so is innocent. Any further argument regarding abortion depends entirely on some ambiguous definition of personhood, a definition that relies much more heavily on faith (of the secular variety) than science, and that has some truly dangerous and frightening conclusions if it is followed. Under the more vague definitions of personhood, the practice of eugenics becomes the only logical outcome.

This is where members of the Christian Right fall into an insidious trap. In their eagerness to embrace and proclaim their faith, they wail that abortion is wrong because God says so. That may be true, but it will never be a winning argument with an increasingly atheist society, because it is meaningless to them. And then they introduce instantly doomed initiatives like the Personhood movement, which can never succeed so long as its proponents push it as a faith initiative instead of a legal one. Abortion law was decided by the government, so only the people, through the government, can change it.

Even more uncomfortable for my moderate friends is the fact that the definitions I laid out above allow for no exceptions. There is nothing in the process I described that makes a child resulting from a rape less alive or less human, and certainly not less innocent. The exposure of the fallacy of sub-human life in the womb makes us face the cold reality that evil has terrible consequences. We, as a flawed race, as a woefully imperfect society, must come to terms with those consequences, and work to exterminate the evil, rather than the result.

Beyond that, if we admit to abortion being what it is, namely the termination of a human life, we then have to examine our own fault in the perpetuation of a great evil in itself. No one wants to admit complicity or support for evil, even if it was unwitting. But as we once were forced to confront and expunge slavery from our culture, so too must we face the unjust extermination of millions of innocent human lives, in order to avoid suffering or inconvenience ourselves.

And so, exiled by friends and family from all sides of the argument, I will take my advice from John Adams, and will “always stand on principle, even if [I] stand alone.”

Read more at my Worldview site...