Meaning of Life

Think On: “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” EMIL BRUNNER, Swiss Theologian

It’s a given that most folks, including Tumbleweed, struggle to find meaning in their lives.  We hope for the best.  What if we lose hope?  What does life without hope mean?

Tumbleweed led a men’s book study a few years back based on psychologist and Christian apologist Dr Larry Crabb’s “Inside Out.”  It’s a great book, but not for the faint of heart who might be put off by its introspection.  God isn’t always gentle.  Anyway, Crabb suggests that we humans have certain longings: casual, critical, and crucial.  Casual longings might be preferring a red colored car or desiring tickets to a baseball game.  They’re not really vitally important to our lives.  Critical longings begin to position us toward being concerned with life’s meaning.  They are comprised of life basics like food and shelter. They are akin to the lower elements of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem).  When critical longings are being satisfied and we have time to dabble in casual longings, we might start to wonder at the meaning of life.  Why indeed are we here on this planet?  We might consider Maslow’s pinnacle of needs: self-actualization.  Ah, dear reader, we open the door to what Crabb calls crucial longings.  Guess what? You are unlikely to achieve them in this life.

Tumbleweed recently read clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning,” a book in which the author articulates his journey of finding meaning in life.  Spoiler alert!  He finds it in the New Testament.  Peterson sees life as a struggle to put order into chaos and has discovered that the solution is found in Christ’s teachings.  Going back to Crabb’s postulation of struggling to satisfy our crucial longings and having linked those longings with the meaning of life, we might be easily frustrated.

Some few of you may have heard of the Stockdale Paradox.  Admiral Stockdale was the highest-ranking U.S. officer held as a POW in Viet Nam.  Despite being kept in solitary confinement for 4 years, in leg irons for 2 years, physically tortured more than 15 times, denied medical care, and malnourished, Stockdale organized a system of communication and developed a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.  He put order into chaos.  Codified in the acronym BACK U.S. (Unity over Self), these rules gave prisoners a sense of hope and empowerment.  Many of the prisoners credited these rules as giving them the strength to endure their lengthy ordeal. Drawing largely from principles of stoic philosophy, notably Epictetus’ “The Enchiridion,” Stockdale’s courage and decisive leadership was an inspiration to POWs.  Stockdale was able to give the POWs meaning, and with that, hope.  Perhaps, we live our own Stockdale Paradox.

Tumbleweed contends that meaning in life requires hope.  We hold out hope at achieving our crucial longings, at self-actualizing, at attaining a life of significance.  All the riches in the world cannot hope to compare with the satisfaction of these sorts of non-financial achievements.  Just sayin’.


Think on: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, then to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows no victory nor defeat.” T.R. Roosevelt

Tumbleweed spent 8 years in a part-time gig as an adjunct professor of business at a local college, teaching management, finance, marketing, and the like.  It was a joy to share and impart knowledge.  Students would often ask about their careers.  The Tumbleweed answer was simple yet profound; as I’d draw three intersecting circles…a Venn diagram.  In the first circle, the student would put what they were great at; in the second what they were fully passionate about; and the third whether it could earn them a living.  The nexus was what author/researcher Jim Collins in Good to Great called the BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

That’s a long way to getting around to sharing Tumbleweed’s BHAG.  Perhaps, my experience will help you find yours.  As a freshman in high school, my English teacher had us memorize lines from Shakespeare.  I chose Marc Anthony’s soliloquy over the body of the murdered Caesar, “Oh pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth that I am meek and gentle with these beggars…”  I was hooked.  I wrote my first poetry.  Powerful.  Cathartic.  But life went on.  Tumbleweed sort-of-grudgingly majored in English with a history minor in college, partied heartily, then left the creative to get a job writing technical manuals for military systems.  That was a far cry from creative writing.  But the trail led Tumbleweed to other communication forms, like advertising copy, brochures, press releases, scripts, and websites.  In the background, poetry, the music of the soul, kept my creative juices alive.  Business pursuits kept the lights on, but…

At some level, Tumbleweed was fairly good at writing – and even passionate about it – yet couldn’t lift the craft to the ultimate, fully-dedicated heights of passion, as my creative writings weren’t earning income.  A couple of early novels danced from fingertips to computer keyboard.  Tumbleweed self-published a Christian men’s self-help book, Building Godly Manly Men.  (Generally speaking, men’s self-help books don’t sell…no exception here.)

So, have you read Thomas Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities?  I not only read it but attended a talk by the author at a hotel in downtown Washington, DC.  Wolfe was resplendent in white linen suit, expounding artfully on his craft.  Tumbleweed so wanted to be at that lectern, talking about his own books.  The fire had been lit.  I wrote another book, and then another.  The drafts sit gathering dust.  I published a novel for teen boys, Jackson’s Journey. It got good reviews on Amazon, and a few copies were sold.  Nice, but not a way to earn a living.  Had to keep the day job.

Then, Tumbleweed’s writing passion was truly rekindled.  I picked up a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of part of my Texas ancestral history along with a hand-scribbled family tree.  From that emerged an historical novel, biographical in nature, about Tumbleweed’s great great grandfather Nicholas Dunn titled Long Larry Dunn: A Texas Family Destiny.  (Long Larry was Nicholas’ own grandfather.)  The Texas tale inspired more poetry and led to self-publishing Life Unfettered, a collection of dozens of Tumbleweed’s poems.  I joined the Poetry Society of Texas, the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, and Catoctin Voices, a local poetry group.  Another Texas novel surged from my dreams and passions.  Cowboy Nation: A New Republic is a fictional account of a Texas successfully gaining independence from the United States.  Tumbleweed joined the Texas Nationalist Movement as part of the research for the book.  A third Texas historical novel, Recollections, about a cousin who was a railroad entrepreneur and helped build the Panama Canal is in the works today.

The dream, the vision, the passion lurks within.  Tumbleweed envisions sharing Texas with large audiences of western story aficionados.  And, I hope to vividly capture and share the stories of my own ancestors that immigrated from Ireland to settle the Texas frontier.  They were men and women of faith, hard-working, and able to endure life and find joy on the Texas frontier.  After all, everything is bigger and better in Texas.  No blarney.

So, what’s your dream?  Vision? Passion?  Just sayin’.

Utopia or America?

Think on: “The theory of Communism may be summed up in a single sentence: Abolition of private property.”  Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848

Tumbleweed has observed that there are actually citizens who think America should be a socialist utopia, a faux-paradise of equality.  It harkens me back to a few years ago when my then 13-year-old son upon being asked if it would be great to live in a utopian society responded, “Yours or mine?”  Profound!  And equality?  It’s about equality of opportunity, not sameness.

If any of the so-called intellectual elite out there have bothered to truly absorb Thomas More’s Utopia or Plato’s Republic or Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan or Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, they should be quickly dissuaded of the practical viability of utopianism as an undergirding form of governing people (aka, socialism).  Our founding fathers surely recognized this as evidenced by our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.  To the purpose of creating a free society of individuals that controlled their government rather than vice versa, they followed the philosophical teachings of John Locke in Two Treatises of Government and the writings of Charles Montesquieu.

As described by economist/historian Friedrich Hayek in The Road to Serfdom, governments based in utopian principles such as communism, Nazism, and socialism depend upon and eventually gravitate to tyrannical leadership if they don’t first fall socially and economically by their own weight.  George Orwell’s 1984 is arguably a variant on this process, keeping in mind that he was an avowed socialist.  Of course, some of those “intellectual elitists” point to a nation such as Sweden as a socialist success story; ignoring the fact that they’ve had to adopt capitalist techniques to prop up their economies and continue to suffer from failing infrastructure.

High school history books – or whatever they’re calling them these days – pay scarce if any attention to Woodrow Wilson’s espoused commitment to Hobbesian utopian philosophy featuring big government determining life as it should be lived.  Also ignored is the fact that Franklin Roosevelt’s key advisors studied Communism for years under Trotsky and Lenin.  Little wonder that FDR sought to apply Communist principles as the underpinnings of his New Deal.  Those programs were failing miserably, saved only by the political-economic aberration called World War II with its accompanying vast military buildup.

Tumbleweed could go on at far greater length as to the failures of utopianism, but suffice to say it’s quite scary when citizens – especially younger demographics in our nation – embrace socialist utopian thinking.  Keep in mind that these utopian states are godless societies.  Rights in such societies are issued by government, not by God.  Morality – or virtue, if you will – becomes a frightening variable, built on the sand of man’s musings of the moment rather than on the rock of biblical teaching.  The utopians evolve their morality from laws aimed at controlling the population.  Utopia is about crowd control, not individualism.  In a utopia, your individual creativity and motivation are unwelcome, as you must succumb to the central control…the government…the masters.  In the utopian-driven socialistic model, the welfare safety net turns out to be a spider web where the government spiders devour the hopes and dreams of its the individual victims.

So, Tumbleweed will go out on a limb here.  In a government as we have in the United States today wherein politicians and bureaucrats will go to great lengths to preserve and even increase their power, how can we the people regain the control that our founding fathers intended?  Draining the proverbial government swamp only scratches the surface, as entire industries are wrapped around the perpetuation of Leviathan, from healthcare to energy to education and so on. It’s like a metastasizing cancer on our nation.  Would that folks read the Constitution and restore us to its basic governance principles?  Just sayin’.

Social Media – Friend or Foe

Think on: “All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” PAUL MCCARTNEY Eleanor Rigby, 1966

Tumbleweed recently reengaged with social media and tested the Facebook waters.  I was quickly reminded of its addictive allure.  It can be enslaving.  I was reminded why it’s both friend and foe, as I viewed posts from family and friends.  In some instances, posts were downright startling in their lack of social engagement.  Liberals especially see things as black or white and often express views in rather sanctimonious fashion.  One of the scariest aspects is how people hide behind the masks of Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk.

Social media has become like a second skin to many, especially to what they call the Millennial Generation.  Whether in life or in the business world, it is an environment that must be faced.  It is defined as online digital communications between individuals and communities.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and the like represent an all-to-real contrivance of communities.

This 21st century phenomenon has a global reach; is mostly blind to race, gender, nationality, or intellect; enables far-reaching densely networked communities; fosters narcissism, loneliness, and isolation; and enables cultural tribalization.  “Whoa!” you might say, “How do communities foster loneliness and isolation?”  Well, we’ll talk about that.

First off, why is it importance to balance social media in life and business?  Anytime you have an imbalance, the implication is that something is out of whack.  Anytime that you obsessively or compulsively – or addictively – use anything to excess, other aspects of life and business necessarily suffers.  So, as with any excess, it is vitally important to achieve balance.  For example, drinking alcohol isn’t bad, but drinking to a drunken stupor is; having plenty of money isn’t bad, but worshiping the hoarding of money is; material things aren’t bad, but accumulating far more than you can reasonably use is; and so on.  Similarly, we cannot function in society, in God’s world, if we overly isolate ourselves from it.  You get the picture.

Tumbleweed suggests that there are three principle components to this isolation condition.  There is solitude defined as a physical condition of separation; there is independence which is a conscious choice; and there is loneliness which is psychological.  Social media by its very nature interferes with “real friends,” creates artificial distance (invisible protective barriers), fosters loneliness, and passively consumes yet broadcasts disconnection.  The social media disciple fails to recognize that it is the quality of social interaction, not the quantity, which predicts the degree of loneliness.  In other words, quantity creates a place in which you can become effectively anonymous.  The social media addict physically meets fewer people and by gathering less creates fewer bonds.  It also shields them from the realities of society.

Amazingly, most people fail to comprehend how social media has, as a consequence of its isolating nature, had a cocoon-like effect on our society as people struggle with interpersonal relationships.  It separates.  It divides communities.  Sitting in front of a computer or tablet has also led to more physical and mental ailments, as less exercise breeds obesity coupled with susceptibility to illness and mental health has deteriorated.  Little wonder that the behavioral health industry is flourishing.  You may wonder what this has to do with you and your life.  I would hope that answer is obvious, but you really must ask yourself, “What would Jesus have done?”

Solitude should be an overtly planned act, not one dictated by a smart phone.  We need solitude to recharge our physical batteries.  What do you do during this solitude?  You apply introspection, especially accompanied with prayer, to talk to yourself.  One of the best ways to do that is to talk to another person, one you can trust, to whom you can unfold your soul.  Oh, that other person is God.  Try it.  Trust me, it’s far better than the distraction of 846 supposed “friends” on Facebook, and the feedback is far more trustworthy.

If you’re feeling especially frisky have some friends over, check smart phones at the door, and actually talk.  Is social media your friend?  Social media can be friend or foe; but you make that determination.  Just sayin’.

Tyranny of the Left

Think on: “When one gives up Christian belief, one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality.  FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Tumbleweed doesn’t believe Nietzsche for a nanosecond, as old Friedrich never truly understood the fundamental Christian tenets of faith, salvation, and forgiveness that transcend evil.  That would require humility, and Friedrich was anything but humble.  Recall that Friedrich famously said that God was dead.  (Maybe the first five letters of his name describe his brain.)

Having had my fun with Nietzsche, let’s briefly examine how the excising of faith contributes to the title of this post.  The tyranny Tumbleweed refers to here is that of public opinion as driven by morality.  Imagine if the United States were to be ruled by the public opinion of the moment.  It might resemble the great coliseum in Rome where the fate of gladiators rested on the whim of the crowd’s thumbs up or down.  Thankfully, we’ve got a democratic republic and the Electoral College to prevent such tyranny of the masses.

Tumbleweed contends that there is a direct correlation between the continuous removal of religion from the public square and the steadily declining morality in our nation.  Recall “separation of church and state?”  It was defined in a 1947 landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Everson v. Board of Education which incorporated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as binding upon the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The decision in Everson marked a turning point in the interpretation and application of religious disestablishment law in the modern era.   Then on June 17, 1963 the Supreme Court in Abington Township School District v. Schempp made its famous “school prayer” decision.  This prohibited school officials from organizing or leading prayers and devotional Bible reading in public schools.  Few of us have actually read the decision, which means that we’ve been susceptible to successive opportunistic religious and political leaders – like a bunch of Nietzsche Chicken Littles blabbering about “kicking God out of the schools.”  It turns out that the Supreme Court ruling never banned prayer or the Bible from public schools. Students do have a First Amendment right to pray alone or in groups, bring their scriptures to school, share their beliefs with classmates, form religious clubs in secondary schools, and in other ways express their faith during the school day as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the others’ rights.

Tumbleweed contends that especially since the Schempp decision, our nation has devolved into near moral bankruptcy as Christian morality has been systematically excised from the public arena.  Ironic how a mere 60-second daily devotional exercise – feared by left-wing atheistic zealots – is viewed as threatening the outcome of a social-justice-based curriculum indoctrinating children every day for 12 years.

The bottom line is God-centered versus man-centered worldviews.  It’s whose you are versus who you are.  For those never exposed to or accepting of Christian values, it can be a slippery slope to cultural decay.  And even for those who claim to be Christians, too often human pursuits ease out Godly pursuits.  We dare not forget Romans 13:8-10, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Love your neighbor.  That can be a bit of a challenge in today’s social media driven society.  Love is mentioned as many as 538 times in the Bible, depending on the translation.  Tumbleweed has observed a not-so-subtle cultural engineering prevalent in social media, as the persons who control the menu control the choices people make.  This self-centered view fostered by social media has bred an intolerance that tears away at freedoms in schools, courts, and communities.  It’s a logical leap that the more social media with its aversion to Christian morality picks informational winners and losers, the less freedom Christians and others will enjoy.  It isolates us and presents easy socio-political targets for our enemies.  Indeed, we wind up with a mechanism that enables left-wing progressives and their socialist ilk to deliver on their tyrannical social, economic, and political views.  They wield the establishment clause as a hammer to remove every last vestige of religion from the public square.  With it go our freedoms.

Dare we be surprised that Biblically-based morality is fast-disappearing from our nation?  Dare we fight back against the tyranny of the left?  Why not?  Just sayin’.