May 2008

The Tennessee Renaissance Festival was today. I’ve never been one for dressing up in costumes and play acting - but I do enjoy seeing it. Lisa, Brenda, Emma, one of Brenda’s friends, and I wandered around for several hours and had wonderful time - (see gallery here).

The nice thing about attending such an event is the opportunity to lose yourself - at least for a little while. You get a chance to forget about taxes, insurance, and mortgage payments and imagine what it would have been like to live in a simpler time. But there lies the rub…maybe what I should say is that our knee jerk reaction is to assume that the times would have been simpler.

I believe that we often make the assumption that other times and places are less complex, easier, fairer, and more idealistic than when and where we live. Having traveled a fair amount I’ve come to understand that everywhere has its own problems and idiosyncrasies. I’ve seen political and social turmoil in villages of third world countries that made my own life in the States seem simplistic by comparison. Political intrigue, social customs, cultural issues, and local mores exist that are all but undecipherable by the average American.

magic happens
But in truth I think we need the escapism. Once in a while we need the relaxation that comes from traveling through a culture or time without all of the baggage the exists (or existed). We need the magic — even if only for a day.

It comes in waves. One day I’ve got a sixteen year old and a grade schooler. The next day one is a 17 year old senior and the baby is in middle school. It’s not fair — you don’t even get to catch your breath.

Nathan turned 17 today and I’m feeling older. He looks good - growing up well. He’s polite, responsible, and generally a good kid. He has his moments…but so do the rest of us.

It seems like yesterday it was skates and skinned knees. Today his interests are perfume, gunpowder, and gasoline…three scents with the strongest effect possible on the teen age male (and some who just act like teenagers). Now its discussion of college and beyond and he presents reasonable concepts and ideas. Where did this kid come from? It seems like two weeks ago his ’solutions’ were another term for some hair brained concept. Today - that’s not the case and I’m the one struggling trying to keep up.

Emma graduated from elementary school today. Her next days in formal education will be a middle schooler. It is the way it is supposed to be, however, it still makes me feel a little bit older.

She’s a good girl who is growing up beautifully. Don’t get me wrong - there are plenty of times that I want to tear out what little hair I have left. One thing about daughters is that they know how to push buttons that I didn’t know I had. She can set me off quicker than anyone I know - and I’m not sure where she gets it from. According to her mom - she gets it from me. She’s probably right…she usually is.

Over time I’m sure I’ll get a little more accepting of this growing up thing. I’ve gotten used to it with my son…but there is something about daughters that make a dad want to fight it for all their worth.

Some things just don’t go together. Not everything is designed to perfectly co-exist. I don’t believe that anyone one thinks that haggis, a cooked sheep’s stomach and oat mixture created in Scotland, and milkshakes fit well together. Separately, they can be wonderful and exciting - together they could cause some to become a little squeamish. And there are other things that don’t work well together, either.

I know…I know. I’m not being very PC here. We live in an inclusive world where everything is tolerated and everything is a beautiful part of a breathtaking whole. Everything has it’s place and is supposed fit with everything else. At least this is what the pundents tell us.

Some feel that in a perfect world everything would mesh so perfectly that it would be difficult to tell where something ends and the next thing begins. But in my experience sometimes what allows things to fit together so well is the space that sometimes exists between them - providing safety, comfort, and support.

We have differences and differences can be beautiful and wondrous. There ARE differences in cultures, religions, races, genders, education, economics, society, and every other area that I can find. I’m not saying that some are good and some are bad - I’m simply saying that they are different. And different can be okay…it can be good….it can be excellent.

Let’s not think that we have to teach our kids that everything is the same or should be the same. Yes…we need to teach them to respect values, concepts, and ideas that are different from their own. We need to teach them to be open to learning and gaining the good that can be gleaned from understanding others that are different from ourselves. We need to teach them to that different doesn’t’ have to be good nor bad, it can just be different - and an opportunity to grow and develop comes from exposure to those differences.

Imagine how boring it would be if the world were bland and the same everywhere we look. We need to celebrate diversity and, at the same time, understand that because of this wonderful diversity not everything will perfectly co-exist. And sometimes it is the space between these differences which provides the cushion that allows them to exist with minimal friction. It gives us time to build bridges over theses spaces and to allow us to overcome any residual or lingering misunderstandings or limiting views.

It often seems that this pendulum swings to the extremes. Thirty years ago anything that was different from the status quo was dangerous and a threat to an established way of life. Today there are those who say that the status quo can’t be good and differences must be immediately incorporated and assume control over our lives. Whatever happened to moderation? Be open to change…be willing to consider that there might be value in the differences…and be willing to honestly consider the positive and negative impact brought upon by changes. Differences and changes must be given fair and impartial consideration concerning their value and the result of incorporating them into our lives, our work, and our thinking.

There exists all around us a wonderful, beautiful world full of mysterious and exciting treasures that can be culled from being open and receptive - but let’s not forget that it is okay if everything doesn’t go perfectly with everything else. There is enough space to share…enough space to be diverse…enough space to grow….and enough space to learn from and respect each other.

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