Opinion

Donald Trump and now Aaron Boone? What’s going on?

A well-known businessman, who spent considerable time on TV after he had made his money, was elected president — in case you’ve been living in a hole somewhere for the last year or so — despite not having any experience whatsoever as a politician.

Then, recently, the New York Yankees, who expect a championship every year and aren’t fond of learning curves, went out and hired someone whose playing claim to fame as a Yankee came with one swing 14 years ago. After his playing career ended, Boone entered the broadcast booth where he talked about the game.

Like Trump, Boone was beamed into the leaving rooms of those who paused to watch the program that featured him.

And now, like Trump, Boone must do some quick on-the-job training, becoming a modern-day manager.

Now, I don’t expect Boone to attack other players, managers or umpires on Twitter, the way the president has done when he unloads written salvos against anyone who dares to defy or annoy him.

What I’m wondering, though, is how did these men get their jobs? Since when is experience doing a high profile job no longer necessary? What made Trump and Boone the choice of the Electoral College and the best candidate to make the Yankees greater again, respectively? These Yankees, after all, were surprisingly great this year, falling one game short of the fall classic.

One word may answer that question: television. Somehow we have gone from the comical notion, years ago that “I’m not a doctor, I play one on TV,” to the reality of “I know better because I seem that way on TV.”

Long ago, in 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were running for president, TV helped sway voters, particularly those who watched an important debate. So, I suppose, it seems like a logical extension to imagine that TV helped fast track the careers of people who spent time sharing their thoughts, tag lines and observations with us through that same medium.

Sports and reality TV have commonalities. A sport is the ultimate live, unscripted event, where people offer off-the-cuff thoughts and analyses on fluid action. Each game and each moment can bring the unexpected — a triple play, an inside-the-park home run or a hidden-ball trick — that requires an instant reaction.

Similarly, albeit in a different way, the reality TV that brought Trump to the top of the political heap gave him a chance to respond to changing situations, offering a cutting analysis of the potential, or lack thereof, for people on his show.

While viewers watch these familiar faces and hear their voices, people can become convinced of the wisdom and abilities of these TV stars who become spokespersons and champions for their own brands.

So, does Trump offer any insight into Boone? The new Yankees manager may find that second-guessing other people is much easier than making decisions himself and working as a part, or a leader, of a team.

Trump has bristled at all the second-guessers. While he’s familiar with the media scrutiny, Boone, too, may find it irritating that so many other New Yorkers are absolutely sure they know better when it comes to in-game decisions that affect the outcome of a Yankees contest.

Perhaps what Boone and Trump teach us is that selling your ideas or yourself on TV has become a replacement for experience. TV experience has become a training ground for those selling their ideas to the huddled masses yearning for a chance to cheer.

by -
0 29

Strange as it may seem amid the frenetic shopping, the seasonal music and the rounds of holiday parties, there are some who are deeply lonely. They may or may not seem so, they may be among the elderly or adolescents, they may appear depressed or not, but they are indeed lonely. And lonely can be bad for one’s health.

Loneliness has lots of causes. For a widow or widower, the approach of the holidays makes more grievous the loss of a spouse. Holidays are typically family time, and one member is gone. Or perhaps a close friend has died and is sorely missed. For those who have outlived their contemporaries, the gaiety and excitement of the holidays are a sad contrast with their lives. Or with children and grandchildren scattered over three continents, it may not be possible to be together for the celebrations. Perhaps worst of all are those in unsatisfying relationships who are perceived to be coupled but are in reality painfully lonely.

Loneliness, health studies have shown, can cause increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, depression, accelerated cognitive decline and even trigger suicide. And in this world of electronic devices operating on the internet, even a phone call with the sound of a warm voice is now often replaced by a tidy and sanitized email or text message.

How are we to respond to such feelings of loneliness?

First is to be aware that those around us may not be so caught up in the spirit of the season. For those who have plenty, whether in worldly goods or in simple joy, this is the time for sharing. Sometimes it is not so obvious when others are hurting. If a neighbor is a shut-in, it is easy to guess that the person would like a visit, even a short one, or an errand run on their behalf. These are immediate solutions. But social isolation and loneliness are not necessarily the same. That neighbor may have few social connections but enjoy an existence rich with books, music or hobbies. On the other hand, loneliness is a subjective condition in which a person feels isolated, even if surrounded by people most of the time. That person is just as needy, or more so, for human interaction but that need may be harder to discern. Research at the University of California, San Francisco, reveals that “most lonely people are married, live with others and are not clinically depressed,” according to a recent article by Jane Brody in The New York Times.

Some more obvious remedies for those who are lonely or socially isolated to help themselves might be volunteering at a hospital or assisted living center, a soup kitchen or a nursery school. Giving to others in need brings its own rewards. Joining a group with shared interests — anything from quilting to trivial pursuit — can help. A book club or a class is a way to keep the mind engaged while perhaps finding others with whom to socialize. And the fail-safe solution for those who desire interaction with others is to get a dog. It is not possible to take a dog for its walk three times a day, day after day, and not get into conversation with someone along the way unless the walk is in the woods.

But back to how we can help others who cannot help themselves. It seems to me that one of the greatest compliments one human can give to another is the willingness to listen. This may sound easier than it really is. Many people practice mindfulness, being in the moment, meditation and so forth for their own enrichment. In order to listen to another person, to really hear them, one has to practice that skill too, until it becomes almost an art. We who live in our small villages, where people have more opportunity to connect with neighbors in the supermarket or at concerts or school baseball games, we are lucky enough, if we are so interested, to be available to listen to each other.

We can learn when we listen. And for the lonely, genuinely being heard is a balm.

“Hello and thank you for calling this multibillion dollar organization. We value your business. Please push ‘1’ to speak with someone in English.”

“Beep.”

“Thank you for calling. Please push ‘1’ if you’d like our address. Push ‘2’ if you’d like to find a store near you. Push ‘3’ if you need to hear your latest balance. Push 27 raised to the two-thirds power if you’d like to speak with a customer service representative.”

“Huh?”

“I’m sorry, we didn’t get your response.”

“I’m getting a calculator. OK, got it. Beep.”

“We understand you’d like to speak with a customer service representative. Is that right? Push the last two digits of the year the Magna Carta was signed [1215, actually] or ‘2’ if that’s incorrect.”

“Beep.”

“Please hold for the next available operator. We are experiencing unusually high call volume, by which we mean that you’re calling. The average wait time is nine minutes. We’re going to put you on hold, play mind-altering holiday music, and suggest, in an electronic passive-aggressive way, that you fend for yourself because this call won’t go the way you’d like.”

“What?”

“We mean that we’ll get to your call as soon as we can.”

“Uh huh.”

“Frosty the snowman” … “Jingle bells, jingle bells” … “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

“Hey, Buddy, did you do your homework?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Did you still want to speak with a customer service representative?

“Yes, I was talking to my son.”

“If you want to stay on the line, say ‘yes’ in two other languages.”

“‘Oui’ and ‘si’?”

“So, you want to stay on the line?”

“Yes!”

“Why?”

“I have some questions and would like to speak with a customer service representative.”

“We will get to your call as soon as we can. In the meantime, have you seen our most expensive product this holiday season? You and your son Buddy will love it.”

“What? Wait. I thought you were a machine?”

“Out of the depths of despair and into the realm of the impossible comes a product so wonderful and spectacular that we’re offering it only to those people who waited on line for hours to see ‘E.T.’ or ‘Star Wars.’”

“Wait, how do you know about the long movie lines I used to wait on? Who are you?”

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

“Now you’re playing hold music?”

“Dad? What’s the matter? Why are you holding the phone so tight?”

“It’s OK, Buddy. I’m just trying to speak with someone at this awful corporation.”

“Hi, this is Heidi. Can I get your first and last name?”

“Hi, Heidi, my name is Dan Dunaief.”

“Can you please spell that?”

“Sure. Can you?”

Silence.

“You don’t have much of a sense of humor, do you, Heidi?”

“I have a great sense of humor. That wasn’t funny.”

“Sorry. Please, don’t disconnect me. I just had a question about this product. You see, I’m not sure about the
instructions.”

“Oh, that’s not my specialty. If you hold on, I can connect you to our automated instruction line.”

“No, please. I don’t like automated phone systems and would rather speak with a person. Can I speak with
someone else at your company who knows about this product?”

“The only other alternative is to send your request through the internet. We have an email address. Do you want that?’

“I have that. Can someone talk to me on the phone about this product?”

“We don’t do that too much anymore. We have automated systems that are overseen by artificial intelligence programs. That’s your quickest route, route, route, route, route.”

“Heidi?”

“Yes?”

“Are you real?”

“Are you?”

by -
0 34

Here is an interesting bit of research about our friendly computers, one which some of us had already intuited. I will quote from an article in the Nov. 26 edition of The New York Times Sunday Business section: “[A] growing body of evidence shows that overall, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.”

Wow! That means a victory for pen and paper. That means classrooms filled with students busily typing notes as the lecturer speaks are doing themselves a disservice. Ditto for those paying big bucks to attend seminars, workshops and the like, who are shortchanging themselves.

“In a series of experiments at Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles, students were randomly assigned either laptops or pen and paper for note-taking at a lecture,” The Times reported. “Those who had used laptops had substantially worse understanding of the lecture, as measured by a standardized test, than those who did not.” Also those students who routinely used laptops in class did significantly less well at the end of the semester.

Because the notes taken on laptops more closely resembled transcripts than lecture summaries, the theory goes that the lecturer’s words go straight to the students fingers, which are typing faster than they can write, without going through their brains first for processing. To take notes by hand, the listener has to abridge the lecturer’s words in order to keep up and so must consider the essence of what is being said. Enter the brain.

Honestly, I am not a Luddite, looking to smash modern inventions and disavow progress. On the contrary, I marvel many times at what the computer and the internet can do. For example, it is so much easier for me to write my column, rearranging words and whole paragraphs with just the click of the mouse and a couple of keys. Before computers, I practically drank whiteout. And as I am writing, if there is something to check or research, I can engage the internet, get the facts and continue the column with only that brief interruption. So much for the encyclopedias of my youth.

But I still believe there will always be a place for pen and paper. There are instances where jotting something down quickly is easier and time saving compared to pulling out the computer, turning it on, finding the right file and typing in the info.

And then there is my real problem with computers and the internet: addiction. Most people, especially parents with teens, would agree that electronic devices are addicting. It is difficult to get kids to put down their cellphones in favor of conversation. Researchers in Utah are even studying a spike in teen suicides there in the last five years to see if there is a connection. Some 14 percent of the teens had recently lost privileges to use their electronics. Further there has been an increase in teen suicides from 2010 to 2015 across the nation, at the same time as social media use has surged. Teen suicides had declined in the two previous decades, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much more research is required before deciding cause and affect here, but anonymous bullying, made possible by Facebook or Twitter and other social networking services, in addition to relationship problems thought to result from diminishing face-to-face interaction, need to be evaluated.

It is not just kids who are so attached to their electronics. I chuckle when I see couples or whole families in restaurants, awaiting their food orders, completely absorbed in their cellphones. Then I feel sad for them. Conversation with people I enjoy is such a major part of life’s pleasures for me, and these phone addicts are missing that opportunity. I can only hope they are texting each other.

by -
0 39

Thanksgiving Day has passed but the thankfulness lingers on. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be appreciative and to give thanks for the richness of life. I understand that there are even clinical studies showing that such feelings promote health. So on such a crusade, here’s what I suggest we can all be thankful for at this time.

For starters, let’s consider the weather. Amid the chaotic political climate, our weather has been serene right up to the end of November. When my family visited, we could walk the beach, stroll on the roads, play touch football — they did, not me — and just bask on the front porch in the sun. It was so warm, we could have been in Florida. And there was nary a raindrop in sight.

The warm temperatures have delayed the falling leaves, and many trees and bushes still offer bursts of glorious color. Even a drive on Northern State Parkway in traffic can actually be a pleasure, at least aesthetically. We know that the trees will soon be bare so this late autumnal show is particularly to be appreciated. The birds are still in fine chorus, the rabbits are bopping around in plain sight and the squirrels are playing between tree limbs even as they are busy gathering their acorns.

The satisfactions that come along with a visit from one’s family are grand. Despite any high-spirited political discussions, the sight and success stories of children and grandchildren fill one’s heart. My four grandchildren are at an age now when mighty accomplishments seem within reach and future possibilities appear limitless. Two are in college, each pursuing their respective dream of filmmaking and music composition; the third is visiting colleges between her volleyball tournaments; and the youngest is a star baseball player in high school, which is exactly where he wants to be on his hoped-for career in the majors. They are not frivolous in going about realizing their goals. They understand that academic excellence is required, and they work tirelessly at that task. During their visit, they could be found doing physics homework, prepping for the SATs and, to my great delight, practicing on their musical instruments. They, and we, have reached the stage where their music soars, even during practice. Gone are the squeaks and sour notes of yesteryear.

My children and their spouses are doing what they want to be doing and finding satisfaction in their particular successes, which gives me untold pleasure. They have also reached the stage in their parenting where they can appreciate their own parents. Three of my grandchildren are still teenagers, and I know of no harder job than the raising of teens. My children can look back now and sometimes marvel at how their parents handled those years. They might even ask for a bit of advice. That, of course, gives us grandparents further pleasure because our children have now become our friends. And for our part, we can ask their advice in turn. It’s a wonderful stage of life for us oldies. We can enjoy the capital gains of our investments in our children and the dividends with our grandchildren.

Ultimately what is it that really makes us thankful? I don’t know anyone who gives thanks for their Mercedes or diamond tiara, much as it may be fun to have those symbols of accomplishment. To be really thankful is to have what will outlive us — those we love.

The fictions start when we’re young.

Santa Claus is coming to town. Oh yeah? Well, hopefully he isn’t traveling on the New York area transit system, which seems to be making two types of stops these days: late and later.

Certainly, young children can and should revel in the stories that animate this time of year, when cold and snow usually replace warm and bright weather.

And yet it might be a good time to reflect on the myths of our youth, just to compare them to our realities. Let’s start:

• Everyone gets what they deserve or what’s coming to them. Hmm, does it seem fair or merit based that some of the finest teachers in the country, who serve as an inspiration to children year after year, earn barely enough to afford modest cars that warm up just as they arrive at school? Compare this iniquity with athletes who spit at each other, curse at their coaches, fight on the field and charge people for autographs, yet are earning exorbitant salaries to play children’s games.

• It’s the beauty on the inside that counts. That sounds nice and, in some cases, it actually plays out that way, as people cherish the character, spirit and energy of the person they meet, rather than dwelling on how much they fit the modern ideal for a man or woman. And yet for every magazine cover with a regular-looking bloke or woman, there are 10 or more who look like lithe or buff caricatures of real people.

• Slow and steady wins the race. Yeah, maybe for turtles and rabbits, but everyone is racing to win, win, win at all costs. Sure, patience and gradual steps toward a goal make sense, but a capitalist society is driven by those who are the first movers, who make the unexpected discoveries and who patent their method, idea or product first.

• Winning isn’t everything. Oh, no? It sure does seem like cause for enormous celebrations. The Winter Olympics are coming up in February. Will we revel in the effort the athletes took to get there, will we celebrate the man or woman who finishes fourth, and will we congratulate the athlete who didn’t make it to the medal round? Maybe, but then again aren’t we more likely to remember the names and achievements of those who finished first or, gulp, second?

• Be who you are. That sounds lovely, but doesn’t that depend on what state you’re in? In some states, if who you are involves altering gender expectations, that might be problematic. Yes, we are all urged to celebrate ourselves and our identity, but others don’t necessarily join the party if they feel threatened by those we embrace.

• Truth, justice and the American way. No, I’m not referring to Superman here, although those are the words from the famous comic book hero. Listening to people fight about the direction of the country suggests that the American way isn’t what it used to be. Ask President Trump, who is so fond of deriding what he describes as “fake news.” We as a nation can’t agree on truths anymore, because we have become so adept at fighting the appearance of disagreeable facts.

• Happily ever after. This catchphrase depends on whom you ask, but seems to involve riding off cheerily into some sunset aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Years like 2017 can present bumps in the road, the way acne suddenly appears on the face of a developing teenager. That doesn’t mean life won’t involve a “happily ever after.” Maybe we should revise the homily to suggest that it will likely require work, in which the payoff, down the road, is worth the challenges.

by -
0 169

Here we are, Thanksgiving Day, and I’d like to share some things I’m not thankful for. I recognize, of course, all that I do have to be thankful for, but in this moment and in this year it seems fitting to make a not-so-thankful list.

Nicknames: They’ve become ubiquitous. I never liked the nicknames Joe Girardi had for all the Yankees, usually adding a “y” at the end of their last names. Why? Is Gardner too hard to say?

I’m also not a huge fan of the nicknames the president of the only country not in the Paris climate accord has given to all his adversaries and nemeses.

I ask, in all sincerity, does the man occupying the White House who gets to fly on Air Force One have a positive nickname for anyone? Does he, for example, call anyone “Superstar” or “Force of Nature,” or simply “Champ”? Does he think anyone is a “dynamo,” “real winner” or “miracle”? No, I suspect he doesn’t because that might mean that their superpowers would be comparable or, gasp, stronger than his.

Pundits: Everyone on TV, in the comment section of news articles and on the internet seem to know better than everyone else. Some of these pundits seem to be playing a game of mad libs where they change the names, dates and details about their punditry, but their perspectives and their “shame, shame, shame, he’s a bad Democrat/ Republican” outrage get old incredibly quickly. If you have no new thoughts, then don’t pretend to offer something new.

I’d enjoy it if a newscaster said, “And now we’re going to turn to someone that hates Republicans who, no doubt, will offer an oversized portion of outrage.”

Fake news: It’s a convenient label for those who don’t like what they hear. It’s a way to undermine the messenger. I know there are news organizations who play fast and loose with the facts. There are also members of the media who have made a point of blending editorial and news, decrying the lack of moral — or even logical — leadership in Washington. Still, many reporters are eager to find facts and to give people a chance to make decisions for themselves. Ultimately, many journalists are serving society by shining lights in dark corners and by sharing information that informs the public. Without the news, people would need to rely on official sources to tell them their version of the truth. That doesn’t sound very democratic.

Deliciously evil desserts: Around this time of year, cooks in places like The Good Steer make incredible pumpkin pie. Why does it have to taste so good and why can’t I stop at just one or six pieces? Can’t they add string beans or cauliflower to the pie to make it slightly less palatable?

Misspellings and myselfisms: I know that seems incredibly elitist and English-language snobby of me, but I bristle at emails urging me to do something before it’s too late. I would like to reply that it’s “to” late to correct their emails. As for the “myself” problem, I have heard someone say several times in the last few weeks, “If you have a problem, you should talk to Ted or myself.” Really? My problem is that if you took Ted out of that sentence, you’d be suggesting people talk to myself.

Teenage odors: Yes, I know the teenagers are growing, their hormones are surging and they are some of the most active people on Earth. Still, get a group of them in a room, in a car or in any confined space and you might long for the innocent days of diapers and spit-up.

by -
0 89

Joe Biden has written a book called, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” about one year in his life. A memoir, it deals in part with the illness and death of his elder son, Beau, from brain cancer at the age of 46. I have not read the book. It just came out this past Tuesday, Nov. 14. But the coincidence of the book’s release on the day my husband died at a similarly young age exactly 30 years ago from cancer has connected me to Biden. I know what he went through — the shock, the pain, the hope, the heartbreak, the grief and the end that ultimately comes crashing down into silence. Then he faced the absolute necessity of having to pick up and function because life moves on with every passing day. And we must move on with it because there is no respite for the living.

Biden also writes about his difficult decision not to run for president in the 2016 election and about the foreign crises in Iraq, the Ukraine and Central America as part of his workload during that one year.

“I wanted to write precisely about the crises and dilemmas I faced as they intersected in the moment,” Biden told Philip Galanes in an interview with The New York Times. “I wanted to show that in the ebb and flow of life, nothing is totally separable.”

I know that Biden was lucky to have those other facets to deal with, just as I was lucky to have a huge challenge almost immediately after my husband’s death.

Two of my sons were away in college, the third was a high school senior and the newspaper was being challenged by the Communications Workers of America to unionize. A reporter on my staff, who had already made his mark by unionizing the teaching assistants at Stony Brook University, brought the union to my door. He turned his attention to our hometown newspaper, despite the fact that there wasn’t a community newspaper in all of New York state that had a union. Shoestring budgets and multitask jobs preclude coordinated decision making with a union. The CWA was attracted, I guess, because it represented new territory to conquer. The only problem was that community newspapers are not flush with profits and do not have large staffs to join a union. Nonetheless, we had to fight them off for six months, as they handed out pamphlets with all sorts of painful charges to get our staff worked up against the company. The climax came with an appearance before the National Labor Relations Board in a room without air conditioning in Brooklyn on a hot June day. The pickings were turning out to be pretty lean for the CWA, and they backed off.

Throughout the ordeal, I was wildly angry. I wasn’t getting a chance to grieve. Each day I had to rush to the parapets to defend the honor and integrity of the newspaper against what was to me a ridiculously unequal battle. I barely gave any attention to my grieving son who was still at home, nor did I have a chance to pour out my own grief somewhere in a quiet corner. But I did realize how fortunate I was in those who came to my defense. We had absolutely no money to hire a labor lawyer, and we had no idea how to respond. But the newly retired union leader of the Long Island Rail Road came into my office and offered his help.

Harold Pryor was the man who had terrified Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R) during contract talks by calling wildcat strikes from his totally loyal followers, directing them to abandon the trains at the nearest station during rush hour. Pryor was living in the area and teaching at Stony Brook University. When he found out what was happening to our newspaper, he thought it was not only unfair but also idiotic. He came to advise me through the thicket of union maneuverings, and he brought with him an experienced lawyer to defend us during the hearing.

It was a script worthy of a movie. Here was this feared union leader facing off against one of the largest unions for the sake of a peanut of a newspaper. Jimmy Stewart would have played his part in the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And thanks to his aid, we emerged unscathed.

Only after it was all over did I realize that life had thrown me a life preserver, much as it had for Biden, and therefore we hadn’t drowned in our grief.

We rarely get anything completely right the first time. I’m not just saying that because I’m a second child. I idolize my older brother. In fact, I’m fond of my younger brother, too.

We need practice. When we’re young, we take a few steps and we fall hard. Fortunately, at that age, we’re practically made of plastic, bouncing off the nearby floor as if it were a downy soft trampoline. As we age, the floor gets harder.

With each figurative step through life, we make adjustments, learn on the fly and revise our approach.

We recently visited a few colleges with our daughter. The cheerful school representatives were selling us on the idea that their classes were great, the students they admitted were incredible and the opportunities were extraordinary.

One theme that stuck out, especially after several schools presented it as if unique, was that they made students uncomfortable. They wanted to challenge their undergraduates to reach outside their comfort zone. They wanted eager students to fall down and, in so doing, learn to get back up.

This idea of falling is part of the charm of enjoying the ride. We listen to elementary school music concerts in which someone plays a few notes after the conductors arms have stopped moving, we nod encouragement when the young person on stage says a few of the wrong words in a speech, and we suggest to our kids that they’ll spell “because” correctly the next time.

The country may have forgotten that our strutting president, who has been in the public eye for so long, has never been a politician. He’s definitely outside his comfort zone, acting like a president when he hasn’t even been, to borrow a phrase from him, “elected dog catcher.”

People pounce on every mistake, every breach of protocol and every misstatement, ready to tar and feather him for saying or writing something that probably would play better on a fictionalized reality TV show than it does for him as president of the United States.

He’s so eager to be a part of every story and to expand his brand — something he’s been doing reflexively for years — that he doesn’t appear to take the time to recognize or
acknowledge mistakes.

I know how it is to say, “my bad.” Many people consider admitting a mistake some sign of weakness, instead of a reflection of strength and self awareness. Erring, as the saying goes, is human.

You don’t get many free passes when you’re president. You either learn or you don’t, you either unify or you don’t, and you either say or do the right thing, or you don’t.

Still, it seems to me that he might endear himself to more people, and win higher ratings, if he took a few extra seconds to think about whether he might write or respond to something in a different way. He doesn’t seem burdened by the kind of reflection that allows for his own second thoughts to enter the discussion.

People are eager to rip him apart each day, but let’s remember something his handlers and cohorts seem to embrace regularly: He gets angry when people point out that he’s fallen down. Maybe he can meet us halfway, by learning to take an extra second to edit his thoughts or speech. When he takes a few steps without falling, we can breathe a sigh of relief, the way parents do when they’re no longer bending over to protect their children from bumping their heads on nearby coffee tables.

Your phone is across the room. You want it to come to you and you put out your hand. Nothing happens. You scrunch your face and flex the muscles in your outstretched fingers, but, still, nothing happens.

Someday the iPhone C (for 100) or iPhone M (1,000) may fly through the air when you reach for it (avoiding people’s heads along the way). And, someday, we may figure out how to use the energy field described in such detail in the Star Wars franchise.

Yes, just as the new iPhone X (a mere 10) arrives at Apple stores, Star Wars is revving its intergalactic engines, bringing an aging Luke Skywalker and his rebel friends back, yet again, to battle with evil.

At the heart of the franchise is the Force, which would be a convenient skill to have when we can’t find the remote control or our phones.

So, what is this Force and do we only acknowledge it in the movies?

Thousands of years ago, long before Darth Vader, when primitive people struggled through a drought and needed rain, they prayed, they did rain dances or they carved images of rain in the walls so that future archeologists and artists could analyze and appreciate them years later.

I’m not minimizing or trivializing religion or a belief in any deity. I am suggesting, however, that the Force and the battle between good and evil and the free-flowing energy that is a part of this mythology come into play in our daily lives.

As we prepare to walk out the door, our shoelace snaps. We don’t have time to take the lace out of the shoe and put another one in. We’re also not completely sure if we have other laces handy.

We demand to know “Why now?” from the lace. We might even get annoyed and say, “No, no, no, come on! I can’t be late.”

To whom are we talking? Are we personifying the shoelaces so we can complain? By expressing our frustration to the shoelace, perhaps we are externalizing our anger.

But, maybe the dark side is challenging us in a moment of weakness, encouraging us to get angry, to take off our shoes, open the door and throw them deep into woods?

We get into our car and turn the key. It doesn’t start. We hold our breath. “Please, please, please, you can do it,” we beg and try again.

From whom are we asking for help? Are we seeking assistance from a deity who might be nearby or everywhere? Are we speaking to the inanimate engine, hoping that Bessie, like Herbie the Love Bug, will come to life, rev her engine and shift back and forth from one tire to the other in a happy car dance? Maybe we promise Bessie a refreshing oil change if we can just get to work today.

Or are we talking to a Force that makes things go our way, the way we hope a Force encourages our loved ones to answer the phone while we’re waiting for them or our favorite team to succeed in the moment?

We may hope many of the objects we talk to, apart from our electronic friends Siri and Alexa, will respond to our needs, the way earlier people hoped that their efforts affected the weather.

Movies may come and go from the big screen, but we live through our own nonintergalactic battles, escaping from the shadows of our fathers, perhaps, or finding our own destinies. As we do, we may turn to some version of the Force, or something like it, for help in a pinch.

Social

4,825FansLike
5Subscribers+1
997FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe