Extremism vs. Moderation: A Balancing Act

BLOG- MODERATION2 In August, a child tried to push over a street performer. The performer was standing on a balance board on top of a ball on top of a five-foot high stool. The performer didn't fall, and after finding his balance, called out to the kid, “Hey that wasn’t cool.” Then he said to the kid's parents, “Some people should really use a condom.”

Why would that kid do that?

Is balance boring?

Maybe that’s why we “push things” to extremes.

Think about it:

Everything in moderation. There’s a happy medium.

How dull is that?

We prefer extreme sports, binge drinking, ultra-orthodox and radical feminism.

We polarize ideas and fight for absolutes: Nature vs. Nurture Liberals vs. Conservatives Eastern Medicine vs. Western Medicine Phonics vs. Whole Language Vegans vs. Zealous Carnivores

Versus or vs. means against, which implies a fight, or hostility towards. And in a fight there is always a winner and a loser, someone who is right and someone who is wrong.

So is that it, at the base of it all, the need to be right?

According to Terry Real, a family therapist, one of the five losing strategies in marriage is the need to be right. (See: When Your Marriage Breaks.)

But needing to be right is pervasive in our culture, if not the world. It feels imperative to have a strong, adamant stance, a clear point of view, or else people will think you’re weak or wishy-washy. Or worse, boring.

Ironically, I think it’s more boring to be absolute. For example, take Bill O’Reilly. I’m not making a political statement here. I’m simply talking about one man who always sounds like he’s in a fight with someone, about something. He’s unwavering in defending his perspective, and it’s polarizing. He loses credibility because he’s so extremely resolute.

And simply put that’s less interesting, to me, than trying to synthesize opposing ideas, or create new ones.

"Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings."                                                                                                                            ~ Rumi

Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

BLOG- TOM BRADY 2BLOG-TOM BRADY 3BLOG-TOM BRADY I cheated. Once. I was in 11th grade.

I didn’t know I had an American History test, and when I walked into my classroom and realized I had one, I panicked.

I had an “A” average that I wanted to keep. Suffice it to say, there was a part of me that felt justified. I rationalized that if I had known about the test, I would’ve studied, and done well. And not knowing about the test was sort of, kind of, not my fault.

I had to make a quick decision: cheat or don’t cheat.

I hid my stack of notes under my test and thinking my teacher oblivious, I chose: cheat.

Of course, I was caught. And the humiliation and shame I felt was way worse than if I had failed the test. But usually, when someone decides to cheat they’re not imagining getting caught; they’re fantasizing they’ll get away with it.

What I didn't contemplate at the time was how I would feel after the test, knowing I’d cheated to get a specific result.

I’m not a football fan. I don’t like many things about the sport, in particular, aggression, but also the issues presently circling the game: domestic violence, sexual assaults, player concussions and higher rates of dementia.

However, I will say that Deflategate (the scandal determining if the Patriots intentionally deflated balls, which makes them easier to handle) has caught my attention.

I guess what I’m thinking is that if I felt guilty about cheating on a test in 11th grade, what were the Patriots thinking? And now that they've won Super Bowl XLIX, how does the team feel?

It’s not confirmed that the balls were deliberately tampered with but it seems evident that they were. And I’m wondering why a winning team would bother. After all there are consequences for getting caught. Besides fines and penalties, your team’s integrity is questioned and good old-fashioned American values like sportsmanship and honesty are diminished while money, glory and winning take center stage.

What ever happened to:

You win some, you lose some.


It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game?

According to Stephen Mosher, a professor at Ithaca College who studies sports ethics, “It’s certainly accepted as part of the culture that you game the system as much as you possibly can, and if you don’t get caught, it ain’t cheating.”

Maybe it’s that mentality that has given us a slew of scandals to consider, starting with Watergate, the political scandal in 1972 that forced President Nixon to resign rather than be impeached. The Nixon administration was accused of cheating and then lying after breaking into Democratic National headquarters.

The suffix “gate” has come to be used many times since 1972, especially, but not exclusively, in regards to football scandals.

To name a few, there has been Bountygate, a scandal in which members of the New Orleans Saints were accused of paying out bounties for injuring opposing team players.

Spygate refers to the incident when the New England Patriots were disciplined for videotaping sideline defensive signals from New York Jet coaches.

And now there is Deflategate.

So what’s the drive?

Is it money? Is it fame? Is it power? Is it winning?

Tom Brady, led the Patriots to victory in Super Bowl XLIX, and is now a 3-time winner of the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award.

The thing I don’t understand is that how you play the game actually does matter. You might achieve a victory; but if you cheated to accomplish that goal, did you really win?

I’d say if your goal is to be illustrious, at least in this country, the answer is yes.

We might want to think about that.


Teach Children and Change the World

BLOG-EDUCATION On October 9, 2012 the Pakistani Taliban shot 15 year old Malala Yousafzai in the head. She was on her school bus.

On April 14, 2014 Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist organization, kidnapped 276 female students in Nigeria.

On December 15, 2014 the Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people (132 of them children) in a school in Peshawar.

Terrorists understand that education corrodes extremism.

Terrorists understand that education is the most powerful force to transform society.

That’s why they keep attacking schools and school children.

It is unthinkable and utterly disturbing.

In a New York Times piece, What’s So Scary About Smart Girls? Nicholas Kristof writes, “When terrorists in Nigeria organized a secret attack last month, they didn’t target an army barracks, a police department or a drone base. No, Boko Haram militants attacked what is even scarier to a fanatic: a girl’s school. That’s what extremists do. They target educated girls, their worst nightmare.”

In a more recent essay, Kristof states, “I’ve concluded that education may be the single best way to help people help themselves.”

So what’s my point?

Is it that…

A. American leaders should know this too and should invest more in education both domestically and overseas?

B. Individuals will find power in getting educated?

C. Parents must educate their children?

D. All of the above.

Malala Yousafzai miraculously survived and is now an activist who speaks on the rights of children. She brought worldwide attention to the mission: BRING BACK OUR GIRLS after the kidnappings in Nigeria.

Sometimes, I feel helpless because it seems there is little I can do.

But in an effort to be a part, albeit a small part, of the solution, I support Room to Read, an organization that envisions a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.

It has been said that the most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.

What’s the conversation at your house?