One by one, they all filed into the kitchen for the family meeting. My oldest hopped onto the counter. His gangly legs dangled past the knobs on the cabinet doors below. Bouncing on his toes, the youngest stretched his arms as high as he could — the universal baby language for “pick-me-up.” I automatically lifted him. He felt twice as heavy the day before. At least, it seemed like yesterday. All of a sudden, his face didn’t look like my pudgy baby with the button nose. Instead, a full-blown toddler had taken his place. As he settled into my lap, wrapped in my arms, I looked around the room at all the faces. Curiosity framed eight pairs of big, Robinson-blue eyes. We filled the entire kitchen of that old farmhouse.
“It’s time to take a vote,” I announced.
Before I could say what we were actually voting on, squeals of delight slipped out of the girls. It’s always fun when you’re little and someone counts your vote — on anything.
“Okay,” I continued. “Daddy and I want to know… who wants Mommy to have another baby?”
All hands immediately shot into the air. The little guy on my lap raised both of his, and now all the girls were giggling.
“Well then, it’s settled. Mommy’s going to have a baby.”
“At the end of the summer.”
The entire room erupted with cheers. The big girls hugged each other, and the two boys started jumping up and down making boy-noises. The older kids narrowed their eyes and studied us. Their suspicion was plainly written all over their faces– “Wait a minute, I don’t think that’s how it works…”
Their dad shot a smile and a wink their way.
Our children were always excited about welcoming a new member. To them growing a family took nothing more than an announcement.
However, building a strong family takes more than simply adding children. It takes these three vital elements.
Submit your questions about friendship, relationships, careers, family, or life decisions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice, PJ Lifestyle’s new advice column!
Hello Bad Advice readers! This week I got a question that I’ve heard many times from friends, mostly Millennials, who get the classic “I’m not really standing you up because I texted you five minutes ahead of time” line from their friends. As we emerge from social hibernation this spring, take heed: all your friends are jerks. Get used to it.
Dear Bad Advice,
Have you ever had a friend that seems to always bail on plans? Not only do they bail, but do they wait to the very last possible minute to not-so-gracefully bow out?
A close friend of mine is almost ALWAYS doing this to me and it absolutely drives me nuts! Now, I hate double-standards, but are they necessary when it comes to teaching people a lesson?
Is it wrong for me to give her a taste of her own medicine a few times by doing the same exact thing she repeatedly does to me? Or, is this too childish?
I should note that I hate confrontation and yes, I admit to being a bit passive aggressive sometimes to avoid it.
- Fed Up with Being Stood Up
This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop expecting your friends to show up for things. If they don’t give a crap about you, don’t give a crap about them.
We don’t see a whole lot of genuine faith in the movies or on TV these days. Instead, characters who exhibit religious faith on fictional films and programs are more likely to show up as fodder for mocking or as social deviants in disguise. Obviously, we can easily forget that the concept of faith played a much greater role in Hollywood’s earlier days, even in the films made by the Disney Studios.
Walt Disney held a deep, private faith in Jesus Christ, though he was not an outwardly religious man. His parents raised him in the theology of the Congregational Church, and he firmly believed in the power of prayer and Bible study. Rarely, if ever, did Disney attend church, but he made sure his daughters were involved in Sunday School programs, even allowing them to choose the denomination that suited them best in their teen years. Walt also said:
I ask of myself, “Live a good Christian life.” Towards this objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.
I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.
Clearly, Disney understood the importance of faith as part of the American cultural fabric. Another quote of his underscores this fact:
I have watched constantly that in our movie work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether it deals with fable or with stories of living action.
We can see these moral and spiritual standards at work in Disney’s classic films. In fact, the concept of faith plays a role in many of the great films of the Disney canon. Today, I’m going to look at five examples of the value of faith in Disney’s classic films: I’m taking a look at two of the big themes that emerge, and then we’ll delve into three characters who exhibit faith in different ways. These movies are not necessarily religious in nature, nor do I claim that they are theologically accurate in any sort of way. With that said, let’s dive in…
We tend to think of Hollywood as a bastion of leftism, and rightly so. Books like Ron Radosh’s Red Star Over Hollywood demonstrate the deep-seated left wing dominance of the entertainment industry. Even with the leftism prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age, many unabashed conservatives found success without compromising their principles, including one of the most creative minds in the business – Walt Disney.
Several biographers and writers that I’ve read have tried to declare that Walt Disney was apolitical, but I find this conclusion not to be true. Diane Disney Miller once said that her father was “kind of a strange figure” politically, and Walt admitted his own political naiveté:
A long time ago, I found out that I knew nothing whatsoever about this game of politics and since then I’ve preferred to keep silent about the entire matter rather than see my name attached to any statement that was not my own.
But plenty of people surrounding Walt Disney knew the truth: that he was conservative to his core. Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” said that Walt’s right-leaning politics made him uncomfortable and that politics drove a rift in their friendship in Disney’s later years. Radical writer Maurice Rapf, who worked on several Disney films, including Song of the South, said, “He was very conservative except in one particular – he was a very strong environmentalist.” However, Walt Disney’s conservatism did not manifest itself until after he had been a businessman for several years.
Walt Disney’s early exposure to politics came from his father, Elias, who was a Socialist – in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Daniel J. Flynn, in his book A Conservative History of the American Left, tells of how Wayland “reached Americans with the message [of Socialism] that had been heretofore explained in a German, Yiddish, or Russian accent, but never with a Bible-belt twang.”
That’s the question asked in the 1st chapter of a book I am reading called Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. From the description:
Do you sometimes wonder how your teen is ever going to survive on his or her own as an adult? Does your high school junior seem oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead? Does your academically successful nineteen-year-old still expect you to “just take care of” even the most basic life tasks?
Welcome to the stunted world of the Endless Adolescence. Recent studies show that today’s teenagers are more anxious and stressed and less independent and motivated to grow up than ever before. Twenty-five is rapidly becoming the new fifteen for a generation suffering from a debilitating “failure to launch.” Now two preeminent clinical psychologists tell us why and chart a groundbreaking escape route for teens and parents.
Drawing on their extensive research and practice, Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen show that most teen problems are not hardwired into teens’ brains and hormones but grow instead out of a “Nurture Paradox” in which our efforts to support our teens by shielding them from the growth-spurring rigors and rewards of the adult world have backfired badly. With compelling examples and practical and profound suggestions, the authors outline a novel approach for producing dramatic leaps forward in teen maturity, including:
• Turn Consumers into Contributors Help teens experience adult maturity–its bumps and its joys–through the right kind of employment or volunteer activity.
• Feed Them with Feedback Let teens see and hear how the larger world perceives them. Shielding them from criticism–constructive or otherwise–will only leave them unequipped to deal with it when they get to the “real world.”
• Provide Adult Connections Even though they’ll deny it, teens desperately need to interact with adults (including parents) on a more mature level–and such interaction will help them blossom!
• Stretch the Teen Envelope Do fewer things for teens that they can do for themselves, and give them tasks just beyond their current level of competence and comfort.
The authors point out that even young people who appear to be succeeding by conventional standards wake up in their mid-twenties clueless about how to find a job, manage money, cook, or live on their own. They are educated but unable to care for themselves. “Twenty-five is now becoming the new fifteen.”
According to the authors, teens are living in a “bubble” that is undermining their development. They have their room at home, school, the shopping mall etc. but it,
“cuts them off from meaningful roles in the adult world, cuts them off from close day-to-day contact with adults, and it hyperexposes them to peer relationships, which become their primary socializing influences.”
The last chapter of the book points out that the staples of the Adulthood Diet are Challenge and Feedback. Teens don’t get much of it in their lives. We have done away with competition (too masculine, I suppose) and real-world feedback (kids need high self-esteem!) and therefore they never learn to master the larger world.
The book instructs parents and adults in how to teach kids to grow up and be an adult in today’s modern world. That’s no small feat. But better late than never because twenty-five should never be the new fifteen.
1. Belief in God Is Logical. God’s Fingerprints Cover the Universe. It Is Irrational to Believe That the Universe Was Created Out of Nothingness.
Dear [Insert Name of Your Secularist Friend or Family Member Who Does Not Understand Why You No Longer Share Their Hatred of Traditional Religion Anymore],
It seems like our arguments on Facebook and over email have been increasing lately with all the horrific news stories. And again you continue to misunderstand why I approach the stories of the day from Kermit Gosnell to the Boston Bombers with a good and evil, Bible-based perspective.
One of the best places online you can go to better understand my approach to these issues is Prager University. Every month they release two five-minute courses designed to educate people in a quick, entertaining way about history, philosophy, religion, and politics. I discovered Prager University’s videos when I noticed that they decided to start featuring every new one at PJ Lifestyle, a publication that I enjoy reading which shares the same goals of reaching out and engaging with the culture at large instead of just preaching to the choir.
I’ve collected six of Prager University’s videos on God and religion, starting with their newest one above that they just released yesterday featuring Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft answering the question “God or Atheism — Which is More Rational?” I hope if you want to understand better how it is that I’ve come to reject your ideology and returned to faith in the God of the Bible you would consider these videos along with these six points I’ve written in relation to them.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
Part 1 of a 4 Part series Deconstructing Family Guy
When Seth MacFarlane sang about boobs at the Oscars, I’m pretty sure he was referring to his own fans.
Most of the time it is taken for granted that we recognize the latent moronic nature of most television programming today.
Then again, do we?
If we agreed as a culture that television programming like Family Guy is so moronic, why would a collective cheer rise up at the sight of another Emmy win? Would we be told by media commentary royalty to worship Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, as fascinating? Not only does the guy have mega street cred in the pop culture universe, the primetime structure he’s so wholeheartedly mocked is singing his praises. In fact, it could be said that Family Guy’s seemingly counterculture humor has been legalized by the mainstream.
What’s more, like a bad addiction, Family Guy is the drug that has turned a generation of Boob-Tube addicts into junkies. So, what are the signs, Doctor? How do you know when a co-worker, a friend, even a loved one has become a total Boob? Let’s play MediaMD as we examine the 5 most common side effects of watching Family Guy.
My friend RJ Moeller has done it again. Last fall, when he first told me about his hopes to start a series of interfaith, cross-cultural dialogue events, I knew he had a great idea, but whether he would actually pull it off seemed to me an open question. RJ always overflowed with great ideas and an infectious enthusiasm to share them with others. So as great as it would be for him to bring together more Adam Carolla-Dennis Prager-style combinations, I wondered if this idea would really come to fruition or if another of his entrepreneurial efforts would take off instead.
And I have to say, I’m really a bit stunned not just that RJ pulled this off, but that he managed to organize it all so quickly. And not only that, but could he have picked a more appropriate subject to begin with than defining the Judeo-Christian value system?
“Ask a Jew” will take place on Sunday, March 17 from 4:00-6:00 at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, and tickets can be purchased here for $25, or $75 for VIP reserved tickets and a pre-show reception. This week I asked RJ a few questions to learn more about what he’s cooked up for us:
PJ Lifestyle: Given the success of the events you organized with Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla dialoguing, it’s no surprise you would want to expand and try new combinations of speakers. Why “Ask a Jew: An Evening With Dennis Prager And Hugh Hewitt“?
RJ: The Prager-Carolla connecting was in many regards “lightning in a bottle.” In a very real sense of the cliche, I simply happened to be in the “right place at the right time” to help make that thing happen. However, what I learned from that exciting experience was this: if you have a good idea, pursue it — because often the reason something like it hasn’t happened before (or hasn’t happened in the way you believe it should) merely boils down to other folks not taking a risk or putting forth the effort to bring it to life.
In the case of “Ask A Jew,” both Dennis and Hugh are fairly well-known commodities but they are known primarily for their political radio shows, columns, and best-selling books. But what I want to personally hear from both men — and many other articulate voices in the public square like them — are their perspectives on cultural, moral, and philosophical issues that matter to all of us. This event is the kick-off of what I hope will end up being a long-running series of candid conversations among those who describe themselves “center-right” politically.
My goal is to bring the people I enjoy listening to and reading the most to new audiences. I want evangelicals to interact with Jewish and Catholic intellectuals. I want secular libertarians to hear how thoughtful and interested in limited government and free markets so many brilliant religious conservatives are. Hugh and Dennis typify the dynamic I’m talking about. They are from such different backgrounds, have different personalities, part ways on key theological points — and yet they are best friends and share so many common values. It’s so much bigger (and more important) than politics, and anyone who listens to a show like Dennis Prager’s knows how serious he is about engaging all issues and areas of life.
Politics is dominating and suffocating Americans because, in my opinion, they’ve stopped talking (and thinking critically) about all of the infinitely more important things in life. Not every show we do will be “Ask A Jew,” and we’ll have other interesting combinations and pairings of well-known writers/thinkers across the country this year, but I wanted to start with Hugh and Dennis because they are two of the most candid, knowledgeable, and good-natured voices in the public square. Oh, and they are entertaining. Remember when that was important?
Seconds after the ”white-smoke alert” was sent, people who couldn’t or didn’t want to rush to the Vatican poured instead into the “Twitter Square.” As posts flooded the site, I couldn’t help thinking of these words from Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”:
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate.
It was Fr. Robert Barron, the rector of the largest seminary in the United States and director of the New Evangeliziation, who got me listening to Dylan. The lyrics above describe perfectly the cacophony of sentiments expressed as the world waited to meet the new pope.
Many of us here feel life is but a joke.
There were the usual, tired Catholic-bashing Tweets. There were also honest, tragically justified condemnations of heinous human acts hidden under the cloak of religion badly lived. Women, angry the pope was not female, joined others who, like Piers Morgan, parasitically used the news to wave their arms for attention.
Genuinely sad, annoying, often understandable. And yet… they were there waiting too; instinctively grasping that beyond their cynicism, the Catholic pope is more than a punchline; somehow above the crime of being male, not truly synonymous with sex scandals.
But you and me, we’ve been through all that and this is not our fate.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I admit to being fascinated by the Carnival Cruise ship drama (Twitter hashtags—no kidding—#poopboat and #poopship) as we watched the disabled behemoth limp back to Mobile on Thursday with 4000 crew and passengers in a floating soup of raw sewage and onion sandwiches.
As low-information travelers, our family has been on no less than three Carnival cruises, so I know a little about the culture of those ships. It’s an odd mix of senior citizens, families with young children, and the people who purchase the unlimited liquor cards. The seniors play bingo, the children romp around Camp Carnival, and the fun folks with the unlimited liquor cards spend their nights grinding in the disco and their mornings with their heads hanging in the suction-operated toilets. The ship carries a group of people who would never under normal circumstances choose to spend time together crammed onto an opulent miniature city for a week, staged by a crew that works slavishly to serve the needs and the whims of the passengers 24-7.
Suddenly last week, thousands of people who packed their bags for fine dining, magic shows, and romps on the beach found themselves in survival mode. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better reality-show script: grandparents celebrating their 50th anniversary, recent college grads on their honeymoon, a homeschooling family from Waco, football buddies from New Orleans. Who would survive the Sludge Boat?
DRUDGE screamed terrifying headlines about the misery in the Gulf:
FLOATING PETRI DISH LIMPS TO PORT
SLEEPING WITH LIFE VESTS FEARING CAPSIZE
HOARD ON BOARD
PASSENGERS FIGHT OVER FOOD
The stories from the Carnival Triumph early Thursday made it sound like a third world county:
Conditions on board a cruise ship stranded in the Gulf of Mexico have deteriorated dramatically, reportedly leaving passengers fighting over food and the vessel caked in urine and raw sewage. Passengers on board the US cruise ship Carnival Triumph, which has been stranded since Sunday after an engine fire, are using mobile phones to convey tales of carpets soaked in urine and passengers sleeping in tents on deck.
Food supplies are said to be running low, with passengers forced to queue for hours for cold onion and cucumber sandwiches, and there are also reports of fights breaking out as groups of “savages” fight over the dwindling supplies.
Speaking to CNN, passenger Ann Barlow said: “It’s disgusting. It’s the worst thing ever”, while her husband Toby told the news channel there is “sewage running down the walls and floors”, with passengers asked to defecate in plastic bags and urinate in showers due to their being only five working toilets between 4,200 people.”
It seemed that every news outlet in the country sent reporters to meet the ill-fated cruise ship in Mobile, no doubt expecting to see horrific scenes of human carnage as medics wheeled feces-caked passengers off the ship. It was clear in the lead-up to the ship’s arrival in Mobile that they fully expected to be greeted by angry, disgruntled passengers looking for lawyers. The media prepared us all day for how bad this would be as they followed the ship into port.
I am an advice column addict.
I read three or four a day, bouncing from one to the other trying to figure out when I’ll get my next hit — “Well, she always posts on Thursdays — and this one normally has a new post every Tuesday — and I haven’t read the full archive of that one yet.”
I’m not entirely sure what the root of my obsession is. But I think I’m drawn to a world in which a sensible person is sought out by people with disastrous lives, so she can preach the word of Rational Decision Making and Common Sense to a willing audience. Like virtually everyone I know, I have a crowd of acquaintances whom I’ve seen essentially torching their lives with an incendiary mixture of bad decisions and worse attitudes, and I’ve longed to shake them by the shoulders and talk sense to them. In the world of advice columns, those friends are asking someone to shake them by the shoulders and talk sense to them. It’s so satisfying.
Advice columns normally fall under one of two categories: tips on manners and etiquette, and ”Holy sh!t what is wrong with your life?!” I mostly read the latter. Sometimes I even skip the advice.
If advice columns were only about dispensing advice, there’d be no need to even print the questions; columnists would just write once or twice weekly with the same general rules for living that they parcel out, piecemeal, in response to their letter writers. If you read as many as me you start to notice each columnist’s go-to wisdom bombs. Kapow! You need to let the past go. Boom! Communicate, don’t seethe in silent resentment. Zap! Leave your stinking cheating dead-beat boyfriend.
I don’t judge or dislike my favorite columnists for recycling their wisdom; it wouldn’t be wisdom if it only worked once.
But you also have to admit: if everyone followed it, would everybody be a little happier? Probably… a little. There’s another part missing from the equation of life satisfaction that doesn’t have to do with making all your decisions on a solely rational basis.
The following is the list of three of the most genre-defining, convention-bending, head-scratching, mouth-gaping advice column questions and answers. There are plenty of outrageous (and probably fake) questions out there, so these weren’t chosen purely on the basis of Jerry Springer worthiness; they’re the questions that made me ask, “Why do people seek advice from strangers?” “What does this question and answer say about our culture?” and “Why haven’t you talked to your parole officer about that?”
On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Must we always choose between doing good and feeling good? Does a life of meaning require the sacrifice of personal happiness?
My friend Emily Esfahani-Smith explores these questions in a new piece at The Atlantic on the apparent conflict some in today’s secular culture have discovered between a “happy” life and a “meaningful” one (“There’s More to Life Than Being Happy“):
According to Gallup , the happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high — as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word “happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent all Americans today feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”
This is why some researchers are cautioning against the pursuit of mere happiness. In a new study, which will be published this year in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology, psychological scientists asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables — like stress levels, spending patterns, and having children — over a month-long period, the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.”
“Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the authors write.
How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.
Related, earlier this month at Fox News, from Dr. Keith Ablow, “We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists”:
Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.
This data is not unexpected. I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface. I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.
We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape. Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.
Among the big paradoxes in America today that it’s impolite to mention: how we’re willing to work for happiness. If you offer to sell someone a happy pill, they’ll gladly sacrifice a meaningful chunk of income and endure a host of annoying side effects to have the chance of it. But provide them with free instructions on behaviors proven to generate happiness and instead you’ll receive insult, ridicule, and dismissal. None of the unhappy will even consider experimenting with the solution. Instead they’ll continue to seek happiness through trolling internet forums and expounding on their superiority while hiding behind an anonymous handle.
The root of being “happy” is in how one chooses to define what the word means. Everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves what set of life circumstances will satisfy them. Or, in the Dennis Prager, Abraham Lincoln mode of putting it: You are as happy as you choose to be.
How can you choose to bring happiness to yourself? In the America of 2013 it’s necessary to say explicitly what Esfahani-Smith and Ablow infer. The easiest, cheapest, most effective path to a joyful life is also the squarest: prayer and the sincere practice of other religious rituals. Pray to a Higher Power for happiness on a consistent basis and it will indeed begin to come. Now long-term happiness, that’s a more challenging prospect, but still wholly within the grasp of every human being on the planet who makes the choice to pursue it…
So last week, in what was perhaps a moment of madness, I posted a request on my Facebook page: Tell me your political predictions for the year. Among the more restrained answers: “Hyperinflation,” “Civil War,” “financial collapse,” “terribly awful things.”
Optimist though I am, I can’t help feeling there’s something to this downhearted consensus. After living through the most peaceful and prosperous half century that any nation has ever experienced in the history of humankind, it seems impossible to believe we would re-elect a mediocre reactionary out to “fundamentally transform” our success into failure. But we did, and that’s — well, let’s call it “less than cheering.”
On the other hand…
One of the central weaknesses of radicalism is that radicals seem to lose track of the causes and foundations of the things even they value. They don’t understand that peace is always and everywhere the end result of superior firepower, improved health the result of greater wealth, wealth the result of hard-headed and often greedy business dealing, and liberty deeply linked to a specific concept of man’s relationship to God. They never consider that it may at least be questionable whether the cornerstone can be removed without the structure toppling over.
Conversely, one of the central weaknesses of conservatism is that conservatives see all too clearly how every good thing we have is linked to everything else. They can trace in a moment how any change in the system might lead to disaster. Expand the definition of marriage and civilization falls. Raise taxes and end up in chains. Allow women to vote and government will become an all-embracing, over-protective mother state infantilizing the population. Okay, maybe that last one’s true, but you see what I’m getting at.
For 2013 at PJ Lifestyle we’re going to try to organize the seemingly endless abyss of “Lifestyle” topics with a general theme each day. These appear on the About Us page and include links to some of the articles we’ve published this past year:
We try to blog on seven general subjects each week from a variety of perspectives that do not always agree. The topics include:
Every Tuesday, we post career advice, self-improvement tips, product reviews, and how-to guides as well as blogs on entrepreneurship, disaster preparation, gardening, and self-sufficiency.
The middle of the week requires some laughter. That’s why every Wednesday we’ll have humorous pieces featuring satire, viral videos, goofy images and amusing photoshops, cute animals, slideshow galleries and other memes from across the Web.
On Thursday, PJ Lifestyle is your go-to place for the latest info on pop culture – ranging from movies, TV, novels, music and celebrities – as well as posts about other cultures – like military culture, counterculture, California culture, traditional culture, international culture, odd subcultures, geek culture – and more.
Spend Saturdays finding new recipes and cooking tips, learning about new ways to exercise and stay healthy, reading medical stories, and keeping up with sports and outdoor life.
And on Sundays, you’ll find content featuring interfaith dialogue, religion-based commentary, and posts on spirituality, ethics and morality.
One of the most important contributors to PJ Lifestyle this year has been Charlie Martin. His Thirteen Weeks diet and and exercise regimen has been an inspiration. This past fall Charlie has updated us every week on his progress to improve his health and live a long, long life. We’re going to try to provide more content like this — but on all seven subjects. Not just blog posts pontificating on what should be, but articles documenting what we do. Too often as writers and bloggers we forget that these New Media tools aren’t the end. They’re merely the means to whatever end we want to pursue and achieve. And at PJ Lifestyle that end is a happier, more fulfilling, richer life appreciating all the possibilities of what it means to be free.
I’ve decided on 7 New Year’s Resolutions this year, each corresponding with one of these themes and inspiring my daily blogging. I invite others to join me and offer their suggestions.
“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”
Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.
I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.
While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.
All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).
As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)
When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing. Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.
Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.
When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.
This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.
3. Self worth/Self esteem
You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)
Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.
He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.
5. Playing the Game
Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”
As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.
But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.
This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.
Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”
Happy New Year’s everyone!
More on generations at PJ Lifestyle:
One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.
Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.
5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.
Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.
Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.
Just in time for Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI is out with a new book entitled Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives that is generating headlines and debunking some traditional elements of the Christmas story.
Some of the tradition debunking includes:
Jesus’ birth year, just a few (or several) years earlier than previously thought – now calculated between 7 B.C. and 2 B.C. rather than 1 A.D.
Obviously this throws a small wrench in the wheel of time for all earth and human history since B.C. means Before Christ and A.D. means Anno Domini representing the birth of Christ. (Oh well, just a small “blunder” by some sixth century monk!)
Christmas (Christ’s mass) has no basis in historical fact as celebrated on December 25 since A.D. 353, when Pope Julius I selected and authorized that day.
And the worst news of all is reserved for Christmas stores everywhere because the Pope says no cute animals were present at the manger nativity scene – no donkeys, no fuzzy little lambs or adorable friendly oxen.
Wow, this marketing savvy Pope obviously knows what it takes to sell books in the 21st century, while providing some great new material for late night comics.
But seriously, do any of these revelations really matter to the true followers of Jesus? After all HE is the real “reason for the season” regardless of when the real season really began.
“Christ’s mass” could be celebrated on any day, in whatever B.C. or A.D. year is deemed appropriate and it would still be just as sacred because the exact date is immaterial as to why Christians believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, God, Messiah, King of Kings, etc.
In fact there is only one day in particular that really matters to Christians. That day is the reason we are still even talking about a poor Jewish preacher who lived and died a couple of thousand years ago after suffering a horrible death. That day of course is Easter Sunday.
Without Easter Sunday, that is without the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no Christianity. But because He rose from the dead, thus fulfilling numerous Old Testament Jewish Bible prophesies about his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, His Spirit lives. Christ is alive for those who believe in Him, not just because we read about Him in the Bible or heard about Him in church but because we have experienced Him first hand. Christ intervenes in our lives!
So because of who HE is, Jesus, born with or without the presence of cute lambs on (pick a date or year) will still be the central figure around which the world’s largest religion thrives.
It is my belief the Pope’s officially “debunking” the Christmas date and some associated traditions, exposes all Christians to potential ridicule by non-Christians as the “War on Christmas” continues in our increasingly secular society where the word “Christmas” is being replaced by “holiday” ever more each passing year and Christianity itself is on the wane in our nation.
But meanwhile, across the globe, Christianity with 2.2 billion followers, one–third of the planet’s population, is currently experiencing exponential growth, particularly in Africa and even in forbidden places like the Middle East where millions of Christians risk their lives and limbs to worship Him in secret churches.
However, the most spectacular Christian growth of all, with the greatest potential to change the world, is happening right now in China, where Christianity is spreading like “wild fire.”
Some sources on the ground are stating that a full 10% of the estimated 1.4 billion Chinese are now practicing Christians. If true, this means there are 150 million Christians in China, with more on the way, since the Communist Party is now encouraging its growth!
And many Catholics I imagine would love to receive the Pope’s new book during this “not historically factual” gift giving season, but the gift I wish for is that the real meaning of Christmas be restored as “Christ’s mass” throughout our culture rather than the current trends downplaying it.
Then perhaps here in the USA we could truly celebrate the birth of our Savior everyday along with his life, death, resurrection and Holy Spirit that lives within us, not just in passing for a few weeks during extended “holiday” shopping hours.
If that happened, I am confident overall we would be a much happier, hopeful and productive nation. For increased faith in Christ would positively affect all Americans regardless of whether they were followers of the Jewish preacher whose birthday and year is totally irrelevant.
Jesus Lives and that is all that matters to me and billions of others around the globe this Christmas season.
Recently while dining with my favorite husband at a restaurant with live music, the singer performed Danny’s Song, an old favorite of mine.
Since I had not heard this song in years it touched a raw emotional chord in my memory bank and the song has stayed on my mind ever since.
At the height of the song’s popularity I was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. Whenever it played on the radio (which was quite frequently) my girlfriends and I would sing along at the top of our lungs.
But above all I remember the lyrics making a huge psychological impact on me, helping formulate my sweet 16 view of love, relationships and future marriage.
Now looking back at the song from my 57-year-old perspective it was the chorus that imprinted itself on my heart.
And even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey, everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes,
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.
As a teenager that chorus spoke to me saying “whether you are rich or poor, love conquers all.”
I truly embraced the message.
Then of course you grow up and strap yourself in for a ride on the roller coaster of life. When hurricanes strike and the roller coaster gets swept out to sea (like this one in New Jersey recently) with you still on it, but your partner is gone and your wallet is empty, then you wise up and realize that song’s message was just a sweet 16 fairy tale.
As many aging baby boomers experienced their roller coaster ride through life, money issues were often deal breakers in marriages.
My peers may have started out singing “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey” but then we watched as the record got severely scratched or broken after the roller-coaster took some sharp unexpected turns.
Since I like to think of myself as a one person aging baby boomer focus group… and if I was so heavily impacted by this song’s idyllic message, how many of you were as well?
In the comments section, you are allowed to stomp on your ex who stole your wallet, but just do not use real names!
On the other hand, if you are still in your first baby boomer marriage that is a testament to Danny’s Song, congratulations, and please share your story, but don’t make the rest of us feel too bad.
And get caught up on Myra’s previous Baby Boomer nostalgia adventures in this series’ predecessor, Classic Rock and Cheap Wine:
The 79 million boomers alive today make up over a quarter of the entire American population. Last year, the oldest members of the generation turned 65. For the next 18 years, 10,000 boomers will turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, the average life expectancy for women in America is 81 years old. For men, it is 76 years old. According to Gallup, the expected retirement age in the United States is 67. So, as Boomers enter into the retirement that precedes the end of their lives, will they find meaning and satisfaction as they age? Will they thrive, flourish, take a slow ride off into the sunset?
This is an enormously important question not just because of the implications it has on the happiness of real people, but also for the consequences it will have on society, social services, and our culture as a whole. As Pew points out, “By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they’ve made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.”
The baby boomers are becoming characterized by startlingly high rates of depression and pessimism. Boomers are more depressed and less satisfied with their lives than both those who are older and younger than them, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review in 2008.
Women, in particular, are suffering. In the American population generally, women tend to be more depressive than men, and this is true of the boomers as well. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1999 and 2004, rates of suicide increased by 20 percent for 45-to-54-year-olds, a far greater increase than that experienced in nearly every other age group. Among women who were 45-to-54-year-olds, the increase was a staggering 31 percent. Suicide aside, boomers have found another way to cope with their doldrums: according to the National Institute of Health, between 2002 and 2011, the number of illicit drugs users aged 50 to 59 tripled.
What is going on? This is a generation that is better educated, more successful, and has better access to health care than the generations that directly preceded it. This is the generation whose women benefitted from the gains of second wave feminism.
Experts on aging, depression, and happiness are at a loss for what is causing the boomers’ funk. One explanation is stress. “Much of the research is pointing to daily stress as a precipitator of their depression,” according to Donald A. Malone, Jr., the director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.
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You don’t just wake up miserable one day and stay that way. To the contrary, producing a nice, consistent level of misery takes a lot of work. Do you ever hear anyone say, “Wow, that guy does whatever it takes to be miserable!” Of course not. Everyone is too busy patting the happy people on the back. “Wow, I wish I could be as happy as she is!” “They’re just such a happy couple!” “Wow, what a happy child!” How about a little appreciation for all the work people put into being utterly miserable? After all, as you’re about to see, depression takes effort!
1) Don’t pursue your ideal self.
Abraham Maslow once said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” So, take his advice to heart. Make comfort your highest priority. Surf the web as much as possible at work and do the same things, day after day, year after year without making any effort to improve. Veg out in front of the TV every night and channel surf. Don’t read, don’t take classes, do the same old, same old. Get yourself into a nice deep rut and then, as an extra added bonus, blame your spouse or kids for “holding you back” and keeping you from achieving the dreams you haven’t made any effort to pursue for years. That’s just the sort of stagnant life that will help keep you down in the dumps.
A grand and powerful woman I once knew died after two encounters with cancer and a devastating stroke took her from the realm of normal life into the storm tossed waters that surround us all on every side. She’d never been a religious woman and, growing up in a segregated South where so many churches and churchgoers defended a brutal system of institutionalized injustice and cruelty, she was always a rebel against the conventional piety and ritualized religious life she saw around her.
But late in her life when the winds around her howled and the dark waters were rising, she was driven to face the truth behind the illusions and the pretense, and told the person she loved best in all the world that “I’ve made my peace with God.”
That is something we all need to do. It involves a recognition of our helplessness and insufficiency before the mysteries and limits of life. Like the First Step in the Twelve Step programs, it begins with an acknowledgment of failure and defeat. We each try to build a self-sufficient world, a sturdy little life that is proof against storms and disasters — but none of us can really get that done.
Strangely, that admission of weakness opens the door to a new kind of strength. To acknowledge and accept weakness is to ground our lives more firmly in truth, and it turns out that to be grounded in reality is to become more able and more alive. Denial is hard work; those who try to stifle their awareness of the limits of human life and ambition in the busy rounds of daily life never reach their full potential.
To open your eyes to the fragility of life and to our dependence on that which is infinitely greater than ourselves is to enter more deeply into life. To come to terms with the radical insecurity in which we all live is to find a different and more reliable kind of security. The joys and occupations of ordinary life aren’t all there is to existence, but neither are the great and all-destroying storms. There is a calm beyond the storm, and the same force that sends these storms into our lives offers a peace and security that no storm can destroy. As another one of the psalms puts it, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Accepting your limits and your dependence on things you can’t control is the first step on the road toward finding that joy.
Via Meadia hopes that all our readers survived Hurricane Sandy with their lives intact and their property whole. And more than that, we hope that our readers will take the opportunity that a storm like this offers, step back from their daily lives, and reach out to the Power who plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. Getting the right connection with the highest power of all not only gives you a place of refuge when the big storm finally comes; it transforms daily life and infuses ordinary occupations with greater meaning and wonder than you ever understood.
Hat tip: A
Image courtesy shutterstock / dundanim
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