Commentary

The Trouble with Inheritance

There’s a good show on Netflix called The Crown, which I’ve written about on my long-form blog, Serial Monography.

The Crown‘s themes of birthright and hereditary duty cut against the American sensibility of egalitarianism. In the U.S., we like to pretend that every individual has an equal shot at becoming a political leader, getting rich, achieving fame and glory. The only problem is it’s just not true. While there are plenty of rags-to-riches stories to fuel young strivers, the playing field is far from level. People still inherit money and property from their parents, as well as their good name. Or they don’t. In this way, wealth and status gaps get perpetuated.

For all its silliness, it might be better to have a constitutional monarchy as the UK does. The presence of a queen or king would remind everyone that life isn’t fair — some people get higher status because of the lottery of birth — and that we shouldn’t pretend things are egalitarian. But until everyone acknowledges the problem, there’s not much we can do to correct it.

Commentary

My First Passover Dinner

Yesterday, a friend invited me to his family’s Passover dinner tonight. I told him I first participated in a Passover Seder at church as a kid. He was surprised; it didn’t fit with his image of church.

Yet the church I grew up in facilitated a lot of firsts. First attempts at meditation. First real exposure to Native American cultures and reservation life. First time trying Ethiopian food (which I reunited with in Uganda 15 years later). First time traveling to Europe (and no, not to do mission work).

It’s easy to classify churches as unchanging and insular, but they can just as easily be broad-minded and embrace exploration.

Commentary

Active vs. Passive Interests

Quick: Take a minute to write down things you’re interested in or want to learn. Now, take another minute to estimate how much time you’ve dedicated over the last week, month or year to those things. Probably not enough, right?

You’ve got all these things you want to be learning, so why are you scrolling ever further down on Facebook or Twitter to see what’s new? (Indeed, why are you here?) You don’t need something new if you’re not nurturing what’s already there. You don’t need new stuff when your bookmarked list of articles is reaching Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch size.

There’s not enough time to be passive with your interests; you have to identify what you’re into and eliminate the distractions…unless, of course, that’s what you’re into.

Commentary

Self-Driving Cars for Self-Driven People

As much as I believe that people should live close to where they work, the advent of self-driving cars may be a boon for commuter productivity. At the moment, internally driven people are limited to podcasts and audiobooks for commuter edification. Self-driving cars would free up time for tasks that are more resource-intensive, such as reading, studying, writing, Skyping with old friends or getting extra sleep — all things people claim they don’t have enough time for.

But most people have enough time already. It’s eaten up in 5- and 10-minute chunks by Facebook and finger swiping. And at the end of the day they wonder where the time went. So, 80 percent of us will use the self-driving car experience to do what we always do: nothing much at all. But the 20 percent of us who are self-driven strivers will reclaim time we can actually use. What should we do with it?

 

Commentary

My Dog Is Being Passive-Aggressive

Sometimes I forget to refill my dog’s water. I don’t notice until he’s been licking an empty bowl for a minute, trying to slurp up whatever moisture is left. When he does this, I accuse him of being passive-aggressive. Same with the pacing back and forth. I wish he’d just tell me he wants to go for a walk.

We also chastise him when he barks. That happens whenever the garbage truck rolls by, the mailman’s dropping something off, or middle schoolers are getting off school (the last one tacitly accepted because, as we all know, junior high schoolers are the worst), but also when he’s waiting to come back inside. His approach is too aggressive. “Pet me,” it says, or “let me in” or “don’t forget about me.” How could we forget with all the barking? But we do.

It’s the same with people. When others are passive aggressive with us, we ask them to just tell us directly instead of coming at us sideways. When they are direct, we find it off-putting and aggressive. We eliminate the options by which others can tell us we’re not meeting their expectations. We do that because, no matter how it’s phrased or presented, we don’t want to hear that we should be doing something better.