Saturday, November 27, 2010

Where's Wisdom?

The essay "Where's Wisdom?" is available on-line at

A .pdf file suitable for printing is at:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prose Sampler

Here is a collection of links to previously written articles you may enjoy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kingpins, Pawns, and Suckers

The fictional short story, Kingpins, Pawns, and Suckers is available directly from the author. Please email him at to request a copy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Six Words Tell Each Haunting Tale—A collection of very short stories.

She undressed seductively while I watched.

She kissed him. I left her.

I left. She bawled, then jumped.

Piss me off, still no answer.

Away on tour when baby died.

Stole the stop sign. Fatal prank.

Road Rage. Chased him. Cars Flipped.

Played chicken. Cars over the cliff.

Rather than starve, we ate corpses.

Alone at night. What’s that sound?

My heart soars at her touch.

I asked her, she said yes.

I asked her, she became sad.

The Doctor called with the results.

I just found out I’m pregnant.

The doctor said, it’s a boy.

We regret to inform you …

The cancer returned, worse this time.

His eyes closed this last time.

We have to let you go.

The election results are now in.

Your SAT scores are now available.

We are pleased to announce …

The Congressman called, he’s recommending you.

The Vice President personally congratulated her.

General Petraeus promoted her to Captain.

She flew 100 combat missions safely.

Yet another dark and stormy night.

Evoking powerful emotions doesn’t require murder.

Plots pivot on vivid emotional moments.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Transcending Dogma

“They can’t all be right,” I thought to myself as the engineers took their seats around the conference table, “but they can’t all be wrong.” Although we were gathering for a technical discussion, my thoughts drifted to consider the variety of faiths represented by this group of bright young engineers. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim believers were sitting peacefully around the table in my office. We worked closely together everyday.

They can’t all be right because the dogma preached by their various faiths is inherently incompatible. When we try to agree who was the true Prophet, who died for our sins, when and how best to pray, what we can and cannot eat, how the world was created, the origin of the species, and what precisely happens in the afterlife, the debate quickly becomes polarized and contentious.

But they can’t all be wrong either. We all seek answers to profound questions and unsolved mysteries that have intrigued humans throughout the ages. We want wise guidance for living better lives. We want our lives to be meaningful. We want a powerful, trusted, and omniscient companion who is always there for us and knows what is best. We want someone we can confide in, dialogue with, and appeal to for answers, decisions, hope, comfort, and consolation. We want to love and be loved. We want the world we live in to become a better place and we dream of the ultimate paradise. We each have an innate sense of good and evil that becomes more real if it can be symbolized and manifest as specific rules and images. We tend to see the world from an intentional stance; when something happens, it seems intentional, and someone must be doing the intending.

Destructive religious conflicts persist because religious beliefs can’t all be right, despite the most righteous insistence, longstanding traditions, arbitrary defenses, and obsessive need to be right. And because they can’t all be wrong we have a wonderful opportunity for sharing a constructive spirituality.

Give it up and let it go so we can all move forward.

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Demagoguery to Dialogue

Seven referees take the field at each American professional football game. Coach’s challenges and video tape replay scrutinize the referee’s decisions as the crowd waits in suspense for each verdict on the field. Commentators describe the rule and anticipate how it will be applied in each particular instance. Referees describe the evidence and the rules to the fans before announcing their decisions. Cheers and jeers express the fans’ opinions of these rapid and vital proclamations. Perhaps as a result, youngsters playing sandlot football are well aware of the rules, and often play fairly even without referees present.

The commentator smiles warmly as the first guest politician misrepresents facts, endorses false assumptions, over-generalizes, draws invalid conclusions, engages in ad hominem attacks, creates false dichotomies, uses literal truths to send false messages, and uses inflammatory and hateful language to present his position on the typical political talk show. The same personable commentator enjoys provoking the role-playing as the other guest politicians use similar demagoguery to attack opponents. Political conversation resembles WrestleMania; there is nothing fair, sporting, insightful, or adult about it. The referee contributes to the mayhem. The crude and divisive communication style we see used by these celebrity politicians, talk-show hosts, and even political analysts quickly contaminates our everyday discussions. Because we are cautioned not to discuss vital issues such as religion or politics the most essential conversations become prohibited. We pay a heavy price for this constant mischief.

Football is played in college. WrestleMania appeals to children. Can we learn to converse like collegiate adults?

Perhaps refereed dialogue can provide a model for more meaningful conversations by the professionals and by ordinary citizens. The consistent intent of the dialogue is for each participant to move us toward a deeper understanding of what is. Dialogue is a collaborative rather than a competitive endeavor. These simple but rarely followed rules can help insightful dialogue emerge:
  • Statements are required to be factual and representative; untruths, misleading statements, or unrepresentative anecdotes are not allowed. Words are carefully chosen for accuracy and objectivity. Opinion is clearly differentiated from fact. Uncertainty is accurately characterized. Context is fairly represented.
  • Stated conclusions are validly derived from carefully established premise. Logical fallacies or unsubstantiated premise are not allowed.
  • Discussion is relevant to advancing the thread of the argument. Non Sequiturs, distracting tangents, and irrelevancies are not allowed.
  • Speakers work to fully understand each other’s point of view. They ask clarifying questions or suggest clarifying restatements to help the other more fully express his viewpoint. They accurately express the other’s viewpoint before changing the direction of the dialogue. Ideally, speaker “A” expresses the viewpoint of speaker “B” to the satisfaction of speaker “B” before going on.
  • Speakers continuously demonstrate their respect for each other throughout the dialogue. Hateful language, ad hominem attacks, ridicule, sarcasm, preemptive dismissals, and condescension are not allowed.
  • Participants work together to uncover assumptions, gather information, increase clarity, challenge inconsistencies, resolve ambiguity, think critically, dig deeper, identify helpful shifts in viewpoint, and improve inadequate research, reasoning, or presentation.
Sports referees blow the whistle and immediately stop play to address infractions, review what has happened, correct the error, and ensure play continues according to the rules. Similarly the moderator acts as a referee to enforce these dialogue rules. Whenever an infraction occurs the conversation is immediately halted, the infraction is identified, and the speaker corrects the error before the conversation continues. This intervention might be as simple as a request by the moderator for clarification, or the moderator may stop, challenge, and redirect the conversation more intensely. Skilled participants stay within the rules so the conversation proceeds uninterrupted.

Kids on sandlots learn sports by watching the professionals play fairly by the rules. Amateur athletes at many levels quickly regulate their own play according to agreed rules. Perhaps professional communicators carefully following well-chosen rules of dialogue can provide us with an effective model for meaningful, even transformational, conversations.