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Tag Archives: Arguments

Shalom, Salaam, and Hallelujah

I came across a post on Facebook today and I just wanted to share the videos that were in it, along with a few thoughts about the tune and what listening to the two versions did to me. The song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, recorded and released in 1984. It is one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard and, as you’ll see in the following videos, the words are somewhat irrelevant . . . at least for this post.

I listened to both of these in the order I’m presenting them. Both brought me to tears for a couple of reasons. The sheer beauty of the melody was certainly one of them, but the quality of the performances, as well as the identities of the performers was a factor as well. The first is a performance by a group from the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces; the second is sung by a young Arab boy, accompanied by the Voice in a Million Chorus.

The struggles of Israel and the Arab world, especially the Palestinians, and the tension they caused between my father and me, were probably significant in my response as well. This is no doubt because next month he will have been gone for thirty years and he’s been on my mind more than usual. Somewhere in my head I felt the pathos of these struggles and the frustration that they’re still going on, as well as recalled the countless family arguments and disagreements encountered over meals both mundane and special.

It’s difficult to write about the feelings this particular juxtaposition of artists and performances evoked, so let me just drop the videos below and allow you, should you care to, listen to them both. I don’t expect you’ll feel exactly as I did, but I can’t help but think you will feel something powerful.

The IDF

Mikhael Mala and the VIAM Choir

I hope you enjoyed and, perhaps, even felt something a little special. As the original poster said: “On the day that Arabs and Israelis can celebrate TOGETHER, peace may be round the corner. Salam and Shalom.”

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That’s Just Stupid, You Moronic Idiot!

Mediation Blues

Getting Along

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I have often said I spent over two decades – the entire length of my career at Rocketdyne – trying to get Engineering to talk to Information Technology; two different groups of geeks, each of which thought they were superior to the other.

I didn’t work on it full time, and it wasn’t my job to get them talking, but had I been successful it would have made my job a lot easier. I worked at being a voice of reconciliation between them. It’s in my nature. I was not successful; at least not overall.

Now, the difficulty in getting these two organizations (we called them  “Processes”, as opposed to “Functions” or “Departments”) to talk to each other, was deeply ingrained in the culture of that enterprise. Part of the problem stemmed from the way we, as an enterprise, were organized. When I first arrived there in 1987, we were heavily command-and-control and pathologically hierarchical. There were kingdoms; fiefdoms, if you will and very few people thought further ahead than their own careers and organizations.

I’m happy to say things improved pretty dramatically over the years. One reason was the tireless efforts of a group of people, led by Dr. Bill Bellows, to apply the concepts and tools of thought leaders like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, Edward de Bono, and many others to the way we did business. The term Dr. Bellows used for many years was Enterprise Thinking.

What made this way of thinking stand out, in my opinion, was its recognition of the systemic nature of an organization, an enterprise. It was clearly understood that all things – all processes or departments – were interconnected. Nothing in an enterprise exists by itself, outside the system(s) with which it interacts.

When you can clearly see this, suddenly you recognize how counter-productive it can be to blame people for things that go wrong, as well as expect individuals to make things work properly, which brings me back to the Engineering and IT departments I so futilely attempted to arbitrate for, as well as the title of this post.

Civility in Argument

Although I am guilty of it myself at times . . . I’m working on it . . . I don’t believe it is productive to blame others and, especially, to completely alienate them by using labels like “Idiot” or “Moron”. This is true whether you’re working together at an enterprise and – ostensibly – you share the same basic vision and goals, or you are on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum when it comes to how you think the country and the economy should be run.

I started writing this to make a point about the level of incivility I find at times on the Internet, especially in the comments of non-moderated news sites. Even the moderated ones contain some really argumentative and, at times, nasty comments. As I worked on what I was trying to say, the tragedy in Aurora played out and, true to form, the arguments between those who believe the second amendment is sacrosanct and those who wish to see access to guns more regulated are heating up.

My original intention was to point out how I have been able to get along with many very conservative people in my life, especially when we live and work together and see each other face-to-face on a fairly regular basis. I have long said that locally, in terms of how our cities and neighborhoods are run, we all want essentially the same things, e.g. safe neighborhoods, good schools, jobs, access to health care, etc.

I seldom have anyone disagree with this and it doesn’t surprise me. The problems seem to arise when we start talking about more abstract affairs; the economy, foreign relations, use of the military. Yet, I find with the people I know best we’re able to disagree without labeling each other as morons or idiots. We disagree but, somehow, we manage to continue getting things done together and not getting into actual fights over who’s right or how best to accomplish something.

I suppose this is one of our biggest problems in this country. Many of us have the tendency to ascribe the worst of motives to those they disagree with. I’m inclined to think that’s not a very good way to work together and achieve anything other than a continuous standoff. It seems that’s precisely how our government is now being run and it does not portend well for us as a nation. I’d like to see it stop.

A Taste of the Future

I have seldom written about politics or civic affairs here, but they weigh heavily on me. I have two young girls my wife and I adopted from China. I worry about the future they face here, where everything seems to be falling apart. I want to leave them a better world than I found as I was growing up and it sure as hell looks like that’s going to be a tall order.

I’ll leave this particular post with one thought and I will no doubt have more to say in the future . . . especially now that I’ve sort of broken the ice (not very well). Ironically, given I live in Simi Valley – still notorious for its role in the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Officers who beat Rodney King, the thought that comes most readily to mind is, “Can’t we all just get along?” I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it is something to wonder about. It happens quite frequently in real-life, on the ground . . . as they say.


365 Days of Thanksgiving

The Simpsons Enjoy Thanksgiving

Memories of Thanksgiving Past

So I’m Not a Journalist

I suppose I should have written this prior to the holiday, but it really is a retrospective and, frankly, I hadn’t thought about it much before yesterday’s celebration. Please forgive me. I’m working on developing an editorial calendar. It’s on my to-do list. Maybe next year I’ll be more sophisticated, but this year I’m just me.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and now another in a long line of them is in the books. It has always been a time of family, but in my case (and surely for many others) the nature of family has changed many times over the years. I’ve now experienced 65 Thanksgiving dinners. Actually, when I was younger we used to eat around 3:00 and by 6:00, when hunger returned to my growing body, I would frequently return to the table for a large second helping, but I’m not including those in the meal count; just the years.

Remaining, Yet Partial Memories

Of course, I don’t remember most of these dinners, though small portions (unlike my plate) do remain, considerably diffused by time and intervening circumstance. When I was a young boy there were dinners that included cousins, friends, and sometimes distant family, many of whom were my age and with whom I would play catch or, later on, watch football. As a young man, I recall several years when the meal was dominated by highly contentious political arguments over Vietnam, Israel/Palestine, and general economic theory. My father and I did not see eye-to-eye on many of the prevailing issues of the day and the dinner table was frequently where these differences came to a head, sometimes resulting in someone leaving the room . . . usually the old man.

Yesterday was the first time in a few years both my brother and sister were out of town and, coupled with the absence of my parents (both of whom are amolderin’ in the grave), I had no immediate family with which to spend the holiday. This also had a salutary effect, as it allowed my wife, children, and me to spend the day with her family with a total absence of guilt or argument over which location would be best. In the past, we have spent the day with one side and the evening with another. I like staying in one place best.

Holiday Exceptionalism Lost

The biggest thing that’s changed for me is the really special feeling of the day is no longer there. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the holiday and always enjoy being with family. Nevertheless, after all these years the excitement has worn off and, even worse, the food (which once was so special) has succumbed to a level of scrutiny I never brought to the table before. I’m wondering if this isn’t related to my being an older father of two young children, both of whom require lots of attention and neither of whom yet appreciate the wonders of a full Thanksgiving meal. Maybe I’m just jaded. By the way, my love of Pumpkin Pie does not seem to have diminished, so there’s something to be thankful for!

What It’s Really About

I’m reasonably certain what has happened is I now try to think of each and every day as one for which to give thanks. Since I am no longer religious, and have neither that type of community nor prayer to remind me of the blessings I receive, I make a conscious effort to do it in other ways. One of those is when I stare out at the night sky, which I do frequently, and contemplate how lucky I am to be here and, even better, to be conscious of being here. Thinking about the virtual infinity of the universe, it’s vast emptiness and tremendous violence, its humbling grandeur and beauty, I am always appreciative of the planet I live on and the amazing luck of the draw that I’m here and know it.

I’m also thankful I was born into a reasonably intact family, in a country as developed as the United States (regardless of the problems we have been, and are now, experiencing) and that I have lived a very interesting, exciting, and full life filled with challenges, setbacks, and triumphs. Thanksgiving tends to pale in comparison and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. How was your Thanksgiving?


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