“My leg hairs are part of me”

“My leg hairs are part of me” May 26, 2024

An odd title indeed. It has been an odd week. This line was made to me by a client last week and we laughed together and then I asked them what they meant. This is the problem; I continue to find it curious that people are so broken come to me. In the past, we had systems such as church, Scouts, and other social and civic organizations that provided these moments of guidance. Today, societal systems which used to provide so much comfort and guidance are as dysfunctional and toxic as the family systems I often work with daily.  

 In a few weeks, I will turn 47. It has been a long, strange trip. This is a post around musings I have had around the state of affairs of things here in our global corner of the world.  

People these days 

Much too often I get the question, “what is wrong with people these days?” I am also finding myself arriving at that age where “back in my day” is a reality that I cannot run from. Every generation has said this. Nothing is different these days.  

Kids these days. Generations have been saying this for generations. The problems with kids these days? Their parents and their grandparents are not making meaning. Till my dying day, I will maintain that there is no such thing as a bad kid, just poor, inadequate, or bad parenting practices. Kids need meaning to understand who they are and where they initially fit in their family systems. If we as parents do not do this, we end up with anxious kids with self-esteem and self-worth issues.  

As a parent who inherited his parents and grandparents parenting style and used it during his early parenting experiences, I can see now in my adult children how these practices hurt them. I would later learn after leaving the church and working as a therapist that working collaboratively with your children and offering wide democratic choices creates a healthier family system. The evidence supports this. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6323136/ 

Lack of mentorship 

Going along with the notion of a lack of meaning is the overall loss of mentorship opportunities for young people.  

Three mentors stand out to me from my high school experience, Ralph Julian (Sgt. Julian), Jesse Brock (Major Brock) and Claude Wegley, Jr(Coach Wegley). Sgt Julian was a former Army drill Seargent, E-7 from the old school Army. He was, as they used to say, tougher than woodpecker lips. Major Brock was an 82nd Airborne helicopter pilot from Vietnam. Also, tougher than woodpecker lips and also from the old Army. Coach Wegley was my swim coach from ninth grade to eleventh grade when he succumbed to cancer. People were built differently back then, and both my military mentors were often rigid and uncompromising at times, they were gentle and understanding (most of the time, I spent a few more moments than I can recall in the front lean and rest in front of Sgt. Julian’s desk for some infraction).  

Coach Wegley was the kind of guy whose spiritual energy informed you of him being unhappy and this often was enough for you to correct your actions. All these men taught me leadership, resilience, and grit.  

There is plenty of research pointing to the need for non-parental mentors during a child’s upbringing.  

Lack of meaning  

Loss of definition over what masculine and feminine can be. Compare this to the wave that is occurring with parenting and the awareness that attachment or authoritative parenting is best. Can we create this with our models of masculinity and feminity?  

Sixty years ago, our churches and community centers thrived, and everybody knew everybody. People still looked out for each other. Today, we are surrounded by strangers. It was thought that the internet and subsequent electrical devices that connect us would bring us together. As Jimmy Buffett says, “so connected and all alone”. Not only are we strangers, but people are also just strange in general.  

I have a personal audience every day, four to eight clients at a time. And for these 55 minutes, eight hours a day, I see sadness, brokenness, and loss of meaning.  

 Ethical Aloneness 

This aloneness, this strangeness has cultivated an increase in ethical aloneness.  

Ethical loneliness is the experience of being abandoned by humanity compounded by the experience of not being heard. This chapter advances a phenomenology of sorts, describing how we are formed as selves and how this bears on ethical loneliness. Two thinkers who had deep experience of abandonment—Jean Améry and Emmanuel Levinas—are integral both to the philosophical structure of the argument and to its affective contour. 

We tell ourselves stories all the time about the kinds of selves we are. We’re good at singing, bad at cooking. We are well loved by others, or maybe we are not. (Stauffer, 2015) 

There is another, more insidious problem that we are dealing with, and it is taking over our churches and our politics, ethical aloneness. J. Aaron Simmons offers that “ethical aloneness is a matter of refusing to see others as moral equals. Relational sociality as a defining quality of human existence is a way to avoid such egoism” (Simmons, p. 27). When I heard this line in Simmons book the other day, it hit me square in the forehead, here is what is wrong with the world these days. Our electric mediums of engaging with others have cultivated both types of aloneness.  

Christianity got Weird  

I was driving to the Christian bookstore when I first heard about the planes hitting the first tower in 2001. My first month in seminary and I was buying supplies for my first worship service that Sunday. They say seminary ruins your faith, so my life was going to change anyway, but this really changed my faith. Our countries response really opened my eyes as to how toxic Christianity could be. I could have never imagined then how weird it would get.  

There is a saying that gets batted around in Christianity, “the scripture says.” If one takes any time to study the ancient world and the different religions and philosophies that were followed and studied, you will see that nothing is definitive. A more accurate point of view is “I interpret these scriptures this way”. Just as the early philosophers could not agree if life was about becoming or being, Jesus disagreed with the church officials when he quoted the Jewish texts, “you heard it said, but I say to you.” Midrash was a powerful tool of interpretation and dialogue in the Jewish tradition and currently so.  

No faith is about absolutes. There are no binaries in faith. Rigidity in human development is a sign of immaturity. Rigidity in faith is a sign of spiritual immaturity.  


I have written on Lovingkindness before, see here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveopensdoors/2024/03/a-pluralist-view-on-lovingkindness/

In the 80’s we talked about love and we are the world, we are the people, but somehow we forgot. We need to turn back to cultivating compassion for each other and ourselves. Mary Ann and Frederic Brussat offer https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet/view/6/compassion

“Compassion is a feeling deep within ourselves —a “quivering of the heart” — and it is also a way of acting — being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf. Buddha and Jesus are the most well known exemplars of compassion, and it is the central ethical virtue in the two religions that developed from their teachings.

If we are going to spend time on the news or a phone or some other way connected, we have many moments of offering lovingkindness and compassion to all we see, may we simply offer, “may you be happy, may be at peace, may you have love”.


Simmons, J. A. (2023). Camping with Kierkegaard: Faithfulness as a Way of Life. Wisdom Work. 

STAUFFER, J. (2015). Ethical Loneliness. In Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard (pp. 9–33). Columbia University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/stau17150.6 



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