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Greed isn’t sustainable.

I came across this insight over on the Sojourners Blog the other day:

“Major institutions have crumbled, markets have failed, and trade has ground to a halt. And many would argue that the crisis highlights something bigger: the failure of an ideology.”

– Andy Clasper

Could this economic crisis really signify the failure an entire ideology? If Andy is talking about our cut-throat, every-man-for-himself brand of capitalism, I think he may be right. In fact, I hope he is.

Right now, our economic ideology is to look out for yourself. Give yourself the biggest advantage you can. Do whatever it takes to get promoted, stay ahead of the curve, get paid more. Money is the lifeblood of our culture. It not only keeps our economy fluid, but serves as the primary gauge by which we judge the success of a person, and the overall happiness of ourselves.

I think this ideology has been the Achilles’ heel of our economy. If you think about it, almost every reason why our economy collapsed – lending crisis, foreclosure crisis, excessive risk on Wall Street – can be traced back to human greed.

Maybe it’s the recession, and maybe it’s just because Drea and I are generally strapped for cash, but I’m beginning more and more to see the value in the way my grandparents’ generation lived. I still don’t quite buy the “I had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow” bit, but maybe our grandparents were on to something. I get the impression that they lived in a healthier society than ours. People cared about each other’s well-being, about the common good of their communities. They also lived within their means. No credit cards, no instant gratification. If you wanted something, you had to wait until you’d saved enough money to buy it. (What a concept!)

Hopefully something as large-scale as this recession will make us realize that a greed-driven ideology isn’t just ungenerous, it’s also unsustainable. President Obama wrote the following in an op-ed released yesterday in anticipation of next week’s G-20 meeting in London:

“We cannot settle for a return to the status quo. We must put an end to the reckless speculation and spending beyond our means; to the bad credit, over-leveraged banks and absence of oversight that condemns us to bubbles that inevitably bust.”

There’s obviously a lot of work and backpedaling to be done, but it’s good to hear that the President doesn’t view this recession as a glitch in an otherwise good system, that he recognizes the need for a fundamental rethinking.

As a nation and as individuals, I hope we come out of this mess with an enhanced confidence in two things: moderation and community. Moderation because certain luxuries are worth giving up for the sake of being able to sleep at night. I’ll take living in a small house and eating cheap meals over “the finer things” anyday if it means not having to stress about money. And community because, well it’s just better than trying to get by on your own (as Solomon would attest).

As bad as this recession seems right now, it might be just the kick in the pants we need in order to pursue a more sustainable ideology.

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Filed under: Current issues, ,

A decade later (Part 2)

On this day ten years ago, Drea broke up with me. (For background info about our first dating relationship, click here.)

Anyway, my 15-year-old self was broken-hearted. March 23, 1999 was honestly one of the worst days of my life. It took me forever to get over Drea. I’m still trying to, actually. Hmm…getting married…fail.

I feel like since I posted such nice things about her the other day, it’s okay to give her a hard time today. Why would she break up with me? I mean, clearly I am the best and coolest person in the universe. I was back then too. Man, did I have a way with the ladies. Clocking in at just under 100 pounds and 5′ 1″, my heart-stopping good looks and debonair style kept the females swooning. To think what Drea gave up…

Anyway, Drea definitely deserves some grief for breaking up with me. Here’s her blog address. Let her have it!

Filed under: Marriage,

She’s true, like ice, like fire.

People, my wife is the bomb. Marrying Drea was best decision of my life. (Hopefully marrying me was the best decision of hers – I have my doubts sometimes.) In the time since we got married, I’ve progressively discovered more and more things I love and appreciate about her.

This week, I’ve been particularly grateful for her counsel. Drea knows me better than anyone, and has a keen ability to tell me what I need to hear at any given time. Whether it’s to encourage or to correct, I can consistently count on her to speak the truth in love. In providing counsel, she is never judgmental, never pompous, never patronizing. Her use of rebuke and correction is cautious and well-intentioned, stemming from a desire to see greater sanctification in my life. These verses remind me of her…

An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

– Proverbs 31: 10-12, 25-26

This doesn’t even begin to cover everything I love and appreciate about Drea. I could go on about her friendship, her intelligence, her upbeat disposition, the perfect blend of smart, sexy, and silly that distinguishes her. But for now, I’m just grateful for the undeserved blessing of a wise and humble wife.

My love, she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful,
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire.

– Bob Dylan, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”

Filed under: Marriage

Weekend smorgasbord

So Drea’s parents, whose basement we currently make our home in, have a burglar alarm. A pretty good call, I think. I mean, we’re not in a bad area or anything, but it is PG County, so a little precaution can’t hurt, right?

Well, the dang thing went off at about 4:00 this morning. There was no burglar; evidently the wind had activated the garage door, setting off the alarm. This was not the first time since we’ve lived in the basement that this has happened. The alarm’s “fail quotient” (kudos to Janaiha for coining that) is pretty high right now. If the past few months are any indication, having an alarm system is like paying a monthly fee to periodically have the living crap scared out of you (this thing is loud) for no reason. I suppose we’d be grateful if it ever thwarted an actual burglar (or other deranged person – again, PG County), but so far it hasn’t done much besides cost us sleep.

In other news, we finally took everyone’s advice and saw Slumdog Millionaire this weekend. I’m glad we saw it on the big screen; the visual elements were incredible. I don’t know much about cinematography, but there was something about the way they shot this movie that made it hard not to be totally consumed. I really felt like I was there. (During the outhouse scene, as my dad put it, you “could smell the crap”.) But for all it’s cinematic quality, I was a little disappointed with the ending. It was definitely more neat and predictable and “Hollywood” than I expected. So, I’m glad we saw it, but…eh…

In yet even more news, we’re officially on the hunt for a house! If all goes as planned, Tom and Renata will be our housemates! Both of us are renting right now, and we figure if we pool our incomes together, we might be able to afford a halfway-decent house. An unconventional idea, but apparently an increasingly popular one ever since the economy went down the crapper. (Seriously, how can anybody afford anything?) We toured a few townhouses yesterday, most of which were brand new, huge, and probably out of our price range, but fun to look at nonetheless. We’re psyched about the idea of living together, and we’re hoping the low property values and interest rates will give us a window of opportunity.

Let’s see, what else is going on? Daylight savings time! It’s actually a pretty good idea in my opinion, but getting out of bed this morning felt like having someone throw a brick at my forehead. The aforementioned 4am wakeup call didn’t help much either. The silver lining, though, is that I got to drive to work in the dark. Score! Really though, I’m actually excited about the longer days and particularly the 70-degree weather we’ve had as of late. (Seriously, there was a foot of snow on the ground a week ago. What the crap?)

Well, it’s cleaning night at the Ackermanns, so I’d better go!

Filed under: Movies, Slice of life, ,

Snow, the dentist, and awkwardness

So…it snowed. A lot. Like 10 inches. That may not sound like much to some people, but for our neck of the woods, 10 inches is a veritable butt-load. In any case, we had a great lazy three-day weekend thanks to the storm, which included watching an unreasonable number of movies: The Dark Knight, W., Transsiberian, and Wall-E. (All fantastic.) For our snow day yesterday, Drea and I bundled up and headed to Jason and Shannon’s for some sledding and/or getting dragged on a sled behind a four-wheeler (awesome). Life group was cancelled on Sunday because of the weather, and Tom, Renata, Drea and I used the free time to wish Lammy a happy birthday. Such creative geniuses we are.

Today it’s back to reality. I had a dentist appointment this morning. (Suckfest.) Am I the only person who feels weird not being able to talk with the hygienist while she cleans your teeth? She’s politely engaging you in conversation, but the various foreign jagged objects in your mouth limit your responses to ones that require no movement of the lips or tongue, like “ah”, “eh”, or the more advanced “uh-huh”. Such meaningful conversations we have. But I can’t complain. My teeth feel clean as a whistle, aside from that subtle lingering taste of latex gloves.

Confession: I never really know how to end blog posts. When it comes time to wrap things up, my mind simply blanks. I seldom can come up with a good concluding sentence. It always feels anticlimactic, kind of like when you’re getting ready to part ways with someone and you say goodbye, only to realize you’re actually headed the same direction. Then there’s that awkward few seconds where you silently walk together, followed by the real goodbye which is invariably abundant with awkwardness.

So um, I guess I’ll, uh, see ya later.

Filed under: Blogging, Movies, Slice of life, , ,