A New Word

April 25, 2018

I like words. I have mentioned this in previous Ruminations.  I like to find out where they come from and what they mean.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember them but I like them.  Ellen is the “rememberer.”  When we lay in bed at night and I’m reading one book and she another I am constantly interrupting her by saying: “what does _______ mean.”  She remembers other things too… like EVERYTHING I have ever done wrong.  Or EVERYTIME I have ever criticized her for something… but I digress.  She has an amazing (c.f., phenomenal, extraordinary, exceptional, unique, rare, astonishing, remarkable, marvelous, mind-boggling… aren’t thesauruses great!) vocabulary.  I think I might have digressed again.

This morning I came across a new word… well “new” to me anyway; one that describes all of us at various times in our lives. Are you ready?  The word is “ultracrepidarian.”  Yep, that’s you and me… at times.  If you want to find true ultracrepidarians go to any bar in the evening and you’ll find loads of them.  But again, we are all guilty.

Did you run for your dictionary yet? Or bring up “dictionary.com”?  If you did you discovered that ultracrepidarians are people who share opinions about things that they know little about or discuss topics in which they have no expertise.  Interestingly enough, the word comes from Latin (not surprising) meaning “the sole of a shoe, sandal.”  What?  “I don’t get it,” you say.  Hang in there for a moment.  It derives its meaning from a phrase by Pliny the Elder (remember him?).  The phrase?  “ne supra crepidam sutor judicare.”  I hope you are impressed with my ability to copy and paste. It means “Let the cobbler not judge above the sandal.”  In other words stick with your area of expertise in making judgments or conversing about things.

Why is it that there are some topics that we all think we are experts on and others not so much? For some reason, we all think we know a great deal about politics, religion, foreign relations, parenting… We have little trouble participating in conversations and expressing opinions about those things.  But rocket science on the other hand; or quantum physics…  Few of us would say, “Well, let me tell you what I think about the current design of interplanetary transportation.”  Yeah right!

All of that to say this… I grow weary of folks telling me their opinions about God and Christianity. Particularly when they have done no more research on these things than they have done on… well… rocket science.  I am too polite to say, “Shut up!”  And given my position I guess I can’t very well say, “I don’t really care what you think.”  When in fact… um… I don’t really care… most of the time.  Don’t get me wrong.  If it’s a productive conversation I am more than willing to discuss these things.  But when it’s “drunk talk” (back to the bar again), I’m not interested.

Look at what Peter says: 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… Notice Peter does not say “always be ready to give your opinion on everything.”  Nor does he say “always, ‘i.e., in every circumstance,’ give an opinion regarding your faith.”  I think what he is saying is this:  “Be prepared in any circumstance (assuming it’s appropriate) to explain why your faith is important and what Jesus means to you.” Of course Jesus would have to mean something to you in order for you to give an opinion.  If not then you are acting like a… yep you got it… an ultracrepidarian; giving opinions on something/someone you know little about. That would be like me telling you about my “good friend” Pliny the Elder.

Do you get it? The Bible does not say that we have to give an opinion on every faith issue in every circumstance.  We are even encouraged to walk away at times.  Mark 6:11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” That’s another way of saying, “There are occasions where we should not waste our time with certain people.” Leave them to their own devises.”

Because of the above issues I think it is best for us as Believers to talk about our faith in the realm of “knowing Jesus and what that means to us.” If/when we get diverted into conversations about “where did God come from” and “how could the story of Noah really be true” and “where did Adam and Eve’s daughters-in-law come from” then we get hopelessly sidetracked.  Don’t get me wrong.  Those are important issues to deal with, but I suggest you study them before giving opinions about them… lest we be… yep one more time… ultracrepidarians.

From one ultracrepidarian (at times) to another,



Video Game Addicts

April 5, 2018

What I’m about to share with you falls under the category of “The Times They are A-Changin.” Otherwise known as; “I sound more and more like my father every day.”  This morning I was watching the sports news on my computer.  There are various articles and videos of major sports happenings… mostly of the sports that are in season.  The Pirates for example are the only major league baseball team still undefeated… 4-0.  That will likely be corrected by the time you read this.  Anyway, in the midst of all the articles came a video about a young woman who is the first female… “first” mind you (that should impress you)… “professional” video game player.  I think the appropriate wording is “gamer.”  The report went to great lengths to discuss her excellence at manipulating the characters on the screen.  Um… Uh…  VIDEO GAME PLAYERS ON A SPORTS CHANNEL?  Seriously?!?!  Video games are not sports… period! The people who are immersed in them are useless couch potatoes who push buttons really well. (Hmmmm… did that sound harsh?)  If she is a professional then she gets paid for pushing buttons.  Pretty soon we will call pool shooters athletes!  “Excuse me, let me move my belly out of the way so I can pocket the 8 ball.”  Don’t get me wrong, video games can be fun.  I have played them myself on occasion.  Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night or when I wake at 2:00 a.m. I’ll play solitaire on my phone… a more simplified form of “gaming.”  But professional button pushers?  I think I’m going to be ill.

And honestly what I just wrote has little to say about the hundreds of thousands of young people and adults who are literally addicted to video games…. Just like alcoholics or drug abusers, or porn addicts. In this case they spend hours and hours of their lives pushing buttons.  It’s bad enough that it’s a monumental waste of time, but it’s a waste of life!  Get that?  A WASTE OF LIFE.  I can’t imagine one person will EVER go to their grave saying “I wish I had spent more time pushing buttons in front of a television screen.”

I asked a friend of mine recently who knows way more about addictions and the treatment of them than I do, “What is an addiction? How does one define it?  I mean, is there a difference between a ‘casual’ beer drinker and an alcoholic?”  I know that we are inclined to say, “Of course there is!”  I agree, but try defining the difference.  Addicts tend to define addiction as “something they are not.”  For example an alcoholic might say:  “An alcoholic is someone who drinks hard liquor not beer like me.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks earlier in the day than I do.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks more than a 6 pack a night… I only drink one 6 pack.”  Get it?  We rationalize our addictions by defining them in a way outside of our own behavior.  My friend said (among other things) that an addiction is “the consumption of something that you cannot refrain from consuming.”  “Consuming” does not necessarily mean “taking into one’s body.”  We discussed a friend of his who was “addicted” to exercise.  It controlled his life to the exclusion of other essential things and people important to him.  The difficulty with this definition in terms of bringing clarity to “addiction” is that an addict will say, “Well, I can do without _______.  Just watch me.”  They will give up their addiction for a short while and then say, “See?  I’m not addicted!”  After having made their “point” they are right back at it.

The fastest growing addiction that I am aware of is video game addiction. Video addicts are just like any other.  They rationalize their behavior and define addiction in a way that does not include them.  But truth be told, their addiction consumes their lives.  Even when not pushing buttons, they are thinking of pushing buttons.  They fantasize about strategies that can allow them to be more successful at their game or games of choice.  Meanwhile essential or even non essential activities in their lives go unaddressed.  Relationships become problematic… well unless we are talking about the invisible addicted button pushers on the other side of their endless games.

The other thing that many addicts do is hide their consumption. Do you know someone who plays video games until all hours of the night in a dark room by themselves?  They struggle to get up in the morning for work or school?  Every time you walk into the house they are pushing buttons?  Their weekends or days off are consumed with… you got it… manipulating controllers.  It’s an addiction!  It will not serve them well.

I watched several videos the other day of parents taking their children’s video games away from them or destroying them. The videos were very disturbing!  You’ll get the idea if you can imagine for a moment flushing an addict’s opiods down the toilet, or breaking all of the bottles of whisky, wine or beer in the home of an alcoholic.  You would get similar violent, angry reactions.  Watching 15 year old video addicts reduced to weeping, out of control 3 year olds who just lost their pacifier was sad.

At the end of the day I don’t know what to tell you about all of this. Well maybe one thing.  If you live with an addict… of any kind… DO NOT ENABLE THEM! Do you know what that means?

  • It means you don’t make excuses for their addiction. Let them live with the consequences of their actions.
  • It means you don’t cover for their addiction, i.e., calling your son’s boss to tell them that “Johnnie cannot come into work today because he is not feeling well.” When in fact Johnnie can’t drag himself out of bed because he spent the night playing video games.
  • It means you tell the truth to other people when appropriate, i.e., “My son is a video game addict.”
  • It means you don’t assist them in their addiction. Today ought to be the last day you ever buy a game system or a game for a video addict. If you do then you take some responsibility for their addiction.

Do you know that AA is only one of many organizations who treat Alcoholism? They just happen to be the most successful.  Below are their 12 steps.  How might these apply to a video game addict?

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditations to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Am I over reacting? If you think I am it’s because you have not been around an out of control “button pusher.” Or you are an addict yourself. Most of you know that I am not wrong here.