26 April 2012

Staying the Couriers…


Up above the famed Manhattan Post Office are carved those famous words, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” which is derived from the ancient historian Herodotus.  That people today do not even know about Herodotus much that there is a motto of the US Post Office/Postal Service says something.

The romantic image of the devoted letter carrier is all but dust.  Kevin Costner was the last to invoke it and destroy it.  Today, it is the poster boy for arthritic federal government, losing vast sums of public money while delivering less service at a higher cost.

Both the romantic version and the cynical were wrestling as the Senate approves changes for the U.S. Postal Service - The Washington Post.

Between the nostalgia of old left and the pipe dreams of the new right lies reality, of course.  Yes, the system is not working, but it is not entirely due to government folly.  Fifty years ago the postal service was like the phone company, the only game in town.  Yes, there was Railway Express (anyone remember that?) but if you wanted to send information you had three choices – telegraph, telephone, and mail.  Each of them cost money.  You chose based on urgency and cost.

Today, much of the information the post office postal service carried is mostly done electronically.  First class and priority mail volume is down between 15% and 30% over the last decade.  Advertising revenue is slightly lower as well.  You can check out the stats yourself at their own website

Where it was once the first and foremost means of sending information it is now the last and least means.  And for some market purists that means it is time to cut it loose and let it die, like Railway Express. 

I sincerely believe we need a postal service. But how to do that? I have a thought.  You knew I would, otherwise why write all this stuff. 

How about we charge for email?  We have to affix a stamp to letters, well why not a tiny charge – .1 of a cent say – on the 247 billion emails sent each day all over the world.  Even if only 10% of those were US generated, that would yield $250 million a day.  The Postal Service could recoup its losses in less than two months. 

I know we love our free email, but what if a small cost could assure we always had good postal service when we needed it, sort of like gasoline taxes that make sure roads are repaired. 

How much would it cost the average user, though?  Well, a .1 of a cent per message, that would mean you would have to send more than 450 email messages a day to equal one first class stamp.  Even if you sent only 45 a day it would be less than a nickel.  Is it worth $18.25 a year to preserve postal service? 

Just wondering…

20 April 2012

Helluva Way to Return


Yes, it has been a while.  Not that there has been a lot of time on my hands.  But I ran into this debate on the NYTImes, promoted by the Prostitution scandal in the Secret Service, and it made me think. I like that. 

Read this first.  I’ll wait.  Is Legalized Prostitution Safer? - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com.  Meanwhile, for your listening pleasure…

So what do you think?  As I ponder it all, and strange as it may sound at first, I see resemblances both to our struggles over illegal drugs and legal abortion. 

Like drugs, no matter how much we make it illegal it still goes on.  And also like drugs, the folks who pay the price are the least responsible for the mess.  The current circumstances are worse than useless.  They cause additional harm.

Like abortion, the matter is profoundly shaped by gender inequity.  We hold women responsible for prostitution (the word itself is about the provider!) the way we blame women for getting pregnant unintentionally, as though they alone were the cause and effect.

The debate in the Times tells us there is no simple answer, just as there is no simple answer to the struggles we have about drugs and abortion.  But things could be better than they are.  I’ll take that while we work on perfect.

07 April 2012

01 April 2012

There You Go Again…

… telling more truth than is smart.  For me that is.  But if you know me, being frank is a gift that keeps on giving.  Anyway, I am home after a full day of church stuff.  The sun is setting, and some thoughts just won’t go away.  So write about them, I think. 

Think twice is one of those thoughts.  That’s what I should do because it is one thing I should have done.  This afternoon our church choir did a powerful performance of the Mozart Requiem in their annual spring concert.  I was psyched to go, and psyched by the performance, and in the midst of this great emotional state I allowed some ‘less filtered’ thoughts out of my mouth.  Nothing mean or bad, but not well thought or said.

What sticks with me this evening is how we hear that we should trust our emotions but sometimes you can’t. There is never a time when your words do not matter to someone, and you never who they will be.  Being a grownup means always thinking first, and maybe second, and that can get tiring. 

And don’t forget to be real, authentic, and honest. 

Sometimes your inner child needs to keep quiet.  Of course when the concert was over there was a great round of highly deserved applause.  I started it in fact.  They people stood up and cheered, and they deserved that too.  But my inner child is a whining little pill sometimes and I found myself thinking, “Hey, I want some applause too.” 

I do get some now and then, but not like this.  And when I am a grownup this makes sense.  Applause is not what I am in it for, but a long ago dug hole that needs approval from parents or teachers or someone else sometimes yawns wide and I want to be admirable and applauded.

Mind you, I got two terrific compliments today.  They felt great, but this desire for appreciation is very deep and very old.  My grownup mind knows it can never be quenched because that need belongs to my past and not my present.  And yet knowing it can never be quenched does not make the desire go away.  That means childish envy is ever ready to curdle the mood. 

Being good enough really is good enough.  In all my years as a clergyman my congregations have praised my preaching.  That led me to believe I was a good preacher.  And yet I am never invited to preach elsewhere.  (See above for how that feels).  Does that mean I am deceiving myself? 

No.  It means, when my grownup is alert, that I am a very good preacher for this church.  I And ultimately, that is the point of preaching.  I speak to them, not people in general.  The more you know the people and the more they know you, the better a preacher you are.  For them.  And that is good enough.

That may explain why I am unlikely to write a book, or more honestly, write something that will get published.  Books are addressed to unknown people, but I know the people I speak to and write to.  It is what I sense needs to be shared with someone that propels me, not just a desire to speak or write by itself.

If I think twice instead of feel once, and let my inner child have its tantrum and then pipe down, life is not only good enough, it is very good.  But it takes effort, friends.  Damn.