Preparedness – Popping the American Bubble of Denial

This blog is in no way bad-mouthing Americans. I am an American myself. It is simply pointing out an observation. 

When I’m in a restaurant or some other place, my wife will frequently tell me to stop staring at people. When I’m waiting somewhere for one thing or another, I like to spend my time people-watching. I really enjoy studying how people live and reasons why they live that way. People fascinate me – both the good and the bad characteristics. One of the characteristics I’ve noticed the most about the average American is a constant denial that bad things can happen to them or untruths they’re been conditioned to believing. This has manifested itself in many different forms. These are just a few of them I’ve personally noticed.


Form of denial #1: America is the greatest country in the world. 

America's the greatest country on earth? Please tell me more about how perfect it is and how every other country in this world sucks!

Most Americans would agree that America is by far the greatest country in the world to the extent that many would say that America is God’s gift to Earth. Many would say this not only without any knowledge of many of other countries, but also after not having visited many other countries. Many would say that America is great for it’s freedom and strength, but still haven’t researched what freedoms other countries and have no unit for measuring “strength.” Is national debt taken into account when measuring a country’s strength? I’m not necessarily debunking this myth that America is the greatest country, but simply asking the question to those who make this statement: how do you know?

Form of denial #2: All is well with our governmental system. We are not being lied to. 

Mother, should I trust the government? Pink Floyd, The Wall graffiti

While most Americans will yell at the politician on the television over something they said, many believe that the government is an all-around good thing and at the end of the day, wants what’s best for you. Most people will believe that all wars America takes part in, it takes part in for an extremely honest and straight-forward reason. Most will say that taxes are necessary for the building of roads and other infrastructure and that no politician takes office because they have a fascination with power or prestige. 

Form of denial #3: Our financial system is sound. My cash is worth something. 

When most people look at inflation, they just see it as things simply costing more than they used to. Most people do not really care to take a look at the nuts and bolts of the way our money works in comparison to how much it’s worth. Before the Federal Reserve was set up in 1913, the dollar in your pocket lined up to a value of precious metals. Cash was just a series of notes that said “this is a note that represents some cash somewhere”, somewhat acting as the deed to your gold or silver. When the Federal Reserve Bank – not a governmental entity – was put in charge the U.S. monetary system, the “value” of those dollars was determined by a group of economists who would decide how much American currency should be worth in order help the economy run more smoothly. Many people also know that this entity, the Federal Reserve Bank, has no governmental oversight and is under no obligation to report who it has been lending money to or how they came to the conclusion of how much money is worth. This has caused tremendous hyperinflation. Belgium went through a period  of hyperinflation when their currency lost it’s value and basically came trash: 
Belgium inflation - money in the streets.


It can’t happen here, though, right?

Form of denial #4: Guns kill people. 

Gun-free zone.
Whenever a report of a new shooting occurs, people are quick to show support for advanced gun restrictions. The common belief is that guns are dangerous objects and their mere existence is dangerous to the public. Still whenever someone bludgeons or stabs someone to death, the person is immediately blamed for their behavior. Why is this? Primarily, some a misunderstanding of guns. 

A gun cannot fire a bullet unless the trigger is pulled or the firing pun somehow makes contact with the car
tridge in some forceful way – such as being dropped or mishandled. In such a case of a misfire, safety precautions have not been maintained much in the same way that someone can be killed in a car crash because they do not wear their seat belt. More people die on the highways each year than at firing range or while in the proximity of people with firearms. The difference is that people do not think about the likelihood of being killed in a car than being shot to death with a gun. We are all dramatically more likely to be killed in a car wreck than shot with a gun. Also, it takes little more effort to stab someone in the throat than to shoot them in the throat, but we also see no ban on kitchen knives.

Form of denial #5: I will never have to actually experience death. 

The body of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been on display since his death in 1924.
The body of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been on display since his death in 1924.

Yes, we all know we are going to die one day, but do we all really accept this? If you’ve ever ridden in a car, you should understand that there is a possibility of not making it to your destination alive. Still, thanks to modern Christian theology from present-day teachers along with the funeral industry, death is something few people actually have to face until they are on it’s doorstep. Modern Christian theology states that when your body dies, your soul immediately leaves you body and ascends to heaven. Though there is little actual evidence of this scientifically or Scripturally, it sounds really nice so most people readily accept this interpretation. Most accept this because they don’t want to actually face the reality that one day, they’re going to die and they’re body will either be burned or placed in the ground for decomposition to take place. In Judaism, not much about heaven is taught other than it’s somewhere other than here. There is little mention of at what time a soul goes there or if the person actually experiences their own death. Still, if one subscribes to the notion that they will immediately be beamed into immortality forever, death is something someone can unconsciously forgo ever having to face until they are moments from it and they may not be ready.

Evidence of American denial of death can be seen in the “traditional” method of burial – which is quite unique to America. When someone dies, their body is preserved for optimal viewing for loved ones – embalmed so as to remove the evidence of death. They are often placed in a “sealed” coffin which is places in a concrete burial vault, which prevents the casket from leaking or decomposing within the ground. Many like this idea, as no one wants to think about their loved one actually being dead, in the ground, decomposing. It’s altogether too much to handle. 

Let’s pop the bubble of denial. 

Once people are allowed to pop the bubble of denial, they can begin to face their own fate and prepare for the truths on the other side. 
If someone could happier in another country, why not move there? 
If someone is being lied to by their government, why not call them out on it and attempt to change things for the better?
If your money may or may not be worth anything, instead of losing money or being the victim of a possible economic collapse, why not invest in gold or silver in order to help maintain the value of your savings? 
If guns are nothing more than tools, why put any more restrictions on them anymore than drugs, knives, or automobiles?
If you accept that you’re actually going to die one day, why not take a more active role in planning for a burial that is more financially and environmentally responsible as well as treat people with kindness as though you may not have the opportunity to do so tomorrow? 

Living in the denial is simply postponing important decisions that need to be made now instead of later. Today, think about a few things you may be in denial about and see if there’s anything you need to question or accept before it’s too late. There are few things we are absolutely immune to. The sooner we realize this, the better. 

New Years Resolutions | Don't Make Lists, Make Plans

Try harder exercise cartoon shark on a treadmill.

Your list of New Years resolutions will fail. Exchange it for a plan.

Each year, millions of people make a long list of resolutions for the new year. As the new year kicks off, many do really well at keeping their resolutions…until the second week. Diet plans falter, exercise diminishes, and any plans to read the entire Bible fail once someone hits the first second of genealogy. Why do the good intentions of so many just fall off? Why do all these lists fall to pieces? Well, mainly because they’re just that – lists.

A list is great starting point, don’t get me wrong, but a list without a “how” will only be a list and not a plan. A plan is the strategy for defeating yourself into doing what you set out to do. So, while forming a list is helpful in figuring out where you want to go, it is essentially the bullet points to your plan. Here I will run through a few tips that may help you – and me – to stay on track to make some real progress in the upcoming year.



1. Make a list. Check it twice. Remove what seems stupid.
One of the pitfalls of the New Years resolution list is that some of the items on the list are not incredibly important to you. If you’re not psyched about every part of your New Years plan, the parts that you don’t feel like accomplishing will become the lose bricks in wall. If your goal is to get in shape and part of that is to run everyday when you don’t like running at all, when you don’t end up running, the other parts of that resolution will suffer. Just nix it and stick with what you’re actually excited to do.

Scratch up marked off to do list.


2. The How: Devise steps to make your resolution realistic.
Ok, you’re going to read a book every month! Sounds like a great goal and especially challenging if you’re an extremely busy individual. Before you know it, January is gone and you’re not past the first chapter. Suddenly, this resolution seems impossible, but it’s really because you never stopped to figure out how you’re going to accomplish this feat. Sit down and ask yourself an assortment of questions. Are the books I’m picking going to hold my interest? When exactly am I going to read? If don’t get as far in one week as I want to, how am I going to make up for it to make sure I’m on schedule? Once you’ve outlined exactly how you’re going proceed with your resolution, the more likely you’ll actually succeed.

3. Check back up with yourself. 
At work, your boss may call you in to his office to see how you’re doing. At college, you check your grades every so often to see how you’re doing. Why not be your own boss and check your own grades for what you wanted to accomplish? When you’re piecing together the nuts and bolts of your resolution, schedule in a time to check your progress each month. Go in and put it on your calendar each month for the entire year. Not only will this give you a chance to see where you’re going wrong before you spin out of control, but it will make you feel like a loser for not keeping up with your plans.



4. Pick out resolutions you can track. 
When I was on a diet, I remember one of the biggest motivations to keep going was to see how far I had already come. To weigh myself and count those numbers against last week’s numbers got me pumped to do well the next week. The more specific you are in your plans (but not forgetting rule 2.), the more likely you will be to stick with them as you have successes. If you’re on a diet, weigh yourself every week. If you’re trying to read more, tally how many pages, chapters, or books you’ve gotten through. If you’re trying to quit smoking, count the days you’ve gone without a cigarette.

LoseIt weight loss tracking graph.




5. Under pressure: share your plans with others. 
Nelson Simpsons bully haha ha ha.Do you know what it sounds like when you fail to keep goals that you’ve set for yourself, yet haven’t shared with anyone? It’s the sound of a Big Mac with fries getting eaten, the slurp from when you’ve finished that super-sized soda, and your own shame. Still, you can get over that. What happens when you share your goals with others and ask them to hold you accountable? If they’re your friends, it’s going to be loud and annoying. As a safety net, make sure you share your personal plans with a couple close friends and tell them to give you a hard time if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain. If a couple of you are forming New Years resolutions plans, you may form a group to keep each other accountable. Call each other up and give each other a hard time. Call each other names. Use peer pressure to your advantage and let your friends give you hell.

Because I want
to live up to my own rule, here is my New Years plans.


1. I want to lose between 50 and 60 pounds and maintain good dietary and exercise habits. 
Loseit lose it application app.At once point at my current height, I weighed 170 pounds. Currently, I am at my all-time fattest at a whopping 230 pounds. If I have to run very much, I become winded and even just a few hours of activity beyond my usual day (going to the skate park, etc.) leaves me sore for days.
The how:
Though this seems pretty crazy, it’s not when you think that I only need to lose about 5 pounds a month. That’s 1.25 pounds a week and 0.2 pounds a day. That’s not that outrageous. I will be using the LoseIt smartphone application like I have in the past to monitor my caloric intake and amount of exercise. I’ll also make an effort to take part in exercises that I particularly enjoy such as skateboarding and cycling.

2. I want to study a chapter of Tanach every day or at least 7 chapter a week. 

Studying Torah.

This something that I’m not especially proud to share with the world, but my studies has declined in the past few months. I usually study entire books in a week if I’m trying to write a paper or come up with a response to a textual argument in a debate I’m having with someone, but when there’s no motive, my spiritual academics is lacking. 
The how:
I plan on studying a chapter a day by either doing so in the morning before work, on my lunch break, or in the evenings. I will allow myself to skip a day and make up for it, but that will never go beyond a week. I’ll keep track of my studies using a spreadsheet on Google Drive

3. I want obtain and receive the proper training for use of a personal firearm. 

Revolver pistol barrel.

For how pro-gun I am, many people assume I have some arsenal of firearms in my house. Sadly, I do not currently own a single actual firearm aside from an airsoft pistol mostly because funds have not permitted me to drop several hundred dollars on a nice quality pistol or shotgun for the home. Along with this, I would be sure to obtain the proper firearms training to not only be comfortable using the firearm, but carrying it on my person on a daily basis.
The how:
I want to shop to find what weapon(s) I want to purchase by the end of January and budget the price into my savings – possibly setting up a separate account for this purpose along with the price of adequate ammunition and professional training.

4. I want to live more simply.
I have far too many clothes. I have far too many books. I have far too many shoes. I just have too much stuff. 
The how:
I want to come up with an amount of things I give away each month or just a limit on how much I’m able to possess. More updates and possibly a blog post on how I go about this will be to come.



5. I want to be a more prepared individual. 

Prepared with tools.

Once upon a time, I was a boy scout who could tie knots, climb cliffs, and knew which items you could eat if you got lost in the wilderness. Nowadays, I can tie my shoes, I’m out of shape, and I think I’d depend on how fat I am to give me some calorie storage. I live in the city, have no firearms, and if snow or storms were to knock out power and keep the grocery stores closed for a month, I’d probably last 2 weeks before I’d start going hungry. 
The how:
I’m not saying I feel the need to prepare for the end of the world yet, but possibly just storing enough food and water for my wife and I not to panic in the event of a natural disaster like we’ve seen with Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, or even the earthquakes we had been experiencing in Oklahoma along with the ability to protect it in the event that law enforcement is stretched thin or incapable of reaching us. My plan for this is to figure out a way to buy just a few extra nonperishable items to put in the closet every time we go to the grocery store, refill empty milk jugs with filtered water, and have first-aid kits as well as certain tools and items readily available in my home and car. In addition to this, I’d want a better knowledge of e
verything from knots to auto mechanics. This would be from doing research in my free time as well as testing out any skills I obtain. 

What is your New Years resolution plan? Feel free to post it in the comments box or on Facebook so you can discuss it with others. 

Preparation | Making Your Final Arrangements – You're Never Too Young To Plan…Or Die

This is the first in a series of blogs on preparedness. I felt the need to write these because, though I was a Boy Scout, I didn’t very far up the ranks and my preparedness is extremely lacking. As I research these topics, I’ll be sharing my findings with ya’ll. 

dead cartoon face

Everybody dies. Why not plan your own going-away party?

As I kick off this series of blogs about preparedness, I find it necessary to start out with one thing that everyone will experience and should plan for as weird as it seems – your own death. Nobody gets out of this world alive, so why not take some stock in what happens after you kick the bucket? For those who are creeped out by death or don’t want to have to think about it, you’d be surprised how much peace can come out of knowing exactly what will occur with your family, friends, and your remains after you’re long gone. 

“I’m only in my twenties. Isn’t that a bit early to be making final arrangements?”

For the record, I’m only 25. For those of you who think that’s too young to start planning for your own death, keep in mind that we’re not all going to die in our sleep at age 80+. After having been to funerals for friends who have either died in automobile accidents and have been the victims of other tragic mishaps, it’s extremely evident how little thought most younger adults give to their final arrangements. Most people my age don’t even know what kind of options are out there or how much they’re going to end up costing the family you leave behind – especially since most of them have little to no savings at this stage in the game. 

“I’m not married and don’t have any kids. Why should I start planning for death?”

A big argument I’ve heard against making any kind of final arrangements while you’re young is because most younger people have no significant other or no children to worry about including in a living will. Even if you don’t want to mess with legal details, just writing up some form of letter or other document outlining what you’d want your last wishes to be can not only be extremely helpful for the people you leave behind, but can also give you some peace of mind. If you’re married later and have kids, you can always revise the document and make the necessary legal changes down the line. I’ve been to a few funerals that were completely arranged by someone’s family that was a ceremony I know didn’t reflect the person they were mourning. If you’re not sure whether or not this may be the case, just think what kind of service your mom would plan for you if you died tomorrow. Is that really you? Is the burial in line with your current beliefs? 

“Whatever they choose is fine with me. I trust them.” 

Funeral home casket showroom.

In my experience with loved ones who have died as well doing research and talking with a funeral director buddy of mine, people are at their most financially vulnerable when they’re at their most emotionally vulnerable. Nobody wants to be seen as being cheap and even trying to get the best deal on a casket or burial service is seen as being tacky or even disrespectful to the memory of the deceased. This is a ploy that the funeral industry is just fine with as it allows them to mark up their products and services exponentially. People are taken for a ride especially when the deceased had no final arrangements when in actuality, if they were still alive, they’d more than likely yell “WHY ARE YOU SPENDING SO MUCH ON ME?! I’M DEAD!” Because that voice of reason is nowhere to be found for fear of being seen as cheap when wanting to honor the deceased, some of these funeral homes can get away with highway robbery with drastic markups and unnecessary services. By planning before hand and trying to get the best deal for yourself, you can save your loved ones a lot of attentional time, money, and grief. 

“How many options can there possibly be for final arrangements?”

A natural burial green burial site.

 

The funeral industry is constantly looking at new ways to customize and personalize the final arrangements of its clients. One reason for this is to deliver the most meaningful service possible to their clients, but other one is simply because it allows them to sell your family more products and services. These days, most people in America are embalmed, prepped for a viewing and/or open-casket service in a sanctuary or funeral chapel with them in an air-tight casket, and then are buried inside a concrete vault in a grave in a well-manicured cemetery. The second most popular opinion is being cremated with the cremains (cremated remains) stored in a decorative urn either with the family, scattered, or buried in yet another well-manicured cemetery. Most people aren’t even aware that there are even more options out there. Another form of funeral and burial option becoming more popular with the economically and environmentally conscious is natural burial, also called “green burial.” With this option, the body is not embalmed and is buried in the ground in a biodegradable casket or burial shroud directly in the ground in a “green cemetery” – a burial grounds that resembles a nature reserve for it’s lack of grave markers and landscaping. Other options for burial are only limited by local laws and finances, but doing a just
a little bit of research can go a long way towards helping you decide on what method best reflects your last wishes and/or the amount of money you want to drop on your burial or other funeral arrangements. From being shot into space to being dumped in a hole while wrapped in a sheet, check out your options. 


“Thinking about my final arrangements creeps me out. I don’t want to think about dying.”

A hearse at a cemetery.

Most people, especially younger people, just don’t want to think about dying. They’re in the prime of their lives and feel the most alive, so they feel that preparing for their own death can almost drag them down. For these people, it’s important to remember this fact: everybody dies. Everybody will die. You will one day no longer be alive and your body will either be ashes, decomposing in the soil, or slowly withering away inside an air-tight casket…which will, one day leak and fill with water. Still, when it comes to making your final arrangements, there are two benefits to doing this now: 

1. Making your final plans now will save your family the hassle of trying to figure out what you wanted. Your family will be devastated by your passing – the last thing you want to do is force them to try and figure out what you may have wanted at a price that won’t put clean out their savings. Today, you’re in your right mind and you want the best price. Your family will be beside themselves and won’t want to be seen as being cheap. 

2. At times, some people aren’t as creeped out by the concept of dying as they are about what happens to their bodies after they die. Lots of unknown pieces of information can make people anxious about dying. 

 “Where do I even begin in making final arrangements?”

Many think that making your final arrangements is an appointment with the funeral home to look at caskets. Giving your loved ones an idea of what you want can be as simple as writing up a grocery list of things you want and things you don’t want. It can be a letter or a note just leading your family in the right direction. You don’t have to choose between a periwinkle blue steel and mahogany in order to start making final arrangements. It can be as simple as some of my own personal arrangements I’ve made know with my wife and other members of my family:

“Upon my death, if health regulations allow, I desire to have my body returned to my family for final preparations for burial. This should only be the case if I die in such a manner that my body is not severely disfigured or in a way where a home funeral is not possible. If the cause of death makes a home funeral not possible, my body can be washed, dressed in plain clothes, and placed in a burial shroud by funeral professionals where is it not visible. Under no circumstances is my body to be embalmed. If the condition of my body allows, it is my desire for my body to washed and prepared for burial and dressed in plain clothes by my family members and close friends. In a room removed from the rest of the house, those who desire to see my body and spend time saying good-bye and obtaining closure should be allowed to do so, but this decision is to be left up to the individual as the appearance of the body may be disturbing to some due to a lack of embalming. The funeral service is to take place in the home, the body is to be completely covered by a burial shroud. It is my wish to be buried in a natural burial or green burial cemetery with no vault or grave liner. The Shema and other assorted passages from Psalms and prayers are to be recited before the grave is dug. Able-bodied family members and friends are to dig the grave, lower the body into the grave, and shovel the soil back into the grave. If there is any grave marker, it is to be something natural, such as an inscription on unhewn stone or a planted tree.”
 
With a little bit of research and planning, some very simple steps can be made on your part to save your family lots of money and grief as well as give you a little bit of peace of mind.

"I'm Shutting Down Applebee's, So Don't Be A Dingus."


If you were to ask someone who doesn’t keep Shabbat when Shabbat starts, even if they were knowledgeable of other cultures, they’d probably tell you that it starts Friday night at sundown. While this seems fairly feasible, if you were to ask someone who keeps Shabbat when Shabbat starts for them, they’d probably tell you that it starts Friday afternoon, Friday morning, or even possibly Thursday or Wednesday. I know it sounds really odd, but Shabbat wouldn’t be Shabbat without being prepared. In order to properly prepare for Shabbat, the Torah commands preparedness: 

והיה ביום הששי והכינו את אשר־יביאו והיה משנה על אשר־ילקטו יום ׀ יום
“On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in , it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” – Exodus 16:5

After God have Israelites the Sabbath and then was nice enough to give the manna in the desert, He didn’t necessarily have to say “Oh, and by the way, I’m locking up Hardees this Saturday so please don’t be a dill weed and try to hit it up. Make a run to the Manna Grocery Store and load up before the sun goes down Friday night.” But guess what? To ensure that we couldn’t screw it up, He did anyways. We should feel blessed to have a God that puts up with us; even when we’re complete morons.

Everything God teaches His people goes beyond the immediate understanding and applies to numerous aspects of life. As God had Israel prepare for Shabbat, for the High Holy Days, and as they approach Him in prayer and worship, we are also taught to prepare ourselves for whatever life has in store for us.

Shalom. 
– Ken