• Thomas A. Wilson

Three Part Harmony

Part 1: Live and Let Live

Some people like to modify their earth-suit. Artificial cranial deformation, for instance, used to be in vogue. Flattened, spherical, or conical—it was a heady endeavor. The Maya, Inca, and several North American tribes engaged in the practice, as did Old World Huns and Alans.

In Myanmar, female Kayans wear heavy neck rings that push down and deform the clavicle, giving the appearance of a longer neck. In Ethiopia, Mursi women wear massive lip plates. Amazon Zoe people wear a lip plug that resembles a horn. It’s crafted from bone or wood, inserted—via piercing—during childhood, and enlarged as the wearer grows.

In western culture, plastic surgery is popular. There’s no small amount of puffing and peeling and lifting and lopping going on. And piercing, tattooing, and implants seem to be popular, too.

Some body modifications, though, are dangerous and destructive. Radical female circumcision is a form of mutilation practiced around the world. Tongue splitting, eye tattooing, and body branding also qualify as sketchy practices in my book; these things break my heart.

But to each his/her own, I guess.

And that’s the point of this week’s blog. People, for the most part, get to decide what they want to do and how they want to live. Freedom of choice stops at the theater door, though, where one is not allowed to yell, “Fire!” unless there is an actual fire.

These days, some folks work hard to limit freedom of personal choice. They do so through shaming, harassment, and economic blackmail. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about opposition to freedom of choice for people who hurt others. The New York mother who personally tattooed her sons' hands crossed the line—her arrest was appropriate. Behavior that hurts others should be arrested. No, I'm talking about people who want to limit freedom for those who disagree with them. That scares me.

So, other than protecting the vulnerable, people should really mind their own business. Don't you think?

Part 2: A Litmus Test

When it comes to personal behavior, I use a three-point litmus test. I ask, “Is it holy, helpful, and healthy?” Holiness shouldn’t be discounted. People in various cultures and at various times have esteemed a wide variety of things as holy. Practitioners of Judaism consider time holy, observing a beautiful calendar of days and feasts. Native Americans consider the land holy, it being literally made from the lives of their ancestors. Evangelicals consider ideas holy, with doctrine and dogma taking up a big part of their worldview. Maybe, in their own way, they’re all on the right track.

Asking if it’s helpful means that I move beyond my “rights” and ask whether my behavior impacts others in a positive way. Slamming the Salvation Army, for instance, is in the news lately, but it’s bad form. While people do have the right to rail about whatever, they should pick their battles wisely. Kudos to all who volunteer to help the poor, lonely, infirm, and despondent.

Finally, is it healthy? Some forms of vaping apparently aren’t. Driving without a seatbelt isn’t. Fixating on things I can’t control is not. So, I modify my behavior in pursuit of health.

That’s what I do—with various degrees of success depending on the day.

Part 3: A Little Levity... Very Little

What if people started doing some new thing? It doesn’t matter exactly what. We’ll just call it suspect behavior. Sus-be, for short. And Sus-be went viral! All over the globe, people got into it. Lawmakers and educators and influencers galore fell in love with Sus-be.

What if that happened?

And what if some nobody, somewhere, said, “Um, I don’t think Sus-be is holy—at least not in my worldview. And I don’t think it’s helpful to me and my neighbors... and there are some real health risks, too. As long as people don’t use Sus-be to hurt others, that’s their business, but I’m sorry, I can’t support it for me or my family.”

What if somebody said that?

And what if the followers of Sus-be took great umbrage? What if they called the nobody unkind names? What if they scoured his/her past to show how loathsome he/she must surely be—filthy rejecter of Sus-be! What if Sus-be zealots took him/her to court, sued him/her, boycotted and barricaded?

And what if that worked? What if the person decided to just keep his/her mouth shut and let the passionate practitioners of Sus-be take more and more control?

That would be pretty funny, wouldn't it?

Or not.


Influence doesn’t so much mean to sway an opinion. Rather, it means to exert an actual effect, like how the shape of a modern airplane wing influences flight. It’s the practical application of wisdom.

Affirmation of the Week: I diligently pay attention to the things that affect my world, and I take positive action to manage my environment.

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