Take Your Time

Men and women do get lonely and certainly relationships are unquestionably important. However wanting a relationship “right now” can be costly. This urgency can appear too frantic and rushed much like ordering an item through the Internet. Again an irrational thought can spring to mind, “I don’t have time to get out and face the whole dating scene. I have so much to do!” So people feel pressured to get into what they think is a meaningful relationship too fast and that is the fourth complication in building a solid foundation for a relationship. Rush rush rush. Men and women sometimes interview each other as if they were screening applicants for a job. The process can approach an interrogation. Here is an example of a guy’s interview list, “How much time do you spend cooking dinner each night?” and “Do you use fresh ingredients or processed foods?” and lastly “Do you use cookbooks or do you just wing it?” I suppose I need to put a disclaimer on this and say, gentlemen don’t ask these types of questions if you want to find your soul mate! The primary danger in all of this rushing around is that you never get to know the other person. Instead of perceiving and really seeing the other person fully on his or her own terms, the pressure you feel to “move things along” may tend to force your vision to see only what you want to see and not reality. You may not be as open to the other person in all of his or her complexity, richness, and yes contradictions. If one only pays attention to beauty, “coolness,” and attributes of wealth and social status then that sense of hurry won’t lead to building a good solid foundation in your relationship. Here is what I most often see in couples who resort to rushing: Rushing means you get into the relationship too fast which can lead to one or both parties feeling hurt, deceived, or confused about the “terms” of the relationship; rushing means that you are more likely to get deeply involved before you really know if the other person is what you are looking for; rushing risks the situation of ordering goods “on impulse” and after committing yourself discovering that what you have “ordered” is not what you bargained for; and lastly rushing makes it harder for you and the other person to get to know each other beyond an initial, superficial level which can lead to short-term misunderstandings, disillusionment, and resentment, and in the longer term to an unstable marriage and even divorce. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

The Imperfect Human

Too many people form relationships based on externals that really have little or even nothing to do with the reality the person yearns for or really needs in the long term. Examples can be a woman who falls in love with a guy because he looks like a guy who can just sweep her off her feet or a man who falls in love with a woman because of her great figure or sexy manner of dress. However it is very possible that the guy may not be willing to affirm her or that the woman really isn’t very patient or loyal. Basing a relationship on image isn’t a great way to build a strong foundation and this can also lead to the third complication, images of perfection. Perfect human relationships do not exist. Some relationships are wonderful but even those require hard work, and they are even far from perfect. The very definition of perfection is “to be without flaw” or “free from error.” However this contradicts a basic human truth: we are all ultimately flawed! We are far from perfect as are our relationships with others. However we are bombarded from many sources that tell us “younger is better” for everything including looks, jobs, and image. There is constant striving for external youth via pills, creams, surgeries, diets, and exercise. Ask yourself these two questions, “Will these external changes really make a difference for you or will these changes meet your inner most needs?” Society has told us that we are worth what we look like, in essence saying we are worth what others see. This is not true and is a false belief that can distort so much in our lives. Pursuing perfection in relationships does not lead to happiness and an individual can save themselves a lot of distress and anxiety that often leads to disappointment and frustration, by dropping the false belief that there can be perfection in others. Look closely as to whether you have unrealistic expectations of others. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Looking Deeper

Last week I wrote about the confusion and anxiety over the more recent approaches, such as the Internet, to search for love and mentioned that we would be focusing on the 7 paths to strong and lasting relationships. The first path is to build solid foundations. I also mentioned the first complication within that path as being a sense of unpredictability in how to go about searching for one’s soul mate. The second complication is the images of what we want not being shaped by our inner needs but by Hollywood, the fashion industry, and the media. Unfortunately the “shopping list” of demands of what people want in a mate is comprised by expectations of “must-have” features that spring up from who knows where. These expectations could arise from our inner needs or they could come from the culture surrounding us. The detailed, picky specifications that people express about ideal mates can become obstacles that prevent them from connecting with reality. Physical attraction, for example, does not always translate into a long-lasting profound relationship. You do not find your lifetime partner as a result of only an initial attraction. In fact that initial reaction can be brought down a few notches when we listen or speak to people and get to know them. In our society we do indeed have a tendency to “judge a book by its cover” and we really don’t look inside. We stay on the surface and this impairs our ability to get know someone on a deeper level. As a counselor when I am told things like, “I am sleeping with a stranger” or “I don’t know this person anymore” or ” This isn’t the person I married” it can mean they fell into the trap of only knowing someone on a superficial level. The stuff of real relationships is being able to see into another person’s heart and to find the treasure that lies within. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Is It Hard To Find Someone Good?

The English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, sufficient unto himself.” There are those who appear to be completely self-sufficient but these self-sufficient types are mostly out of touch with their own needs, desires, and feelings. Everyone needs someone. Thus begins the search for a “soul mate” or “someone I can share my life with.” However even with so many ways to meet people the one overriding complaint is the unpredictability of the process in the quest for love. There don’t seem to be any ground rules, no set patterns, and thus no clear sequence of steps to take. This can lead to a lot of confusion and anxiety. It would seem that our culture and society is simply “making up” the courtship dance. Without rules, people stumble, so it is not surprising that people grab at anything that will keep them on their feet. One of the serious problems with Internet matchmaking is that even though a person may list all of the features they desire in a person, does that mean you will “catch” the person you have cast your net for? After all, the Internet provides a very large “pond” in which to cast a net. Yet there are clearly mixed results and dissatisfaction that can result from reliance on this approach. One of the main reasons people don’t find what they want is that the vision in their mind of the ideal mate may not translate into reality. Very often people will post information on the Internet that is not truthful only to make themselves look better than they really are. Some potential partners present themselves in ways that can only be called “wishful thinking.” Being intrigued by a personality as it takes shape on a computer screen, a so-called “digital personality”, is taking a risk that may even complicate the task of finding a “soul mate.” If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Relationship Foundations

The first path is “Build Solid Foundations.” To live is to relate and there really is no other alternative. From the moment of birth to the moment of death, a person deals with people in all sorts of relationships. No one cuts their own umbilical cord at birth and no one closes their own casket at death so we are dependent on others. Babies, for example, cannot survive even a few hours without the care and nurturance of other people. We are wired for relationships and have a natural drive for connection with others. Each of us has an inborn desire to reach out toward someone else. The experience of reaching out and connecting with others is what ultimately makes us human. No man or woman is an island. When we relate to others we develop and discover ourselves. Being human is a matter of how we relate and share ourselves with others. We need to love and feel loved. This does not mean interacting superficially. It means getting to know other people on deeper levels and building meaningful, lasting relationships. “Building Solid Foundations” means focusing on the perceptions, decisions, values, and actions that support and strengthen caring relationships over the long term. As an adult we are much more autonomous (able to act independently) than when we were younger. An individual can function on their own, live alone, work alone, and even play alone. But in spite of this so-called “adult” autonomy, there is a craving for a relatedness to others. There is a desire to connect with someone who will be a lifetime partner-someone who will be there through the ups and downs, share your dreams, who will give you a sense of meaning, and perhaps the person who will share the gift of parenthood during the child-rearing years. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

Relationship Basics

Almost everyone struggles with the difficulties and the differences of opinion that arise from their relationships. For example, how can a couple bridge the gap between our culture’s romantic expectations about love (a recurrent theme in so many movies) and the reality of everyday domestic life together? Or how do you live with the differences that occur in a relationship where two totally different people must interact, compromise, and live together? How can you communicate effectively as a couple without hurting one another? How can couples reconcile the different cultural, familial, and individual expectations that you and your partner each may hold so dear? How do couples solve the problems and resolve the conflicts that occur in even the happiest of relationships? And finally, how does a couple nurture love over the years of a long relationship-especially given the demands that work and parenting exert on a married couple? In a happy relationship, couples must come to terms with all of these issues. In a conflicted relationship, the partners often feel frustration and pain because they cannot “get a handle” on the issues well enough to live in peace together. The very best marriages in the world will present spouses with issues that require adjustments, compromise, accommodations, and soul-searching. Human beings have an innate drive to be happy and fulfilled, and relationships are one of the primary ways that all of us express that desire. A presentation will be made in these blogs over the next few months to explore “Seven Paths” that can serve as useful guidelines to explore the “terrain” of your own relationship. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

The Contraceptive Conundrum

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and President Obama assert that if one is against abortion, then one should be in favor of widespread distribution of contraceptives. On the surface there even seems to be a certain logic to this position. However the experience of over the last 40 years shows quite the opposite. There has been widespread availability of contraception and this has yielded more than one million abortions annually, one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world for the United States, and epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. On the surface, contraception might have also been seen as a help to married couples who were overwhelmed and stressed out with parental and work responsibilities. It could also be seen as a panacea to combat the fear of overpopulation. However what was not seen was what happens when one separates the life-giving and love-giving portions of human sexuality. Both need to be present not only to have a strong relationship but one that fosters and promotes life in a family setting. We are called to love people and use things. Unfortunately contraceptives promote quite the opposite, which is using another person and loving what we think things can do for us. If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

A New Beginning

Today (Monday, April 9th) is the day after Easter Sunday and thus it is the first day of creation for all Christians (and really even those who are indifferent or struggle with belief). We need to ask ourselves whether we have let things “soil our hearts.” The prophet Ezekiel (36:26) notes, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you a natural heart.” Even though we have just passed through a time of spiritual renewal within the Church season typically referred to as Lent, we need to examine our hearts and be aware if we have become too preoccupied with ourselves, filled with concerns and complications. We need to beg God for a new heart because if we give a little, God will give a lot! Matthew 6:21 states, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” So we ask for a new heart by imploring, “A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.” Psalm 51:12. Things that typically soil our hearts include resentment, anger, lust, comfort seeking, sluggishness, a critical spirit, and arrogance. This coming Sunday, April 15th is Divine Mercy Sunday and this time of year continues to be a “re-examination” of what holds us back from possessing that “clean heart.” Divine Mercy Sunday is a day for even the most hardened of hearts. The grace of God’s mercy is for all people and since we are all sinners and bear personal responsibility for our faults and failures, what better time to return to Church and ask for God’s unending gift of mercy and forgiveness. Christ’s first words in the gospel of Mark (1:15) are simply, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

A Review of the Kansas City Symphony

I believe most musicians and lovers of classical music can recall the moment when they first fell in love with classical music. My moment was a record that featured two musical works both by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) one of the featured composers at a performance of the Kansas City Symphony on Friday evening March 30, 2012. This concert was the 10th in the classical series for the 2011-2012 inaugural season at the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts.

I had purchased a recording of the “Concerto for Flute and Harp” (featuring the famed flutist Julius Baker) by Mozart because I was studying the flute and simply loved (and still do) this piece of music. On the flip side of the record was the Symphony No. 41, called the “Jupiter,” by Mozart and I listened to that piece until the record wore out. What I learned about was form and symmetry and really perfection in music (especially the last movement of the symphony). Mozart composed an amazing amount of music for the very short time he lived. Commentary has been made that often his scores were free from multiple corrections (or markings) as he seemed to write out of divine inspiration and his music still speaks to us over 200 years after the fact. When Mozart wrote this music he was at the height of his compositional powers but quickly approaching the end of his life, financially broke with a sickly spouse and enduring the recent death of a daughter, aged six months. I have a new granddaughter, named Claire Ann, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child so very young, but obviously this was a more common place occurrence in that day and age but no less painful.

So why is the Symphony no. 41 nicknamed the “Jupiter?” Well Mozart did not name it that, but most probably Johann Peter Salomon did. Salomon was an oboist and violinist who was not only a composer but a well-known music promoter at the time of Mozart and Haydn. In the last two minutes (remember that noteworthy last movement) of the “Jupiter,” Mozart composes a five-part fugato (think fugue-like with musical voices entering at different times), which at that point in the history of music had never been done. J.S. Bach had only done a three-part fugato. Since it would be very difficult for an individual to process five melodies simultaneously, Salomon thought surely only a great god such as “Jupiter” could hear this majestic music, hence the nickname. Salomon has the wrong God of course, but the inspiration for the music is clearly of Divine origin. As for the performance by the orchestra it was excellent. The strings played as one and were convincing in their shaping of the musical phrases and dynamics and the winds sounded sweet and sublime. Being a wind player (but now only a winded player!) I enjoyed their precision the most (sorry sometimes I am unashamedly biased). The brass and tympani provided the appropriate punctuation without being annoying or in the way. Well done.

The opening piece of the concert, “Water Music,” was a world premiere composed by Daniel Kellogg, born in 1976. I have often considered that the history of classical music ended with the death of Dimitri Shostakovich in 1975 but continue to be proven wrong when hearing new and challenging pieces of music. Yes some of the new music is bad but then so was some of Shostakovich’s as well. I also judge new music based on my wife, Rita’s reaction to it. She does not pretend to be knowledgeable about classical music but is very open to listening and learning about it. We both liked the piece and I thought it conveyed what it set out to do musically, describing three different fountains in the City of Fountains. What I liked about the piece is that the music sounded challenging to play but was not unrealistic to play. So often new music disregards what the instruments can really do effectively and convincingly. This was not the case. Also I think composers of new music are compared to past composers and styles of music because the listener is trying to fit it in with a template of what they already know. However certain combinations of instruments do produce pleasing sonorities and they are still worth exploration. The blocks of orchestral sound were very reminiscent of Jean Sibelius, the late romantic Finnish composer. The Kansas City Symphony played with great concentration and dedication in conveying the composer’s intentions and the brass shown marvelously particularly the principal trumpet, Gary Schutza.

So what is left to say is that it is so easy to take for granted musical talent especially pianists. There are so many gifted performers on this instrument and the featured soloist, Yefim Bronfman, on the Bela Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2 is one of those. Bartok is indeed one of his specialties. It is often said that if you want to catch the best part of an NBA basketball game just watch the fourth quarter because that is when the players really begin to play some great and intense basketball. Well if Mr. Bronfman had had that attitude of saving his best for last, he would have perished on the stage because the Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2 starts with an unbelievable display of virtuosity from the pianist. Game on! I was not familiar with the work but was pleased to hear it. Bela Bartok is known for his use of folk songs within the context of his musical scores and he also writes these fabulous movements of music that he called “night music.” I wonder if he could sense the coming conflict of World War II in his music because there is a very dark seriousness to the music with very few playful moments. The orchestra seemed a bit distracted from the earlier world premiere but they refocused (thanks to conductor Michael Stern) and the last movement of the Bartok was the most pleasing to listen to as a dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Once again I will point out the work of principal trumpet Gary Schutza as ear-catching. Bravo!

Please take the time out of your busy schedules to support the arts in Kansas City. It is so much better than reality TV!  If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.

The Hunger Game

With the opening of the movie, “The Hunger Games”, we all have a chance to learn a new word, dystopia or dystopian. The word means a society characterized by human misery, such as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. There is nothing subtle about “The Hunger Games” though there are redeeming human virtues displayed throughout such as justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence. These four virtues are commonly referred to as the “cardinal” virtues and serve as the hinges for all of the other virtues that come to mind such as patience.

A much better movie and perhaps more disturbing because it rings so true is an adaptation of a PD James novel written in 1992 called, “The Children of Men.” This 2006 movie is set in England and centers on the results of mass infertility, where the women can no longer conceive a child. However in the midst of a steadily declining population in the United Kingdom is a group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses of people who have lost hope. Among this group is a woman who is found to be capable of conceiving and giving birth to a child who in essence will save mankind. Somewhere I think we have heard this story before. Check out the book and the movie and tell your friends to ignore the prophets of gloom and doom. All is well and life is worth living! Check out Natural Family Planning (NFP). If you or someone you know may need counseling, please contact Lamar Hunt Jr. or see his website at http://lamarhuntjrcounseling.com/.