Open Bar: In a middle-finger world, we could all learn to ‘hang loose’ (column)

T.J. Voboril, Esq.
Open Bar
RKV Law Group

The storm clouds of deep frustration appear at the edge of my vision. The placid lake of my demeanor threatens to roil into a raging sea, for reasons that are either justifiable or ridiculous, not that the distinction matters. In that moment, I stand on the precipice of making a bad decision, whatever form that may take.

Then, I hear her footsteps. Violet descends the stairs and, even though she is only 6, can see the state of my internal weather as well as any meteorologist. She need not even say a word. She raises her right fist, extends her thumb and pinky, rotates them back and forth and gives me the international symbol to “hang loose.”

Soothing Influence

The winds calm and, in so disappearing, blow away any trace of the tempest that had seconds before threatened to inundate the household. The simple nonverbal mantra of hang loose was enough to quell all. It works almost as well when spoken aloud, but there is something about the vibe of the gesture that imparts a soothing influence.

We are all on edge. Something about this time in our history has our collective hackles raised, our defenses bulwarked, our bodies and minds tensed against enemies real and imagined. Armed for battle, we inherently assume that conflict is approaching and therein create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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We need to chill out, to reset, to wipe the slate clean and begin to engage with each other in more rational and productive forms. We do not all need to agree; that is both impossible and boring. But we have to take the vitriol out of our interactions. It is the only way to have discussions that do not end in both sides screaming and then quickly thereafter having to gulp whiskey just to begin to deal.

Hang loose, or the shaka, as it is known in its acknowledged birthplace of Hawaii, not only conveys a feeling of calm, but is used to communicate a spirit of compassion, understanding and friendship. It is the perfect gesture to manifest that which our society so desperately needs.

An outgrowth of surfer culture, it carries the windblown, sun-kissed, carefree ethos to which we aspire. Ultra-aggro locals aside, one does not typically picture a surfer as being pent up. We are looking more for Spicoli from “Fast Times” and less for Warchild from “Point Break.”

Perhaps the hang loose strikes you as overly simplistic; a naive solution to complex problems. But, think of how important symbols are to humankind. A swoosh dominated the world, the colors of flags inspire loyalty to the point of death, one can hitchhike from coast to coast by merely raising a thumb.

We are currently living in a middle-finger world.

We need to reorder our digits and then we can reorder the discourse. If Violet and her crew can figure it out, then we owe it to her generation to follow suit.

The next time that you feel the urge to literally or figuratively punch your opponent, flash them the shaka instead and be amazed at what happens. Hang loose, dude.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Alpenglow Law LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456 or, or visit

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