Monday, October 31, 2016

To Have To Explain Why

Thinking about the end - when we see God face to face, when we review our life and the actions therein - has caused me to reflect on the nature of my thoughts and actions now.

It makes me think of growing up and attending school in a not terribly large town, a school where one unit covered all grades (K-8) and a single high school.  I do not know that I was ever a terribly misbehaved child but as I think on things, I realize that one of the reasons that I kept from doing certain things was the knowledge that inevitably (prior to the Internet, if you can believe it) things that I did would get back to my parents.

And I would have to explain them.

In some ways it was not the actions themselves -usually stupid but not harmful on my part -that were the problem, but the reason why.  Why did I do them?  Why did I think they were such a good idea at the time?

Which if I think about it, extends to all of the regrettable actions, all the sins, throughout my life.  If I ask "Why did I think they were a good idea at the time?" I come up with not very good reasons.  Sometimes it is because of temporal reasons - seldom long term - sometimes it was for the very foolish reason that many others were doing it, sometimes just because I knew better and chose otherwise.

And this is just for the things I acted on in public.  But there is a far deeper thing, one I will have to explain to God - and those injured by them - on another day:  the things I did and thought that I told no-one else of.

These are the secret sins, the sins of the heart that Christ discussed in The Sermon on The Mount: Hating your brother internally as well as externally, committing adultery in your mind as well as physically. to be religious on the outside but not on the inside.  These too we will have to explain in all of the sordid details - and the reason why will never be enough.

So I wonder:  could I not begin to apply this metric to my own life?  When I am thinking of a thought or action start not just with "Is this right?" - how many times have known the right and acted other - but with "How will I explain this to God?"  How will I create the justification that this was the right thing to do and standing by that?  Does "They really, really hurt me" ever justify the revenge I seek to take?  Does "I was forgotten and alone and powerless" ever justify addictions?

They do not, of course.  But knowing I will have to justify them one day, and knowing I cannot - will this not help keep me more to God's will for a righteous and holy life? Not the guilt of having done a thing but knowledge that I will have to explain a thing may very well change how I make a decision.

Plus I foresee a useful side effect:  if I lead a life as if I have to explain things to God, will this not mean almost by default that I will keep secret sin out of my life?  There should only - ever - be things in my life and actions taken that I can very explain and justify  in a way that brings neither shame nor embarrassment.

One of the issues for the satraps of the Persian Empire was that when they tried to find something to accuse Daniel of, they could find nothing -except in relation to how he worshiped God.  Would that I could live this way as well.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Final Release

One of the more interesting and new things to come out of this election cycle is the importance of Wikileaks, an organization which (depending on your political point of view) is either doing yeoman's service or is a tool of evil.  Weekly, and now almost daily, we are given a new batch of e-mails to peruse.

The very interesting thing to me is not so much the political aspects (we try not to take sides here) but what it is has revealed about how we view ourselves.

The one truly surprising thing is that, except for some almost tepid and cursory protests, no-one has seriously argued that the e-mails are not legitimate.  That they are not to and from whom them purport to be.  And if this cannot be denied (and, so far as I am aware, it has not been), then this are the real thoughts of real people we are looking at.

The biggest problem is what they actually reveal.

No, not the facts.  Politically I guess it has impact but that is not the bigger picture.  The larger picture is the apparent presentation of an outward public face versus and inward face.  The fact that one publicly  "be on board"  while privately having withering opinions, of being "for something" when the something you are "for" is really just a calculation of what you believe will advance you, not what you believe.

We are being treated to a searing view of humanity in all of its stinking glory, in the machinations and deal making and selfishness to make something happen.

Some cry. Some laugh.  Some take a rather large amount of pleasure.  But they all miss the point.

There is a bigger release coming.

Oh, it is out there for a while, who knows how long.  But it is coming - the day God lays our souls open to the universe and all of our thoughts and deeds are laid bare to the universe.

It will share some characteristics, of course.  We will not be able to deny them as not our own.  Everything will be revealed - every thought, every motivation, every word of anger, every deed of greed or lust - all trotted out for viewing.  It will be worse than even just having our machinations for our little lives (oh, how small) be revealed for all to see; it will strip us of every layer of self-justification and hypocrisy and leaving us cringing at the result and yet acknowledging that it is truly ours.

There are not secrets.  Not a single one.  Even if something is hidden from everything, it is not hidden from the Creator of the Universe.

The Day is coming.  As sinners, we will always have something we need to repent of, something to be forgiven of (and if we repent and are forgiven, we have nothing to fear - except embarrassment, perhaps).  But woe to us if we remain comfortable with a level of sin and hypocrisy in our own lives, somehow feeling that it will always, only, remain within ourselves.

The Final Release will soon be here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Facebook Killer App

So I may have lived to see the end of Facebook as a relevant social media outlet.

My friend The Viking lamented some days ago that he wished he could find a way on Facebook to screen out religious and political posts; he was just there for the throwing and family pictures.  Turns out there is an app:  Social Fixer by Google, which allows you (apparently) to identify and screen out posts for things that you do not want to see.

Huzzah, said the masses.  Now I do not have to look at things that make me angry or sad or uncomfortable.

Oh no, said Facebook.

Why?  Because if I have the ability to screen others out, others have the ability to screen me out.  Part of the "sell" of Facebook was that one could connect with people: see what they saw, what they had to say.  Suddenly one does not have to do that:  I know that for certain things, I will now get screened out.  More than likely, I will stop posting those things - after all, I no longer know if anyone is seeing what I am posting and it becomes a waste of time.

Suddenly, we have stopped sharing things.  We have become no better than the bar or the workplace or our favorite organization, except with pictures.  And do not kid yourself: self policing in social media becomes self policing in relationships.  The term "friend" may, after many years of abuse, go back to meaning something far more than someone who accepted my request.

From what I recall at least a year ago, the cool kids (e.g. The Younger Generation) has already largely migrated off Facebook on to other sorts of mediums like SnapChat or Pintrest.  Facebook is becoming the Myspace of 15 years ago, when the only people left were those invested in the process so much that moving was a pain.

I know not everyone has a Facebook account; I do, largely to keep in touch with throwing friends and family back home.  But I must admit that even over this last week, I have found my interest starting to fade.  People post the banal or cute pictures of pets and children (which, to be sure, are actually cute).  But posting without the knowledge that someone will see?

Good heavens, I might as well be writing a blog...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Struggling With Writing

The last few weeks I have really been struggling with writing.

Originally (once in the long ago) I had these grand visions of being a professional writer, of writing to change the world.  This writing vehicle changed over the years:  first it was this blog, then it was another blog, then it was writing a book, then writing (extremely) short stories.  Always I kept thinking to myself that this time was it, this time I was going to do it.

Do what?  I am not really sure at this point.  Originally it was make an impact, then it was to build a following - a big, humongous following that would move me into the elites of on-line publishing.  Finally, it was to simply become an author, to make my living by the (proverbial) pen.

None of those emerged, of course.  My blog became one of millions lost in the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet.  My forays into self-publishing paid my website fees for a couple of years, but ultimately sputtered out (to the point that I questioned whether the effort of writing was at all worth it).  And my impact - that earth- shattering meteor-falling-out-of-the-sky event that I was going to set off - has never materialized.

So I went to God.  I cried (some).  I grumped (a lot). And I asked one question:  "Should I still continue to write?"

The answer came back "Why are you writing?"

So I went through the list above, pointing to this and that, what I wanted to do and how I would do and gosh, if I would only get the chance I was going to do great things.

"It does not really sound like you are writing for me"  came the response.

I stopped for a moment.  And started to speak.  And stopped again.

He was right, of course.  I made my writing all about me:  my impact, my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations.  I liked to write about God, of course - but ultimately the reason I was writing was not about Him.  It was about me.

So I have to make a few changes.

Not here, really.  I will write because (truly) I love the exercise of writing.  And it does do good, even if it just for me.

But I am surrendering any and all thoughts about this being any more than an exercise in faithfulness and an exercise of a gift I have given.  I have one project I need finish, one last manuscript, and then I am done with that.  It was fun.  It taught me a lot.  But it has become something I have imposed on myself, not something that I was lead to.  And possibly it will lead to closing down the other blog as well.  Ultimately I find my focus in more than one area is really difficult.

I do not know that this resolves my struggle.  But at least it pushes things back into the right perspective.  And that, perhaps, is the real reason for the struggle in the first place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sir, Your Christianity Is Peeking Out.

I had a couple of moments yesterday where my religion peeked through.

It is interesting to me that outside of "church", I run in some groups that (generally speaking) are not terribly religious sorts of people.  Very spiritual, just not religious (and yes, there is a difference).  I do not always know the backstories - for some it was a very bad experience, for others it is because they just were never raised that way.

And it is a challenge.  One wants to be true to one's self and one's God - after all, that is reason we are here after we are saved, right? - but on the other to become hammer handed about it simply removes any ability to discuss anything later.  I always struggle to find the compromise.

I have learned a little, over time.  Most people never seem to have an objection to being prayed for - and I tell them I am, whatever their spiritual understanding may be. And over time, I have learned to listen for those subtle cues that tell one "Hey, I am not really in the mood to talk on this" - hopefully long before the stage is reached where they actually have to say that (because by that time, it is too late).  

Sometimes we talk around religion.  Sometimes we actually talk about religion.  And sometimes we talk about nothing that has anything to do with religion.

I should think that there are those that disagree with my approach - in fact, I know that there are some that do.  Perhaps I am misguided - after all, there are those that believe that if are not actively confronting them (in their face) with the Gospel, you are not following The Great Commission.

But I will be honest:  I do not see Christ acting that way (except, interestingly enough, with the Conservatives and Liberals of the Jewish Order), nor do I see that in the Apostles.  What I do see is a conversation - yes, a declaration but a conversation as well.  And an example of living like Christ, not talking about living like Christ.

I prayed today for those that needed it, whether or not they asked.  I let them know  I was doing it.  Not sure if it makes a real difference temporally.  But I like to believe it does.

Monday, October 24, 2016

On Engaging The World

I have been thinking in some detail about the matter I spoke of last week, of the relative absence of the Church in this year's election cycle - really, in this culture.  Really.  I know we believe that somehow we have managed to finally overtake that whole 1950's image problem we were accused of dragging around with us, but I realized over the weekend that this is simply is not the case.

Ask yourself:  is the culture becoming more holy, more Christ-like, improved?  Or not?  Not with your particular issue in question (yes, I know we all have them) but the culture as a whole?  If not, then, like salt that has lost its savor, we have failed in our task - and are pretty much should be on the "Damaged Goods" table in the grocery store along with the dented pineapple and the hot sauce with no heat.

Generally speaking (yes, I know there are always exceptions - and some good ones) we have continued to accommodate ourselves to the culture - really American Culture - so well and so uncritically that we have become (for the most part) indistinguishable from it, because we refused to pass everything through the grid of the Word of God.  We let their motivations become our motivations, their causes become our causes, their interpretations become our interpretations - and lost any chance we had of making an impact.

In short friends, we have a problem.  The good news is, there is a solution.

We simply need to stop worrying about the world.

Oh, I know - we live in the world. And yes, we should be intimately involved in the world.  God made it.  Christ was in it.  That I know of, God (in the Old Testament) and Christ (in the New Testament) never said "Be holy, be saved - and completely ignore the world around you."  We live in environments and economies and governments all of which are made of up people, including us.  And those things need to be attended to as fully as anything else we do (after all - not my original thought, but the best of any individuals or fields in culture have much right to be Christian as they do for anything else).

No, where we need to stop worrying about the world is in how we live and how we conduct ourselves.

The world is not our friend.  Never has been, really.  It loves the fact that we are so accommodating to it, easing natures subconsciously guilty of sin and making gradations in our own mind of the seriousness of sins.  We have graded them, frankly, bases not on what God's word says but on what we feel it should say.  We are actually doing it's work for it, comforting the sinful and tearing down other Christians who are not living as God says we should.  The old adage "If your enemy is destroying themselves, get out of the way" was never more in play than here.

And as not -our-friend, the world will keep us only up to the point that we are useful, and then stick the shiv in.   Many, many churches are going to be sadly surprised some day when they suddenly find their "friends" on the outside, with whom they have had many lovely conversations and delightful tete-a-tetes, are suddenly rolling over them with the surety of a steam roller because they are "Christian".

We just need to accept this.

Accept it.  Accept that the world will not, if you living as God has called us, ever really like you or embrace you.  Accept that - now, in this culture - there is nothing short of an actual revival (not the pretend ones some like to speak of) that will make that true.

It means work.  It means digging even deeper into the Word of God for knowledge and strength, praying with fervency, training our minds - and our bodies - to be excellent intellectual defenders of the Gospel and to have the stamina to go along with it.  We need to ask the hard questions.  We need to have the logical frame of mind to engage others in the predictable consequences of policies and the inherent discrepancies therein (I honestly believe this has become one of the greatest weaknesses the Church Apologetic has).

Worry not, friends, that the world will never support or accept your Christian beliefs.  It never really intended to.  Do worry that you are enabling the world continue its action instead of challenging it.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Friday, October 21, 2016

We Had An Election And The Church Did Not Show Up

I have noted with some interest during our recent election cycle that the Christian Church (at least in the United States) has effectively disappeared.

All of the issues that in the past have motivated the Church to play a role - typically moral issues - have not been discussed almost at all in this current incarnation.  It is almost as if (in the most abhorrent phrase I can think of in the English language) "the science is settled" and everything has moved on.

Think about it - the Church (at least from what I can see) has simply become another interest group to lure into one's orbit.  Churches have become places to stage things, votes to be courted - not (minimally) the conscience of society, calling it to a higher and better life.

Segue to a second conversation this past Sunday between two friends about their congregations (both the same mainline denomination).  The first, a parishioner, asks the second, who is a pastor, where he has landed.

"Oh a church down on X street.  Small church, really struggling.  How is  your church doing?"

(First):  "Oh, fine.  We just called a fourth pastor."

(Second):  "What is the membership there?"

(First):  "Well, for years they held at 650, but we seem to be losing people now."

(Second):  "Can they afford four pastors?"

(First):  [Shrugs]

Which, when added in with the first comment, starts to make sense - after all, in an era of declining membership (and most of the mainline denominations are declining), why waste time and energy and money appealing to shrinking power base?  From the world's point of view, makes perfect sense.

It seems that the more and more the Church has come to reflect the society around it rather than calling others to a higher standard, the less and less effective that it has been at making an impact.  I would suspect that in any churches, stripping away the differences in songs, you could find yourself just as likely to be immersed in a self-help seminar or motivational meeting with virtually no difference.  And if people can have that - and feel good about themselves to boot - why would they even bother with church?  (The subject on a whole separate posting on what the Church teaches, I suspect).

Short of an revival (an actual revival, not the silliness I hear spoken of so often with no basis in fact) I fear the Church (at least in the US) will continue to dwindle in effectiveness and impact.  Perhaps that is okay for political life, but inexcusable for the spiritual.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why Governments Discourage Self Reliance

"Self reliant people never favor the taxes that allow governments to become totalitarian." - Gene Logsdon

Globalism and modern society have no interest in promoting self reliance.

Oh, there is quite a movement for small industry: the farmer's markets, the individual crafter, the soap maker, the stone carver.  People proudly go (and even more proudly proclaim that they are going) to such things and supporting "the local guy/gal".  But even within this back to smallness and "rurality" (yes, I just made that up) note the underlying assumption:  we are all part of a big group trying desperately (if we are socially conscious, of course) of not being big.

The ideal of being self reliant - of not depending on anyone else  especially, good heavens, any government - is completely set aside.

Why?  Because self reliant people are not dependent people.  They not only generate some or all of the things they need for living from themselves or their efforts, they have come to rely on themselves - not some large bureaucracy of any nature - to supply their needs.  Life is a thing to be managed - but life can be managed by their efforts.  They look (I think) with scorn upon the idea that they need someone else to do something for them - or perhaps just as relevant, some one else's permission to do it.

And thus the hatred of taxes - indeed, of anything that prevents them from taking action to supply their needs or drains from them the ability to provide for themselves to provide for someone else.  It is worth noting, I think, that totalitarian governments - or, for that matter, totalitarian administrations of any social structure - have never thrived where they did not have the ability to tax (and tax heavily).

And thus the need to strike down self reliance, be it in the form of preventing the use of water on your land or heating with wood from your land or eating/selling the products that you or others have grown or made.  It is why cities promote solar but insist you are still wired to the grid, why barter is frowned on and cash more and more spoken out against (cannot have people doing things with their money that the government cannot see).  It is why government programs come into existence but seldom - hardly ever - die.  Ultimately they need you to be dependent on them, because then the taxation and regulations become something that they are benevolently doing on your behalf - not something that they are imposing on you with the force of law.

I am not self reliant at this point for 99% of the things it takes for living.  I am working on that.  And I can tell you that I have friends around the world working on it, seeking to live more by the efforts of their own brows - and doing it.  It is a noble, never ending quest, worthy of whatever effort we can make, even if we cannot get there.

Ask yourself, you who question my logic:  When was the last time you heard a government - any government - espouse self -reliance as a noble good and societal goal?  If not, why not?  Surely if this led to a greater good it would be something that would be promoted?

And yes, I do suspect that if more people were self-reliant, there would be much less toleration for the taxes that enables governments to enforce their will on others.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Little Isolation

One of the unlooked for outcomes of my current job is how little I actually talk to people now.

My company is small and split between two sites. Turns out everyone is quite busy and as a result, there is little social interaction. Oh, there is the general morning greetings and occasional sharing of information but no more lengthy exchanges. There is no break room so most everyone eat alone in their workspaces.

My own interactions, for the most part, are limited to three items: the morning greetings, interacting with my manager, or fielding questions from my direct reports. This is a far cry from what my previous job was and (that I can remember) almost any job I have had before.

On the one hand, it makes for a productive day. Even our meetings are kept to a minimum. As a result, there is plenty of time to get work done. It makes for a productive atmosphere.

On the other hand, there is probably (I am guessing) not a lot of social building outside of work. Really, we are all just people that share a space to work at. That I can tell to this point, there is little development of relationships beyond that of work.

How do I feel about this? Ambivalent for the most part. Love the ability to be productive, not quite so much a fan of the isolation. Still on the fence as to whether, on the whole, this is a good thing.

It does give me thought towards the future. I often complain that I do not care for social interaction all that much, but find that actually having not that much for long periods of my day is little hard – can I imagine myself living an even more isolated lifestyle where the amount of social interaction is truly almost zero?

In a way it is sort of retro to pre-Interweb (if you can remember back that far), when friends were only those that you could reach by phone, in person, or by letter.  I did not necessarily work during all of those years but I do remember being a lot more involved in the lives of others than I currently find myself.

I wonder (in my off moments) if we are rapidly coming back to this time - not from a dearth of technology (Heavens knows we have enough of it now) but from the general malaise of not only this election cycle but this societal norm - where we are simply going to communicate with others less and less in general.  Or perhaps it simply be a move back towards communicating with those who share our values - either from a desire to avoid the aggravation factor, a desire to avoid arguments, or simply the fact that we value what time we have actually communicating with those we care about, not worrying about our words for the consumption of strangers.

It makes me wonder - is this just a hard adjustment for me or a harbinger of things to come?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Game of Empires?

Let us play a game, shall we?

What declining historical unit are we?

Are we the Roman Republic, falling prey to greater and greater dictators, frittering away our power for bread and circuses?

Are we the Roman Empire, economically failing and geographically rent apart?

Are we Byzantium, ultimately facing attacks from both our enemies and our supposed friends?

Are the Latin States of the East, a bridge too far, unwilling to play the games we need to survive yet always insisting we come back to war?

Are we the Austro-Hungarian Empire, finally rent apart by nationalisms too fierce to be subsumed in the larger unit as they were before?

Are we another one - something you know and I do not (as you will note, my history is largely Western European centric)?

You note that I assume that we are, in fact, a declining historical unit.  A quick read on any of these will, interestingly enough, point not only to the waning power of the unit but usually to the unfortunate financial and economic circumstances they found themselves in.  Economic instability, it seems, ultimately ensures a state cannot weather the tides of its time.

My guess?  Call me old fashioned, but I will go with the Roman Republic.  We seem to more and more find ourselves in the position of having less and less power to influence our society, swept aside (ultimately) by the dictates of fewer and fewer individuals (in my mind, both major parties have abandoned us to this fate.  It is not one or the other - nor was it in the Republic.  If it would not have been Caesar, it would have been Crassus or Pompey, had they survived).

Rome, of course, ultimately survived.  The Roman Republic, of course, did not - except in name only.

Monday, October 17, 2016

On The Removal of Things

So this afternoon at a friend's enjoying Barbecue on an Autumn day that was a bit hotter than is should be for the middle of October, one of the attendees shared her story of earlier that day, when she  was cleaning out her Mother's things after she had recently passed on.

"Fabric"  she said.  "She had lots of fabric.  And I cannot remember her sewing more than one or two things."

And on her father's side of the closet, hats.  Trucker hats.  When she asked her dad if she could get rid of them, his response was "Well, I collect them."

"Dad"  she responded, "You have not opened these up in 15 years.  The hats are falling apart because the material is old.  How about just keeping three or four?"

We all laughed of course - we all know ourselves too well to not know that we have precisely the same proclivities in collecting or saving things that we have ultimately seem to have no intent to ever use.  But it did start me thinking about things in my own life.

Truth be told, I am a collector of things.  Most of us are.  We like to play it down by calling it a "hobby" or "I buy them because they make me happy" but in fact, we accumulate things.  Perhaps because we instinctively feel like when we start something, we need to complete the set.  Perhaps it is because purchasing something is a form of personal power, an exercise in doing something that we want to do rather than all the things we have to do, such as paying bills and mortgages (even if we have to do it with money we do not actually have).

I would like to say that for myself, I have become less and less focused on acquiring things.  In some ways I believe that to be true:  I seldom buy books as much as I used and really do not acquire anything else.  Part of it is expense I suppose:  the things I want have simply gone up in price.  But there is also a realization, I think, that things do not (in and of themselves) make me better or solve problems.  They may bring a brief sort of joy, but not the sort of life changing joy our mind tries to tell else they will bring.  I am coming to measure things not just on whether I want them, but rather of what use they will be to me (and the nature of "use" is getting pushed out farther and farther:  if I will not get 5 or more years of use out of something I am likely to not buy it).

But the second thing I am now confronting is releasing what I have.

Some hard numbers:  in 6.5 years we will effectively be child free.  We have already discussed - I would say agreed to at this point - moving somewhere else at that time (assuming my job holds out that long).  More than likely moving would entail some form of downsizing.

It is easy enough to point at things and say "We should get rid of that"  when the things are not mine.  When they are mine, it is harder.  I attempt to justify by saying "But what if I need it?" or "I will never get back what I paid for it".  Really, I guess, it is because I do not want to let go:  at best it invokes memories, but at worst it is simply my own greed.

How am I trying to combat this?  Two things, one for each problem.

For the acquisition of things, I have started making a list.  If  I want it, it goes on the list with a price (effectively Amazon's shopping cart does the same thing).  I can look at it, think about it, and prioritize it.  Now, except for the occasional find  at the used book store where buying right then means I get it, I very seldom buy things on the fly.

For the simplifying of things, I am starting to root out things on shelves, in drawers, and in the garage - places were things are not commonly seen and if not seen, then not used (Truth be told, I hate drawers.  Just places to hide stuff to avoid getting rid of it).  It is not an easy task, I can tell you.  Once you get past the "I just do not want to get rid of things"  you are left with the sentimental "Oh, I cannot get rid of this - remember the time.....".

But I am working on both.  Financially it makes sense (what I do not buy I keep in money, what I am able to sell I keep in cash).  Space-wise it makes sense.  And, hopefully, in terms of my children it makes sense - I do not wish to leave them with the task of weeding through things because I was unwilling to.

And it makes for a constant reminder that not, you really cannot take it all with you.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tower II?

Lately I have been wondering (in the back of my head) if humanity is trying to rebuild the Tower of Babel.

The push towards globalization and cosmopolitanism has become almost dizzying.  We now live in an age where huge populations are surging across borders, effectively destroying the concept of the nation-state but leaving in its wake a sort of sense of obligation to a larger, more global entity.

Finance, manufacturing, even politics - all are now rooted in some fashion in the concept that we are all interconnected and, as interconnected, must surrender ourselves, our beliefs, and our state and national identities to the larger whole.

In religion (in case you missed it) the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are discussing ways to come together, parts of the Anglican church have discussed or are actually moving back to communion with Rome, and the Pope has taken part in commemoration ceremonies concerning the Reformation in Sweden.

We have been here before:

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  (Genesis 11)

That, of course, did not end so well:
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11)

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Rather Odd Piece of Circumstance

In the period of time after giving my notice at my last job and taking my new job, my position was posted.  Being the curious sort that I am, I went ahead and looked up who was applying - after all, you are always curious (I am, anyway) as to the caliber of individual that is replacing me.

As I was paging through the resumes, I caught a funny note on one of them: the name of the company I was going to.  Sure enough, the individual who I was replacing had applied for my old job.

Move ahead 2 months.  Talking with Fear Beag about how the replacement for my position was going.  Not well, he says - turns out, the person who I replaced there was reapplying for the position seven years after he had left the company from that position.  Buy out of his employer and then layoff, as it turns out.

 It is a little discomforting to know that two people at my level are out looking for work - this is bit of midterm anxiety that needs to be paid attention to, reminding me all too well that my career field seems to be (at least around here) shrinking.  It does also reflect how careful one should probably be about one's work life; after all, in a small pool everybody knows the fish.

But there is something vaguely interesting about the fact that the two individuals that were the effective bookends of my career have seemingly crossed at some level at my previous job. A rather odd piece of circumstance, a sort of life affecting impact that one seldom has the chance to see all the way around.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Fading Out of Sorts

I suspect am going to become a lot less Internet social in about a month.

By choice, mostly.  To be honest, the Internet has largely become an echo chamber,   The anger of point and counterpoint, the breathlessness of constantly impending doom - it tends to wear on a body.  And the rancor that will follow the election will (I predict) dwarf whatever went on before.

I suppose another reason is simply the result of the election.  I have a lot less to say to a great many people because I have seen precisely how far their beliefs hold - only to the point of getting one person or another elected, regardless of what we know about that individual.  The hypocrisy of beliefs and supported actions has become almost intolerable.

I fear I am enabling the behavior.  And if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.

This whole things has led me in some respects to understand the urge of the Medieval Church - the monks and anchorites, the Desert Fathers - to retreat from the world.  The constant din of the world and its propensity to rush about its business - oh, so very very important - had to be as overwhelming then as now (one pictures Saint Simeon Stylites, on his pillar in the desert simply thinking "Dear Lord people, I am on a pillar in the desert.  Is it not clear I need a little alone time?")

I will not be going from here, of course -  this has become as much an exercise and practice in endurance and patience and creativity as it has for writing.  And I have a number of places on the Internet I love to visit - less for their news qualities than the way of life they try to maintain and what they try to do.  Certainly in many ways I can live as socially through them as I would through any social media.

Does social matter?  Of course - even I, with all of my tendencies towards isolation, still find myself in need of the day to day interaction of people.  But I have come over the years to value even more interaction with those whose inner life and outer life are one - to quote Benjamin Franklin, "What  you seem to be, be really".

It is not a quest for ideological purity.  It is, instead, a quest for the harmony of human relations in the best sort of atmosphere - one of total truth and consistency of soul and purpose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Rising Drum of War

There are moments – increasingly more and more as the days wear on – where I feel as if we are in July 1914, sometime between the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the actual outbreak of war in August 2014.

You missed the assassination, you say? There has not been a single (or signal) event like that, just a series of increasingly aggressive confrontations of words and finger pointing between ourselves and (it seems) a lot of different people: the Russians, the Syrians, the Chinese, now (apparently) the Yemenis.

I cannot remember – at least in recent memory – the number of times I have heard of repeated discontinuations of the ability to communicate (broken diplomatic relations) or accusations of a grey war on both sides: “You bombed this; no, you broke into this; no, you shot this at that.”

Boom, boom, boom go the drum beats. Softly, but with ever increasing intensity.

Good heavens, the Cold War was an amusement park compared to this, at least the latter half that I remember. We confronted each other, we called each names, we mocked the other side – but not since the Cuban Missile Crisis did we engage in such brinksmanship. The memories were too fresh, the acknowledgment of potential tragedy too near.

But that generation is gone – at least from our shores and leadership – and we are left with people who seem to view the whole thing as a sort of video game, something without consequences where one can just hit the “reset” button and start over.

Never in all my recent years – since the collapse of the Soviet Union – can I remember such repeated and continued attempts to threaten and bluster and push the envelope.

Boom, boom, boom.

You will remember what happened in July 1914 of course: everyone claimed that they did actually desire war but that once mobilization plans were put into place, they simply could not be stopped. War became a fait accompli, mostly because of the fact that everyone was reacting to someone else and no country was willing to be the first to take a step back.

War and suffering have become unreal to us, a video game that we play and put away, a thing we watch online and perhaps are shocked by but then go back to security and placidity of our First World lives. We have had too many incidents with no personal consequences – oh, we may know veterans or a family that has lost someone, but we view almost with impunity the ability of our country to dabble in military conflicts with no impact to us.

My fear? Someday, in the not too distant future, we will look back at this time and wonder why someone - perhaps ourselves – did not have the courage to call out “Stop”.

Boom, boom, boom.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Disappointing Lack of Empathy

One of the things that has become a consideration in today's conscious is empathy, per Merriam-Webster "The feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions".
This has become very important for certain groups and social movements now:  we need to empathize with their historical experiences, see things their way, and then act accordingly.

Certainly history - even our own - is replete with really bad things (continuous breaking of treaties with Native Americans comes to mind, as does slavery in general).  That said, it has come into my mind that while this is considered an emotion of merit, it is not universally considered so.

One of the more interesting discoveries I made recently (can we designate it as an epiphany?  Maybe we shall) is that I have a heart for those that have lost their jobs.  Maybe it is rooted in my own experience, having lost my own and not knowing what the next step is.  But I realized I do.

The benefits of beneficial energy are extolled, for example, while the impact to those laid off by them is ignored.  The benefits of greater corporate responsibility and higher levels of consumer protection are extolled, but when they result in companies choosing to relocate jobs to areas of less cost and less regulation, they are ignored.

No-one argues (I think) for polluting the environment.  No-one argues for irresponsible corporations and low consumer protection.   Yet when the outcomes of these policies result in impacts - real impacts - on the lives of people, is it not true that so many of those who demand "empathy" turn away?

I am not a coal miner, nor a oil field roustabout, nor an assembler of industrial equipment.  But fellow citizens are.  When we hear of companies laying off people or businesses going under, do we react as swiftly as some do about social injustice?  Or do we look, perhaps sigh, and then think "well, there is unemployment".

(Note for those who do not know;  unemployment does not pay all that well.

Imagine being told - in a region where there may not be a great deal of options for employment - that your job is going away.  How will you pay for your family?  Your mortgage?  Will have to leave your roots and family to find something else?  I have - and it is the worst feeling in the world.

But I am fortunate.  I work in an industry where I can find work somewhere else if I have to.  But millions cannot.  Have we no empathy for them as well?

I would suspect that most, if asked, would not list government handouts as their number one desire.  Most people - not all, but most - want to work.  They want to support themselves.  They want to have the dignity and causality of meaningful work in their lives.

It disturbs me very deeply.  For if we only engaged in empathy for those causes that we support, we will soon find that that those we live with have become other than ourselves.  And if see others as other than ourselves, it becomes all too easy to despise them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saturday, October 08, 2016

An Open Letter to the American Voter

Dear American Voter:

In  a month you will have the opportunity to vote in the presidential election.  I am sure that you are heartily tired of things at this point (as we all are at the end of every political season).  At this point most of you have probably already made up your mind.

Let me channel your thoughts a bit.  You are, on the whole, dis-satisfied with the entire process. You feel that the candidates you have the option of voting for are not the best we could have done, but for goodness sake, they are better than the opposing party.  Every new revelation of flaws or errors or even illegalities raises your anger even more.

Occasionally, you continue to wonder if this really is the best that we could have done.  How, you might be saying to yourself, did we reach the point that these candidates are all we  have?

I have the answer for you.  It is you.  It is me.  It is all of us.

Candidates are only ultimately a reflection of ourselves, of our hopes and dreams and beliefs in how things should be run.  We get them to the point that they are the one, and then are almost forced into a position of having to support them - after all, we put our stamp of approval on them.  But the reality - the sad, sad reality - is that we have done the very same things.

Think a candidate's crass and rude comments about women are a problem?  How many do I know, on both sides of the political aisle, that have used the same words or language and thought nothing of it?

Think society does a horrible job at ignoring the pleas of women who have been raped?  How then do you argue for someone who at best was willingly unknowing and at worst an accomplice to such behavior?

Think that truth matters, that accountability and doing what you say is important?  Then how do you support such behavior in candidates that you would not approve of in your children or in anyone else?

This is a larger problem, one that our society has yet to fully grasp:   we decry violence in the streets, yet entertain ourselves with it; we argue for support of certain policies and directions and then turn aside when people -actual people, supposedly our fellow citizens - are put out of work or bankrupted by them.   We delight in the sexual infidelities feed to us in screen and music, yet cry foul when ourselves or someone we know is affected by this or when the crass and rude language that we enjoy as entertainment is brought forth as political fodder.

We have attempted to separate our personal lives and our public lives to the detriment of both.  We have somehow ourselves believe the we can compartmentalize what we are inside and how we are and act outside.  And we believe that there are no consequences to our actions internally, that somehow all these issues we face as a society are sui generis with no relationship to ourselves

As you might have come to understand, I am little frustrated.

Who are you voting for in a month?  If you understood that directly or indirectly you are enabling this sort of bad behavior to continue, would you still vote for them?

I wish I had a better way.  I wish we had actual candidates that we could actually vote for instead of vote against.

But I think even more, I wish that we would understand how we came to make this all be.

Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Friday, October 07, 2016

A Distinct Lack of Busyness

One of the things I am grappling with in my “new” (already two months – hard to believe) job is that in some very odd ironic ways there is not a lot of work that I can do.

This seems to stem from two sources. The first one is that, simply put, I am a bit useless. I have no sense of history or ongoing projects. I have limited knowledge of a great many things – I am the character dropped in mid-story who can only act out of the past knowledge they have accumulated from previous similar situations and whatever they learn going forward.

It makes one useful in very limited ways: I can see gaps that are existing but not necessarily plug them with practical solutions, I can do a limited number of tasks which really are taking something off of somebody else's plate.

The second – to my surprise – is the lack of meetings that I now have.

I do not know that I can fully estimate the amount of meetings I have before, but I think a reasonable guess would be ten to twelve hours a week. Not producing, but stuck in meetings. Add to that three to four hours of meeting prep and almost half of a given week was spent sitting around conference tables looking at projected screens.

Now – maybe – I have an hour a week of actual meetings. More time to do actual work – but see item one above.

It is frustrating.

I want to contribute. I want to actually do things that are productive and improve things – but I find myself handicapped, waiting on others for next steps or scrambling to find ways to plug the gaps of empty time myself. Unfortunately I think I have almost grabbed at ever low hanging fruit I can find.

I read – a lot of industry material. I try to pre-position tasks I know that are coming up. I review past history documents.

And I wait.

This will pass, of course – it always does. At some point I will be looking back on this time with extreme envy, longing for the days I could review literature or think through problems.

Until then though, I simply have to fight the empties and lack of purpose and be as valuable as I can be.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Reading Twitter today makes me feel as if we are literally on the very edge of a precipice, beyond which lies terra incognito.  It is at moments like this I am reminded this is not first time this concept has come up.

"Now as He (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[a] these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[b] and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
 - Matthew 24:  3-13

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Paste and Crystal

The grief does not become less over time:
A man's dreams die just as hard at sixty
as they do at twenty.

More poignantly perhaps,
as dreams come fewer and farther out
the longer we go.

But it is always still the same:
when crushing moment of reality
breaks in,.

The bright light of reality's day
 reveals the paste and crystal
such dreams were made of.

One recovers - one always recovers:
bitterly laughing as tiny bits of hope
are used to re-sew the soul.

And then, like Don Quixote and his lance,
charge up the next hill
ere the grief is completely done.

Monday, October 03, 2016

2016 Garden Prep

So working out my 2016 Fall/Winter Garden.

I am working on both shrinking the footprint and increase the variety again.  The slice by the house was actually really convenient and (I think) far more amenable to more intensive management.  I am definitely going to add some free standing pots as well for things like greens - for some reason these do not seem to do well on the ground.

So far for this year, I have planned:

- Garlic (the one thing I can reliably grow)
- Spinach
- Lettuce (two kinds: Arctic King Butterhead and Bronze Arrow Looseleaf)
- Snowpeas (Never tried the before)
- Leeks (These I am also going to try in a freestanding pot)
- Grains (At least two kinds of wheat.  Maybe barley. Need better rabbit proofing)

I have the lemon and lime trees, which (perhaps in spite of me) have managed to make it through the summer.  And the pepper plants, so long as the weather does not turn too inclement.

Maybe not enough.  Maybe too much.  Either way, it is all a giant experiment and preparation exercise and entertaining activity wrapped up into one.