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Posts Tagged ‘Musings’


All credit for the title goes to Billy Joel, for his wry-grin lyric in Only The Good Die Young:

And they say there’s a Heaven,
For those who will wait.
Some say it’s better,
But I say it ain’t!
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
‘Cause sinners are much more fun
Only the good die young

mark twain on heaven and hell

The song is brimming with colorful phrases about suppression of nature for the sake of christolic dogma (and, certainly, Church control of it’s adherents’ souls) . . .

Well they showed you a statue, told you to pray
Built you a temple and locked you away . . .

That stained glass curtain you’re hiding behind
Never lets in the sun . . .

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You’ve got a brand new soul
And a cross of gold . . .

But this isn’t about a classic rock song. The song, however, is an irrepressible nod to religious metaphor, if not a tad more direct than the following example. It is a perfect lead-in to a recent epiphany I had.

In his book The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, in one chapter, gives us the definition for the word “Kingdom” as supported by various attestations—— that is, by its appearance in different locations within biblical scripture, both canonical and non-canonical.

In the following passage, he discusses, from the Gospel of Thomas (a non-canonical text; gee, I wonder why) when the disciples ask Yeshua about entering the kingdom as children; Yeshua asks them, essentially, not to look forward but rather to look back.

When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below . . . and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female . . . then you will enter the kingdom.

He is—-in this Gospel excluded by the Church—asking the disciples to think about looking back to the past, past Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned (according to Genesis, which I won’t belabor here). He asks them to consider an even more primordial moment before the male and female—-animas and animus—-were split into two beings.

Note the use of the more historically accurate name of Yeshua instead of Jesus; if we are mindful of such a seemingly small change it helps to provide a more distinct delineation between the carefully groomed ‘Jesus’ and the actual historical figure he was, Yeshua.

By asking his closest followers to take a mental leap backwards he is challenging them to consider a more ephemeral cosmological approach as opposed to the utterly human desire to know of the future, of revelation . . . as the Greeks termed it, apokálypsis.

Taking the cue from the primordial example, if you allow yourself to do what countless cultures have done throughout human history you may be able to conceive of a ‘first entity” if you will, a spirit or essence which is considered not yet neither male nor female as we consider the genders of biological life—-the two as one.

Yeshua posed the further challenge to the disciples, to look at a “child” as something that wasn’t male or female but rather as an androgynous Adam (a ‘first entity’)—-an image of its creator, being neither male nor female.

Baptismal regeneration involved the destruction of duality of that between the inner soul and the outer body. between the heavenly, androgynous image of God and its earthly bifurcated counterpart.

These things help to clarify why the child is the perfect Christian metaphor for those entering the kingdom.

The child is considered asexual or pre-sexual or nonsexual in any operational manner and is therefore an appropriate image for the ideal Christian, the Christian who is, in other words, an ascetic celibate. A Kingdom of children is a kingdom of the celibate.

So, what was my epiphany, you ask?

This is why the saints cry.

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caveman using stone tool on rockMost readers of this blog will remember, with only the faintest nostalgia, the following watersheds along the timeline of communication and information dissemination:
・The pencil
・The pen
・Carbon copy paper
・White-out
・Mimeographs
・Postage stamps (these are not relics . . . yet, although I am grateful for them because they helped put food in my belly, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head as a child)

With this small list in mind I offer the state of Arizona kudos for not only embracing some of them still, but also for its impressive efforts to encompass the breadth of human communication forms since chisel was first put to stone.

We are some years along since Al Gore invented the internet, and the web has offered us some disadvantages and some stunning efficiencies. Consider that we can not only download fillable PDF tax return forms but can electronically file those same documents, with no shortage of important personal information on them; in Arizona we can renew our vehicle registrations online, again with all the pertinent personal data in tow; we can manage our financial concerns online; and the whopper–the federal government has mandated that if you don’t have medical insurance you must sign up via the web and get it–this naturally requires a slew of personal information to be divulged.

There are no shortage of entities which can find us when it’s time for jury duty, send us gentle reminders if we miss a payment, or send any other marketing based upon our current residence and/or age.

No secret . . . we are ‘in the system’, each of us a statistical and numerical part of a brain-melting expanse of database.

So, given the aforementioned, I remain perplexed about the process for attaining a copy of ones birth certificate in Arizona.

It begins with a line. This is not unexpected. All state offices enjoy a good line. This line feeds one solitary public servant whose job is to dutifully sit in front of a computer terminal and look us up in ‘the system’. This fact alone should make the process practically state-of-the-art. But that would mean embracing efficiency and giving tradition the cold shoulder, and government loves tradition.

For the sake of tradition, they take my drivers license (another state-issued document with lots of personal data) and use a scanner to read the bar code on the back. Said servant then pulls a paper form and stamps it with the word “COUNTED,” unsettling in itself.

I am asked to fill out the form and wait for my number to be called; I think God does something similar.

Being no stranger to the digital paradigm I don’t carry a pen with me like I used to many (many) years ago. So I ask, “Do you have a pen?” She hands me the form . . . and a pencil. How quaint.

As I entered the building I could see others filling out forms with pencils, which triggered a series of grating texts to a friend:

“2014 and we have to wait in line to manually fill out a form”
“Christ, it’s practically the Stone Age here.”
“Excuse me, could I borrow your chiseled, pointy thing so I may chip out my info on this clay tablet?”
“How much more Cro-magnon could it get?”

“Feel better now?” she asks. Of course not, and I’m fairly certain she knows this and as any good friend would she patronizes me

“I’m wondering,” I begin again, “if I should use Cuneiform or early Arabaic.”
“Surprisingly, they actually use a verbal form of language communication here”
“I think grunts and rough gestures might be more in tune with the overall ambiance”

She’s come along for the ride, I can tell by her next reply. “Maybe you could move kinda ape-like to the window . . . grunting, of course.”

“That’s pretty funny!” I respond, “I’d do it if I didn’t think they’d deny my request.”

I take my early 17th century paper form–and pencil–and drag my knuckles to a table, whereupon the pencil lead actually breaks the moment I set it to paper. Seriously.

The form asks for all the same information on my license, the same info which I know damn well is staring them in the face on that terminal monitor. In addition they require you to actually fill in your credit card info on this form. Surprisingly, they don’t ask for the social security number, probably because they already have it?

I am pleasantly surprised by how short the wait time is until my number is called (not you, God, the vital records clerk). She, too, asks for my drivers license and the credit I want to use to pony up twenty friggin dollars for the copy of the certificate–$20! Perhaps I shouldn’t expect a happy ending, but at least a smile?

I can sense my annoyance meter slowly rising as I dig out the cards. The clerk at the first window already confirmed my identity and ‘counted” me, and my C/C info is on the stupid form. Why the hell do you need to see it, or, conversely, why must we write the number on the form if we’re going to give you the physical card anyway?

F@#!

Okay. Whatever. I dole them over and she does her thing. I sign the credit slip, she staples it to yet another piece of paper and says “Take this to window 4.”

Window 4 is where the duplicate birth certificate is printed, from — wait for it — another computer terminal.

In case you’re wondering, in Arizona you can obtain a duplicate BC via mail, but they require the use of a carrier pigeon.

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light through forest treesFar above the clouds we’ve seen, beyond the purview of the stratosphere and troposhpere, the cloak of the universe wraps itself around us at a temperature barely above absolute zero Kelvin.

If God is out ‘there’ in a frozen vacuum then perhaps it makes sense that evil chooses to reside alongside us, where flesh is warmed by our nearest star and spilled blood dries and stains the earth it once lived upon.

How could any incarnation of beauty and purity, of salvation and hope, possibly prevent—much less allow—innocent children to be sacrificed as prodigal lambs at the hands of something so vile and inhumane?

Why would our “God,” as Obama said yesterday, “call to him” those twenty innocent children? I believe they will find their own place in heaven, but I can no more supplant iniquity than I can explain why benevolence would decree violence upon children.

Evil, or any other explicate of a dark nature, is not only inherent to Nature itself but necessary; it provides an uneasy balance, a discord which, perhaps, acts to keep our moral compass properly tuned. But unspeakable evil is a matter which the living can only struggle to conceive of . . . unless one is the embodiment of such fathomless depravity.

The breathable atmosphere which we rely upon for our very existence is but roughly 3 miles above our heads, if that. The processes which create clouds and rain, wind and vivid sunsets, are as wondrous as the glorious space that expands forever in all directions above our little shell.

Perhaps up there, out where mankind continues to pursue answers to profound questions, is Paradise. Perhaps this existence is our close brush with Hell. If peace is ever to be achieved then it must be found within . . . not without.

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To be equal to, not greater than.

This is an idea contrary to our very nature. A man, when seated next to his dog, is not equal to the dog (although solid arguments can be made as proof of that concept).

Man with dogs on benchMan and dog have different natures; the ‘nature’ of something, that which makes it what it is, is held to account by laws insurmountable by man. Men (and women) and dogs — and cats and trees and birds and flowers and the rocks themselves — have different natures. Place a labrador next to a chihuahua and while the breed is different they share the same nature. Same with male and female.

That having been said, a chihuahua is by far the more comical canine. In that regard it has no equal.

Man, when seated next to his dog is superior to his canine friend. That is part of Nature’s law.

But let’s return to the man and woman.

Why should any man want to be superior to a woman when both share the same nature? Is there not a stronger balance and a more resonant harmony when one is equal to, not greater than, the other?

I’m not stupid enough to think we don’t have differences and disagreements, that we don’t come from widely disparate backgrounds and environments. These things are cause for friction, to be sure, but they are equal to both natures.

Indeed, we have different levels of intelligence and tolerance, different ideas about money and politics, about laughter and passion. Money and politics appeal to our material and corrupt natures. Laughter is a great purger, a perfect means to cleanse the soul of cancerous darkness; passion, in all its exuberant forms, gives our ambitions and higher selves wings and air currents to loft us closer to the touch of God.

I ask again: what elevates one above another?

I make no secret of my disdain for stupid people. Don’t deride me because the fact is I’m right and each of us knows it — stupid people are not figments of our lesser imaginations, they truly exist. A sad misstep in man’s nature to be sure. Perhaps in this regard alone would I consider myself superior to another.

I don’t mean “stupid” because someone doesn’t know what I know. That concept alone can most always make for wholesale improvements on both sides of the fence. We all know the kind of knuckle dragging, mouth breathing brand of idiocy I’m alluding to. [Congress, anyone?]

Notice the important distinction — not empirical but to-the-bone, flat out stupid.

Yeah, I’m better than that person.

I am not, however, perfect. I make no claim to that effect.

I am far more susceptible to the haunts of my demons than to the embrace of my angels. James Madison once wrote that there are no angels among the ranks of men, for if there were we would have no need for government. I petition for the intercession of my angels all the time. Why? Because I am human.

Angels are not to be confused with stupid people (or Congress). Angels are far better equipped to forgive morons. That makes them truly blessed.

Thayer Angel

I shall never be equal to — nor greater than — angels, certainly not while I still draw breath.

I shall forever be imperfect — for that is my nature.

I shall always seek and hope for the best in my equal. Surely she will be an angel.

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Morning windows are slowly set aglow from the east when the sun’s first sliver slips above the horizon. Lie in bed and watch the seeping light shift from the cool, pallid hush of the dawn sky, to the earthy warm glow of a candle flame, and finally to the amber froth of sunrise.

We unlikely denizens of the third planet from the sun begin our mornings as we are accustomed: we pump water from deep within the earth for our coffee and showers, we might turn on the television and listen to the news as we get ready, and ride the bus or drive through never ending streams of radio, light, and microwave transmissions on our way to work, to take children to school, or run errands.

Every once in a while it helps to gain a little perspective on where we truly stand, to snatch a glimpse of our true place among the stars.

The International Space StationThis morning I happened upon an article that mentioned live streaming video of the earth from the International Space Station. So I trotted over to NASA.gov and poked around for a few minutes. Eventually I landed at NASA TV. This is the streaming video (in HD, I believe) which shows all the goings-on at our national space organization. I must have hit the programming at the right time because they were showing live video of ISS astronauts performing experiments in the space station. I could listen to the communication between Earth and the station and see the control center in Houston as it was happening.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff, but it was interesting. Soon enough they showed the huge screen in the center of the control room that displays the station’s parabolic flight path as it orbits around us, around our home—the only home we have ever known, and will ever know for generations yet. At the moment I was watching the station was just over the south Pacific, traveling from southwest to northeast.

Then they cut to a live shot from the space station to earth below, a shot directly above the south Pacific ocean, with its cotton candy clouds just barely kissed by the first rays of dawns early light.

What. A. Phenomenal. Sight.

I had some errands to do, so a few minutes later I stepped outside and looked up at the sky, this morning a mottled vista of gray-white clouds and large patches of baby blue. A breeze blew gently as I walked around my truck to get in the driver’s seat. And I couldn’t help but be struck . . .

Soemwhere up there, beyond the scattering of light we interpret as the sky, up in the almost absolute zero degrees of space are a handful of scientists working together to make sense of the evasive secrets of physics. And here is something interesting: Every astronaut aboard the ISS is required to perform vigorous exercise 2 hours a day; how many earth-bound people do you know who can’t, won’t, or whine about finding 30 minutes, three times a week to exercise? If these astronauts don’t do 2 hours a day they risk a wealth of unpleasantness when they return to earth’s gravity.
NASA TV logo

If you get a chance, do check out NASA TV. See if they’re showing experiments from the space station. And if you’re fortunate you’ll get to see the breath of morning as seen from space . . . where one can really get a full measure of our place amongst the stars.

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We are the Sun’s dependents. We Terrans are in the peculiar position of being reliant on our parent star for everything—without it we don’t just die . . . we become extinct. And she’s waking up again, after a decade-long nap, to see if we are listening to Nature itself.

Yesterday the sun bombarded the Earth with a wave of charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME). This CME is believed to be the beginning of a new cycle of heightened solar activity; these occur every 11 years. Incredibly, scientists predictions for the arrival of the wave were off (early) by only 13 minutes.

News reports this morning said that the solar flares were so massive that people as far south as New York were able to see spectacular aurora displays, created when charged particles from the Sun encounter Earth’s magnetic field.

As phenomenal as that kind of natural light show is it is also a sure enough sign that the universe is providing an unmistakable window for us to look through, a gargantuan magnifying glass turned the other way ’round that reminds us just how puny we are among the stars—and how little true power we possess.

Astronomers and astrophysicists have peered into a minuscule portion of the most inactive, mundane piece of galactic real estate they could imagine with Hubble (how small? Take a penny and hold it at arms length—then look at the size of Lincoln’s eye) and discovered over one thousand other galaxies of varying sizes and intensity.

Who’s to say there’s not another species out there looking back at our tiny blue marvel and wondering the same thing, perhaps as equally in awe as we are of Nature’s potency.

Newton thought the apple a grand metaphor for a far larger force at work; Galileo and Copernicus saw far greater potential in telescopes than for merely keeping an eye on the far horizon for uninvited guests. So compelling were these new frontiers of rational thought and exploration that the mighty Catholic church—as it has persisted in doing over the centuries—decided it and it alone would be the judge of what lay outside our tiny island of improbable miracles. That has always struck me as one of historiy’s most astonishing ironies—that the church would have the pathetic hubris to define the very thing which Providence put there to begin with. Quite literally “But for the grace of God go we.”

When will mankind take genuine notice of elements so powerful as to be nearly unfathomable to us? When will honest men realize that we must stand for a greater good, for one another, brother and sister, or be all too easily reduced to the cosmic dust we came from.

The Sun is whispering to us. Over the next year she will raise her voice repeatedly.

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backstabbing If I may pull Shakespeare’s Henry V slightly out of context: “Once more into the breach, good friends, once more . . .”

As much as I love my country, certainly as much as I consider it a genuine blessing to be an American citizen, I am not alone in my utter repudiation of the election season. I will grant that it does have a certain element of entertainment to it—we Americans take measured delight in watching the mighty fall, or at least stumble.

Last night gave us the starting gun for the rush of the 2012 elections. Now we spend the next 11 months awash in political rancor and candidate sniping. Sadly, rather than seek a way to bring more respect to the process we seem to embrace it.

There was a time, some 250 years ago (roughly) when the ideal for selecting men for roles in the new federal government was to entreat the public to choose men of great public or community respect and admiration; men did not campaign for these positions, they were chosen by the constituents . . . by we the people.

These words of John Adams are perhaps far more relevant today than in his own time:

What is to become of an independant statesman, one who will bow the knee to no idol, who will worship nothing as a divinity but Truth, Virtue, and his country? I will tell you, he will be regarded more by posterity than those who worship hounds and horses; and although he will not make his own fortune, he will make the fortune of his country.

Does that really need any embellishment?

My underlying thought here was the ramping up of all the negative campaigning we’re about to be inundated with. So I thought I would break out a couple examples from our early history to illustrate that our modern mudslingers are in no way innovative in their sniping.

Thomas Jefferson on Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry was know as quite an orator. It was through one of his passionate speeches that he pursuaded the House of Burgesses to arm a militia in preparation for what was sure to become war with Britain. Before that time, however, Henry had married a wealthy woman and through a dowry acquired 300 acres and six slaves to run a small plantation. To remain solvent enough to run the place he took a few weeks to study law books then applied for a license to practice law.

Thomas Jefferson, genuinely admiring of Henry’s gift for oratorical persuasion, was less than enthused with the man’s legal acumen. “His judgement in other matters,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to fellow Virginian, James Madison, “was inaccurate; in matters of law it was not worth a copper: he was avaricious and rotten hearted. His two greatest passions were the love of money and of fame: but when these came into competition the former predominated. What we have to do is devoutly pray for his death.”

Zing! That’s pretty harsh, even by today’s standards. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard it the first time.

John Adams and Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine did much, with his first pamphlet alone —Common Sense— but some of the ideals espoused didn’t sit well with John Adams, John Jay, and other influential founders. Adams, not one to let his pen lay idle, let flow his ink to express his lack of Paine-fandom: “What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.”

“Crapulous” Man, what a great word!

Paine, having thoroughly lit into the British monarchy in his pamphlet, was certainly unafraid of Adams: “John was not born for immortality,” he wrote in response.

“The spissitude of the black liquor which is spread in such quantities by this writer,” Adams wrote of Paine, “prevents its daubing.” [in it’s closest contextual definition here, ‘daubing’ would likely mean “to paint unskillfully”]

Paine acerbicly retorted, “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.”

That’s political bitch slapping, 18th century style. Paine would later be proven something of an early American political prophet. After George Washington’s election as our first formal President of the United States, Adams led the Senate in a lengthy debate over how to properly refer to the man who held the office of president. Washington himself, somewhat exasperated by the lengthy titles suggested by Adams, wisely suggested “Mister President,” thus avoiding any hint of monarchy in the brand new government. Adams wouldn’t fare well despite his truly well-intentioned efforts. The senators thus began referring to him as “His Rotundity.”

Almost makes current mudslinging seem tame by comparison.

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