Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Temptation of Inertia

Before all things and in all things, we have a tendency to remain where things are most comfortable and either to take the path of least resistance or continue down a path of failed understanding. We all have seen it: in politics, in science, in religion, in human interaction itself.

We, so to speak, don't see the writing on the wall. Either that or we fight to ignore it. We wish to remain in our comfort zone, that habitable bubble of comfort and understanding where all is supposedly right with the world even while everything around us is crashing down like the Hindenburg. My friends, this is a mistake—a horrible mistake.

If there weren't any resistance to our vocations in life, if there weren't any push back in success or defeat, we wouldn't grow. In weightlifting, isn't resistance not a good thing? It provides the strain needed to see through to later growth. So it is too in relationships, for if we reach a point in time where we aren't tested, like our muscles in weightlifting, our interpersonal relationships turn to mush. We become flabby and unfit in our life's social interactions.

And so there is resistance in our lives and in our relationships, both big and small. In this we must fight the inertia of not being able to turn our course in relationships and in our lives. We mustn't see the hardships as something to be cursed; rather, we ought to see them as what they are, tools in building what matters most and what leaves a lasting impact—making a difference in another's life.

We must fight the temptation of inertia, since in it we find much of our tendencies, our vices, and our habits. If we see past these habits, the short-term fruits they that quickly turn rotten, we will find a much greater bounty beyond the momentary strain that we find ourselves in on our way to building healthy—and lasting—relationships rooted in true love.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Chasm of Understanding

A response to a posting of an Atheistic peer...

The Riddle of Epicurus

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
Then He is not omnipotent.

If He is able, but not willing
Then He is malevolent.

If He is both able and willing
Then whence cometh evil?

If He is neither able nor willing
Then why call Him God?

It goes down to whether either of us gets "it."

We are on two different sides of the chasm of understanding, and surely either of us believes our way is right. And, in either respect, it is a fair assumption, through logic of which you've presented, to assume such things. And on the other hand, we have that of our understanding where the light is seen through the apparent darkness in logic itself.

And in this chasm of understanding there is darkness. Either side, those who believe in God and those who see the belief in God to be of total waste, are understandably and unequivocally ambassadors of such beliefs.

How do we bridge this chasm of understanding? It is by understanding the definitions of those words of which are used in defense of either belief.

Let us approach the word "willing"...for it is in willing that we exist. Through the biological processes, from the innate beginnings from whence we came, we enter existence. And as for the fingerprints of Creation, from where and how it came to be, they are there if not apparent to the untrained eye. No matter the form of creation, we go to the heart of the matter, where and how did we come to be? From ooze? So be it. From dust? So be it, too.

We see not where we come from, but rather where we are. And where we are going. For it is in willing something that we enter it. We have the intellect, the logic and reason to work within this world and so to interact with its Creation.

But then enters the logical claim: "If He is willing to prevent evil then why does He not prevent it?" And in the temporary view of things, in the drop of existence of any particular molecule of matter then, yes, it appears quite illogical. But where does the matter go from here? To further destruction, dismay, or despair? Is there any more existence of evil in this world on this day than the start of existence throughout all of universal creation or, more specifically, since the beginning of sentient understanding and decision-making (otherwise know as "free will")? I dare to state that the answer is no.

The only difference in this world as it is now is the number of sentient beings from that first day and thus the complexity of Creation ("the system"). One could invariably assume that "in the beginning" there was to be a single existence of an evolutionary sort. We must start from some starting point of existence. And so in this there enters one independent outlook on the world outside the forces of Creation. And if there were to be a reason for existence to go on, in this outlook, is to continue life. The how's and why's of it are to be debated of course, but the logical boils down. Then enters conflict of those of understanding. How can then we say then He is "willing" to end that which he created, if by the same understand they may do as they wish in the short-term?

Are we to expect to be called then gods, too? We might have a hand in creation but this would be a mistake, as it is, we only have a part in everything. We, indeed, are very limited in consciousness. That is, we do indeed die in the physical sense. Invariably we will take part of this plan or make our own decisions in our limitedness of consciousness and thus enter the ability to err.

And then, I would venture an educated guess that one would call to mind that of suffering in this world, the likes of disaster, disease, and calamities of cosmic forces. "Ah," would one say, "I have the riddle's answer. He cannot exist for the existence of this ‘wrong.’" Yes, we see this in our eyes of today, the problems of climate or beast or pest. We would fall victim to so-called "acts of God." What can we say of affliction? Does it not make us stronger? Does it see the fullness of all existence? If we had the outlook of life of narcissism, then yes, we’d say surely God does not exist. One might say, "If He does not stop this pain from existing then He is not there." But how short-sighted is this! We see not around the bend. And if it were around the bend and no reward to which we are given for our actions, then that same person might say it is for naught. But how can it be for naught if there is even the smallest possibility for supposed gain for "positive actions." In this instance the narcissistic person might be placated by that of Pascal’s Wager. But again, there might be a rejection even of that smallest possibility for that type of person.

For the altruistic person, there might be only gain even in the sight of all evil, think about the case of those in Nazi Germany who stood up in defense of the intrinsic evil being done. What gain was it for them? So it is the susceptibility for "martyrdom" for an intense commitment for a cause. In this manipulation could be brought about negatively just as well as positively for the world of Creation. But then, one might ask again, "Why does He allow it to exist?"

Simply put, as it is in the sciences, for every action there is a reaction. If there is something to come after our existence here then how is it to be? A knee-jerk reaction? Does the river run backwards for no logical reason? No, it does not.

The solution to the Riddle is in the scope in which it is applied. We must not look to that of single moments but sweeping vistas of time, and in those sweeping vistas of time the positive nature of things will enter. It may not be positive in the shortest of terms, but in the longest of terms it is there. As there is anything to bring forth life, it will come. But therein lies the "leap of faith"...and the chasm of understanding.

There you are on one side and here I am on the other. The darkness between the two ledges is deep, but all is required is that "leap of faith," that jump of understanding that there is more than just what we see here and that there is a greater good. For there weren't there wouldn't be any all, just as there would be total darkness if there weren't even the shadow of a single flame burning.

For my brethren of belief and equitable treatment by those of no faith, I continue with the following two passages to remember in trust of God, in whom all good things come:
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

- Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

And from today's first reading...
Thus says the LORD:
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
- Ezekiel 3:25-28

Open your eyes. The existence is there and the ability to do good is within you. All you must do is choose and the world as you see it will never be the same again.

As a corollary, I remind that all must remember the following with charity of heart and mind, with charity of Faith and Reason:
Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him. - 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3

Knowledge is dead if it is without love. Live with knowledge in love.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Losing My Voice

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.
- Isaiah 55:6-9

For various reasons I've lost my voice recently, both figuratively and literally. The coinciding of the physical with the spiritual loss can be diagnosed to be that of a deficient immune system. It isn't that the will isn't there, for it is. It is that my will is of a weakened state. Not that this discourse ought to defend my deficient acts or thoughts, but it speaks to the nature that we are all faced with in the flesh. It is not that we ought to cast away the flesh and cling solely to the spirit for that would belittle and demean what Christ Jesus did to raise the flesh to perfection with the spirit. For if we took it to be just the spirit for what we are to strive to live in, we'd fall into the heresy of Gnosticism. In short, we are both flesh and spirit, and in this world we must walk the tightrope of the two to its completion. We ought to run the race not in ignorance but in grace and in love.

How do we do it? Today's reading from the first chapter of Philippians sheds some light on it. For it's right before today's passage, specifically in verses 9 through 11, that we are given an invocation:
And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. - Philippians 1:9-11

We do it through acts of faith and acts of love. In this chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, St. Paul is contemplating the various prospects of martyrdom or continued missionary labor and how his is in continued missionary labor.

As we see in St. Paul's discourse of today's reading, Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a, we ought to see that "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20c) and even more importantly the fact that "for to me life is Christ, and death is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

It is through various levels of martyrdom that acts of faith are made. In essence, we die to ourselves for the sake of Christ in acts of faith. So whether it is through death of the flesh or death of an old life of spiritual deficiencies and immorality, we must live a martyr's life.

Meanwhile, it is in missionary labor that we are called to acts of love. It is in the flesh that we are called to be Christ to one another. And so it is in the two visible acts that the spirit and the flesh are one. And we mustn't forget this.

I write all of this exploration of Scripture today not so much for your instruction or my own edification but for the edification for our God and for the strengthening of myself in Christ. For it is in times of distress and confusion that the Spirit wills itself to be known, to be grown, and to call us in the Spirit to be moved to greater conversion and, thus, greater love.

So in the end I have lost my voice, however it isn't lost but rather replaced by one that is more important. It isn't silenced but rather tuned again to that which matters more. I pray most this day for the strengthening the flesh of each of us so that we may all be truly united as one in the Spirit and that in both spirit and flesh we are strengthened in Christ Jesus.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Pick

A couple weeks ago, on the eve of the closing of the Democratic National Convention....the one with the Styrofoam Greek columns and all of the wonderful rhetoric...I made a guess in the dark. I was completely fed up with the way things were going then. I wasn't happy with either side, even as I supported John McCain earlier in the Republican primaries. He was the best of the bunch then...and is still the best of the bunch now.

This brings me to The Pick. I had my reasoning to what would happen after Thursday night when those columns were to be hauled back to some Hollywood backlot. I had my hunches of what should happen. That change was indeed needed. Change not only for the Republican Party, which has been destroyed more by George W. Bush and the faulty leadership he has provided in these eight years...the latter four of which I signed off for in 2004, as you might recognize from my earlier political posts from that time. It wasn't out of stupidity that I agreed with this man then...nor was it for over half the voting electorate that we agreed with this flawed man and his flawed leadership. It was in spite of these flaws that we voted for this man...and for that party of which he has—for better or worse—represented these tumultuous eight years.

Much has happened these eight years, a lot of which has changed not only the political landscape but the very fiber of which our country sees itself and how the world sees our country. This hasn't been for the best most of the time. We do have a realization across the country since our pre-9/11 era of the true nature of those who wish our civilization and culture to be no more. At the same time, we have had serious flaws in reacting to this threat, reactions that have not only taken our eyes away from the very dangerous threats that we still haven't addressed or subdued. We cannot take a head-in-sand approach. We must face these threats head-on and be as judicious in our actions abroad and built consensus with our allies.

Will either side of the political spectrum do this to the satisfaction needed to move our country forward? I doubt it as I've doubted it since we've gone into Iraq in 2003. But this is where the Democrats have been lost in the response to the threats at hand since then.

While they've been squabbling on what was so wrong about going into Iraq they haven't been providing solutions to solve the problems at hand. The same mantra has been to get out of Iraq no matter the cost. It's a policy of expediency that takes nothing into account for the security of the region. We do not need anarchy in the Middle East. Think our gas prices are high now? Think of it when the region is even further destabilized! We have been caught with our pants down in not only our execution of the military operations in the region but also our dependency to foreign oil there and elsewhere with nations that do not have our best interests at heart. Furthermore, we are simply too cozy with Saudi Arabia for our best interests and for democracy in the region. Simply put: enough is enough.

We as a nation must come together to solve these problems. The problem isn't that we don't have the answers, but it's that we have a nation of apathetic people more ready to give into a popularity contest rather than learn about the issues…and when new people come onto the scene to berate their inexperience. Both sides, as you might have seen this election season, have done exactly this.

This race has rarely been about the issues—because either side has refrained from giving clear policy thoughts on issues. It's all about how bad the other guy (or woman) is. It's been about lipstick on pigs, old doddering men, people who "don't get it", about being "the ones we've waited for", and a whole assortment of one-liners that don't get to the heart of the issues. Let's clear the clutter.

I had predicted Palin being picked by McCain as the VP pick for a couple of reasons:

1) She is a reformer.
2) She is not from Washington.
3) She is relatively untainted by the old politics of the Republican Party.
4) She is "Pro-Life."

On the first point, she has taken on the old vanguard of her state party organization. She does have some issues with in fact taking the Bridge to Nowhere funding though ultimately being against the project and for requesting earmarks as city mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, but in the end she is a breath a fresh air for Republicans...and potentially a number of Americans overall.

In fact, in the days after the announcement of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate, Chris Matthews did make a point similar to one that I noted in the conversation with a similarly-minded friend back in Louisiana a couple days before the pick, on August 26th. Specifically, that Palin is a sort of Bobby Jindal of the North. She is a new face, ready to take on the old politics of her state and make reforms for the better of all of her state. Jindal, who unfortunately was busy (as he ought to have been at the time) keeping Louisiana running and prepared for the onslaught of Hurricane Gustav that weekend to even make a step onto the national stage. In both Palin and Jindal, they provide a new set of faces to an old and dying party. The mantle of the party needs renewal, like most of the country. This isn't just a slogan or a catch phrase—it's a reality.

On the second point, she clearly isn't part of the Beltway politics. There's no way she can be labeled to be part of the Beltway politics. One of the huge issues (of many issues) I had with Mitt Romney overall. This is both a positive and a negative. She is, as a result, more apt to charges of being too inexperienced, much like Barack Obama was being accused of by the McCain and Clinton campaigns earlier in the election season. The problem for Obama is that he has been "tainted" by his involvement in Washington politics while doing very little in the way of authoring comprehensive legislation. So not only does he not have executive experience whatsoever but he has little legislative experience, too. Couple that with the fact that he's at the top of the ticket and she at the bottom and it leads to a great deal of confusion by the electorate which should be much more against another Republican administration, no matter their stripes or new changes. That is why the election polls are so close...and why it appears McCain has overcome Obama in the polls slightly as of late. And adding Biden at the bottom of the ticket does little but solidify the difference of understanding on the ticket (a bottom-heavy ticket rather than a top-heavy ticket). In fact, it's very much like a Bush-Cheney ticket with left political flavorings. Talk about "change!"

On the third point, Sarah Palin isn't an old face of the Republican party, which up to this time has been, for better or worse, the party of Old White Men. It's true, but it doesn't have to—nor should it—remain that way. Again, the Republican party needs a facelift. It needs some va-voom, some revving up. And by revving up, I don't necessarily mean beauty-queen popularity or "simply a pretty face" but that of a person who is of a different cloth than most Republicans. Yes, she doesn't have any foreign policy experience, but for that matter neither has Obama who has rarely traveled outside the United States, unless you count that trip to Europe with his celebrity speech in Berlin (an obvious blatant attempt to channel John F. Kennedy). Speaking of which, why does each side try to channel JFK or Reagan at every possible moment? Are these men (and women) their own persons? Honestly.

But back to the topic, her lack of foreign policy experience is indicative of the problems with the Democratic ticket at the top. Furthermore, VP picks don't require foreign policy experience...unless the top of the ticket doesn't have it, regardless of how old or young the top of the ticket is. There will be a learning curve for either president and vice president. Always have, always will.

On the fourth point, one that matters most to me personally, I see only gold for the Republicans. And this is where I think the Democrats "just don't get it" as Sen. Obama would say. The Democrat party is shutting those out of their party with the politics of abortion. If you want to have a compassionate approach to the issue, which there should be, then mandate funding or assistance to the mothers of unexpected children. Do not force the killing of innocents by your policy. Conversely, the politics of the Republicans hasn't been peachy either. They have used it as a political football and there is great hesitancy on this election for people like me who are Pro-Life. We don't want to be fooled again by an administration that uses issues like that and foist another set of policies that hurts our country and our place in the world. We feel betrayed.

That's what the uniqueness of the pick of Sarah Palin is for the Pro-Life movement. No, I don't mean the vocal and graphic segment of the Pro-Life movement that wishes to scream "BABY KILLERS" to all those going into clinics. No, we are the silent majority, good people of this country that see a woman—and by extension a society—caught in the crosshairs of a Culture of Death, one devoid of promises for life. We must not ignore the least defendable in our midst. We, the ones who pray on the street corners outside these clinics of despair that call death a "choice," are fed up. We see nothing but despair for those going in. Our prayers go out to those inside, not just to change the laws of this country but the hearts and minds of those who see things so differently than us. We do not call them names or do other things to shock them into submission. Rather, we wish to see change happen to save the millions lives of the children aborted each year. We wish to see a conversion of hearts in our midst, not to point the finger and use a "holier than thou" approach. We are a pro-life nation in exile.

In the pick of Sarah Palin there is an even greater promise for the country than it was going into the 2000 election. And yet, there is great resistance ahead for the Movement. That is why Sarah Palin has such popularity in the country right now. It's not that the Republicans, through John McCain, have picked a woman for VP. No, it's that McCain has chosen a pro-life person to help change this country, to reform it in ways untold.

The road ahead is one that is fraught with dangers. There will be continued missteps by both the Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin campaigns. The thing that must be avoided is a race on personalities and return it to a race on the issues. How do we become a more compassionate nation and a more righteous nation of citizens who not only have passionate beliefs and concerns for our country but a nation of citizens who can take pride in their government for standing on the right side of life in all instances. We must truly become a beacon shining on a hill—a true bastion of democracy and of true civil rights.

We must learn what kind of change we need after these eight years. It cannot and should not return to the status quo politics that we've been subjected to these eight years—or the eight years before that was with Clinton. We must have actual change, not just a slogan and eloquent words.

To both campaigns: lose the pig-and-lipstick lines, lose the old-fish-in-paper analogies. Give us true answers for the issues that matter the most.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Living Stones

For all those times that we may feel tempted to think we are alone, I post this latest poem of mine I wrote several weeks back. It has returned to me these latest days as my thoughts have turned from tranquility to a storminess that is only masked by the near-miss back home in Louisiana.

We were reminded on Sunday, from the second reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans:
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. - Romans 12:1-2

Do not conform yourselves to this age but take what you have learned and bring it to this age. Never grow weary and never give up. We are all on this road together.

Living Stones

Winter’s night has come and passed;
Spring’s day will never last;
Summer’s dawn is but a moment;
Fall’s eve knows nothing but torment.

Living and dying, we turn a new leaf,
Living each day we continue to seek
A voice that is true, in all ways just,
A voice from the desert, one in whom we can trust.

Wisdom’s words are quickly coming;
Are we to still follow that which is hollow?
Wisdom’s mirror is brightly shining;
Will we look to love’s defining?

Heed not the words of this day;
They too will come to pass,
For the last shall be first
And the first shall be last.

Seek not the emptiness of this day;
It too will not satisfy,
For these tempting moments
Are nothing but mirages of lies.

Be like living stones,
Stones in a river.
Let the waters of Life
Rush over you in cool currents.

For stones do not waver
In times of trouble
Since they are bound together
In a purpose so noble.

For living stones are not alone,
Each is with the other.
Though you might be worn,
Through your testing His grace is shown.

Each stone has its place
In His plan for fulfilling His grace.
Each stone finds its role
In paving the way of uniting the Souls.

Be not afraid in going from here
For His Presence remains very near,
Building each of us from season to season,
Placing each step of the stones through Faith and Reason.