Monday, July 3, 2017

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me a Deck

In consumerist America, little of the passionate fervor of our forefathers remains to spur us to daring action.  We have no battles to fight, no tyrant overseas to overthrow, no independence to gain.  Most of us have access not only to the basic necessities of life, but a tremendous array of options to fill every spare moment with entertainment and pleasure.

The thrilling cry of revolutionary Patrick Henry might well resound with the faintly-humorous pun of a lumberyard's advertising board leading up to the celebration of Independence Day:


It could be rather an amusing pun, if it were not a little too close to the truth.

Yet surely, you might say, we would not surrender our freedom for so little as a deck?

Perhaps not a literal deck.  Then again, perhaps we would give it up for something smaller—a cell phone perhaps?  A tax cut?  A free lunch?  A popular opinion?  A like on a Facebook post?  Do we really know much we would sign over our freedom for things so worthless even when it means turning our backs on those things we know deep down truly matter?

The more we surrender our liberty bit by bit for the smallest of things, the more we bind ourselves to the forging of chains for which we can blame no one but ourselves.  Fear speaks louder than reason.

Will we throw overboard the metaphorical tea of our oppressors and shout for liberty or death?  Or will we rather choose our own security and see any revolutionaries about as a dangerous threat to the life of pleasure we have chosen?

As for me, I stand with Patrick Henry, if in a battle of an entirely different nature: give me liberty or give me death!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stock Characters

One might think that as an advanced civilization we would have outgrown stock characters.  After all, we know much more about physiology, psychology, and philosophy than our ancestors, so we can be much subtler in our characterization.  Yet somehow these characters keep showing themselves again and again in various manifestations.

One recent appearance of stock characters resulted in a delightful show known as Firefly.  It was cancelled of course, like most good shows, such as the children's show Magic School Bus where I gained a surprising amount of scientific knowledge, but I digress.

I bring up Firefly not to laud its merits, nor to condemn its flaws.  Rather I bring up the show because of its wonderful variety of stock characters.

Also, those stock characters have played a significant part in assisting science, the medical profession particularly.  I cannot give you the precise details, but I have it on good authority that a certain Eastern medical doctor uses the characters from Firefly as a metaphor for the various organs of the human body.  For each of these characters—just as each of the organs in the body—serve a specific role.

So perhaps we stock characters may be of more use than one would ever imagine....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Quoting the Thirty-Fourth President of the United States

The other day my Grandma spoke seriously about the dangers of certain actions in the modern world and she called upon Eisenhower in her defense.   However, her quotation only resulted in laughter from my little brother and me.

Why, you may ask.

Well, because this was the quotation: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Does that sound familiar?

Now my research fails to assure me with absolute certainty that it was indeed President Eisenhower who first said it. However, presuming that he did indeed originate that phrase I am only brought once more to admiration at the skill of a certain William Goldman who so cleverly wove that phrase into the vocabulary of his character, Vizzini:

"You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia...."

Although, if on the contrary, Eisenhower quoted Vizzini, then I can but applaud his good taste in film and literature.

Which of these twain be true, I leave to your better judgment according to your knowledge of history and time....

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Humor of the Sexes

Whenever I am flying on Southwest Airlines and hear a male voice over the loudspeaker, my ears perk up and I begin to pay attention, hoping for some humor to lighten the dreary repetition of safety instructions for flying.  I fly so much these days that I could give the safety instructions myself—almost word-for-word if my memory worked that way rather than having been trained to forget useless information.  Hence if I hear the usual rigmarole spouted out with scarcely a pause for breath, I zone out nearly immediately.

Very rarely—once perhaps in all my flights across the country—has a woman made jokes.  Nearly always it is the men and the majority of them do try to be funny (at least on Southwest).  My question is this: why?

Yes, why are men funnier than women?

Perhaps it is because women are typically more focused on nurturing and therefore care more for the travelers' attendance to safety than in trying to make them laugh.  Perhaps they are afraid that one passenger who had never flown before might be alarmed at being told that nitrous oxide would flow from the oxygen mask.  Perhaps it goes against their nature to boldly state that any passengers who do not like their service can use any of six emergency exits.

Or perhaps it is because men have more confidence in their ability to be funny.  Women are often more perceptive and more concerned about how others will receive their words and actions, humorous or otherwise.

Then again perhaps it is some other reason entirely.  What do you think?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Organized Religion

I hear a lot of people out there don't believe in organized religion.  What do you think?  Do you believe in organized religion?

I can tell you right now my opinion:

I don't.

Yep, that's right.

I don't believe in organized religion.

If you can show me an organized religion, I'll tell you whether I believe in it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Great Wall of Mexico

There have been great walls in the past—most notably the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall.  President Trump's plan to create a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States is scarcely an original idea.

Perhaps you may even consider Trump's plan to be perfectly reasonable and quite necessary.  However, I see one very distinct problem with it.

The problem with the Great Wall of Mexico plan is this:

Canada will be jealous and want a wall too.

I doubt I need to point out how many more thousands upon thousands of miles that border covers....

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Law of Diminishing Thanks

The question having surfaced of whether one ought to say thank you in response to a thank you note, I here propose a Rule of Thumb I call the Law of Diminishing Thanks.  I expect your intelligence suffices to derive from that title precisely its meaning.

Still, for the purpose of being absolutely inescapably clear, I will lay forth an example.  Imagine that someone gave you a ship (or a boat, which is slightly more likely, not that it is terribly likely either; but one can dream of miraculous benefactors appearing and bestowing precious objects) or some other item you desire.  Certainly you would wish to express your gratitude.  The custom of our society—which has fallen somewhat out of use—is to send a handwritten note conveying your immense appreciation.

It might stop there.  Imagine, though, that you have the privilege of being that marvelous benefactor and you receive that thank you note handwritten with such great warmth and care in a beautiful handmade card that you wish to thank its sender.  You might return an equally effusive note, but then the exchange of notes might continue ad infinitum.

Instead, taking advantage of modern technology, you might send an email or a message via some other online venue.  Your thanks thereby decreases in its significance.

Perhaps the recipient of the original gift might thank you for this brief note of thanks, but likely—and most suitably according to the Law of Diminishing Thanks—it will remain less each time.  Thus, by this diminishment, in the end there will be so little left for which to convey thanks that the exchange will die out naturally and without awkwardness.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Word of the Day

Here is a helpful word for all you adventurers out there—and frankly for those of you who simply have no idea where you are going. 

Coddiwomple (verb). To travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.

It goes in my cranial category of delightful mouthfuls such as discombobulate and circumambulate.  The only difference is that it has no derivation from the Latin, at least not so far as I know.  If anyone does, however, discover that the Romans were speaking in such manner, I for one want to know at once.

In the meantime, let us carry on bravely, coddiwompling with all the courage we can muster into the darkness of the uncertain future.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Me, Myself, and I Muse on Cynicism

I: Those wiser than I would have it that age must of necessity bring cynicism; but I, perhaps through fault of youth, must disagree.  Cynicism seems rather the result of a loss of hope, a small step forward on the path of despair.  Must I, simply by repeated and unwilled rotation about the sun tread down that path?

Myself: Well becoming a martyr might offer a simple alternative.

I: I don't believe that is in my power.

Me: What after all is so bad about cynicism?  Is it so much to be feared?  Perhaps it lends its weight to the wisdom of the aging.

I: Is cynicism then the cost of wisdom?

Me: The two oft seem entwined.

Myself: 'Tis a petty price to pay if it were for the greatest treasure of all, as doubtless wisdom is.

I: Yet I would not pay it.

Myself: Then have it not.

Me: How harsh a saying.  Perhaps you have already begun to taste deeply of the well of cynicism.

Myself: Nay, but a certain healthy cynicism keeps one from expecting too much of others, like a dash of salt upon a meal.

I: There is truth in that.  I, by nature, am certainly inclined to cynicism: I expect the worst, but still hope for the best.

Me: Hope—there you have the key of it.

Myself: As long as the key opens a door, I find no fault with it.

I: If I look at Myself—

Myself: I?

I: Yes, I that is—I cannot help but see that flawed and cowardly as I am, there is no hope and cynicism is the natural response.  Certainly a lifetime of effort spent in exhausting my strength in seeking to produce some fruitful change in the world would leave me as dark and gloomy a cynic as ever was.

Me: Then not to become a cynic must mean the existence of something beyond Me.

Myself: Granted.  You need only look about you.

I: Hope grounded in the world, in mankind, in Myself is worthless.

Myself: Sadly, true.

Me: Open the doors then to the world beyond Me.

Myself: And Myself.

I: And I.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Compost Speaks Again

If you can read this...

...then no words are necessary.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Parting of Ways

Sometimes the time comes to take the road less traveled by.  In this case, as I reflect upon the significance of today's date—a significance merely personal with little exception—I find myself ever more aware of the threads of the past leading into the present.  For eight years ago today a new-found friend and I drew from the dry pages of history an idea of fresh and exciting proportions with life-altering fruits.  Some might have called us fools for leaving behind a stable and secure life to make a pilgrimage on foot from church to church, accepting whatever Providence should grant us along the way, praying with each mile forward toward a known destination and unknown end.  Well we were fools—fools for Christ.

I reflect upon these matters today partly because I cannot help but do so.  No matter how much I have at times tried to forget things past and not to speak of them, I know that I do not forget; perhaps this is merely human, or perhaps it is the fruit of my personality, which desires—and requires—permanence.  In any case, the shadow of the past falls still upon the present with all its goods and ills.

The other day, as I spoke with a dear friend, sharing with her how my Lord had been working through my life, I realized an important truth about the past: I must speak in order to remember.  Although I cannot truly forget, I can let things slide into a sort of apathetic knowledge taken for granted.  If, on the other hand, I boldly proclaim what I have learned in this earthly pilgrimage, I accept for myself again and again the good that has been given, and perhaps may even shed some glimmer of light into the darkness of a fellow traveler's path.

To that end, I have decided—hesitantly at first—that I must share some more spiritual ponderings with those who care to read.  I tend to think of such things as being very personal and meant to be treasured closely in one's heart.  There is a certain amount of truth to that view certainly, but it leaves aside a greater truth: that what is given to us is often meant to be shared that it may grow and increase, like the Gospel parable of the talents.  What I give to others, I often have in greater degree for myself as well.  When I give freely, I let my Lord bless what I offer and multiply it—in this way my life becomes fruitful.

Since the spiritual journey has more direction than mere jibbooms and bobstays, I will keep these two continuing as separate threads.  Here I will continue with the randomness and spontaneity originally intended, as time and grey matter allow.  If you wish to follow my other journey, you will find that thread here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Saint Crispin's Day

In honor of this day and by courtesy of William Shakespeare:

What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Morbid Sense of Language

I was racking my brain for something less weighty to discuss here when it occurred to me to question that turn of phrase.  Why should the verbage that comes to mind draw from an English form of torture?  (Even turn of phrase could have such connotations....)  Why should I not rather say I was watering my brain or fertilizing the ol' grey cells or some more fruitful idiom?

Of course the obvious answer is that I inherit the language of my predecessors.  But what language that is!  For racking our brains is only the beginning of it....

If we want to hear someone's idea, we might say, Fire away!

If we find something hilarious, we could say, You're killing me!

Sometimes if someone has done something excellently, we say, You murdered it!

We even draw an arrow to indicate which direction to go.

If someone has a good argument, we say, You have a good point (in other words, no button on the end of your sword, so you could actually kill someone with it).

When someone looks good, we say said person looks sharp.

We execute a plan.

And those are only the ones off the top of my head (does that remind anyone else of scalping?)....