Archive for December, 2013

Pride

There isn’t much I am absolutely convinced about. Not because I am a skeptic or cynic, but because I am humble enough to know there’s a lot I don’t know. However, I am pretty sure I have pride pegged.

Pride is just another word for stupid. No, not “ignorant.” Ignorant implies that you just haven’t been exposed to knowledge. Stupid offers no such wriggle room: you’ve been told (and probably more than once), and yet you still stick your tongue to the flag pole on a sub-zero day.

Pride is all about, well, me. It’s as if I go thru this thing called life with a mirror in front of my face. Me, me, me. Yeah very simple (therefore very appealing), but, um, not particularly farsighted (especially if you have short arms). Mirrors make bad windows: you don’t see much besides your nose (maybe that’s just me).

But, why is that “stupid”? No doubt you’ve heard of “pride goeth before the fall”? I don’t think that refers to a football team that spends the pre-season “rebuilding.” Rather, I think it refers to not seeing something that might change your life, like a crevasse or Mac truck.

You might remember the origin of the word “narcissus”? Falling in love with yourself just doesn’t enhance your life, personal relationships or your career. Though you might get a timeless story told about you, or even a very pretty flower named after you.

And, while you are admiring your striking profile, you just might not appreciate other people that can make your life so much more. Or so much less.

Pride also takes away your ability to review what you’ve done. The ability to say “I’m sorry” (whether you were at fault, or not – but just because a relationship is so much more important than your own opinion of your own grandeur). The ability to adjust the path you’re on, and maybe not actually get to wherever it was you were heading to (which is probably a very good thing). The ability to learn something that, shock of shocks, you might not have already known. The difference between a rock and a guided missile. If you’re stuck on yourself, mid-course corrections are impossible.

Unlike the lesser animals, or avocados, we were not born with all of the knowledge that we would need to successfully navigate through life (although there are some who act as though this were an infallible truth). And while self-confidence is very necessary, self-confidence on steroids is counterproductive; you know, two heads are better than one (even if that one head is huge). But, getting along, let alone working together is a team effort, and the pride that a team needs is different than the sum of its individual members. Michael Jordan may have been great (“may have”?), but I don’t think he played all by himself very often (Bill Russell and Walt Chamberlain are my personal faves).

Do you even eat breakfast?

The chicken lays an egg, makes a lot of noise, and walks away; oblivious to breakfast. The pig, in order to contribute to breakfast has to die: the bacon or sausage on your plate is a rather significant investment in breakfast for the piggy. But, more and more, I see a great ranting and raving, tearing of garments and gnashing of teeth about the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on current popular, fashionable issues; ranting and raving by people who usually couldn’t care less about the Church. Great cries about how medieval and antiquated and out of touch the Church is.

If it suits their purposes – the agenda of the secular press – the Catholic Church is the Great Champion of Our Times. If the Church doesn’t jibe perfectly with their idea of a perfect world (“I am the center of your universe”), then any stick will do.

Frankly, find this obsession with “sexual orientation” increasingly tedious. But, almost to prevent me from rejoining the ranks of the Silent Majority, my ire rises. I am not so much bored with the narcissism of this age as I am angry at the overwhelmingness of it (yes, I could have said “pervasive”; but that is so pedestrian). And then, befitting the season, I had an epiphany:

I was listening to “seasonal music” from South America on the local FM “classical music” radio station. South America is the only continent I have neither visited nor lived on, so I can only imagine (I had a good friend once who grew up in Rio, but that’s not the same, is it?). Fortunately, the “music from colonial Latin America” was accompanied by informed, educated commentary. Of course the music is not familiar; but it is certainly beautiful. The commentary was as uncomfortable to hear as I believe is was accurate. Yes, the Catholic Church has something far less than a stellar history. But, it will be the first to say that it is an imperfect church made up of imperfect members. And that’s probably why I feel welcome in it. And probably why so many in the chattering classes don’t – I’m not perfect, like they are.

However, there is another reason I am so very proud to call myself a devout, practicing Catholic: the Roman Catholic Church is not like any other church/religion. Sure, the Protestant Churches have better music; but give me the 2000 year old Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church every time. Simply put, I don’t want to be like everybody else; there are many teams in baseball, but only one Yankees.

Most of the people that I know personally that advocate “disregarding the Church” on issues of so-called “gay rights” (whatever the hell those are – homosexuality is a behavior, not a people – get a clue already) haven’t graced any church of any kind in recent years (ever?), and are damned proud of it. Go ahead: define yourself by what you’re not. They couldn’t begin to count on their fingers any of the teachings of the Church; it’s as if the entirety of the 2000 year history, the literally countless pages of writings (quite a few in languages none of these “enlightened” could ever read) could be summed up in their own interpretation of one taken-out-of-context statement. Yet, they would go to more than one doctor to get a “second opinion” on a hangnail.

They are the epitome of seagull social action: fly in, make a lot of noise, shit on everybody who disagrees with you and fly out (hopefully before anybody gets out a shotgun).

In the past few days, a local “Catholic” high school had a situation with its vice principal over apparently a “gay rights” issue. OMG (I say that as a code instead of taking the Lord’s Name in vain – as if that has any meaning to homosexuals). A Facebook Friend sent me a petition to sign protesting the high school principal’s action. So, I went to the school’s webpage and found the open letter that the principal sent to the school’s community (and, obviously, anyone who cared to click to it and read it). This FBF, is so very proud that she has no affiliation with my Church. This FBF, will stand up for everyone’s rights, as long as they agree with her. But, if they hold a different view, it’s open season.

I not only did not sign and submit the petition; instead, I sent an email to the principal supporting her action. I then went to the Wyoming Catholic College website and doubled my 2013 contribution (they aren’t afraid to support the Catholic Church – and I am not afraid to support them). In other words, as a direct result of having “gay rights” thrown in my face AGAIN, I redoubled my efforts to support – not tear down, or disregard, or compromise – my values.

And, I can’t wait for the after-Christmas sales so I can buy another firearm and more ammo. 😉

Fence posts

Imagine a semi-tractor truck, the 53 foot long variety, filled with fence posts. These fence posts would be, say, four inches in diameter and, I don’t know, six feet long. So, a flat bed trailer, of the kind you might see tooling down the interstate could easily carry in excess of 4,000 posts. A whole bunch, I’m sure you’ll agree? We might call that “significant”?

Now, let’s take that load and plant the posts in the ground, say with six feet between posts. Ok, eight feet between posts. Yes, vertical: they are fence posts.

At this point, a cow in a field wouldn’t even notice, let alone stop chewing. You, on the other, are probably ready for a break. To the cow: still insignificant; to you: where’s the beer?

Tomorrow you come by with some wire and you connect the dots, oops, I mean posts. Whether he knows it or not, the cow’s world has changed. Yours too, since you don’t have to chase the cow very far. By the third day, the grass on the other side of the fence is looking pretty good to the cow, and you can’t remember what it was like to have to look for the cow.

The point of this is that I have several friends who are very, very good at remembering facts as tho they are fence posts. I mean, astoundingly good. I have one friend who could probably do the equation for hexagonal packing of circles in a rectangle in his head (it involves the cosine of 30 degrees; take my word for it: a task not for the mathematically challenged, like me). Several others could derive the equation. I went to the internet.

But, could any of them derive any meaning from the possible fence before the cow does? Nope. You see, merely being able to regurgitate facts, while useful for winning the car and the dream vacation on a game show, does not naturally bestow wisdom or understanding. Yep, total recall is fascinating; and for people like me that are lucky if the Random Access Memory between our ears works even on rare occasion, all I can do is shake my head (no, vigorous shaking does not spill out smarts). Besides, now we have computers to do our memory storage work, and retrieval, as well (and you thought I recalled the equation for hexagonal packing from high school algebra? No, my teacher would never think so.).

If you’re going to take the time to remember something, make it relevant. Find out how it connects to other things, like your values, your morals, your ethics. Your future. A four foot barbed wire fence is significant to a cow. An eagle couldn’t care less.

Irony

Don’t suppose the term “ultimate irony” has any meaning, let alone significant meaning; kinda like the word “news”. What is today’s “must know” is relegated to the Trash Bin (either the old metal kind, or the modern computer kind) tomorrow. So, it’s entirely possible that today’s “ultimate irony” won’t stay on the top of heap, or on the front page very long.

But, I am having a hard time replacing what has been termed “natural law” with anything more significant.

A friend recently wrote:

“It simply indicates that every material creature has a specific purpose and that this purpose is assigned to it by its nature. So a mud hen is different than a cow or a human being. The eye has a different function than the ear. These all involve nature. Science is constantly indicating the nature, that is the purpose, of a particular organ in an animal or human being. However we live in a culture of extreme individualism where the individual, especially a human, is seen as being able to determine one’s own nature and purpose. This is how our culture, philosophies, government, education system, media and most churches today accept and even advocate abortion, euthanasia, divorce, in vitro fertilization, same gender marriages, etc.”

I can’t improve on that, but I’ll try to add something: like how ironic this all is.

Not being a rocket scientist, I always thought the purpose/aim/goal/reason of science was to explain things (or, try to) (Brother Guy Consolmagno says it better: “Science describes, it doesn’t prove.”; see http://fora.tv/2008/03/02/Brother_Guy_Consolmagno_God_s_Mechanics, slightly after the 12 minute mark – but don’t skip the entire interview). So, science exists to describe? And if it doesn’t, then what am I to do with all that genus, species, family stuff I still remember from 9th grade biology? (I told you I wasn’t a rocket scientist.) If science does its job, then engineers can do theirs (now I can relate), and the rest of the world can enjoy the fruits of the ubiquitous computer (et al.).

So, we have all these scientists, and all the money that is thrown at science (that would be OUR taxpayer money; Cray computers, and the Tevatron come with a
hefty price tag), on the one hand; and then we have what, Congress, redefining the purpose of things? (Let’s ignore the cost of Congress for a moment, shall we? No point in throwing good money after bad.) What did the Race to the Moon, and the shuttle program cost? Somehow, we thought that was worth our resources. We are pumping millions of dollars into finding a cure for HIV/AIDS; millions of dollars into the hands of scientists, not politicians. Why doesn’t the president just call a special session of Congress and demand that it redefine, say, a virus? Something along the lines of: “The Ebolla Virus is now benign.” Politicians all over the country have, with no more than a stroke of a pen (quite literally with no more than) redefined scores of things that, frankly, fly in the face of science (ignorance can be such bliss, can’t it? especially when you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about).

I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking that, on the one hand we provide mega millions of dollars in subsidies to the tobacco industry, and on the other
hand, meager millions to finding a cure for cancer. So, why should politicians be any more consistent when it comes to science? Like I said, “ultimate irony.”

But to take it a step further (and there are many special interest groups that have hijacked Capitol Hill), those that so virulently espouse individualism are
demanding that the law of the land be changed just for them. A few (percentage-wise, very, very few) are ensuring that to get the law on their side, my legal rights are usurped or morphed into something I cannot countenance. They want rights, and they are willing to take mine away from me. Thank you very much. As we used to say in boot camp: BOHICA (no, don’t ask). “Protect the individual” applies only to those who choose to belong to their own little club. And, if you don’t belong; well, Hitler, Stalin and Mao had the answer to that one.

These here United States of America was founded – even from the very beginning, when the Pilgrims started grabbing land from the natives – on the basic,
fundamental premise that we didn’t want to be just like the people in the Old World (the invasion of this continent by Europeans proved – ironically enough – that the trip across the Atlantic didn’t actually change the pioneers very much at all). Fast forward 200 years (yeah, I know: more like 400) and there are groups that are trying to make us a colony of Europe again (I bet King George III is loving this). If I wanted to be European, I’d move there. (Yes, I have lived in Europe.)

We here are supposed to be all about protecting the individual – EVERY individual. That means life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – for everyone. That does not mean conformity at all costs. It means I can swing my fist; just so long as I make sure your nose is not in the trajectory. It does not mean I can’t be me.

But, that is what is happening here.

One of the most popular movies of late, “Jurassic Park,” answered a question about Natural Law, tho it was well hidden. The scientists (what, no politicians?) who cloned the dinosaurs in the “amusement park” made a point to ensure they couldn’t reproduce (that would be the dinosaurs, not the scientists). A built in safeguard against the experiment getting out of control. There was a scene where the head game-keeper discovers eggs that have obviously hatched – clear proof that the safeguard had, um, excuse me, failed. I think his line was something like “Nature will find a way.” That line could have come out of an ad for a butter substitute commercial that was popular back in the days when I watched tv (“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”; don’t remember the product, tho. Sorry.)

The pen might be mightier than the sword. Maybe. But, ignore Mother Nature at your peril.

Busy

I think I still have the top I had in Fourth Grade. As I recall, it I could get it going fast enough, it would spin a “long” time. Occasionally, it did spin a long time; but the instant it left my hand, I lost all control. In a manner of speaking, so did it. As long as it stayed upright, it would dance around, bouncing off of obstacles, until it finally ground to a halt (maybe even “halted to ground” – as only tops can do). Other than spinning around its own center, it was entirely without direction.

I know people like that: they are full of action and devoid of direction. In some cases, they quite literally don’t know why they do what they do; they just react to the moment. We have all heard that we should live in the moment; the past and the future exist only in our imaginations. Well, there are quite a few people behind bars that might beg to differ (on both ends of the spectrum). Perhaps some of those incarcerated lived too much in the moment? There are others who are as shortsighted but have stayed within the law (or, haven’t gotten caught). They are incarcerated in their own lack of direction, purpose. And so, their tomorrows won’t look much different from their todays. They might say that if they had it all do to over again, they’d do it all the same. In other words, life was as good at it gets when they were infants?

These are busy people. Busy, busy, busy. All year long, they are busy. Busy doing what? Hell if they know; I know I don’t. None of these whirling dervish look alikes ever ask themselves if they are busy about the right things – the things that matter, important things, dare I say First Things. And now we enter the “silly season” when these people who are ‘busy’ all year suddenly shift into high gear and become frantic, frenetic, hyperkinetic (Roget’s Thesaurus, 707.24). While still juggling all those balls they have been keeping in the air, or keeping their plates heaped to overflowing, they add more…stuff (thank you, George Carlin). And there will be stories again this year about holiday stress and excess and the always regrettable suicide.

I don’t believe it is a matter of getting out a chain saw and clear-cutting; I think a more surgical approach is in order. More pick-and-choose, and less throw out the baby with the bathwater. Make the conscious, deliberate decision to do what is truly important; and the other stuff can go begging. After all, if it is just “stuff,” then you really shouldn’t be wasting your resources (time and energy) on it anyway. Don’t try to do it all; try to do less, but better. Yeah, less is more.

Maybe it is my own age that is causing me to more critically allocate my own resources? Maybe the youthful indiscretions that have come back to haunt my corpus? Maybe a lack of desire to have the next 30 years look like the last? Maybe I’m finally implementing the wake-up call I got back in 2005 April? I do know I have all my Christmas shopping done; and it isn’t because I am not doing any (like some years). I have all my Christmas cards addressed and stamped; and they all have a “keep Christ in Christmas” theme (The Adoration of the Magi tryptich by da Fabriano), no Santas or Rudolfs (and I waited until the Post Office released their religious seasonal stamps: Madonna Candelabra (Raphael), Virgin and Child (Gossaert), Holy Family). Sad to say, I have to work Christmas (yes, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day..and, ho hum – or should I say humbug? – Christmas Day night); so, like Thanksgiving, it won’t seem like a holiday (but that’s a different story).

I will know why I am doing what I am doing; and I will be doing those things on Page One as well as I can. The stuff on Page Two belong in the shredder anyway.

It is easy to laugh at “New Year’s Resolutions.” Like fruitcake, NYR are part of the season; and just as easily thrown away. But, taking stock of the past year is better than ignoring it (it is a record of choices you’ve made). And trying to do better next year is better than, well, just waiting and letting it happen (which it will do without you). Start with those things that really are important. Breathing is pretty much a given. Eating is definitely on the list, tho maybe not so much (not as important as breathing, and not indulged as much as in the past). Isn’t this easy? You already have two things on your list of What’s Really Important. Ok, they were gimmies. What’s next? You’re on your own: it’s your life. You might try exercise; I actually know a few people who might exercise too much (no, I am not among them – tho, I’d rather do too much than too little). Now that you are working on staying as healthy as possible as long as possible (so you don’t make yourself a burden to others), you could consider your personal life, your personal relationships, the other people in your personal life.

Don’t stop there. Busy is good; busy doing crap is not.