A reasonable hope?

Being human, I would like to have a reasonable hope that I will not burn in hell for all eternity: it is my skin, after all. As is heard almost everywhere you turn these days, “it’s all about me.” So yeah, I’d rather put all my eggs in the Urs von Balthasar basket. I’d like to go confidently to the Pearly Gates, stand in front of Saint Peter and say, “But, Bishop Barron says….” It’d make my current life a lot – a hell of a lot – easier; the thought that, no matter what I do in this life, I will be saved in the next.

 

But, while both men are vastly more intelligent than I am, I can’t accept that theory.

 

First, and foremost, if we are all saved, then what was the point of Jesus Christ? If Hell is empty, then Adam and Eve are also now in Heaven. And Adolf and Uncle Joe and what’s-his-name and his little red book. There is evidently, no need for a messiah. And the Bible is just a collection of fiction.

 

I don’t buy that, either.

 

Then, if GOD really is omnipotent, then no sin is beyond Him, is it? Well yeah, GOD really is omnipotent; but maybe HE will pull everybody, including Lucifer and his ilk out of the eternal damnation on the Last Day? So, Hell does have somebody in it NOW; but eventually it will be empty? We just got back to my first paragraph.

 

Second, while I can easily find bits and pieces thru-out the Bible that do convince me that Hell is real, and people do go there, I’ll be damned (like that?) if I can find anything in the Bible that even hints that Hell isn’t real. Very true that I am no scholar; but I do read the Bible and I do read various commentaries on it.

Some of the stuff in the Bible is undoubtedly symbolic, or metaphorical, or allegorical; but some of it seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. Jesus does tell some great stories; but it’s hard to equate “It would have been better had he [Judas] not been born,” with “See ya later.” In other words, why would I ever believe just two dudes after nearly 2,000 years and countless other thinkers have validated the Bible? Put another way: who’s this von Balthasar to contradict the Bible? No friend of mine.

 

Finally (for the moment), I think it would be nice to be well thought of, this side of the grave; regardless of what my eternal future looks like. If it turns out that I’ll be listening to the heavenly choir for all eternity, then it is win-win. If there is no life after this one, then I at least I played this game the best way I could; which leaves me 1-0. Yeah, pretty thin. But the alternative, putting all my eggs in the von Balthasar/Barron basket, is just plain stupid.

Mea culpa

I can see from the beautiful statistics that WordPress creates for every blogger that my readership has fallen off slightly (since it was never very high, falling “slightly” means fallen to zero).  No huge surprise, really: My “day job,” in conjunction with a household move, on top of trying to be a good father (St Joseph, pray for me!) has managed to leave no room on my plate for writing.  That I spend at least an hour every day in my prayer life goes without saying.

Well, the move from Kent to Redmond means my commute time got slashed to something closer to half-an-hour, from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  This was not only a savings of time, but also energy.  Overtime spent on my “day job” – which some of you know is really a 12-hour night shift – has dried up, so there’s more time and energy.  However, the Twins are much more active as they approach ten months old; but what they take in time, they give back ten-fold in joy and energy (ok, more joy than energy).

What this means is that I just might have more resources (time and energy) to write; which I would dearly love (in direct contrast to the job, which I detest).

I do want to take this opportunity to give a huge shout-out to Michael Voris, over at Church Militant (“ChurchMilitant.TV”).  In the past, he had made references to his checkered past which I never paid much attention to.  First, his past really had no bearing on what I was hearing now.  Second, I am certainly in no position to comment on anyone else’s checkered past (I can relate to the Cardinal Sin of Lust).  Well, he devoted an entire Vortex segment (“Limiting God”) to the details of his past.

His motivation on sharing at such a level is a threat from the Archdiocese of New York, which is apparently squirming under his criticism.  In this age of the internet, it takes next to nothing to find information, so why the Archdiocese thinks shutting him up is any protection only reveals its own stupidity.  With the embarrassing Timothy Cardinal Dolan as a spokesman, how could the Archdiocese ever hope to keep out of the limelight?  The only question in my mind is why Rome doesn’t reassign Dolan – they did it to Raymond Cardinal Burke (at least now, I know where Malta is).

New Subject:

When I was living overseas (for 17 years), I discovered one of the benefits was being able to easily ignore the craziness of the American presidential race.  That luck ran out, and now I find myself completely flummoxed.

As a youngster, I was a card-carrying Democrat (yes, literally).  I campaigned (knocking on doors, etc.) for the likes of Mo Udall and Jimmy Carter.  Dunno what I had, exactly, against the Republicans (can we say Barry Goldwater?); maybe it was the belief that the Demos actually wanted to improve things, not just hold on to the status quo.

Enter Hillary Clinton.  Gee, I thought we were finally rid of Slick Willy.  Biden wants a flat screen tv in every living room.

On the other side of the aisle, we’ve got a bunch that is cut from the same political cloth as the clowns in Congress who haven’t done squat in the past eight years.

Then there’s The Donald that is making everybody uneasy – and with good reason.  While the big money of traditional politics makes the office-holder accountable to all the wrong people, Trump would be accountable to nothing but his own aggrandizement.

Politics has sunk to new lows.

Finally:

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but I love the Twins more and more every day.  ‘Course the pressure is on to try to figure out how to cope with those that can’t figure out which bathroom to use.  I mean other than keeping them out of public schools, and Target.

It’s all about me (not)

Because of my job, I am unavoidably assaulted with “news” about the current “presidential race” (not sure if “presidential” should be in quotes – as in the things going on are not worthy of being called presidential; or if “race” should be in quotes – since the current fiasco is more long-winded (dare I say boring?) than a cricket test match).  After having spent nearly 20 years overseas (i.e., not in the USA), I learned to appreciate other news sources (read: BBC).

And part of the exposure to politicians is having “issues” thrown in my face, over and over and over (ad nauseam).  Topics I guess I should be concerned about, but just can’t.

In my quest for preparing our Twins for their future, I search (“surf”) the web looking for what I think they ought to know.  Facts that should influence their opinions; which of course should then affect their actions.

Two stories on the BBC World Service tonight made me pause.

One was on the  convenience of food.  Specifically, “Is Convenience Killing Us?”  At issue was whether or not “hyper-processed” food was leading to better health, either in the west (USA, UK), or in the east (Red China).  One commentator in the podcast wondered what was compelling us to conclude that everything else we fill our days with was more important than what we eat.  Basically, we are wringing our hands over our bad choices from a plethora of products.  The Twins are approaching their ninth month, and are being weaned – time to start a kitchen garden at least.

(I do love the irony that, we are moving to a new house that will allow a kitchen garden (fresh, homegrown tomatoes!) and reduce my commute to the job I hate by about half.)

The other article was on water.  Of course, everyone knows how consumed Americans are about gender orientation.  This really is shameful considering how many people either don’t have easy access to water, or the water that is available is, well, not suitable for human consumption.

There aren’t many words accompanying this article, which will make it a “quick read.”  Mustafah Abdulaziz has traveled around the world with his camera, and 70 large-scale photographs are on display in London; a handful are available on line.  Consider:

I don’t know how far the children in Sindh Province, Pakistan, must travel for water; but, judging from the background of this photo, it is a really, really long way.  And judging by what they are carrying, they won’t be carrying much water back home.  And, when do they have time for soccer lessons and baseball lessons and … ?

That 57 million people in Nigeria don’t have access to clean water makes me wonder if the photo of a group pulling water out of a very primitive well are some of the lucky ones.

(If you’re not real sure how many people 57 million is, the 2013 National Health Interview Survey estimates something less than 1.8 percent of adults in the USA identify themselves as homosexuals.  This is on the order of about 2 million people.  Presumably, they all have access to clean water.)

It took me awhile to understand one of the photos.  The caption was frighteningly clear: in India, 140,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by bad water.  Looking at our Twins, I can’t even begin to imagine the heartache for the parents.

Besides learning how to type (on a manual typewriter, no less), I often wonder what I learned in high school.  But I apparently learned to love learning.  I hope to instill the Twins with this love.  I do know my parents taught me (by their example) to love to read.  Ultimately, I hope they learn that this life is not about them – they have already taught me that much.

 

 

Let me count the ways….

Quite by accident, I just happened upon an article titled, “17 things the boss should always say in a performance review.” It was purely accidental, because I would have had to have cared – like I once did – to go look for something like that. You know, if I was a boss, I would be burning the candle at both ends to find nuggets like that. I’m convinced my boss has never even seen a headline like that, let alone read, or studied that kind of material.

Of the 17 topics in Jacquelyn Smith’s “Business Insider” article, not a single one came up in either my “performance review,” or my more recent “salary discussion.” Not a single one.

Rather, my boss informed me that his “spousal unit” – is that supposed to be some cutesy way of referring to this wife? – has given him permission to retire anytime. He emphasized the point by saying “2015, 2016, 2017 …” Not sure if his dumbing-down was for my benefit or his. I still can’t figure out how his retirement plans figure into my life in any way.

His next major point was to say that a lot of people leave looking for more money, only to come back when they find out the grass is greener on this side of the fence. Huh? Is that encouragement to leave, or just another way of saying, “take it or leave it”? A previous boss (third level) was fond of saying we should vote with our feet.

Smith would have a boss open up with “How are you feeling?” or “I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you think you did this year.” Me, too. Just once.

By a very convoluted path, I found myself in what is essentially a “call center.” Imagine a call center for any product or appliance you have in the house, or driveway. If it breaks, or makes a funny noise, you’re not going to call ghost busters, are you? Nope, you call the manufacturer; there is a highly trained, highly experienced team standing by, around the clock (literally 24/7/366) to answer technical questions. In my case, the product is airplanes and they often have passengers on them – put yourself in their shoes (might not be very difficult, if you’ve flown very often).

The call center I was in up to a year ago handled older model airplanes – airplanes that I had years of experience and training on; the call center I have been in the past 12 months handles the latest-and-greatest model (a single model). So, with no experience and no training, I sit at a desk with a couple of phone lines and three computer monitors linked to half –a-dozen databases, in a room with around ten others.

My boss says I did well over the past year. I remind him that I have had no training at all on the one model we support. That was worth a salary increase of precisely 1.75% “Celebrate the positives”? You mean like I didn’t go postal? Smith says, “Reinforce the person’s strengths. Recognize what they are doing right and give them an opportunity to expound on their achievements.” Really?

As far as asking me what I could have done better, or differently, or where I might see my greatest potential for growth and improvement, I’m sure that never occurred to him.

And, a plan for improvement, whether my words or his? Hah, that would be a joke. Even more ludicrous would be him saying “I’m here to support you. Never hesitate to ask me any questions that arise or share concerns that come up.”

The positive note that charade ended on was that it ended. As we were walking down the hall, back to the call center, he asked, “How are those two little ones?” My Twins are eight months old; that is the first time he has ever asked anything about my home life. If you have babies in the house, you know it is not “business as usual” when they arrive. I know he has kids – he talks about them frequently (though he talks about fishing more).

Many moons ago, I was filled with piss and vinegar (or youthful enthusiasm, if you prefer), and I was going to be “a somebody” in the company. I never had a horizon as to how long I was going to stay; I never had a limit as to how high I was going to climb the corporate ladder. I learned two things going to classes at night to earn my MBA: (1) hard work was not enough – career progression has more to do with who you know and less with what you know; and (2) it wasn’t worth a marriage and an estranged daughter. In other words, the enthusiasm I brought with me 30 years ago has been beaten out of me.

I long ago stopped looking for anyone to say thank you, or in my potential to grow or develop as a professional. I have instead, put my energies into my new family and my Church. In the early days, I didn’t have time for anything but The Company. Now, I have no time for The Company.

Zika

I could not make it, if I did not believe in GOD. I have known pain, and I would have taken my own life years ago; very much a case of “there, but for the grace of GOD, go I.” I came across an MSN.com photo spread on the Zika Babies, and while I was able to click on all 20 slides in the article, it was thru tears that not only welled up, but cascaded down my cheeks.

You see, my own Twins have just passed the seven-month mark, and they are delightfully, incredibly, thankfully “completely normal.” Meaning, I suppose they will have a life very similar to my own. From what I can understand, the Zika Babies will have a life unlike any other – any other “normal.”

When my wife became pregnant, my daily prayer was for the health of the baby (babies, it turned out). Thru-out the almost nine months that the Twins got to know each other, and their mother, long before they knew either oxygen or me, I prayed for health. What parent would not? Me, personally, I was remarkably unremarkable.

Yes, once again, I nearly lost my wife during delivery; but the children are, normal, or average, by any measure. (And, in this day and age, where technology lets us indulge in our obsession of numbers, “any measure” is quite a lot of numbers.)

There are days when the mundane routine of daily life takes center stage, and so it can be difficult to remember that our little boy and our little girl are the most important “things” in our lives. They are our First Loves, our Eternal Loves, our Reasons for Living. Altho rather late in life (better late than never), I have learned that my life is not about me. And, I thank GOD.

More tears.

Looking at those photos of those babies who have been stricken with the Zika virus reminds me of all of those babies who are born into this world with a Cross I will never know. Whether it be a disease wrought by Nature (i.e., permitted by GOD), or a burden imposed by men (again, permitted by GOD, but wrought by the hand of evil men – and women too: the devil is an equal opportunity employer). In any case, babies who will never know the beauty of THIS world. Babies unlike my own, who with GOD’s will, will know the beauty of this world.

But, when it’s all said and done, and we have all returned to dust, the Zika Babies, and my own Twins will have the reward of Eternal Life with GOD. Me? Well, the jury is still out on me. But, I could not make it, not another day, if I didn’t believe in GOD and Eternal Life.

If this is all there is, then the suffering I see on the internet would be overwhelming. There would be no point in going on. I would have to stop the deluge of pain and suffering I see in the world.

However. However, I have been given the Gift of Faith. No, I have no idea why. It’s not like I am going to do very much with my life – GOD knows I haven’t done very much at all so far. And the Twins have given me the gift of Hope. How could I bring new life into this world, if I didn’t have hope? I’m sorry for those who have none.

The Zika Babies remind me that this life on this world is not all skittles and beer. There are those we get too much of (Trump and Clinton come to mind), and there are those we never hear of (name one, just one, Zika Baby). There are those who raise the bar on what this world can possibly provide (Paul Allen and his yacht, Octopus), and those who can’t even dream of whether they will make it thru the night, or where their next meal is coming from.

So, for me, there absolutely must be a GOD. If there wasn’t, the Earth would spin off its axis. And, then there’s that Faith thing. I know – I am absolutely, totally convinced that GOD will balance the life of the Zika Babies. But, that conviction doesn’t stop the tears.

 

 

46

No, not my age (that happened so long ago, I don’t remember). No, “46” as in “46 miles per hour.” Now that I’ve cleared that up….

As you know, I nearly lost my paycheck about a year ago; but at the eleventh hour (I had received a layoff notice), I got a notice that the layoff was cancelled. Months of trying to get my head around the idea of not being employed by a company I had been with for very nearly 30 years, and trying to “re-invent” myself so I could stay in the workforce (read: continue to earn a paycheck), suddenly became a thing of the past. Quite the emotional roller-coaster, especially since my wife was scheduled to deliver twins in a couple of months.

And so, my commute went from about twenty minutes by car (or, an hour by bicycle – I loved doing that) to never less than an hour by car, and often as long as two hours. Consequently, I have become a “road warrior.” The term may not mean much to those who don’t do hours at highway speeds; but for those of us that do, “warrior” is very much the correct noun.

You see the officially posted speed limit is 60 miles per hour (or 100 kilometers per hour – some people get those confused). Yes, there is usually one, or two cars that are doing precisely 60. Usually, but not always. And, they’re in the left (fast) lane – that is guaranteed. Typically, every vehicle (including 18-wheel “semis”) is doing slightly more to greatly more than 60. I know that, to stay with the flow of traffic, the needle on my speedometer sometimes approaches 70. In the dark and in the rain, staying with the flow is far more important than anything else.

For, the first rule of driving is: “Never hit no one.” The second rule is: “Never hit nothin’.” The third rule is the predictable: “See Rule Number One.” So, running up somebody’s ass, as though trying to mate, and getting out of the way of someone who is trying to read the bumper sticker on the car in front of me is important.

Then, there are those who apparently can only drive by getting as close to your rear bumper as possible (without trading paint…I think), and staying there. You know: filling your rear view mirror with their headlights and sticking to you. Now, I’ve seen cars get within one car length of the rear bumper of the trailer of a semi; but I figure they are way past crazy (which is finite), and well into stupid (which is infinite). But, when they attempt to mate with me (without so much as have an apple or kiss my foot), I get nervous.

So, after making sure there is an empty lane on one side or the other of me, I take my foot off the accelerator. If they want to go faster than me, fine. It isn’t a race. If they want to go slower than me, that’s ok, too. But, I won’t let them stay glued to me.  Dunno what they’re watching, but they certainly are not seeing their speedometer unwind from 60+ mph to, well, the lowest I have seen on my own speedo is 46.

I drive a heavily modified Jeep, which includes an insanely big engine and tires and bumpers. I have no trouble getting out of anybody’s way; but it is just plain stupid to be doing 70 in a jacked-up Jeep. It does make me wonder about someone who is going to weld himself to my rear bumper going a mile a minute. In the dark. In heavy rain. With standing water. Obviously, their lookout doctrine does not extend any further in front of their bumper than the back of my truck. This is not a good sign. This is somebody I want nothing to do with. Dunno which is worse: dying on my way to work, or dying on my way home. I guess, after finishing a shift, for that is always a wasted twelve hours. Becoming a statistic on my way to work means I have just left my Twins; not a bad time to go.

But, it is a battle. I have learned to drive with both hands on the steering wheel. I gotta say, that’s good. But, it takes maybe half an hour to unwind when I get to my destination. No, my hands don’t shake, but my level of “alertness” has to come down from those heights – it just ain’t worth it. No, the commute is not quite the same as landing on postage stamps (aka aircraft carriers) – and it shouldn’t be. But, at least in naval (i.e., Marine Corps) aviation, you knew the other “drivers”; most often personally. On the highway, you never know who’s driving the car next to you, or in front of you. I don’t have a very high opinion of the decisions of my fellow man anyway (to include men, women and the confused). It’s probably a good thing that, driving in the dark, I can’t see what else they’re doing as they propel themselves and their steel steed on the same ribbon of asphalt that I am on.

Go ahead and buy me a new bumper: I’m sure my entire car is worth less to your insurance company than your quarter-panel. But, I bet I walk away from your mistake; while the jaws of life pry you out of your mangled tin.

 

Emma, 14

My brother’s in-laws have endured another painful life and death.  Last year, a 20-something daughter died from brain cancer; yesterday, a 14 year old grand-daughter also died from brain cancer.  (I use the general term “brain cancer” because I don’t know specifics.)  And, considering that our Twins have just celebrated six months, it seems appropriate to ask the question, “Why?”

As in, “Why have children, if they might have a very difficult life and die young?”  Or, as another, unrelated, couple that I know has put it, “How can you bring children into this awful world?”  Pretty much the same question, really.  And very much the same answer.

A year ago, or two years ago (more like it), I could not have answered anything other than, “Good question.”  I certainly was not thinking of bringing any more children into this world, and so I could (thankfully) avoid any difficult answers.  Knowing what Mother Nature can do to us, and what our fellow man (this would be the very generic “man” to include men, women and those who are confused) can do to us, it would seem that bringing more children into this life would be selfish at best (“someone to adore and take care of me”), and damned stupid at worst (the worst doesn’t always happen to the other guy – sometimes it is closer to home than that, like my brother’s home).

But, since July 1, I have discovered inexpressible joy.  Altho I think “happiness” is over-rated, I really couldn’t get my arms around “joy” – was it a synonym for happy, or something else entirely ?  (Always slinking away, mumbling, “Good question.”)

Yes, CS Lewis’ title, “Surprised by Joy,” comes to mind, and maybe there are some similarities I am not thinking of (altho my wife’s name is most definitely not “Joy”).  But, “surprised” is definitely the word here – six months later, I am still surprised.

Every day, I thank GOD for the gift of these two, new lives – very little lives, but already growing faster than I can imagine.  I cannot frankly, think of a greater gift; for with these two lives, I feel HOPE.

GOD called me back to the One, True Church about ten years ago with the Gift of Faith.  Just last year, He gave me the Gift of Hope.

Those two girls lived very difficult and very short lives.  For all I know, our Twins will fare no better.  But, in the lives of those two girls and in their passing, I believe I will be a better father.

You see, I believe GOD gives us all opportunities and then lets us choose.  The parents of those two girls chose hope.  The family and extended family can choose to remember how those two little ones lived, and they can choose to remember the love and the hope.  Or they can get angry.  They can turn toward GOD, or they can turn away from GOD.

I was certainly aware of the “dark side” of Life long ago.  And, I was marching down the road of turning away from it.  Had I not married my wife and had we not been blessed with these two little lives, my own life would be far less stressful (I sure wouldn’t be working this job and driving an hour or two each way to do it).  And I never would have known what I was missing.

So yes, I continue to pray for Emma and her aunt, as I pray for my Twins.