Monday, October 20, 2014

Was Jesus "secular"?

I feel compelled to ask questions.  I'm never satisfied with assertions - devoid of back-up. 

My latest question comes from the assertion that care and concern for homosexuals or the divorced or those who simply exercise their God-given right to free-will decision-making automatically deserve the epithet: giving-in to a secular agenda.  (See Cardinal Pell's quote in this article.)

So, what exactly does "secular" mean?  Did it have any meaning when Jesus was alive?  Was Jesus crucified because (maybe) he appeared to be too secular for the religious authorities?  Would he be "crucified" today by the trolls among us - the rich, the powerful, the keepers of authority? 

Who defines "secular" or its opposite?  And how many opposites might there be?  For example, a majority of Americans admits to a belief in God.  A majority admits, as well, to the practice or acknowledgement of some type of faith.  Yet, a majority of Americans is also now in favor of gay marriage, to such an extent that even the Supreme Court, packed (I assert) with Opus Dei adherents (impossible to be sure - as the Opus prefers the Opaque) ...  even the Supreme Court has not ruled against Gay Marriage!

So where does this leave us? 

Whose side was Jesus on?  Whose side was God on when we, creatures of human soil (or stardust?) were granted free will? 

I think of Moses, the story of the Burning Bush.  And the words uttered there:  I have heard my people's cry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

(Probably) Paranoia Pays

"The Confidentiality of your OverLords is essential to your continued Servitude."
*Note, the link (above) pertains to a blog written by a woman.  (Under the pseudonym of a man.)  And the article she flags is a by another woman.  Plus, the "quote" itself is a parsing.  By yours truly: Yes, a woman.

Moving right along:  Apparently (probably) women are better decision-makers under stressful conditions.  Translation:  "So-called nervous nellies (i.e., the paranoid females among us?) likely should be entrusted with our most important decisions."

So, who is responsible for this?

It's time some women were in charge!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Here's a solution!

Pistorius is awaiting sentence.  The defense wants house arrest and community service.  The prosecution wants jail time.

How about giving him a choice?  Accept the jail sentence.  Or accept house arrest - under the following conditions:  (1) house arrest in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea; (2) 4 hours per day in a haz mat suit, ministering to the Ebola ill and/or burying the dead; (3) plus, as many hours as are needed to put on and take off protective gear (in fulfillment of condition # 2).

This seems to me a good way to bring home to Mr. Pistorius the meaning of life and death.


I often think about writing here...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Threading the Moral Needle

Sometimes the news is simply more than one can bear.
Often it turns me to prayer.

What follows is a brief comment of mine in response to the widening and accelerating moral issue of our time.  Interestingly, the fault lines, at times, seem to transcend US political divides:  Libertarians and Tea Party folk are divided on the Right.  And God knows what divides us on the Left.  The latest characters in this Morality Play are:  Edward Snowden; John Kerry; and Daniel Ellsberg.  The setting of my comment, along with a link to it, is here, with due credit to the NYTimes for choosing it among their editorial picks:
This is the most interesting ethical dilemma of our lifetime. And it has been taken up by a young man with extraordinary courage, who to my mind (I'm getting very close to 70) has elucidated - correctly - the thorny issues involved in his decision and his actions.

To act ethically is not necessarily to act legally. This is very difficult for many to understand. Indeed, a state operates on the presumption that citizens will never question the law and simply obey it.

To question, to doubt, to act according to one's conscience, irregardless of the potential legal penalties, in the midst of competing moral claims, requires great forethought and enormous courage. Gandhi defied the laws of South Africa and India. Bonhoeffer plotted the overthrow of Hitler via a plot to bring about his death. Jesus was accused, in effect, of trying to overthrow Roman rule and an entire religion. Many saints have been accused of heresy, who later were hailed as mystics.

Edward Snowden stands within a proud tradition of individuals willing to sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of others. There is no higher calling. No greater risk. And we who sit here, typing comments comfortably at home or work, cannot pass judgment on someone willing to act according to his conscience - for such high ideals, ideals very similar (though you may disagree) to those which motivated the Declaration of Independence.

Like Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Jesus and others, he has my highest admiration and respect.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Beware the subsequent remorse of a killer

Whether or not Pistorius is ultimately found guilty (of manslaughter or murder), he has already admitted responsibility for a killing, which he terms an accident, the shooting of his girlfriend in the dark, claiming he imagined she was an intruder.

The defense is apparently wanting us to believe that since Pistorius was observed to be broken and remorseful following her death, that somehow this means he is therefore innocent of any crime.

Well, here's a link to a form of therapy begun by a Montreal psychiatrist named Habib Davenloo.  I myself have attended multi-day workshops (many years ago) in which Davenloo showed tapes of his patients, some vividly imagining carrying out their feelings of murderous rage toward people they also loved, along with their subsequent emotional breakdowns during the therapy hour.

Were you to see these tapes, as I did, you would be convinced that someone could carry out a murder, whether planned or unplanned - even a brutal murder (albeit vividly imagined under the watchful eye of a master therapist, who had written permission to tape the entire short-term therapy) followed by an emotional scene of personal grief and sorrow.

"Worked through" therapeutically, such conflictual emotions of both rage and sorrow resulted in dramatic change in the personalities of the individuals treated by Davenloo.

But when someone actually carries out a killing, and there is no doubt that Pistorius intended to kill someone, and when a killing is done via bullets of the type he used, in rapid fire, using far more than the number needed to subdue an "intruder" (if such were the person), psychologists would view the event as signifying a great deal of rage.  Rage.  And psychologists would not be surprised at all were such rage to be followed by an equal amount of grief, including symptoms in particular of digestive upset (we have more neurons in our gut than in our brain) - an indicator of unconscious (buried) emotional conflict, as shown by Davenloo's extensive taped work with patients.

Now, I have no pipeline into what happened that night.  I am even willing to accord the young man forgiveness on a spiritual level (which does not mean I believe he should escape responsibility).  But the claim of the defense that remorse and psychological brokenness proves his innocence stands on very shaky ground.

Indeed, someone with Pistorius' type of personality would break down in the face of such a deed.  Once it was inevitable that it would be discovered, even a sociopath might break down, as they sometimes do when captured and cornered.  For the collapse of narcissism, once reality sets in (the sight of a dead and bloody body- no prayer of revival or undoing of the deed - along with the certainty of all this coming to light), well...  it speaks for itself:  A distraught young man.  Unable to keep food down when faced with the consequences of his actions.  Unable to find peace.  Yet combative over the temerity of anyone seeking to bring this deed - or any of his misdeeds - to justice.

All this is a sad case study to my mind.  Of emotional conflict.  In the hands of someone lacking in self-restraint.  (May God have mercy on his soul.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ship of fools: If oligarchs designed a ferry

Here's an analogy that came to me as I read both Krugman and Brooks on Piketty in today's New York Times:  If our current economy were a ferry or an ocean liner, what would it look like?

Above deck - lavish quarters for the very rich.  More and more decks - massive enough to accommodate assets comprising a greater and greater % of total weight - all above the water line.  Resulting in more weight atop and less below.

Middle class likely at water level - fearful of falling into the huddled masses in steerage.  Down where most of the cargo should be.  If sanity ruled.  Instead:
 Below deck ballast ever decreasing...
More and more cargo space siphoned away for decks above.
The ship of state becoming ONE very top-heavy vessel. 
Lifeboats? Well, the deserving rich would, of course, equip and own them. And the poor, the middle class? Let them build and store their own lifeboats.

Like the ferry that recently sank off South Korea, we're at such a tipping point.  Any storm or high waves, a sharp turn:   A capsize all but certain.

Certainly the rich would immediately take to their life boats. Maybe the middle class might somehow get above decks and be allowed into one or two.  (If any were still abreast the sinking ship.)

But the huddled masses, below decks?  Like below-deck victims trapped on the Korean ferry, they would likely drown before any made it to safety. And which of the wealthy, in any case, would allow them "room" in their rich-person's life boat?  Like the crew that left the ferry, they'd already be on their way.  But on their way to where?

For who would be left to actually rescue the rich?  Once they topple the ship?  All the servants going down with it?  (Their needs - and the need for them - long forgotten.)

This is what happened to many societies where the wealthy forgot:
We're all in this together.
Sanity alone should dictate the architecture of a seagoing vessel.  And a sea-going vessel is one of the best images I can think of for demonstrating how lop-sided is our economic structure.

Some cartoonist should do me the favor of putting my words into one picture.  Till then, we'll have to make do with this historical precedent:
Vasa was built top-heavy and had insufficient ballast. Despite an obvious lack of stability in port, she was allowed to set sail and foundered only a few minutes after she first encountered a wind stronger than a breeze.