Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why It's Made

I've owned the margarine tub for 13 years. I just bought the clock last week.

The story of how either one is made constitutes an amazing, complex tale of international trade, technology development, invention, and so on. If you don't believe me, please tune in to my favorite TV show: How It's Made, on the Discovery Channel. I challenge you to find more than a few objects in your home where one person gathered the materials from the natural world, crafted them, and personally gave them to you to use. You will find hundreds, even thousands of items that came to you in a vastly more complex manner.

When my kids were little, one of their favorite books (and mine) was "The Ox Cart Man" by Barbara Coonts. With a simple story and wonderful illustrations she showed how an industrious New England family in the 18th or early 19th century worked all year to grow food, make clothes, candles, and most of the things they used. At the end of the end of the story, the father leads an ox and ox cart on a several day journey. The cart is loaded with many of the products of their industry. Item by item he sells it all at a coastal city. Then he walks home with a few sewing needles, perhaps some candy, and a few coins in his pocket.

One's first thought might be how wonderful it is that the family is so self sufficient in their agrarian life. One would be wrong. The needles and the coins are made of metal that required a mining, transport, smelting, and a host of industrial processes using sophisticated equipment.

The needles were required for many of the simplest of the home projects: knitting, sewing clothes, sewing harness. Perhaps on other trips he used the coins to buy metal pots, hammers, axes, or a plow share.

Even sugar candy was a product at the end of a long chain of agriculture, industrialization, and international commerce. Sugar not made into candy or sold to bakers around the world was often converted into rum, which fueled a profitable and legal international drug trade.

Any society appreciably simpler than that of the ox cart man's is stone age. No metal. Little trade. And yet even those stone age folks may covet a new flint knife or a better loincloth. They are often willing to fight and kill to get or keep. On those rare ocassions where modern man has found what he thought to be a primitive paradise, as with the south sea islands, we were simply ignorant of what truly transpired there. In the same way we have sometimes chosen to be ignorant of the complex industries that enabled the ox cart man and his family to thrive. We turn our eyes away for a moment and do not think about the wars fought to take the ox cart man's land. We forget about the slaves taken for the sake of growing the sugar cane. We choose not to think of the miners, steel makers, and factory workers that make needles or coins.

Why are people working so hard, struggling, fighting, thinking, buying, selling? Why are all these things made? What is it we hope to gain that our hunter, gatherer ancestors or neighbors didn't have? A steady supply of food. Clothes. A warm, dry place to sleep. A few beautiful objects to admire. Entertainments of one sort or another. How It's Made is a great show. Why it's made is a question for the ages.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Film Portrays Jesus

It's not the Jesus I know. Is this blasphemy or just a wake up call?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kent's Life SAQ

Yes, seldom asked questions.  In fact, very likely these questions have never been asked.

Why write about Kent’s life?
I like to write.  My life is the thing I have had the most experience with.  It doesn’t seem fair to write about other peoples lives.  I really can’t even tell you exactly what I have done and why I did it.   It gets worse when I write about other people.

Do you like it when other people read what you have written?
Yes.  That probably explains why I go to the trouble of putting it on the internet where any Yahoo or Google can see it if they want to.  However, in searches using the term “Kent’s Life” I am eclipsed by superman’s alter ego and by a Japanese pop star named Kento Handa.

Do you like readers to make comments?  
I especially like comments that make me feel important, powerful, funny, good looking, smart, spiritual, etc.  There is plenty of room for other comments as well. However, I have a lot of trouble with comments that make me feel like crap.  Also, I would never want anyone to write comments out of a sense of obligation. That would make me feel like crap, if I ever caught on.  

Should your readers be careful with what they read here?
Yes.  I have done a lot of things that people should not try with their own lives.  For that matter, be careful with anything you read!  I never have understood why folks talk as if reading is automatically better than TV, video games, or drugs.  Anything can mess with your head and screw up your life if you are not full of care.  That includes reading.  It even includes praying, if you are praying to a god you invented instead of the God who invented you.

Has Kent’s life been particularly interesting or exciting?
Most of my life has been pretty unremarkable.  I seldom write about those parts.  I don’t know if I have had more interesting or exciting times than someone else.  Like anyone could ever know that.

Are you always honest and completely open about your life?
No.  Too many people might get hurt, and I might be one of them!  

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My Earliest Memories

My father in law is suffering from dementia. As a result, he often cannot remember even very important events a few hours after they occurred. For now, at least, he can still remember a ton of detail about events that happened 60, 70, or even almost 80 years ago.

When my kids were very small, I was a bit disappointed to realize that when they were older they would forget all about most of the stuff that we had done together before they were five or six years old. At least, it has been my experience that most folks can't remember much before age 5. I used to wonder if that cutoff age would move higher as I aged. So far, it doesn't seem to be the case. I may have lost a few stories or details from the 5 and 6 year old era of my life, but I don't think I remember it much differently than I did when I was 26 instead of 56.

Sometimes intense emotions seem to promote better retention. For example, my brother chopped a slice in my scalp with a metal toy hoe when we were both quite small. In that case, however, I'm not so sure that it made such an impression on me as it did on my mother who often told the story. In fact, I'm really not sure whether I remember the event or her account of the story.

On the other hand, I distinctly remember taking a card and a tin of home made cookies to a 5 year old friend whose appendix had just been removed. I was 5 myself and had no idea what an appendix was or how one would have it removed. Adults seemed reluctant to discuss the specifics. However, being sent to a neighboring apartment with cookies in hand made it very clear that this was a momentus occasion. I visited briefly with the friend, but he seemed a bit lethargic and his parents discouraged active play. So I was glad to scarf a cookie or two and split.

I also remember hanging out at the apartment house playground with the same little buddy. A very early memory is one of us swinging gently side by side as we each lay on a swing on our stomach. We were discussing something that I can only remember as being intensely intellectual in the judgment of 5 year olds. My friend's mother called for him. We purposed to ignore her and continue our conversation. Eventually we were found and he was hauled off to dinner or a bath or some such incidental matter. The magic moment was disturbed. We were unable to come to a conclusion in our deliberations.

As I write these stories, I realize that dozens of others are springing into my conciousness. The pact to eat berries to test their poison content. Sliding down the side of a freshly painted building in my favorite tassled suede cowboy jacket, thus destroying it. Pulling up handfuls of coarse grass and realizing that it had cut my hands. Popping up at a window and awakening a sleeping baby repeatedly so that the mom had to keep coming back into the nursery to see what was wrong. Burning my fingers as my mother wisely allowed me to play with matches while she supervised.

I am having a pretty good time now with my earliest memories. I hope you get a chance to visit yours soon!

Not So Fast George

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." George Santayana

This is one of those quotes that always seemed to make sense to me. Then I realized, it misses the mark in two ways:

1. Those who do learn from history often repeat it anyway. Israel, codependent spouses, alcoholics, warring nations, political parties, etc. may all have a decent grasp of their past and stil make the same dumb mistakes over and over and over.

2. Some lessons are better learned from a present and living God than from a history. Even God's history books in the bible, must be interpreted with the help of the spirit of the living God.

So, sorry George, no cigar. Nice saying, ok sentiment, but I am moving on.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Battle Cry

I am angry.

A number of people I know and love have been called by God to dedicate their lives to spreading the good news about Jesus to the whole world. That makes God happy and it makes me happy.

However, there are evil forces in the world. Principalities and powers. Spirits may be the best name we can come up with for them. The impact of evil around us should be enough to convince anyone that such forces are at work.

Well I am angry because those people I love are being attacked by evil forces.

Please join me in praying that those we love will be given the strength to withstand whatever comes against them.

I particularly pray for my daughters Julia and Pamela. For Julia's husband Viggo. And for Pamela's good friend in Ecuador, Bethany Horne.

"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. You've got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight." --Bruce Cockburn

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Twenty Five Years

Kent Getting Baptised 22 Years Ago

Tomorrow is our fellowship's (New Life Fellowship) twenty fifth anniversary. Barbara and I joined the fellowship almost 23 years ago.

The day after tomorrow is the twenty fifth anniversary of my marriage to Barbara.

I spent six hours in the past few days scanning in pictures from the past two decades.

Children were born, grew up, got married, had babies.
I saw faces that reminded me of weddings, suicide, baptisms, funerals, graduations, first steps, last words, friends, fights, gossip, encouragement, singing, wailing, joy, despair, drug addiction, games, potlucks, fear, delight, and the list goes on.

I realized that my life has made a difference in many other lives. Sometimes a small difference.
Sometimes a large difference. Sometimes I was following Gods leading. Many times I was not.

I feel that I have lived a lot, but that it seems to have passed quickly.

In the years or months or days that remain, I want to live my life as though it really matters.
I have come much closer to realizing that it really does.

May God grant us all the faith to believe that we are here to matter.

When Your Baby Is Going To Have A Baby

Julia is pregnant. She is due on March 20. Here is a picture of me holding her when she was a baby. I talk a lot and I write a lot. But I don't have words to express how it feels knowing that my baby is going to have a baby!