Monday, April 30, 2007

Now What

I have had quite a bit of time at home due to knee problems and other illness in the past month. So I have had a bit of a sneak preview of what awaits me when I retire on May 31.

Many of the things that I focused my energy on for decades are now moving behind me. No more small children to raise. No mortgage to pay off. No need to work for money, at least for a while.

A few things have been non-issues for me for quite a while. No wondering about whether I will marry and whether it will work out. I am much less haunted by the vague fear that maybe I am not cool enough or handsome enough or successful enough to make a decent life for myself.

A few things stand as a rock solid foundation for me to build upon. God is love. God forgives me my failings. I have good friends who really help me to carry on. Dear sweet Barbara is the greatest friend after Jesus.

Now I am intent on setting some new objectives for myself. So I ask you, God, now what?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Celebrity versus Relationship

It seems easy enough to realize that I would rather be loved than be famous. My stained soul and my culture try to convince me that it would be best to be loved, and also famous. When I poke about in my motivations, I find that I am more eager to be known by others than I am to know them. I cannot love others unless I am willing and able to know them. I cannot love those whom I do not know. The greatest commandments are to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. Why then this urge to be known by others? In some of my foolish fantasies, those others will love me because they know me. The truth is that those who love me most are those who know me but are willing to overlook much that they know. God knows the most and forgives the most. My wife, family, and friends have also been able to know me, and yet still love me. It makes no sense to say that I could be loved by millions that hardly know me and are unknown to me. Were it even possible, what comfort would there be in that?
I live in a milleu where it seems almost impossible to avoid knowing celebrities. I am uncertain whether recognizing them as such is harmful to them. It is most certainly harmful to me, if I begin to envy their celebrity.
The picture above is Ann Nicole Smith. I actually had to search some to get the name right. I took a big chance on searching out the image, but my browser's moderate safe search filtered out the some of the most exploitive photos of her and stll left a quarter million for me to choose from.
Until she died, I knew little of her. I am ashamed to say that what I did know fed my pride. In my heart of hearts I sneered at what I believed to be her use of youth and physical charms to gain the love of a wealthy old man. Pictures of those charms and hints that her motives were evil were enough to feed both my pride and my lust. How very sad for her. How very evil of me.
I really did not want to know her. I wanted to have someone to look down on.
God has forgiven me this sin. It is sin, nonetheless.
God loved Ann Nicole, just as he loves me. I hope she knew God and loved him. Only God knows. At times it seems that only God truly cares. I pray that I too would learn to care.

Friday, April 27, 2007

On the Solid Rock I Stand

I do not believe it is possible for me to know the best or the worst moments of my entire life. However, I experienced an excellent candidate for each within the past 60 hours.

Wednesday afternoon I comported myself as well as I could while my doctor used large needles to remove fluid from my knee and to add cortisone. As he worked I asked questions about the grisly details of the surgery that lies ahead of me when my natural knee will be replaced by steel and plastic. I left feeling glad that I had managed as well as I did.
But upon reaching home I felt fatigue flood me as I lay in my big chair waiting for supper to be prepared. I fell asleep for just a while. I awoke groggy but quickly aware of a horrid odor in the room. Within seconds I realized it seemed to be emanating from the skillet where Barbara was sauteeing vegetables. I was certain that some strange burning was creating a noxious odor so powerful that it might well sicken and kill us. I shouted urgently, "Can't you smell it?". But Barbara smelled nothing more than a bit of strong broccoli odor. Samuel came inside from doing chores and was also puzzled by my reaction. Within moments I had to run to our bedroom, hoping to escape the horrible odor. I tried to light candles and curl up on our bed. The smoke from an extinguished match overpowered me and I very nearly retched. I ran from the room to our hot tub. Perhaps warm water and fresh outdoor air could restore me. But the moment I opened the lid of the spa, it was as if I had uncovered a toxic waste dump of disgusting chemicals. I ran back to the house and this time truly did curl up fetal style with the bedcovers over my head. I was assaulted by the tremendously amplified odor of fabric softener. I was in terror that nothing could stop the smells. I jumped up and rummaged through a bathroom drawer, searching for two cotton balls. A mingled blend of perfumes from various bath products threatened to send me away without the cotton. Finding the puffs, I quickly compressed them into my nostrils and waited impatiently for the cotton to fill every crevice to block out all the odors. Somewhat calmed I was able to return to the living room, sit in my chair and pour out my fears to Barbara. Gradually over the next hour or so I was able to remove the cotton and force myself to choke down a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream to restore my very low blood sugar. I sat there in the chair from about 7 unitl 4 in the morning. Reading. Writing. Doing anything I could to ease my mind. Finally sometime after 4 I slept for two hours and then awoke, unable to sleep any more other than a short nap before rising for the day. That day was one of the longest and most despondent in my memory. I knew I was sleep deprived. I feared the return of the horrid smells. I knew that I had been delusional, experiencing things that no one else was aware of in the least. I sat all day without dozing, fearing the return of that terrible state of mind.

Finally, that night at about 10, I collapsed into bed and thrashed a bit and then fell into a deep sleep. I slept well, better than usual. I awoke at 5:30 feeling very refreshed and eager to meet the day. I ate cereal and drank orange juice, savoring every bit. I had already made plans to stay home from work that day. I did. It was a wonderful relaxing day. I read, I sunbathed, I enjoyed simple meals. I was very productive writing and reading HP emails that afteroon. In the early evening Barbara and I watched the mountain epsisode of the Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel. Out of all of the incredible footage and narration in that remarkable television series, this seemed to be the best yet. I was entranced. Barbara was exhausted from a hard day of chores and cleaning. She proposed a bed time of 8:30, but then thought better of it and suggested a dip in our hot tub. The moon shone through a thin covering of clouds. The wind rustled in the trees near our spa. The light, the temperature, and our quiet talk was glorious. God seemed to be crying out to me, "This is good. This is what I have made. This woman is the wife I have given you" about an hour ago, I tucked her into bed at 9:30. She is sleeping blissfully. I feel the natural fatigue of evening falling over me. Soon I will sleep.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring. The best. The worst. Or something seemingly commonplace that will be one of many steps toward a life devoted toward serving God better and trusting him more.

I will trust in God. I am not home yet. There is work to do here and battles to be fought. There are also glimpses of the glory that we will share with him in his eternal kingdom when all things are made new.

I praise God for his goodness and mercy. I know he will use both the best moments and the worst to bring me closer to him: to conform my mind to that of Christ Jesus. It is his perfect plan.

Picture Phone

When I was a kid, futuristic scenarios always included a picture-phone. Usually it looked pretty much like the land line we had always used, but it had a little box that showed a TV image of the person at the other end.

So now we have that. Thank you, Viggo. I have been waiting to have a picture phone for half a century. You gave us one by enabling a Skype account and calling Barbara to walk her through how to use our laptop (which has a built in web cam and microphone) to access the account. The only thing missing is the handset. It would be superfluous. We just needed the little box with the picture, a nice big color picture; the microphone and speaker are built in.

Depending on the vagaries of internet bandwidth, the picture can be quite slow to keep up with movement and talking. That will only get better over time as connection speeds continue to improve.
This morning I realized that with just a little work and expense (very little of each), this communication tool is available whenever we want to use it for building relationships with folks all over the world.
Thank you, Viggo, for making a childhood dream become a reality.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Howard Thurman

Many thanks to Bethany Horne who published a quote by Howard Thurman in her blog. I am often arrogant enough to think that I would recognize most "significant" authors names. Nonsense. I have barely scratched the surface. Besides, my memory is failing me in ways I had not experienced in earlier decades.

However, the reason for me not knowing anything about Howard Thurman is painfully simple. He was a black man. I was educated in a culture that gave no credence to black people. Here is another quote by him:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

This was quoted in Wikipedia just below the same quote that Bethany cited. It is a quote that I very much needed to read. The timing could not be better. I have had a very down day. Since March 2 I have never fully recovered the ability to do such things as take walks of more than a few hundred feet or ride my bicycle. I have pretty much been restricted to my Lazy Boy nest at home with occasional outings to my HP cubicle. Generally I have adapted well to this confined life. However, today I am struggling with a vague feeling of illness and malaise. My state of mind has approached that of the darker days of my clinical depression. And this at a time when I am pondering how I will use the remainder of my life now that I am retiring from HP as of May 31. In my current state of mind I find myself wishing there was no remainder. I am assured by those who love me that this will pass. I believe that. That's where the quote comes in. I have been thinking in terms of what the world needs. Those needs are overwhelming! I am glad for the chance to think about what makes me come alive. I believe that by truly coming alive I can serve the God who gave me a new life and eternal life. It is deeply reassuring.

Thank you, Bethany. Thank you, God.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Treasure Found While Not Seeking

I used a quote from my niece's MySpace profile recently: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". A kind reader (I refer you to his blog :Coyets' Random Thoughts ) commented and gave the original context of that quote. It is a letter written by Martin Luther King while he was imprisoned for a nonviolent protest of segration in Alabama: Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail . It is no surprise to me that I was not familiar with the letter. I was a boy in Lousiana at the same time that Dr. King was writing it. I was raised in the segregated south by a family committed to the idea that white people were superior to people of color. A letter of this sort was definitely not a part of my education.

What a joy it was to read it for the first time! It is so gratifying to see how well Dr. King stated his case protesting the injustice of segregation! It gave me a great deal of pleasure to read it from start to finish, yet all the while I felt challenged to find the courage to resist injustice with nonviolent direct action of my own.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lightning Bolts

I knew lightning was electricity even when I was a kid (Ben Franklin's kite ring a bell?). But even after six years of engineering univeristy (o.k. mechanical, but still!) I thought that all the little electrons in the cloud had to jump up and rush down toward the ground at near light speed to make a bolt of lightning. Turns out that isn't it at all. All the electrons are just hanging around radomly moving when a "force field" makes them all move a little less randomly and a little more towards one direction rather than just any old direction. Bam! Lightning Bolt. Trees split. Ear Shattering Blast! Well social movements are the same way. We don't have to walk in lock step. We just have to mill around a little more in one direction rather than any old direction. Bam! Social Change. Racism squashed. The Berlin wall collapses. Hungry people get fed. Women get respect.
I want to see more lightning bolts. I pray that we would all move faster in one direction than just any old direction! I pray it would be a good direction, because many evil directions exist.

I Fight Sleaze, Sleaze Fights Back

I should have known it wouldn't be so easy. I complained about sleazy ads to myspace and they disappeared within an hour. But today they started creeping back in. I upped the ante with some bulletins, a blog entry and a change to the wording of my MySpace profile. Within minutes I was bombarded by obviously sleazy (photo, name, etc) friend requests and messages via MySpace. My inbox was packed 10 minutes after I presumed to complain about sleaze.

Will I quit MySpace? Ultimately I vote with my mouse clicks. So yeah, I will leave when I am ready. Meanwhile though, I intend to create as much misery as I can for those who use a social networking system by dangling women as bait and fleecing foolish men as their prey.

I quote one of my savvy nieces:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

So I think I will stomp on this particular brood of vipers for a while before leaving them behind.

I have no power on my own. But I know someone very powerful who despises injustice of all kinds. I'm asking them for help.

Women as Bait and Human Sacrifices

Below is a bulletin wrote on my Myspace site. I was fed up with Myspace ads and was about to quit it altogether. But it pained me that I would leave behind millions of folks who would continue to be used as bait or as suckers. I wrote one comment on Tom's profile (the myspace support guy who is everyone's first "friend", it wouldn't post but it must have gotten to someone!) The bulletin board I mention below is a Myspace feature that allowed me to write a note to all 20 friends at once.

The sex industry ads on MySpace (I include the so called "dating services" in that category, there are legitimate dating services but I doubt that these are legit) have vanished from my screen.One comment on Tom's page. One post to my bulletin board and they simply vanished!
Now I realize I was being targetted. Ladies, you have probably seldom seen the suggestively posed photos with the salacious subtitles. More recently, poor quality video clips of a girl wriggling and bending forward to show cleavage became more common. It is sucker bait. I never clicked on a single one that I can recall. Sad to say, in my checkered past, I had enough experiences to know that such ads are a thinly veiled portal to hard core pornography sites.
Gentlemen, chances are that you are targetted as well. I don't know if my age (56) drew more fire. However, since many of you list bogus ages, I imagine that you are seeing plenty, even if you are under 18.
Please do me a favor. Please pass the word. A comment to Tom protesting the sleaze. A post on your bulletin board to warn your friends. A blog article telling how you feel about the ads.
That is, do that if you think is wrong to exploit young women as meat and if you think it is wrong to lure men into foolish fantasy lands where women are merely there as sacrifices on the altar of lust. If you think all that is just peachy, please stay silent like a good little depraved sheep.

Sometime I'll have to let you know how strongly I really feel about this.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Guilt By Association and Otherwise

One reason I prefer to generate my own content, is that every quote and every link that I use in this blog could be seen as an endorsement for all of the ideas presented by the person quoted. I might be seen as supporting any number of ideas put forward on links connected to the one I have imbedded in my post.

This sort of guilt by association is not unique to blogs. When I quote Jesus of Nazareth, I am delighted to be associated with the Christ, my lord and savior. I am saddened to be associated with some other folks who have quoted my lord and then gone on to espouse despicable ideas and engage in horrific practices.

Jesus was condemned to guilt by association. When he ate with sinners, the religious leaders where quick to take that up as a point against him.
I am infinitely unworthy of better treatment than Jesus. So I will not complain.

I think what is more important is my very real guilt. I am selfish. I want the best for myself and what's left for everyone else. I am quick to take offense and slow to forgive.

In Walt Kelly's cartoon , "Pogo", the title character exclaims, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Perhaps I should quote the bible to provide more seemly credentials for my thesis. The prophet Zephania speaks for God with a phrase that I hold to be true:

Zephaniah 1:17 Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society
17 "I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.

Elsewhere in the bible, it is made very clear that all of us have sinned. Those who suffer any particular horror are , overall, no more guilty than those who are spared. The rich are not exempt. Neither are the poor. No race or nation stands apart. All political parties, all institutions, and even a sweet gathering of a few of my closest friends are all guilty.

I have met many who would protest the word sin. I cannot remember anyone who has seriously thought themselves to be perfect in every word, deed, and thought. Such imperfections are sin as I understand the word. So I have never met anyone who thought themselves to be sin free, as I understand sin.

So as we seek solutions to the world's manifest ills, we would do well to begin with ourselves. We are those who people the nations, who staff the corporations, who establish all manner of human institutions.

A link not many mouse clicks from the video about the global village (below) includes this absurd quote:

The world was watching. But rich countries did not make the decisions that would start to lift millions of people out of poverty. Instead they chose unjust trade policies.

The global campaign for trade justice continues into 2006, galvanized by both the need to win against such resistant opposition and the strength of the campaign so many more millions joined in 2005. Political leaders will see increased pressure on them to not act undemocratically against the interests of the world’s poorest people but to finally deliver trade justice. We will not give up until this victory is won.

We have met the enemy, and he is us. We populate the countries, rich and poor. We choose to support or at least tolerate the political leaders. Often we are leaders, whether we realize it or not.

I refuse to look to countires or political leaders for the solutions to our problems. I refuse to wait for institutions to repair the havoc my sin has wrought. I begin with me. I turn to God and throw myself upon his mercy.
I pray that he will use me to glorify him.

Global Village Updated and in Video

With a bit more searching, I found this link to a nicely done video with updated (2001) statistics. The website itself warns that the statistics cannot be seen as exact. They change rapidly and they are difficult to collect in the first place.

Practically everyone who reads this will understand that they are incredibly blessed and wealthy. And we will realize that vast numbers of people live in abysmal poverty.

Global Village

Generally, I want to use my blog for posting original material. However, recently I received an e-mail which described the population of a village of 100 people that reflected that of the entire planet. It was fascinating. But was it accurate? I'm still not certain, but I have more reason to give it credence. In an article by David Taub, the e-mail's origin is traced back to an article by Donnella Meadows. Since the original article was written in 1990, the statistics would have changed by now, but I believe an updating with the best available statistics would only increase the impact the article was intended to have.
Here is the article which seems to have inspired so many imitations:

Concerning Donella Meadows' original "Global Village" article, this was published as follows:

The Global Citizen May 31, 1990

Donella H. Meadows


If the world were a village of 1000 people:
584 would be Asians
123 would be Africans
95 would be East and West Europeans
84 Latin Americans
55 Soviets (still including for the moment Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)
52 North Americans
6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating:
165 people would speak Mandarin
86 would speak English
83 Hindi/Urdu
64 Spanish
58 Russian
37 Arabic
That list accounts for the mother-tongues of only half the villagers. The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other languages.
In the village there would be:
300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox)
175 Moslems
128 Hindus
55 Buddhists
47 Animists
210 all other religions (including atheists)

One-third (330) of the people in the village would be children. Half the children would be immunized against the preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio.
Sixty of the thousand villagers would be over the age of 65.
Just under half of the married women would have access to and be using modern contraceptives.
Each year 28 babies would be born.
Each year 10 people would die, three of them for lack of food, one from cancer. Two of the deaths would be to babies born within the year.
One person in the village would be infected with the HIV virus; that person would most likely not yet have developed a full-blown case of AIDS.
With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village in the next year would be 1018.

In this thousand-person community, 200 people would receive three-fourths of the income; another 200 would receive only 2% of the income.
Only 70 people would own an automobile (some of them more than one automobile).
About one-third would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
Of the 670 adults in the village half would be illiterate.

The village would have 6 acres of land per person, 6000 acres in all of which:
700 acres is cropland
1400 acres pasture
1900 acres woodland
2000 acres desert, tundra, pavement, and other wasteland.
The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland increasing; the other land categories would be roughly stable. The village would allocate 83 percent of its fertilizer to 40 percent of its cropland -- that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer running off this land would cause pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 percent of the land, with its 17 percent of the fertilizer, would produce 28 percent of the foodgrain and feed 73 percent of the people. The average grain yield on that land would be one-third the yields gotten by the richer villagers.

If the world were a village of 1000 persons, there would be five soldiers, seven teachers, one doctor. Of the village's total annual expenditures of just over $3 million per year, $181,000 would go for weapons and warfare, $159,000 for education, $132,000 for health care.

The village would have buried beneath it enough explosive power in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over. These weapons would be under the control of just 100 of the people. The other 900 people would be watching them with deep anxiety, wondering whether the 100 can learn to get along together, and if they do, whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention or technical bungling, and if they ever decide to dismantle the weapons, where in the village they will dispose of the dangerous radioactive materials of which the weapons are made.

Perhaps the one person who can be thanked for getting wider attention for the original article is David Copeland of an organisation called Value Earth, based in New Jersey. David Copeland, with Donella Meadows' permission, had several thousand posters made based on 'The Global Village', for the 1992 Rio de Janiero Earth Summit.

Details of this and the posting of the original article can be found at ttp://