Friday, December 12, 2014

In This Bleak, Beautiful Mid-Winter


Some of my photos featuring the wintry, the dying, the passing away... set to music by my friend, Kate and performed by her band, Down to Earth (and friends).

Unlike many, I love this time of the year. Wintry walks beneath bare trees and across brown fields are some of my favorites. I find great beauty and comfort in the passing of seasons.

Seasons blessings...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ring Them Bells

Music and artwork to begin the Advent season...


The artwork is a collage, made from reclaimed "Black Friday" ads. Our theme for Advent is the Alternative Narrative, and taking the themes of Buy, Get, Acquire from the commercial ads and subverting those messages to create a message of a new hope, a new season, a new Way... seemed appropriate to us.

"Ring Them Bells," by Bob Dylan, performed by some friends at Jeff St Baptist...

Happy Advent Season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lazarus and the Rich Man


There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire."

But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."

He answered, "Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment."

Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them."

"No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent."

He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

~Jesus

Some thoughts:

It is interesting that for many of our homeless and marginalized brothers and sisters, they are forced into a life of wandering anonymity whilst the rich are celebrated and honored, but Jesus here names and welcomes the poor man and leaves the wealthy one anonymous.

The rich man is not condemned as evil or a non-believer, it just notes that he is rich and literally outside his gate, the poor were literally suffering and dying.

The rich man appeals for Lazarus' help, after apparently ignoring Lazarus all those years.

There is no help forthcoming, because there is a "chasm" that had been set in place... one can't help wonder: Who set the chasm in place? Could it be that this is the rich man's own chasm that he had separated himself?

The rich man was worried about his presumably also-wealthy family, that they might suffer the same fate as he did.

Whatever your thoughts about the Bible, this is a great story - powerful, moving, tragic and compelling. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finding Hope


Words of hope and rebellion, from Wendell Berry...

...So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. 
Love the Lord.
Love the world. 
Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. 
Hope to live in that free republic 
for which it stands.


Give your approval to all you cannot understand. 
Praise ignorance, 
for what man has not encountered 
he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. 
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. 
Prophesy such returns...

Put your faith in the two inches of humus 

that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion – put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. 
Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. 
Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts...


Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. 
Rest your head in her lap. 
Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.


As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.


Practice resurrection.


~excerpts from Wendell Berry's Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front


Friday, October 24, 2014

I've Been Around the World


An Anniversary, of Sorts, or a Milestone, Perhaps...

I realized today that it was about 15 years ago that Donna and I moved from a two car to a one car family. I began biking to work, church and other >5 mile trips and biked for the first 7 years or so, then started walking in lieu of biking (which took more time, but I enjoy walking even more). 

And I further realized that I've now walked the equivalent (give or take) of one lap around the globe. 

Assuming walking (round trip) 5 miles to work, 5 days a week and 5 miles to church... that's about 30 miles a week. Multiply that times 50 weeks (allowing that there have been exceptions) and that times 15 years and - if my math is correct - I've walked and biked over 22,000 miles. 

Or, in another way of looking at it, that is the equivalent to having walked from the northernmost point of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America, with plenty of room to ramble around in between... it's a whole a bunch of walking.

According to one "carbon calculator" I found, that means we've saved about 43,000 pounds of CO2 emissions and, they said, "altogether you will save or get benefits worth $155,131.60" I'm not sure what that's based upon, but it sounds sorta cool.It's certainly saved some. AAA estimates that each car in a house hold costs, on the low side, $6,000/year, so that's $90,000 for 15 years.

Anyway, it's been a great 15 years of Human Powered Motion. Here's hoping for at least one more trip around the globe... To honor the event, I present a bit of HD Thoreau, on Walking...

"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la SainteTerre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander...

They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea...

...To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or Riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The Chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker, Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People...."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Come, Dance With Me...


Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird,
But the God who knows only four words.
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me , come dance.”

~Hafiz

Thursday, October 2, 2014

spare some change?


     I saw him all crumpled
  on the ground like a
         temporary spirit
  and I thought I knew him
            like an old classmate
      or a distant cousin or
   maybe a neighbor
    from back in the day
  and I couldn't place him
           but maybe, he was the
  guy who used to fix
         my car or
           deliver the paper
  I was certain he
           was familiar
     like
        maybe my son or
                   my daughter, my sister or
brother and, the more I looked at him... I think maybe he was.

        And I wondered if I could
   if I should
              spare some change.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Post for Marshall...


Years ago, I wrote a two part post that explained how I moved from "here" to "there" on the topic of marriage equity. I was raised and lived for the first ~30 years of my life as an extreme conservative Christian in the traditional Southern Baptist church mode. Given that, I was, of course, extremely opposed to any normalization of "the homosexual agenda..." I certainly did not intend to be unloving or ungracious towards anyone, but in hindsight, I surely was.

At any rate, I was solidly opposed to "gay marriage" - vehemently, so. I was absolutely certain that not only was the Bible and reason clearly against any sort of gay behavior, I had no room in my worldview for any Christian possibly even hinting at thinking it was possible. And yet, here I am today, fully recognizing (and repenting of) my errors in thinking and behavior from that time. In these two posts, I explained  how I moved from one position to the other and, not only that, but how I did it based on Bible study, prayer and reasoning from those two alone. At that time in my life, there was no room for any other way to "prove" anything.

Here are those posts...

My Journey, Part 1

My Journey, Part 2

Conservative blogger, Marshall recently said that I left questions unanswered there. I'm putting this post up to give Marshall a chance to ask a question that he thinks I left unanswered.

He, of course, does not find my process or reasoning compelling. That is fine, I wouldn't have found it compelling before I reached this point in my life, either. Now, I could not imagine anyway to find it anything but compelling.

The point I always make with Marshall and his comrades is that, just because the argument is not compelling to them, does not mean, 1. That there is no rational argument being made or, 2. That no one else could possibly find the arguments compelling.

It would be my guess that the main reason he doesn't find my arguments compelling (other than the cultural bias against it, and cultural biases being very hard to overcome) is that he approaches the Bible differently than I do. Where he finds literal history and literal commands from God, I find interesting stories that are told in mythic or epic fashion, and NOT literal commands from God.

Maybe, if one accepts the more fundamentalist view of the bible, my reasoning is terribly faulty. However, the real world fact is that not everyone finds the fundamentalist view of the Bible to be rational, moral or, in fact, biblical. So, you can't say, "You HAVE to hold my view of these texts and, given my view, you are wrong..." That is true only if I hold your view and I do not, so I am not in any rational, moral or biblical way compelled to accept your view.

Having said that: Feel free to ask your question, Marshall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Anti-Intellectualism is Stupid


Anti-Intellectualism quote of the day (in response to my question, "Do you think all experience is equal: That the mailman who walks through a poor neighborhood and the social worker who has researched and studied poverty and worked as a case manager directly with the poor are equally informed as to the causes and effects of poverty in the lives of the poor? Or do you make room for the notion that people who actually work for years in a field might possibly be better-informed on the topic?...")

Social workers are trained to give people the benefit of the doubt and in my experience do so to the point of overlooking the obvious. They tend to make excuses for people because they’re trying to help. So no, I don’t generally trust social workers’ experiences. Look at all the kids they leave with negligent parents, yet try to remove kids from homes where parents let them walk to school for a block or two in safe neighborhoods. 

[Courtesy of John at the ironically named, Sifting Reality blog, although the attitude is not unique to him, so I'm talking about the comment, not the person...]

There is such an arrogance and wholly uninformed presumption and ignorance in that statement, that one hardly knows how to respond. Why are people like this? Have they been burned by, in this case, what the feel is a bad social worker so they project that hurt feeling out on to all social workers? And does this  person feel the same way about other professionals? Water quality experts? Car mechanics? Psychologists? Where does this ignorant hostility end?

Lord help us.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Answer for Bubba in return for a Question for Bubba


A question from Bubba:

Suppose that a child got a very serious cut on his arm, and the cut became infected with gangrene, a lethal infection if it goes untreated.
Suppose furthermore that antibiotic and anesthetic are unavailable, perhaps because the situation predates modern medicine or the family is marooned on an uninhabited island, Swiss Family Robinson style.
Suppose that, if the father doesn’t amputate the arm even without anesthetic, his child dies.
And suppose the child is too young to understand what death means but not too young to understand that getting his arm cut off is going to hurt. A LOT.
Finally, suppose that the father is a good father who has given his child every reason in the world to believe that he always has the kid’s best interests at heart, even enduring great hardship for his sake.
QUESTION 1: What is the father’s moral duty, to amputate without anesthetic, to let the child die, or to let this very young child decide whether he wants to live without an arm even if he doesn’t really understand the fatal alternative?

Amputate the arm, if the father knows well enough how to do this without making things worse. I would add the caveat that, if the child were old enough - a young man, for instance - then the decision about how to proceed should be the young adult's decision. But you stipulated a very young child, so that is my answer.

Easy enough. Do you need any further clarification or does that suffice?

Dan's question for Bubba:

You hold several opinions about what God wants us to do/how God wants us to behave. You hold the opinion, for instance, that God is opposed to gay folk marrying one another (or words to that affect) or that God supports Christians going to war to kill their nation's enemies. Clearly, this and all of your opinions about what God thinks are your human opinions, interpretations that you take from biblical teachings. As your human opinions, they are your subjective, unprovable opinions, they are not objective facts about what God does or doesn't want. Is this correct?

IF it's not correct... IF you think that your opinions about what God wants are objective facts that are provable, demonstrable, please provide the hard data to support that claim.

Since, in the real world, these are clearly subjective and unprovable opinions, this should be an easy question to answer, but you tell me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Research Confirms: Peace Works


Impressive research, worth citing...

"Between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. Nonviolent resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of a dictatorship would lead to peace and democratic rule. This was true even in highly authoritarian and repressive countries, where one might expect nonviolent resistance to fail. Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structures have systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding.

From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of oppression. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve. Even though tumult and fear persist today from Cairo to Kiev, there are still many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of civil resistance in the years to come.

In the United States and Europe, policymakers often seem at a loss when confronted with the questions of whether to support civilians resisting authoritarian regimes using nonviolent protest and, if so, what form that support should take. Liberal interventionists cited a “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify NATO’s intervention in Libya and have also invoked that argument in advocating for similar action in Syria. But the promise of civil resistance suggests an alternative: a “responsibility to assist” nonviolent activists and civic groups well before confrontations between civilians and authoritarian regimes devolve into violent conflicts.

Civil resistance does not succeed because it melts the hearts of dictators and secret police. It succeeds because it is more likely than armed struggle to attract a larger and more diverse base of participants and impose unsustainable costs on a regime. No single civil resistance campaign is the same, but the ones that work all have three things in common: they enjoy mass participation, they produce regime defections, and they employ flexible tactics. Historically, the larger and more diverse the campaign, the more likely it was to succeed."

Read more...

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141540/erica-chenoweth-and-maria-j-stephan/drop-your-weapons

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Great Flood


Fiddle music rising over the hills
children laughing
dogs barking
friends playing and singing...

sorrows divided and
happiness multiplied
like loaves and bread

let the doubters haggle
and the believers settle down
into a chaotic mellowness

joy flooding the evening
raising us all to a blessed higher ground.