Can’t Touch This – Part 2 of 3

Posted by David 
Wealth equals relationship diagram

Wealth equals relationship diagram

Part 1Part 3

The interesting similarity between ecosystems and economic systems is that nothing owns energy. There is no true wealth gained by the parts of any system. Energy (or value) is always transforming and changing places. It never stops. It might slow by becoming stored in a slow process. But if it is to actually stop, it would no longer be energy. It would be dead. And energy can’t die. It can only transform or change state. Nothing in ecological systems is actually dead. It is always being used for something. There is never really a loss of energy. Nothing is wasted.

On the other hand, people tend to see economic systems as systems based on accumulation of wealth, whether that be money, stocks, gold, cars, homes, land, businesses, etc. But just like in ecological systems, the parts are not valuable. The flow of energy between structures is the only thing of value. So, wealth is not the accumulation of things. It can’t be. If its value stops and is stored, it dies. Value only happens at the moment the energy is transformed. Money is only worth something at the untouchable moment when it passes from one hand to another in exchange for something. When money or assets stop doing something (transforming), they are not valuable. It’s not even worth anything if someone thinks it’s worth something, as some may wish you to believe. It’s only worth at the moment of transaction or transformation.

Human individuals can never truly know economic wealth. It’s always just beyond our reach, which is why the people who are obsessed with wealth are always unsatisfied. They can’t touch it.

True wealth can only be known outside of an individual parts of the system. No part can have wealth or energy. Energy is in the relationship, not the parts. Even the Universe does not know its ‘glory’. Only God who is outside the natural system can claim to be wealthy. One may argue that, within my body there are innumerable relationships and stored processes that are continually transforming and transferring energy. True, however, we can’t know that wealth. We can’t understand that value, because it is still outside my point of reference.

Pride and power work the same way as wealth. They are ever-desired, but always out of reach. Power is something that cannot be contained by an individual, because it only becomes power when it is being transformed between two systems. Neither of the systems can claim ownership of the wealth.

However, certain systems can become greater conduits of the flow of energy. As more energy is transformed within a system, that system can begin to grow. This is the process of succession (or evolution) as discussed above. That’s not to say that they are any more important than the other parts of the system—but that they transfer and transform the energy in greater amounts. We see this in a forest when a tree becomes a conduit for transferring oxygen into the atmosphere. Just due to its great size it provides a greater flow of energy than say the fern below. A river is a good example also. As water flows through cracks and fissures, the more water that flows, the greater the erosion of those cracks and the more water tends to flow through those systems.

Once again we also see this in our economic systems. Certain companies and individuals which have spent enormous amounts of money in innovative interests become conduits for greater wealth. They are not actually wealthy, but they are conduits for it. And in fact, if they start wasting their wealth, or stockpiling it, the innovation begins to decline, the flow of wealth diminishes and so does their company. Again innovation is key here. Depending on their size, they must be more and more innovative to sustain the flow of wealth. Within human systems as they hit their climax, they tend to find innovation through more and more questionable and ruthless means, ultimately to their destruction. We see that rampant type of business today in our world. It is a harbinger to what is to come. They make me realize that, yes, we have peaked. Innovation is dieing. Our lightning bolt is coming soon.

I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

Luke 16:4-7

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Economic Succession – Part 1 of 3

Posted by David
Ecological/Economic Succession

Ecological/Economic Succession

Part 2, Part3

Ecologists speak of succession in terms of how a particular plant community evolves over time toward a climax system. All ecosystems grow under this process and I expect the same is true for economics and for civilization in general.

To see how this works, let’s first look at a forest ecosystem for example. The process of succession usually begins after a particular catastrophic event that clears the landscape. This might just be a local event such as a blowdown or an avalanche, or it might be broad in scope such as a fire, volcanic event, or emerging from a period of glaciation.

Initially, pioneer species populate the landscape helping to build up important nutrients such as nitrates, or structures, such as soil and habitat building blocks. This is the time of ‘innovation’. Diverse groups of plants, trees, animals and biota expand over the new landscape.

What follows is usually a succession of species that culminates in a fairly uniform, slow-growing community of species. At this point, innovation begins to collapse as the group of climax species become dominate and unchanging. This system is much less diverse than its initial pioneer stage. The species set stays the same until some catalyst returns the process back to the beginning state or climate or geography changes. In ecological succession, I argue that it’s actually the lack of diversity or the lack of innovation which is what ‘calls in’ the catalyst—maybe a fire—which returns the landscape to the beginning of the succession cycle.

Could civilization and economics be driven by the same process? I think so.

In society, initially innovation drives the changes and innovation creates the building blocks which allow the next stages of social and economic development. But finally, that innovation fades out, just like species diversity. Newness ends. It can’t go any further because all natural systems have limits. They hit their archetypal wall. They become what they were to become, or close to it. A Tsuga mensezii forest will only become a Tsuga mensezii forest unless the climate changes. That’s what it becomes. Cultures culminate into their archetype. The Maya, Astecs, Egyptians became a Pyramid building culture. This archetypal culture emerged out of man’s understanding of natural history and his development of math and the occult. It’s interesting to note that the pyramid describes perfectly the process of succession—more diverse at the base, less diverse at the zenith. Other cultures developed into their archetypes. Rome seems to be a special type that isn’t all that different than what we have today. Only ours is nested more firmly in advanced technology.

In our global industrial civilization we are walking along the same successionary process as forests follow. Innovation builds the society and lack of innovation will bring our decline. I argue that innovation has truly peaked in our global society. I remember seeing a boy with a shirt on in southern Argentina in 1998, which read in English, “Know no limits—Mountain Dew.”

Yes, there are still minor innovations in science and culture…but we’ve hit the wall. We will know our limit. And I think we’ve been at the peak for a number of years now. The question for me becomes how long can we last at this final climax stage? A Tsuga mensezii may last hundreds of years in the climax stage.

Fire triangle

Fire triangle

The succession process and growth of an ecological community is very much like a fire. It runs under the same process. Take fire triangle for example. For a fire to burn, it needs fuel, oxygen, and heat. Without either of the three, fire cannot happen. Likewise, for a civilization to grow it needs fuel, innovation, and desire. Without either of the three, it collapses. Could it be that they all three occur at once? Do they feedback on one another: Lack of fuel lowers desire which lowers innovation. Lack of innovation decreases desire, which limits the amount of available fuel. You get the idea. In our civilization, you might call it Peak Oil, Peak Innovation, or Peak Desire. Whether the chicken, the egg or the chicken pellets came first doesn’t matter. The peak occurs and then the civilization fades or collapses.

But what can we learn about the catalyst that initiates fire at the end of the forest succession process? As energy goes into a system if it’s not being put into innovation, it is being stored elsewhere, dry wood, fuel, lack of diversity, cranky people, etc. Eventually, that dry wood, those cranky people, become the fuel for the fire. I argue that it’s the accumulation of fuel that actually draws in the lightning, but how it happens isn’t important to this argument.

I mentioned “cranky people,” but I’m not really kidding. It’s those cranky people that help to dissolve society. They and their lack of innovation is the precursor to civil war or revolution.

The same is the case for our present society and economic reality. Energy is always entering the system, but when it stops flowing into innovation, it starts being stored up in the people, and even the products to some extent. The energy becomes ripe for the fire that causes its decline. The energy is what feeds the fire. When it builds up great enough, there will either be an event that is the spark that causes its destruction. Some people call these “black swan” events.

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

Luke 16:1-3

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After Fukushima – Like John or like Legion

Posted by David
Nuclear power plants around the world, 1999.

Nuclear power plants around the world, 1999.

It seems obvious to me, but clearly not to some, that nuclear power is probably the most irresponsible forms of technologies produced by man. Now that we have another public nuclear accident at Fukushima, I’ve been thinking about why it is so. For the most part, I don’t worry myself about environmental issues. I figure that Homo technicus will only last so long, after which man and creation will heal after being abused so profoundly. It is the nature of God’s creation to heal. Jesus made that abundantly clear while he walked among us. Paul helped to clarify:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Romans 8:18-22

As I’ve stated before, I believe technology is the pride and glory of man. Technology is not an instrument of faith, but an instrument of pride and vanity. Was it not the technology of agriculture that caused God to be displeased with Cain’s offering? It was the shepard, Abel, whose offering was pleasing to God. It is acts of faith that please God.

Nuclear energy is an attempt to circumvent faith through postponing the price. But someone always pays the price. Jjustice exists in full in this univere of ours. Someone will pay the price of nuclear energy through suffering in unknowable ways.

Whether or not they are actually able to clean up the mess at Fukushima, one day power will not be restored to one of the 400+ power plants in the world. We cannot count on stability in any particular country, however Western, however peaceable they seem to be, because all civilizations eventually fall. Civilization is just a societal technology and eventually it stops working, just like your laptop. No matter how many days or thousands of years it takes for our present system to fall, we will be leaving melting cores for someone, some animal or some part of God’s creation. Why do we place our faith in technological structures rather than in the One who provides all that we need?

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:27

Some argue that because we are called to subdue the whole earth it means we should use whatever technology have at our finger tips to do so. Some would even go as far as to argue that the world we’re growing into is the future creation. This technologically advanced civilization is what God has set forth. It is the beginning of the new kingdom of earth? Poppycock.

Man is indeed in a phylum of his own. We are set aside and we are special. We are given a will and are intended to use it. Unlike the animals, our will can be used to do good or evil. Animals don’t have that privilege. With that privilege comes extraordinary joy and responsibility—a responsibility only possible through Jesus. Done with him it is with an ease far greater than that of the soaring flight of an eagle in the golden autumnal light, or no greater work than the play of a child by a stream in summertime.

But we will continue to do these sort of faithless acts, until we are shocked into submission. And then we will either be like John and lean into the breast of our beloved Jesus or like Legion and cast ourselves into the pigs.

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The Democracy of the Will

Posted by David

Any of our readers of this blog will notice that my dad (Mike) and I come from very different perspectives. But I must say, it’s been a great joy to blog with him on this site.

That said, I’ve been reading 2 Thessalonians. It’s a very interesting letter written by Paul warning the church to not to be deceived or be unsettled about the coming of the “man of lawlessness.” This is a particularly important letter for Christians today, because some churches are always looking for the antichrist and some are even being deceived by charasmatic cult of personality. Now, I do believe that man’s relationship with God will one day be restored and sin will be abolished from the earth. How that happens and when that occurs is not something we are not privy to and should not consume our thoughts. We are told to stand firm and pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So, here’s the passage of interest to me recently:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4

What’s particularly interesting is the idea of the “rebellion.” What is the rebellion? Do we see it today? These days, whenever I seek to understand something from the scriptures deeply, I first look in myself,  my heart, my experience, and the things I know best (or think I know best). In my life, my times of rebellion have been when I have had unbridled freedom.

In our minds, we always have conflicting thoughts and choices (Mike wrote about that yesterday with regards to decision-making). At a conscious or unconscious level we weigh those choices and make a decision. What is important is how we make the choice. Sometimes we choose based on our moral standards. Sometimes we make the choice based on which part of our body or soul screams the loudest: stomach, groins, comfort, fears, instinct, etc. If our will chooses to go with the loudest, we can get ourselves in trouble. I’ll call this the democracy of the will.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter that much. I’m hungry, so I eat a meal. But if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you know where this has gone wrong at times in your life. But what does this have to do with the “rebellion” that Paul writes about? I’m coming to think that this rebellion is simply the political state we call democracy. A republic is just a modified form of democracy, but a democracy still. In a republic, the democratic process chooses leaders and the same process makes decisions in the congress or parliament. The only non-democratic part of our particular form of government is the president, but certainly he is subject to the democratic pressures of his advisors.

In the West this democratic process began with rebellion, and arguably, it began as early or earlier with the Renaissance and the Reformation. Only now are we seeing it sweep across the Middle East. Please don’t think that I think any other particular government is benign. They are all filled with injustice, because man and his cravings and powerlust is inherently unjust. Thus, all governments have differing aspects of injustice upon which they paw.

But democracy in general may be the final stage of the succession of types of government. The age of democracy and the period of human history it spreads before us is unique and may very well be the rebellion of which Paul warns us. The only worthy government is the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ as our King.

It reminds me of those who say that “Freedom has a price.” If just one innocent man, woman or child dies, if just one person is tortured for that kind of freedom, it’s not a freedom with which I wish to engage. That type of freedom and the democracy at its base is a deception. Freedom is an ideal that is only possible when the human will is bound to goodness and love. That day will come.

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Weekly Report: The Dope…the Dupe

Posted by Mike

Leon hot air balloon festival 2010.jpgMarch 3: The headline on Time’s frontpage today is “Yes, America is in Decline/No America is Still No. 1.” I never hear anyone ask “Why?”  so I’m asking it; and suggesting that we’d be a lot better off if we weren’t. It might get us off our grandiose high horse of believing that we are the savior of the world. It’s interesting that we’ve been proved so wrong so many times before, but that doesn’t stop belief. Changing firmly held beliefs may require some kind of full frontal confrontation to get people to wake up. Unfortunately, that kind of confrontation generally brings with it a lot of pain.

I find some decision-making rather mysterious. I know, we weigh the pros and cons, look at the possible/probable outcomes, and then make the best, the most rational decision we can make. But what about the emotional factors? And doesn’t the process get quite muddied up with multiple factors, especially when the decision is important and the tipping point can’t easily be got at? Of course we do the best we can with what (brain power, good sense, advice from others) we’ve got. I made a big decision recently regarding major surgery that is not absolutely indicated. As far as I’m concerned the decision is made and I’m going ahead with it; but I need to be aware that there’s a part of me that’s going to be questioning the decision at least to some extent even when they wheel me into the operating room. There are people who are so obsessive that they are unable to make decisions; the bigger the decision is, the harder it is for them. We’re not perfect; we’re fallible. If we need help in sorting out the issues, we need to ask for it. I have a hard time doing that: related to childhood isolation and inability to ask for anything back then. In the work I do I daily make decisions that affect the lives of individuals and families. I do the best I can with the evidence I have available. The evidence isn’t perfect and in some cases there is a degree of subjectivity that must be allowed in or a decision can’t be made. An obsessive-compulsive would never be able to do that job. I’ve learned to make a decision and then forget about it. Fortunately, there are avenues of appeal available if the recipient disagrees. So in general, make the decision, and then let it go; subject to revision if significant new evidence arises and presses for a hearing; but don’t obsessively review afterwards. Life is too demanding, challenging, wonderful and present to be overly tied up by the past like that.

March 4: I woke up unable to sleep last night and happened upon Gus Van Sant’s first full length film, Mala Noche. It’s about events in a brief period of a young male convenience store clerk’s life, in the skid row district of Portland. It’s filmed like the cinema noir pictures of the late ‘30’s in black and white, and the lives of the people it follows is just as bleak. What comes to me as the important overall message for me from the film is that as secure, comfortable middle class Americans, most of us don’t have a clue as to what it’s like to lead the kind of hand-to-mouth kind of existence lots of people experience in this country. That awareness should lead us to a kind of humility, nonjudgmentalness, and a generosity not only of funds but of spirit to those less fortunate. I often make it to the first level , the awareness part, but never seem to make it to the second level of thinking/feeling/acting described above.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write pungent essays in my head. Most of the time I’ve forgotten them by the time I awaken in the morning. Seldom do I later write anything down. When I do try to, it seems that maybe what I thought was so clever and insightful at 2 a.m. wasn’t. I do remember thinking last night about following the news of the conflict in the Middle East. Every morning one of the first things I do is bring up the New York Times on my laptop and go to the Lede blog, updating us on the latest events. Currently of course, the Lede is following events in Libya closely. As I’m reading the updates sometimes I feel like I want to will progress on the insurgents’ part. I expect this desire to be able to “will” a change in circumstances or events is not uncommon. We know it’s not possible, but we want something (that we have no control over) to be so so much, that we would like to be able to will it to be so. Fortunately most of us are sufficiently reality-based to know that’s just fantasy. Occasionally people cross the line. We call them delusional, and they don’t do very well in the long run; reality catches up with them.

March 7: What happened to the 5th and the 6th? They must not have happened. I can’t tell you…but why, why can’t I just let go of my beef with organized religion? For example, the other day coming home I passed a fancy dentist’s office near here, and would you believe, they have this massive statue of Jesus in front of the building, on a granite pedestal, engraved with the writing, “He is our Salvation.” Who do they think they are? Why is it necessary for believers to include the rest of us in their scenario. What if I don’t believe that he is my salvation? I guess from their point of view all of society is included under the umbrella or penumbra of the man from Nazarath. It would be impossible, I guess, for a Christian to say something like, “I believe Jesus is my salvation, but that isn’t necessarily the case for you.” I see that that wouldn’t work; it’s got to be inclusive. It does seem to me, however, given that attitude that a measure of self-righteousness, yea even of judgmentalism toward us poor nonbelievers might just be present. The position of knowing, and “knowing” that the others don’t, seems to be rather arrogant. Of course, you could turn it around on me and wonder if I might just be exhibiting some of those very same uncomely attitudes. You might be right. I do think, though, that I am open to saying you believe what you want to and I’ll believe what I want to and we’re both going to be at least somewhat wrong – but we need to be nonjudgmental about each other. I have more about this topic later, and I’ll just give you a preview: There are mainstream Christians out there who believe in Predestination!

The wisdom of the generations is fragile, but that which we preserve and value must be based upon observation and experience, not on myth reflecting out unconscious defensive predilections

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The Revolution of Pi

Posted by David

A revolution is sweeping the Middle East and in other places in the world. Some are calling for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. I call for a revolution in modern scientific thought: call it the Revolution of Pi. Science no longer seems to search for truth, but for supporting evidence to uphold false notions. Modern science has nested itself on a crumbling altar. The exact same data can also be nested on a different platform and a very different picture emerges.

I propose three new pillars in science. These were developed out of a challenge from my friend Lisbeth.

1) Types: pre-existence of types – Out of order, emerges order. Most modern scientific thought is based on the pillar chaos theory. It’s the way some scientists explain seeming-randomness without God. Out of that pillar you get, all sorts of misconceptions. Order cannot emerge out of chaos. In every community of organisms there is a directional evolution toward those types.

Pre-existence of types

Pre-existence of types

2) Circle: The circle is the fundamental structure of nature – Infinity does not exist in the natural world, and neither does the finite. Built like a circle, the universe is both infinite and finite and neither at the same time. The human mind can only conceive of this idea by understanding the nature of a circle.

The circle is the fundamental

The circle is the fundamental

3) Life: The fundamental state of matter is Life – Nothing in the natural world is dead or non-living. Everything we touch, see, feel has life. Entropy is a circular of a change of state. Ecology is the fundamental branch of science.

The fundamental state of matter is Life

The fundamental state of matter is Life

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The Pulling Force of Evolution

Posted by David

I broke the tip of my finger this week, which has limited my ability to type and has given me a new respect and compassion for those who are disabled in profound ways. My injury has also brought back the memory of a deer leg bone that I once found in a pinyon forest in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos.

Little flesh remained on this deer leg, but the joints were still intact. It had all the normal number of bones, except the upper leg bone had an ‘extra joint’ which was a bit larger than a baseball. This was a mass of bone growth, hinging a bit, which had developed from a full fracture.

What was truly amazing was how both sides of the fracture had sent calcareous projections toward the other side, like two hands full of fingers grasping at each other. Since the deer had spent much time walking on the injury, the growth never made a full connection, so the mass of bone kept getting bigger and bigger.  How did it die? I can only guess that a mountain lion got it, since I couldn’t find the rest of the skeleton anywhere.

Bodies are truly given an amazing gift of healing, aren’t they?

This idea of growth mechanics being directional and having two sides is important. I think of evolution in particular (the mechanic of gravity also provides an example of another important misconception). In classic and neo-Darwinism, the driving force of evolution mechanics come from the bottom-up, i.e. random mutations and the ‘desire’ for survival in the individual. But not only does the mechanics, the force of evolution, come from a pressure from the bottom part of the equation, but it also comes from a pulling force from the top.  Evolution has both bottom-up and top-down force mechanics. Once side pushes, the other side pull. Traditional evolution seems to be only concerned with the bottom up pressure and disregards the pulling force from the top.

As the deer bone healed, there was growth from one end of the bone to the other. But there was also a pulling force that said in effect, “here I am, your mate, the other end of this bone onto which you must adhere.” The same is the case for the process and driving forces behind evolution.

There is a pulling force from the ‘top’ which says for the jaguar, for example, “Time to become a great forest cat.” Or in the case of a temperate montane forest, the pulling force says, “Time to become a forest of pointed, snow-shedding trees.” Then the genetics, creatures and communities of organisms below respond and evolve into those species characterized by those morphological traits. This is the greatly overlooked aspect of evolution. Evolution is a pulling force rather than a pushing force from below. There is a pushing force from below, but that’s not what drives species directionally into their particular morphology. The pushing force is simply what we call life.

Tragically, this component is overlooked in our high school textbooks. We overlook the Great Pulling Force in science, because that pulling force is the love of God. Modern science won’t accept that kind of force. On the other hand, oddly enough, it will accept ‘randomness’ as a force or ‘chaos’. This is because man does not wish to go toward that great pulling force. All other forms of life grow naturally toward that pulling force, but in the human’s ability to choose, a.k.a. our will, we responds by not growing into that great pulling force, but choose to grow into our own particular egocentric bubble. We grow inward rather than outward toward the pulling force. Jesus came to change our direction of growth.

I’m hoping for a speedy recovery in my finger, that those little filaments of bone are starting their journey across the great gap!

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess…Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

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The Wave Begins

Posted by David

I am still overjoyed about what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa as difficult as it is for those involved. What is giving me joy is that a curtain of fear is falling which is allowing people to do things they once thought impossible.

In the commentaries on Egypt, some are saying that what is happening is a plan spearheaded by Muslim extremists. Others suggest that the CIA and Mossad is behind this democratic revolution in hopes to ‘guide’ democratization of the Middle East. I could really care less who is behind it. All I see is hundreds and thousands of people who aren’t oppressed by fear, saying “No” to brutal regimes and using generally peaceful means, at least so far.

It is okay to say “No” to a bully. It is okay to tell him the truth of who they are. In fact, it’s our responsibility to do so if we are in relationship with him or her, as painful as the outcome may be. We must do so in love and in the hope of transformation, but only after we check our own heart to make sure we aren’t actually the bully at hand. 

However, the primary tactic of the bully is to pull you to his side by getting you to use his methods. He wants a fight from you. Then he can say to you and himself, “See you’re really no different from me, are you? Ha, I win.” The bully eggs you until you either submit in fear or your fight him, which is a win-win for the bully.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the reason why when you fight the bully, no matter how hard you fight or how big your weapons, you always enter a perpetually unwinnable situation. You may think you have won, but that was only Round 1 or 2, etc. Or as was the case in WWII, we beat the Nazi bully, only to become something equally horrendous.

But when you are fearless of the bully, he has lost immediately, whether or not he crushes your mind, body or soul. There is only one other option: enslavement. If you fear him and submit to him, you are absorbed into him as his slave. If you fear him and fight him, then you become him through his means. You become slave to his methods, which is the same as being enslaved to him.

Now being fearless of the bully does not mean that you are required to not submit to him. This is one of the  most misunderstood principles: we can submit to someone and be free from his clutches. In fact, fearless submission is hated by the bully most of all. He despises it, because to him, fear is the power he lusts. The last thing he really wants to be near is you, because fearless submission is only possible through God’s love. Fearless submission is Jesus on the cross.

If he does not get that fear from you, he will move on to another victim or attempt to destroy you so you will not corrupt his next batch of prey. But because of Jesus and what he did at Calvary, I can’t be destroyed. This is the promise of the resurrection. So, fearless submission is the most powerful weapon we have. We must wield it for all the bullies that cross our path: family, friend and foe; government, principalities and authorities of all sorts. Not only is it transforming to us, but also potentially to the bully.

As simple as it sounds, yet when faced with a truly wretched, stunning, charming power which seeks to enslave us, as weak as we humans truly are, how can we be fearless under these conditions? There’s only one way: to know that there is One power higher and more awesome than all of the Universe; one truly to fear. Then all other powers and principalities become pathetic.

This is the wave that we see beginning in the Middle East. As food prices increase, as more people lose their jobs, and as the United States’ military might and WMD are seen to be the sham they truly are, this wave will ever increase across the globe. The giants will then topple one by one. Out of necessity they will consume each other, and one will be left whose destiny is the pit, but we must not fear even him while distancing ourselves from his charm.

Jesus will collect his sheep: the weak, the humble, the pathetic in the eyes of the bully and I pray that you and I both be listed as one of them. Let the wave begin!

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Romans 12:19-20

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Filed under Christianity, Love, war

Glenn Beck: The Influencer

Posted by Mike

I don’t like to use the term evil, because it’s more of an emotional classification than reflecting objective reality, but I’ll use it in reference to Glenn Beck and the false and socially disruptive vitriol that he sends out over the airwaves. I always avoid listening to and watching him as well as the other radical news commentators, but decided that I would attempt to sift through some of his TV and radio clips and do a critique. Prior to that decision I watched several minutes of his show on different days this past week. In just those few minutes he was significantly distorting in his usual prim schoolmasterly manner the consequences of the current spontaneous opposition to President Mubarek of Egypt. On the first clip Beck was predicting that if Mubarek of Egypt were successfully ousted there would be a domino effect of radical Islamic revolutions all across North Africa, throughout the Asian subcontinent and on to Indonesia. On the next day he was focusing only on the Middle East, again predicting disastrous outcomes throughout the entire region should the current uprising in Egypt be successful. Towards the end of the week he showed several film clips of Mohamed ElBaradei speaking to the media in Cairo regarding the uprising. Beck focused on ElBaradei’s use of the term “social justice,” insinuating that the term masked a hidden Islamic imperialist intention and thus implying that this man who is a Nobel prize winner had concealed, nefarious motives for his courageous actions last week in Cairo.

Glenn Beck talks to his listeners as if they are completely ignorant and dependent upon him, the expert, coming across as a not very good eighth grade civics teacher instructing his students. His use of insinuation is especially disturbing. In the example above, he does not come right out and say that Mohamed ElBaradei is a radical Islamist, but he strongly implies it, and his audience is clearly expected to “get” his implications. Socialists and communists are very bad guys in Beck’s eyes, and he is currently mixing them in with the Muslim Brotherhood “radical Islamists,” who Beck says have as a goal the establishment of an Islamic “Caliphate” throughout the world. On one of his broadcasts last week he actually tried to tie the “communist” Weatherman Underground movement of the 1960’s to the current upheavals in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

On January 31st, on his television broadcast, Beck said, “This is about world domination,” and predicted that in the future the Eastern hemisphere would consist of three powers: a Muslim Caliphate, China (which would have incorporated much of Southeast Asia, including Australia), and Russia (which would have taken over much of northeastern Europe). During his radio broadcast of February 3rd, Beck said “We’re talking about the end of the Western way of life, if we don’t pay attention.” He went on the elucidate three principal ideas that are guiding his current focus:  1. “Groups from the hard core socialist and communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are both a common enemy of Israel and the Jew”; 2. Groups from the hard core socialist and communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are the common enemy of Capitalism and the Western way of life”; 3. Groups from the hard core socialist and communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are both ostracized from power and the mainstream in most of the world.” All of these assertions are complete nonsense, assertions that would not be supported by any expert in international affairs.

I assume the notions Glenn Beck puts out on the radio and television airwaves are influencing a great many people in the United States. He distorts facts. He makes insinuations that are clearly not supported by facts, which should be questioned by anyone who has even a modest command of history and who follows the news in the print media. He supports divisiveness within the nation, based upon false information. He creates fear in his listeners, fear of the other person who might be different in physical make-up, language and speech, in dress, in customs, in religion. He is a fearmonger, who encourages a fearful, xenophobic, isolationist and embattled world view in his listeners, an affront to the American flag.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.              –    Abraham Lincoln


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In My Eyes

Posted by Linda

Many people spend a lot of time searching how to be good parents, spouses, neighbors, friends.  The underlying issue seems to me to be “How to Love.”  There must be a thousand books on the subject: extensive religious texts, philosophical treatises, and psychological dissertations have delved the meaning of love.  Almost all great fiction has explored in some way the enigma and complexity of love.

We also have the potato chips of love advice: self-help books.  Loving For Dummies hasn’t come out yet, but may.   Some such are really “helpful.”

Lots of the counsel on how to love requires study, complex acts, lots of time, and even money.  “Isn’t love worth it?”  “Of course it is.”  A lifetime learning to love deeply is well spent–I’d say perfectly spent.  But sometimes loving someone in ways that work feels as frustrating and beyond reach as touching a star with your fingertips.   Other times it happens in the blink of an eye.

I mean that literally.

Years ago I read from the writings of developmental psychologist Rene Piaget.  One of his ideas that impacted me was the importance of eye contact between parents and their babies.  (In my words) he said we drink in who we are through our parents’ eyes.  He was referring to infancy; but I think it is also true for children of any age and moreover for our mates and friends, for strangers, and even for our “enemies.”

When we make eye contact with someone, our eyes send a feeling and message.  That person reads the message and takes it in. It may be a dozen things: “She likes me,”  “He loves me,” “He is afraid of me, or “She is not interested in me.”  The translation becomes a message about who I am.  I am likable, lovable, powerful, worthless.   Very wounded people may block or misread the message.  Very aware people may recognize and evaluate the message.  Most eye contact language is below the radar and builds the concept of “who I am” subterraneanly.   Eye contact is power.  That makes it a responsibility.  That makes it a choice.  And that makes it an opportunity to love: a simple way, always at hand, time-friendly, free.

I like Piaget’s concept because it shows us we can impart love just  by being aware that our eyes will reflect who we think the other is. What if we don’t feel love for the other, but feel indifferent or repelled, or afraid. Regrettably, there are people so disturbed that they may read even eye contact as a challenge.  Healing takes time and patience and presence.  Such exceptions do not describe most encounters.

More at risk are our daily encounters with family and friends.  It becomes awfully easy not to look at each other often, except as almost “business” meetings.  In Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, the character Emily has died and is allowed to return to one day in her life to observe.  She chooses her 16th birthday and finds herself in the kitchen watching herself have breakfast as her mother bustles about doing chores and cautioning her to eat slowly.  Though no one can hear or see her, she cries out, “Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me.”

It’s probably the most quoted line in the play, because we all can relate to it.  We know Piaget is right.  The eyes have it.

How good it is to enjoy the riches of meeting and resting in each other’s eyes.  We can practice every day looking for the beauty in each other and reflecting it back as often as humanly possible. Laughing at a good joke together almost always involves happy glances into each other’s eyes. So does love.  And there, love quickens to beauty, and vulnerability, and tenderness.  Love could become our almost permanent message if we focus, just for a bit, on each other.

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Filed under Love, philosophy, Psychology, Uncategorized, values