Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get. a. life.

I was just thinking, here as the month of November is on its last sliver or two, how inordinately much of our time we spend doing or saying things that, a decade hence, we will think, "Was that dumb or what?" To say nothing of judgement day, when the good book tells us that we will give account of ourselves to our creator.
But, optimist that I am, I also know that there are a few brights spots along the way that I think back on with appreciation and, yes, contentment. One is being married to Maggie for over 30 years. Much more credit to her than me, I can tell you. Sometimes you need to take a minute out of your busy life, stop obsessing about all the terrible things that are happening in the world, all the irritants that crop up on a daily basis, and all the gloom and doom that seems to pervade our lives, and think about the good things. Get a life? I got one.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Picture of the day

I couldn't resist this lovely photo:
Did I mention that John Kerry is not my most-favorite person?

John Kerry

What a contemptible human being. The part about the relative worth of a military member is bad enough, but when challenged about that, to try and lie about what he really said, is beyond contemptible. If that is the best the Democrats have to offer, and if that truly represents what Democrats think, it's poor, poor pickings. And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update for The week

It's been quiet here on the blog - partly because I've been so busy doing other stuff, partly because of a creeping malaise - probably brought on by equal parts sleep deprivation, discouraging situations that several friends are in, strange conditions at work, too much work of my own, and the regrettable tendency to listen to too much news coverage on the radio.

Is it just me, or too many people talking too much?

There are some gifted and impassioned writers out there, each convinced that their own point of view is the correct one. There are some hacks who prevail because they are loud or influential for whatever reason. I'm pretty well able to filter that kind of noise out. What bothers me most about political discourse generally is the presumption that the other person or party must be wrong.

Now, I'm not a relativist, and I definitely believe in clear definitions of right and wrong. Further, I believe that a person CAN know or infer a moral system and can live by one. Most of us know much better than we let on, but that's another subject.

I reject the current idea that there is some greater good to be served by considering all viewpoints as equally valid, but I still recognize that my own viewpoint may be skewed, limited, or just plain wrong. That leaves open that yours may be, if not right in all points, at least worth listening to.

Isn't it possible that there are several varieties of worthwhile ideas? For example:
1. Ideas that are demonstrably and ontologically true. E.g., If I drop a ball from a tree, it falls to the ground, at least on our home planet.
2. Ideas that give strong evidence of being true, but cannot be demonstrated with the physical evidence you have in hand. E.g., A card that I receive from my sister bearing her handwriting and postmarked with her city is strongly likely to be from her, but I did not actually watch her address it and deliver it to my mailbox.
3. Ideas that may not give strong evidence of being true, but make sense as an inference, given related evidence. If my son buys me a necktie every christmas, and this christmas I receive a necktie in an unmarked box, whom will I suspect of the gift?

Now you'll note that I slipped in the value of "truth" as a synonym for "worthwhile". And for our working purpose, that is a useful tool. It remains to be seen if it truly works.

true=worthwhile -----------false=not worthwhile

More on this subject tomorrow.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thoughts on Yom Kippur

Not MY thoughts!
An article thought-provoking enough that I reproduce it here in its entirety. Feel free to visit the Author, though, because there's lots more to read.

by Esther D. Kustanowitz(09/29/2006)
To err is human, clearly. And during the High Holy Day season, even those of us who acknowledge our errant ways and engage in the process of repentance with a pure heart still possess the fatal flaw of our humanity. As soon as the hunger pangs from the Yom Kippur fast wane, we’re back on stage in our tragicomedy of errors, slinging gossip over bagels and lox, and likely violating any Rosh HaShanah resolutions before sunrise on the 11th of Tishrei. Another year goes by, and we’re back in our synagogues, proclaiming our guilt all over again in an endless annual loop—it’s like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
What’s the point in persisting in this annual dance of repentance?
In the literal realm of human marital relationships, some couples, after five, 10, 20 years or so, decide to proclaim to the world that the person they’ve found is the person they still want to spend their lives with. They hold “second weddings” or “vow renewals” or “recommitment ceremonies,” inviting friends to witness the re-consecration of their partnership. But often, such ceremonies are prompted by the discovery of a breach in confidence or respect or another violation of the rules of sanctified relationships. Or perhaps the pair has survived a trauma and feels the need to reaffirm—not just for the sake of celebrating love in the public eye, but to put their own souls at ease—that despite all that has happened, their mate is still the One.
So the two stand there, opposite each other, looking into the eyes of their beloved and looking for a trust and commitment that they may not find. A partner may admit that he or she has made mistakes, and may swear before you and a group of people that from here on in, it’s all faith and devotion. But there’s a part of you that’s unsure: can people really change?
The relationship between God and the Jewish people is often cushioned in the metaphorical language of marital commitment. In Genesis, God made a covenant — sealed in flesh in the form of a brit milah (circumcision), which promised the Land of Israel to Abraham and his children. The terms of the agreement — God gives the land of Israel to the people, and the people will worship God — are reiterated at Mount Sinai. The term that God uses to refer to the people is segulah, which indicates a special, sanctified relationship like marriage.
And a midrash on the Mount Sinai narrative interprets that when the text says that the people stood b’tahteet ha’har, literally “in the bottom of the mountain,” that the mountain was suspended, chupah-like, over the heads of the assembled people — were they to try to end the relationship with God, they would have been crushed. And some suggest that Song of Songs, which describes a physically passionate affair — seemingly between a man and a woman — is a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Jews.
When it comes to actual marriage, something I admittedly don’t know anything about, I imagine that certain violations are forgivable and that others are not. At some point the two people who make up the zug (the couple) have to assess whether the relationship is worth it. But in the relationship with God, in which we have no way of really knowing whether God has forgiven us, the best we can do is see this annual assessment as a state of the union between the Jews and God.
The High Holy Day season is a chance to renew our relationship with Jewish life. Every year, we stand with our metaphorically wedded partner under a canopy of recommitment, and promise to marry each other all over again. As our Creator, surely God knows not to expect perfection — our entire relationship has been a bumpy cycle of imperfection: We violate our contract of commitment with God, and God rebukes but quickly forgives.
Still, we do what we can to make positive changes in our lives, to increase our commitment to living as nobly and morally as human beings can. We critically assess our actions and hopefully forgive ourselves as we attempt to curb evil inclinations, in the pursuit of more permanent partnerships, with other people and with God.
Shanah tovah!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dancin' in the streets!

Next weekend, October 7th, Front Royal Downtown Business Association will host its Annual Fall Dancin' Downtown, featuring the music of Souled Out. We always have a great time at DD and it's a good opportunity to meet your neighbors in a social setting, enjoy a beverage and some great music, and help support the work of the DBA.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Amen, and Hallelujah!

Every now and then you read something that makes you go, "Yeah!"

Here's mine for today: H/T: Pajamas Media

First, a quote from Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Aznar:
“It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the pope to apologise for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries!" from Barcepundit

and then, this gem, from a commenter there (forgive a few misspellings - there's a lot of passion there!):
"I was raised by Southern Pentecostal Christians. We shout, we sing, we dance, we jump pews, we stomp, applaud and wave our hands at God. We rejoice in His love for us with smiles that nearly split our faces. We pray til we sweat, so fervently do we believe that He hears us. Some of us make church every Sunday, others waddle in on Easter and Christmas. Some of us are baptized in the river, some of us are sprinkled, some of us simply come to an understanding with the Lord, no formal ceremony needed. Our Lord instructed us to pray in a closet and some of us do. We pray to thank God for our meals. We pray with our children at bedtime. We pray in the car, headed for work. We pray in the shower when we're running late in the morning. We pray when we mow the yard, silently listing our concerns, our worries, bringing our petitions to the Lord with full knowledge that He hears us. When people leapt from towers, when planes crashed in fields, we bowed our heads, we lifted our eyes, we ran to a quiet place to kneel, we shouted out where we stood - we prayed our own personal prayer to our God - and He heard us. Facing any direction, women and men together, faces bare to the sky, on asphalt, concrete, construction steel beams, kitchen linoleum, middle school hardwood hallways - we prayed. Every day, here in America, we pray when we want to, we pray when we need to and some of us don't pray at all. In your neck of the woods, you may live as you please, bow to whomever you wish to bow but,here in my front yard, I am not interested in what you have to say. I do not want to hear how you think I should live, worship or die. I will not wear what you want me to wear nor will I hide my hair, my ankle, my smile or anything else simply because a Muslim man is unable to control his lust and may be tempted or might rape me to teach me a lesson I am an American; I will take a bat to your rapist. I am a Christian; I will pray that he gets a fair trail. Should my daughter decide to marry the loser that she's living with, I won't feel even the slighest inclination to slit her throat. I really am the queen of my house and when I decide to stay inside it's because I want to, not because my husband, brother or uncle isn't here to escort me to the market or an evening PTA meeting.I will worhsip my God, sitting with my husband and my sons. You may spit on my Bible, you may put it in a steaming pile of pig ****, you may burn it if you want; I will be angry and personally hurt, because I store family momentos and photos in it. However, I will not hunt you down and kill you. My religion lives in my heart, not on paper. My church is alive in the hearts of my fellow worshippers, the building is just a place to get in out of the rain. If I live a life that is pleasing to God, I will rise to Heaven where I can spend eternity gazing at the face of my Saviour, bask in the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ and relax in the Holy Spirit. I am sorry that your prophet had to lure followers with a slick promise of carnal pleasure with yet-to-blossom young girls. I am not interested in your history, I am not interested in shining faces, I do not want to live the way your prophet dictates. I am an American and I will believe what I want to believe. I will fight anyone who tries to impose your way of life on me or my family. I am a Christian and I will worship who I please. I am just as stalwart as you. I am as snug in my beliefs as you are in yours. I am as comfortable with my morals as you are with yours. Thanks but no thanks, I am quite happy with my Lord. You may go on home now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pope Benedict: Before you condemn his famous speech, maybe you need to read this.

There's a lot of words out there about the Holy Father and his infamous Regensburg speech. Maybe the best word on the subject comes from Michael Novak, whom I enjoy reading from time to time.

A picture for you to enjoy.

Rick Lee published this one. I like it a lot.

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