Not Cease from Exploration

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

6 Questions about God.

I've been reading quite a bit of "deep" stuff lately, material that both promotes and refutes tenants of organized religion.  Why?  As a firm believer in life-long learning, I don't believe in running away from questions, and the notion of who we are and where we came from is pretty high up on the "big question" list.  Speaking of questions, it's almost ironic in many ways: more I learn, the more questions I have (without necessarily garnering more answers, by the way).  And all of this is okay.

I'll also note that my intent with this posting isn't to disprove the concept of God.  I personally believe that all of this...the universe that we experience...can't simply be the result of some random act of cosmic chemistry.  However, I do have real issues with people, supposedly far more learned than a simple blog author, trying to explain and describe God in terms that are more reflective of them than they are of a all-present Creator of the universe.

Anyway, here are the questions.  Answers are not necessarily required.



Q1 - If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why does He need us, mere humans, to worship Him?

Commentary -  The need for attention, the need for adoration, the need to be noticed, is a human quality.  In some respects it is almost a sinful trait when you think about it (sinful as in vanity).  Why then do we ascribe this quality to God?

Q2 - God made man in His image, and we describe God in masculine terms.  Does this mean that God has male genitalia?

Commentary - I know, this sounds like an incredibly stupid (and potentially blasphemous) question, at least on the surface, but that's not my intent.  Rather, the bigger question is this:  just how similar are we, mere humans, to God?  Many religious texts say that we were created in His image and we refer to God as a male.  These are very human attributes, so again, how similar are we?


Q3 - Does God hate? 

Commentary - This is quasi-related to question 2. God as been described as 
"love", and I could grasp the concept of God as something that is "pure love", but things get sticky when you start to consider the concept of other emotions, such as (and specifically) hate. Wouldn't the concept of an all-powerful Being feeling hate be an incredibly dangerous thing?
Q4 - If God knows the past, the present, and the future, doesn't that render the concept of free will moot? 

Commentary - We are taught as children that God gave us free will, yet if God knows what will happen in the future, then is there really a concept of free will in the first place? Think about it: God knows that you will sin today at 7pm, therefore from the perspective of God, your choice has already been made well before 7pm.  This doesn't sound like "free will" to me.  I know that this has been debated by others before (see HERE), using the example of the sun:  "knowing that the sun will rise tomorrow doesn't make the sun rise tomorrow"; however the logic of that argument falls apart when you consider the proposition that God (in theory) does in fact make the sun rise tomorrow.
Q5 - Why does God allow horrible things to happen?


Commentary - This is the "classic God" question.  If God loves us, why does he allow horrible things, such as floods, earthquakes, famine and disease to happen to His creations?  If the answer has something to do with testing us, then I have a bigger problem:  God, being all knowing and all seeing, already knows how we will react to the test, so why test us in the first place?
Q6 - Why does God allow humans do to horrible things in his name?


Commentary - If my child did something horrible using my name as an excuse, I would be:  a) Pretty mad and b) Very much inclined to make sure they didn't do it again.  Yet God seems to be okay with humans using His name to all manner of horrific things, including the sexual abuse of children.  Why does God allow this?  Remember also that in theory, God already knows that people will being doing horrible things in His name.


















In the final analysis, I think that one mistake we humans typically make in trying to understand the universe around us is that we selfishly don't want to believe that it isn't all about us.  We say that "God created man in His image" not because we want to glorify God, but because we want to glorify ourselves.  We talk about a "vengeful God" because we want an excuse for acting vengeful ourselves.  We talk about God giving us free will because we want an opt-out of the deeper question of how God can both control everything but not control us.  Maybe, just maybe, it isn't all about us.  Maybe, just maybe, God isn't a old guy with white hair, sitting on a cloud.



Friday, April 25, 2014

Road Apples, #148

Hulu...I confess, while I don't watch a lot of network/cable television, I have been enjoying Hulu lately.  My two favorite guilty pleasures?  Old episodes of Space:1999 (gotta love a show made in the past, set in the future which is now the past) and a new show called "The 100".

Books...I am currently trying to read Eternal Life:  A New Vision by John Shelby Spong, but the going is tough.  I enjoy reading his column, and I like the subject matter, but I just have a tough time with his writing style in this longer format.  I'll keep at it for a bit, but knowing things will probably peter-out eventually, I ordered two new books:
  • Return to Order - Basically, as I understand it, a kind of Catholic prosperity gospel kind of thing.  The book also lauds the middle ages as being this kind of wonderful time in human existence.  Yes, apparently the days of feudal lords, serfdom, rampant disease, not really living past 40 unless you were a king were kinda great (in some folk's minds).  For the record, I purchased a used version of the book, so as not actually support the work of the group that put the book out.
  • Papal Bull:  An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church - Since I have been listening to a militant right-wing Catholic radio station lately, I figured the other side needed equal time in my head.
It's a kind of a yin/yang deal.
Jack White...as in the musician.  I don't get it.  He kind of looks like a Johnny Depp cloning experiment gone awry.  I've tried to like the music, but alas, that isn't working either.  I get that he is a good guitar player, but I don't see where it goes from there.  Maybe I'm just not nearly cool enough.

Day before 50...as in today is the day before I turn 50 years old.  Years ago, I would take the day of my birthday off and plant flowers.  It was as much a Spring ritual as it was a birthday ritual.  I like flowers, and I like Spring, so it seemed to be a reasonably relaxing thing to do.  I didn't do that for the past few years for a variety of reasons. Today that changes, as I now own a home again and there is plenty of room for flowers.  Unfortunately the weather is still a bit cool, but never the less I am at least going to get some flower planting done.

Speaking of 50...I think that, for me, it's a perfect time to have something of a "milestone" birthday.  While life continues to throw challenges (at me, at you, at everyone) I do find that I am now better equipped to deal with the things that come my way.  Age and experience at work I suspect.  Since I plan on living a lot longer, my plan at this stage is to make the previous 50 years the preparation for the next 50 years.  Put another way, all that has happened before was intended to get me to where I am now, and now is the time to start taking advantage of what life has to offer.  I will not be perfect, but I will at least be comfortable in my own skin.  And that's okay.  The Traveling Wilburys summed it up well...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PA Governor' Race

Part 1...I can't believe the amount of noise coming out of the Democratic primary for the upcoming Pennsylvania governor's race.  It's a genuine feeding frenzy of sorts, what one would expect with a wounded incumbent in the governor's office.  As for me, well the two candidates that do the most for me at this stage are Rob McCord and Tom Wolf.  I like both gentlemen, but for different reasons.  Part of my has a natural distrust for just about any politician, so that makes Tom Wolf more appealing.  On the other hand, Rob McCord does actually have a decent record to run on, in particular his killing of Governor Corbett's lottery give-away.  Now I'm all for taxing-via-gambling (state-run gambling is simply a tax on stupidity, in my opinion), but I don't know why we couldn't have at least a domestic firm running it.

Part 2...I watched a television commercial the other day for the Corbett campaign that basically claimed that, despite everything you've heard, the governor has actually increased educational funding.  Yes, forget all that noise about budget cutting and local school district tax increases; nope, our sitting governor has actually given local school districts more money.  Note that I tried to find the commericial in question on YouTube, but it doesn't seem to be loaded.  Here's a citation from the governor's re-election website that is basically the script for the commercial:

Today, Pennsylvania spends more on basic education than any other time in our state’s history, and more than almost every other state in the country. Tom Corbett has also dramatically increased spending on early childhood development programs and the Head Start program, ensuring that all our children get the education start they deserve.  Tom has also helped to limit tuition increases at our state universities.

Link to the citation HERE.  What's really accurate?  Well there is short but insightful analysis of the governor's commercial HERE.

In the final analysis, I think Tom Corbett is going to learn the same basic lesson that Rick Santorum learned years ago, namely that while much of Pennsylvania is fairly conservative, it's not an ideologically conservative state.  There's a big difference between the two concepts; for example, most state residents want the government to be efficient and have low tax rates, but they have little empathy for politicians who spend significant amounts of time fixated on divisive social issues or engaged in ideological crusades (such as the war Governor Corbett has waged against public education).  Yes, contrary to what some groups would like, Pennsylvania residents will not vote in mass for Tom Corbett simply because he is against abortion.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I go through writing funks every now and then...

...and I am not sure why.  It's not as if there is a cause and effect dynamic at work.  In fact, I have been writing as lot, as evidenced by the 4 unpublished but recently worked on postings I have sitting in the blogger.com wings.  Now some of these postings are, shall we say, more developed than others, but they are all never the less unpublished.  In fact, based on a check of a moment ago, I officially have 17 unpublished, draft postings.  For the record, I officially have 1492 published postings.

Now I had thought about maybe getting to 1499 postings by next Friday, which would be the day before my birthday.  This would allow me to make posting number 1500 coincide with my " big day".  Alas though, I don't see that happening.

Side note:  years ago, I remember reading an interview with the song-writing members of the Swedish pop music group ABBA.  Benny and Bjorn (the aforementioned songwriters) were commenting about how, back during the group's prime years, they basically kept bankers hours while writing songs.  Now I know I am not a songwriter; heck, I'm barely a blog writer.  Never the less, I don't think I could simply churn stuff out as an occupation while working Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm (or whatever the Swedish equivalent of that would be).  Maybe this is why writing is simply a hobby for me.

Anyway, and getting back to my lack of blogging units, I have been thinking about a lot of different things and I actually do get ideas for postings all the time.  These ideas stream into my head with all the enthusiasm of West Virginians at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but when it comes down to actually writing stuff, well then they simply manage to peter out.  Maybe it's when I actually try to write, as I rarely have time in the mornings (although I have knocked out a posting or two before heading out to the office; think real stream of consciousness stuff) and quite frankly, by the time I get home in the evening I am usually too mentally tired to do anything requiring more than three functioning brain cells.  Now that past statement isn't entirely true, as I do have the energy sometimes, but it just seems that lately I haven't.

Maybe I should blame my childhood vaccinations.  Or Obamacare.  Or the militant right-wing Catholic radio station I have taken to listening to of late.

More likely, there is just this pseudo-circadian rhythm to how things work in my head.  I, like most folks, do the whole living ebb-and-flow routine, and there are just times when I don't really feel like writing.  That last statement is an odd thing for me to write, as I really do enjoy the act of writing, but it does have the benefit of being true.  There are a few things that I enjoy doing that I probably don't do enough.  Note to self:  do more stuff I enjoy during my second 50 years of existence.

Ah, maybe I am on to something.  Maybe all this writing block stuff is somehow related to my upcoming birthday.  Hmmm, let me ponder that one for a moment.



Nope, no connection between the two, although it did afford me the opportunity to insert a Winnie the Pooh clip.

In the final analysis, maybe I just need to push through a couple thoughts over the next few days, just to get the juices flowing.  Since I do this for me anyway, why not do it?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Repost - At the Garden of Gethsemane

I wrote this years and years ago and re-post it on Easters, at least some years.  This is one of those years.


* * * * * *

At the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the most insightful (at least for me) biblical stories is found in the Gospel of Matthew, and deals with Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane. In case you are not overly familiar with the story, it takes place the day before the Crucifixion. The details aren't so important to this discussion, other than Christ goes to this garden to pray, knowing that he would be betrayed by Judas, turned over to the Romans, and ultimately put to death.

Now what's so insightful about that?

Consider This: According to Christian teaching, Christ...being God...knew that by going to Gethsemane he would ultimately be put to death. At any point he could have changed his path and spared his own life, but he chose not to. He consciously sacrificed his own life, if you believe in Christian teaching, for the greater good of all mankind.

Consider This: To this day, people make conscious choices that ultimately lead to their death. For example, Father Mychal F. Judge, a Franciscan priest, went into the south tower of the World Trade Center after it had been hit by an airplane to minister to the wounded. While history doesn't record whether or not he thought he would die, it's pretty clear he knew what he was doing was exceptionally dangerous.

In the final analysis, some of us will be faced with our own "Garden of Gethsemane", where we need to make a choice between self-preservation or preservation of the greater good. Ultimately that is the most personal of decisions that anyone can make, and furthermore I doubt any of us are prospectively capable of saying what we would do if put into that situation. There is, however, no greater love that can ever be expressed than through the thoughtful and conscious act of sacrificing oneself for the greater good.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today's Wisdom, from the Facebooks

Courtesy of the page Kissing Fish.


Whether your consider yourself conservative or progressive, I think we can all agree actions mean far more than beliefs.  That's not to say that concepts like "belief" fail to impact what we do, but ultimately, as a wise person once told me, adults are absolutely responsible for their own behavior*.

So my recommendation to the Limousine Liberals and Tea Baggers alike out there is as follows:  stop talking about your beliefs (especially religious ones) and instead start putting those beliefs into into action.  Maybe start with acting on a sense of compassion for the sick and work your way from there.  The world will be a better place for your efforts.

I'll freely admit, however, that I have progress to make in the above referenced department, but I'll also note that I do try.  In the end, "trying" is a behavior.






(*) As a side note, from a mental health perspective adults are either:

a) Free to live out on their own, making life decisions and being responsible for their own behavior

OR

b) They are/should be institutionalized because some legal authority has determined that they can't function on their own.

Except of course in the case of someone who was institutionalized but then released prematurely, I do not believe there is much of a middle ground between the above statements.  Those who are suffering from mental illness and who are yet able to function in society absolutely carry a tremendously great burden, that's for sure, but part of that burden isn't just the illness...it's also the fact that they are responsible for accessing and acting on the treatment available to them, both from pharmacological and other avenues (such as counseling).  Put another way, those suffering from mental illness are not responsible for that illness, but they are responsible for what they do about that illness.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Taxing Taxes

I don't dislike paying my fair share in taxes.  I really, truly do not.  Now I know I am blessed in several ways, including:

1) I live in a free country (and we all know that freedom isn't free)
2) I have a good job that pay a good wage

...but yet I do find tax time to be, well, taxing.

The reasons are many.

First, I personally end up owing money to the federal government, despite my best efforts to the contrary.  Even this past year, when I did something I've never done before...namely hire someone to do my taxes...I still ended up owing money.  How much?  Well let's just say it was "enough", an amount in total equal to what I paid for my first three cars.  They were not expensive cars, by the way, but the point still stands.  Writing out the check is discouraging, but again, I know I am blessed.  Besides, that's not the most taxing part of the tax equation for me.

Second, what's most taxing for me is the fact that I help others with their own tax returns.  Now before I go any further, I want to note right off the bat that I don't mind doing the work, but it's the pressure that I dislike.  I want to get the returns right, and yet sometimes forms are missing, things need to be researched and other assorted complications arise.  Oh, and I would feel absolutely horrible if there was a mistake.  I suspect that this is part of the cost associated with being a Dad and a Brother.

By the way, despite the fact that I help others with their own tax returns, as noted above this was the first year of my life when I actually hired someone to do my own taxes.  Selling and buying a home, coupled with a few others changes simply made the 2013 return more complicated than I thought I wanted to tackle.  What's more, I was secretly hoping that maybe a paid tax professional would magically find me more money so as to get me to the magical place of breaking even.  Alas, while I was happy with the accountants work, I still owed money.  But, on the good news front, the accountant did tell me that for tax year 2014 the impact of paying mortgage interest will get me to at least break-even, if not better.  We shall see.

In the interim, April 15th can't come soon enough.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

10 Questions (& answers!) from the author of the blog "Lights, Cancer, Action!"

I've known Michele Orrson for many, many years.  We both started at the same employer at about the same time (although I think I have a year or two on her), and quite frankly she was always one of those really smart, really competent types that we all recognize at work.  She also writes a very interesting blog, "Lights, Cancer, Action!" that is one of my daily reads.  The blog is a fascinating collection of Michele's health-related thoughts, mainly centering on the benefits of eating a plant based diet, although she also opines on other topics as well.

Knowing Michele, I thought it might be interesting to pose a few questions to her about her blog, her causes and her life.  Needless to say, she was kind enough to actually respond to my request to play "10 Questions", the results of which are noted below*.

Enjoy.

1) So you really don't eat bacon?  Really?  Come on, I mean bacon is almost a separate food group for many Americans.  
LOL. Really. I don’t eat bacon. While I enjoyed bacon when I was an omnivore, I really don’t get all the hype. Bacon is everywhere! (And I’ll never understand the whole bacon and chocolate combo…) I guess I’ve read too many articles about it to be remotely tempted by bacon. When you consider it is a) red meat, and b) processed with nitrates and other carcinogens, it’s an easy choice. Luckily, I found a recipe for shiitake mushroom bacon. I know you are probably thinking “ew”, but it’s really good and fills that bacon void.


2) As someone who advocates a plant-based diet, are there plants that you know are good for you but which you just can't stand the taste?  If so, what are they?  Note that the sole intent in asking this specific question is to make me feel just a little bit better about my own horrendous dietary habits.
I can’t do Brussel sprouts. I have bad childhood memories of Brussel sprouts and can’t even bring myself to buy them. My husband loves them and keeps asking me to make them, but I haven’t been able to do it. Maybe someday. I also don’t make asparagus (although I will eat it if served out) and am totally not on the whole kale band wagon. I’ll take spinach over kale any day.


3) Do you consume any dairy products?
I try really hard not to eat any dairy, but I am not 100%. If I’m out somewhere and want a coffee, I will use milk, and I do occasionally sprinkle a little cheese on my pasta or black bean tacos. But, in general, I try to avoid it as much as possible. That said, I wouldn’t deny myself an occasional ice cream over the summer, and of course, there’s pizza…


4) You often times write about the direct link between diet and cancer, which makes me wonder the following:  why is it that some folks can eat lots of meat, processed foods, etc. and never end up getting cancer?
It’s not any different than a smoker who never gets lung cancer. We know cigarettes cause lung cancer, but there are those who manage to get through without getting cancer. I am certainly no expert on this, but my understanding is that it has to do with genetics. My first husband’s oncologist, a brilliant mind, told us to think about it like “switches” in the body. If there are, for purposes of illustration, six switches that need to be set for a specific cancer, you might be born with five of them set already. Somewhere in your lifetime, something flips the last switch and “boom”, you have cancer. Someone else may be born with only one switch set, genetically speaking, and even if their behaviors flip on a few more switches, they never get all six set, and so never get cancer. It was an interesting analogy that always stuck with me.


5) You've seen quite a bit of personal hardship in your life, and yet I know you to be a very positive individual.  How do you maintain such a healthy outlook on life?
Thank you for saying so. I try. But hmm, that’s a tough question.

I think it is the very hardships I have had in my life that allow me to be positive. Like a lot of other people, I have known adversity in many forms, and so I find am grateful for the little things. Cancer and the death of loved ones can give you great perspective. I try not to get bogged down by stupid things, because I know in the grand scheme, they don’t matter. I pray frequently, I try to trust and forgive people, and I try to live each day as my last, because we all just never know. I’ve had a lot of strong people in my life, particularly my parents, who have showed me by example how to gracefully manage through adversity. I’m not always perfect (sort of like the dairy), and I have my bad days, but I try to reflect on all my many blessings and that usually pulls me out of it. I think that’s a long winded way of saying grace and gratitude are the keys.


6) Do you ever make meat-based meals for the other members of your family?  How does that make you feel?
In the beginning of my whole-food, plant-based journey, I did make two meals. My main course would be their side dish, and I learned what they liked that way. Gradually, I eliminated all meats (beef, pork, poultry) but still made fish about once a week. I recently even stopped making the fish as often and everyone seems to be adjusting just fine. However, when we go out to eat, there’s no controlling them! It’s all about burgers and ribs and fish… it feels a little hypocritical to allow it, especially for my son, but I don’t want to make them crazy either.


7)  You occasionally refer to the impact that religious faith has in your life.  Can you tell me a little about your spiritual journey?
I was raised in a fairly strict Catholic family. Church was always a big part of my life. I was even part of my church’s music ministry for about 35 years. (That always makes me feel old to say that!) Several years after my first husband died, I fell in love with David, who was divorced. As I was a widow, I was free to re-marry in the Catholic Church, but David was not. We did not agree with getting an annulment since he had been married for many years and had three children. I was told that I could continue to attend church, but I would no longer be allowed to participate in the sacraments. I felt somewhat kicked to the curb by a church I loved, but I made my decision and thought I could live with the consequences. David and I married in a Methodist church, and I continued to raise my son Catholic until he had received First Communion. During his preparation, there were some parent classes and I remember being at one that focused on forgiveness. I had a really difficult time reconciling that message, as I would never be “forgiven” for marrying a divorced man. And yet, priests and others were being forgiven daily for much more unforgivable acts (at least in my opinion). I was finding that church was no longer a place of solace for me, but rather elicited some rather negative feelings. I had a deep spiritual need that was unfulfilled, and so, along with a dear friend, I began looking for a new church. We found the most amazing church very shortly thereafter, a non-denominational church, and have been attending there for the last 5 years. I have learned so much about the Bible, about my faith. The weekly teachings are so applicable to my daily life--I often think they are talking just to me! And it is not unusual for me to be moved to tears by the music or the message. I think I have always been a faithful person, but I have found a much deeper spiritual connection to God. I guess everything does happen for a reason. Sorry for the long-winded answer!


8) Do you occasionally cheat on your plant-based diet?  If so, what's your favorite food to cheat with?
I guess it depends on if you’re measuring it against vegetarianism or veganism, the latter being much more stringent. So let’s go with vegetarianism, since I already confessed to not being 100% vegan yet. (And note: I do eat fish/seafood occasionally; particularly if I am eating out…I’m not counting that as cheating for purpose of this question.) So with all the disclaimers out of the way, I can honestly say, since I started my whole-food plant based journey, I have “cheated” exactly twice. The first time was last Easter, when I had one piece of kielbasa. The second time was when my husband and I went to Ruth Chris’ Steak House for dinner. Friends had given us a gift card and my husband, of course, ordered a steak. I have heard so many great things about their steaks that I had to try one bite. Yes, just one bite. And you know what? It didn’t do anything for me.

So with Easter fast approaching, I guess there’s a chance that I will have another piece of kielbasa, which may not seem like a food worth cheating for, but, hey, it’s tradition!


9) You're also a musician.  What your favorite "guilty pleasure" music?  This would be something you listen to that other musicians would be shocked and appalled by, if they only knew.
I think they would actually be appalled at how little music I listen to. I know you have written a lot about your introversion, and I’m much the same. I can fake it really well, but deep down, I am an introvert and I like to spend a lot of time in my head… in silence. There is so little time in my day that has room for silence, so when I find it, I take it. On the odd chance I am listening to music, it is usually some combination of: the Wicked Soundtrack, Sirius 70’s on 7, classical when I can find something I know well enough to air conduct, Christian rock, and everything Dan Fogelberg. (Dan is the only artist whose entire collection I own.)


10) What's worse, having to call the HELP desk or having to go down to HR?
Help Desk, hands down! I try every avenue of assistance before I have to call them. I love my friends in HR!




(*)  The responses provided are exactly has Michele provided, without any editing on my part.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Testing the Faith

I've always been of the opinion that faith, at least as it is expressed in a religious context, has to be bigger than a single person.  Put another way, if you religious faith is depend or contingent upon a single person (or even group of persons), then you are simply asking to be disappointed.  Why?  Well we humans are tragically flawed creatures, prone to the kinds of failing that make us ill-suited for adulation.  God may be perfect, but this creation human is not.

As a side note, the above is one of the reasons why I find it distasteful that the late Pope John Paul II will be canonized a saint.  Was he a great man?  Well I didn't know him, but he certainly could fit the bill for the title "great".  Was he a Saint?  I'm not so sure, but I am sure that the rush to give him the official saint seal of approval probably has more to do with Roman Catholic Church politics and a desperate need for modern day role models than it does actual saintly acts.  Let's also not forget that, as great a man John Paul II was, he also basically led an organization that was actively covering up the abuse of children by members of his clergy.  He also lived in splendor while many lived in squalor.  Neither is what I would consider saintly behavior.

Anyway, I'm not writing about the pending sainthood of John Paul II today.  Instead, I'm writing about something far closer to home, namely allegations of sexual misconduct made against Father Philip Altavilla, the rector of Saint Peter's Cathedral in Scranton.  You can read more about it HERE.  Now before I go any further, I'll note...as I have before...the following:

I was raised a Roman Catholic.  I was an altar server for 10+ years.  I attended Catholic high school.  I was the president of the Catholic Student's organization during my senior year of college.  In all of that time, exposed to dozens of religious men and woman, not once...ever...was I touched in an inappropriate way nor was I ever even made to feel uncomfortable in a physical/sexual way.  In fact, many of the priests I met in my life (Father Yarish, Father Miller, Monsignor Lewis all come time mind right off the top of my head) were wonderful men of God and outstanding human beings.

I also realize though that others have had experiences not like mine.  The article I referenced above is very distressing in the sense that there are people who may in fact feel their religious faith is in jeopardy over what is happening within the Catholic Church.  While some may find this cause for celebration ("freedom from religion"), I don't, for the simple fact that I know the pain this will cause for those who are indirectly impacted*.  Now maybe some of these individuals were aware of the priestly abuse scandals that were reported in the news, but never really "felt" the impact, until now.  It must be a horrible feeling.

I don't have an religious equal to the above, by the way.  My falling out, if you want to call it that, with the Catholic Church wasn't the product of sudden jolt of an event; rather it was the end product of years that past when I realized that I simply never felt welcome in the Church.  It was a place where I would go, but to actually feel a sense of welcoming and belonging?  No, that only very rarely occurred.  Basically it was always this kind of club where I felt tolerated, at best.  There's also always been issues of dogma that have bothered me about the church.  For example, on one hand you have some proclaiming "pro life", but yet on another turning a blind eye towards anti-life policies such as the death penalty, needless war and poverty.  I appreciate the zeal of the anti-abortion movement, but let's be honest, there is a fair degree of hypocrisy at work in that area (for example, supporting candidates such as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a man who has arguably harmed the poor, education and the environment, but who is never the less supported because he is "pro-birth"**).   I also have this nagging sense that the Church exits, in some degree, to simply perpetuate itself...how else could anyone describe the covering up of sexual misconduct of priests and scandals such as those involving the Vatican Bank?  Jesus chased the money-changers out of the temple but in the case of the Vatican, they actually run some of the money-changing business.

Now what I will not do is simply surrender all of the faith that I learned and which is a part of me.  That will never change.  I will always pray in times of need.  I will always keep a few very special religious artifacts close to me.  I will always find a sense of beauty in church building.  I will always believe that, in some way or form, this existence we all have is simply too complex (and important) to just be some random result of molecules coming together.  There has to be more to this reality that what meets the eye.

In the final analysis, coming to terms with the fallibility of what you once considered infallible is a painful, all be it necessary, part of life.  I truly hope that the recent events noted above, while painful over the short term, will result in a real growth of spirit and understanding over the long term.



(*) The pain of those directly impacted...the abuse victim...is of course far greater.

(**) In reality, I suspect there are a some in the pro-life movement who are actually just "pro-birth".  They want babies born on one hand, but on the other, they deride the poor who have children as being "takers", "welfare queens", "lazy" and the like.  Newsflash:  if you want to claim to be pro-life, then you have to be pro ALL LIFE, not just the pre-birth kind that you find cute and innocent.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cock Fighters for Bevin

Watching two animals kill each other, simply to entertain humans, is sickening (at best).  Oh, and I'm not an extremest, anti-meat eating, tree-hugging fanatic either.  Rather, I was simply raised to believe that things like cock fighting are cruel and immoral.

Enter Tea-Bagger & Kentucky Senate candidate Matt Bevin.  Article HERE.

I guess he didn't see all the "legalize cock fighting" signs at the rally.

You can add this to the litany of Tea-Bagger candidates who seem to have a penchant for the stupid.  You can also add this to the list of candidates who proclaim to be "Christians" but yet hardly act "Christian".  From the candidate's own website (HERE) -

"Matt Bevin grew up in a financially humble home, built on a bedrock of strong Christian values, and was encouraged by his parents to pursue the American Dream."

Call me crazy, but somehow I don't think that Jesus of Nazareth would approve of people betting on which of two roosters was going to eviscerate the other. Animal cruelty?  Hardly a "Christian value".

Anyway, I hope Mitch McConnell cleans his clock in the GOP primary.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mount Garbage Anyone?

Yes, as if rampant public sector nepotism, a bankrupt city, high taxes, poor employment picture, crater-sized potholes, methane bubbling in water and higher than average death rates weren't enough, things in NEPA may very well manage to get worse.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...


Yes, the good folks at the Keystone Sanitary Landfill want to add 50 years of garbage capacity to their landfill via going skyward.  I kid you not...simply read the article.  They actually, literally, factually want to make a garbage mountain.

Look, I get it:  we need to put our garbage somewhere but do we really also need to put New Jersey's, Connecticut's and New York's garbage here too?  Seriously. when some folks say that "NEPA is a dump", little do they know that they are actually being factually correct.  Well technically it is a dump twice over, as we have two large ones within a few miles of each other.

This is truly a bad, bad idea.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Road Apples, #147

Redundancy in action...Ask a Canadian to say "About a boot".

Speaking of Canadians...I still keep wondering if the house prices you see listed on the various HGTV series are in dollars or loonies.  The latter may help to explain why they show janitors buying $300,000 homes.  I know I've pondered this before, but it just throws me for a loop, mainly because I watch so little TV I guess (and of what I do watch, 60%+ is the previously referenced HGTV).  The solution is to either watch more TV to balance things out or watch less.All the more reason to watch "Nicole Curtis: Rehab Addict", which is proudly made in the U.S. of A.  

Best logo, ever...from the Facebooks.

The Noah Movie...It's an interesting study in the way human being think to watch (and/or listen to) the reactions to the new Noah movie.  I've heard that some evangelical Christians are really incensed that the movie seems to take liberties with the biblical account of the flood.  Here's a sample, also from the Facebooks:
Now as I understand it, the biblical account of the flood isn't movie screenplay long, so of course any movie about Noah and the flood would need to take some liberties.  I'll also note that the "real" Noah didn't speak English with an Australian accent either, but I think the point is made.  Speaking of points, consider this:  from one perspective, this is an example of people getting upset at the fictional telling of a fictional story.  

Speaking of religion...I finished The Pope and Mussolini and am just about finished with another book that I put down in order to read the Pope book.  Next up?  Eternal Life: A New Vision:  Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell by John Shelby Spong and The Protestant's Dilemma by Devin Rose.  It's a kind of yin-yang deal I have got going.  For someone who is not overly religious (although I do "confess" to praying), I do enjoy reading about religion and religious philosophies.  I wonder why?  Well part of it started back when I was in high school and I read every single book the Scranton Public Library had on the subject of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I didn't read the books because I wanted to convert, but rather because I was simply fascinated with something so very different.  Going back before high school, I'm convinced that the fact that I was raised a strict Catholic and knowing nothing about other religious (well, other than the fact that I was told they were "wrong") made me all the more interested in other religions.  Anyway, I've probably read a hundred or so books that either directly or indirectly deal with religion, and I've yet to read anything that would even remotely cause a conversional stir in my bones...but I still find the subject matter to be interesting.

Glenn Beck...is being sued for defamation of character.  Story link HERE.  Ironic that someone who throws verbal bombs for a living is being sued for accusing someone else of being involved in a real bombing.  One does get the impression that Mr Beck really, truly wants to be taken seriously.  Of course it would help if he would stop acting like an ass-clown, but I suspect that he's no more capable of making that leap than my cat JeanLuc is capable of actually answering me when I talk to him.  Anyway, with Glenn Beck it's important to consider the source; Charles Krauthammer he is not.


That's right Glenn, "everybody have fun tonight, everybody Wang Chung tonight".

On Writing...I tend to write the Road Apples postings in chunks.  For example, this posting started with the first two points one evening, then a few were added this morning.  It's now Wednesday evening as I write this, and quite frankly, it's time to put this bad boy to bed.  But not without one more item.

Staff Meetings...Today and tomorrow are full team staff meetings in my little work corner.  That means folks from three other locations coming to Scranton for a day and a half of meetings and the like.  For me, it's a difficult time.  Simply put, it requires so much extroversion when these things occur. All the activities are designed around what gives extroverts energy.  It's a energy drain, such that by the time everything was done for today at about 7pm I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I have no more to give.  I really don't want to do much more talking.  I want to write, read, and maybe watch a bit of TV.  Tomorrow is a new day full of extroversion.  No doubt I'll be beat by the time it ends.  Maybe I should have become an engineer after all.