Monday, November 11, 2019

WHAT DOES LOYALTY TO JESUS MEAN TODAY? Article of the week.

Do you read Jim Wallis? Wallis writes articles, books, and web-based material. I'll give you a link to  the best articles I've read during the week past. It's Wallis on what loyalty to Jesus means now.

A bit of introduction to Wallis. He leads a movement, "the Sojourners," which shapes and leads Christian social action guidance. When I studied theology in  Chicago, Wallis and his group were centered in suburban Chicago as well. We (my classmates and I) looked to him to leadership in thought and action in the civil rights struggle.

I've encountered Jim since then as well. In Tacoma in 2001 he spoke to a community gathering in St. Leo Parish (Roman Catholic).

Now Wallis has shifted attention to the current poisoned political atmosphere. He continues to provide leadership to American Christians--both in thought and deed.

This month Jim has published a new book. He's written an brief article introducing some of the main points in the book.  Read the article, get the book. Either way, look for the spirit conveyed in his words.

The theme is The Caesar Question: Where does your loyalty lie?" Jesus faced this issue. Now we do.

If your loyalty lies with Jesus you'll get some clear instruction from Jim on what that means today. Instruction, or thought-provoking questions at the very least.

Here's the link.  Enjoy the read. And learn.




Jim Wallis, World Economic Forum, 2012
via Wikimedia


licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Saturday, November 2, 2019

OLD AGE ARTICLE BORN BRAND NEW THIS LAST WEEK

Last week I realized that I read a lot. Every single week I read articles from the best sources, like The New Yorker,  Why not share the best of the best with you via this blog? Let me give it a try with this post.

Today I share a reference to an article by a seventy-one year old, the esteemed Arthur Krystal, that tickled my aging ribs.  I recommend that you read it too. On-line if you're young enough to appreciate that medium at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/04/why-we-cant-tell-the-truth-about-aging. Or, if you're in the older decades of life, run over to the public library to read it in a real magazine. Look for November 4, 2019 issue.

The article is a wry review of recent works on aging, written by a variety of  persons such as scientists, psychologists, ancient and modern philosophers. You'll get all kinds of ideas on the experience of aging.

As Krystal says: "Now that we're living longer, we have the time to write books about living longer."  We also have the time to read articles and books about living longer. All to the better.

Krystal's is one of the best articles of the week in this old guy's opinion.

D.R.


Old Man with Long Hair
Photographer: Subhams
Via Wikimedia




Tuesday, October 1, 2019

CHILL IT (GLOBAL WARMING)--WHAT MILLENIALS (AND THE REST OF US) CAN DO ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

Chill It (Global Warming:) what millenials (and the rest of us) can do about it.

There are global Limits to Growth, as Dennis Meadows has tried to teach us. Meadows has influenced my life. 

Meadows is still sharing.Read his interview in "Der Spiegel" (in English.) 

But why has Meadows’ message not sunk in? It seems so obviously accurate and truthful. But it goes against the lies of politicians and the needs of industrial progress. Against the real needs of an overpopulated world.

Fortunately, new crusaders including youthful millennials are coming to the fore. Perhaps they can get the attention of the rich and powerful.

One great example--Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old activist from Sweden. The tale is told in “The New Yorker,” September 30, 2019. I love her ability to express her concern--her outrage, her spunk. 

September 30, 2019. Greta arrives in the U.S. after sailing  to cross the Atlantic from Europe to New York as a protest against fuel-guzzling air flights. In New York she addressed a meeting at the United Nations. (Upon her arrival by boat she was asked, "What do you think about New York?" She answered, "It smells." Source: New Yorker article.)

Just at this current moment the anti-green, pro-fossil fuel United States government autocratically reverses the baby-steps made earlier on climate control. Perfect for Greta and millions of millennials cry out and resist. And resist they must, along with the rest of us. we older “limits” people--Dennis Meadows and the rest of us--keep up the work.

Greta and others believe there’s about a decade left until we cross a dividing line. After we cross the line, the battle is lost. Now’s the time for action.

Personally, in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. I’ve watched the winter snows entirely disappear from the slopes of Mt. Hood, east of Portland, OR. That did not happen when I was young. I’ve watched the retreat of the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier, east of Tacoma, Washington. On the road to Paradise as a child then peeking out of the window of my parents' car, I saw the Nisqually River emerge from the snout of the Nisqually glacier, easily within sight from the bridge. Last year I drove the same route. The glacier was not in sight from the bridge. The glacier had shrunk back around a corner. See what I mean on this map. (click to expand, look for Nisqually River and the Glacier.)  


Mt. Rainier: Nisqually Glacier (it's melting, losing to climate change) in its valley, lower right.
In the public domain via Wikimedia

What’s to be done? Let Greta Thunberg be our model. And pick up where Meadows points us to go. Alert voters! Elect candidates who’ll put environmental sanity high on their agenda. To honor the limits to growth do this: Read. Get motivated. Act. Influence others.

Thanks for reading. Reactions? Leave a comment.  

Saturday, August 3, 2019

COMMUNITY HIKING EXPERIENCE? BERRY PICKING? WHY NOT BOTH AT THE SAME TIME?


Wild blackberries.  
  • Finding 'em.
Finding 'em was a cinch. Right there in front of me. Almost daily I walk the trail; you can see a hint of the trail just behind Lucy in the first photo. The Gettman Loop Trail (click the link for great photos) in Newberg, OR.  

I told Lucy about the berries. They line parts of the western section of the trail for 1/4 mile or so. Lucy is a real berry picker from childhood on. I figured she'd be tempted. But there was a surprise and here's how she surprised me.

A couple of days later, after I'd forgotten the conversation about the berries (blame dementia I guess), I was preparing for my daily walk. (4 miles around the Gettman Loop plus getting to the Loop from, and then returning to, our home.)

Anyhow, Lucy said, "Can I go with you today?"

"Sure," I said, surprised that she'd want to walk that entire distance. 

We walked and walked: down into the Stonybrook gulch, back up the other side, through the forest, south along the farmer's field on the left and the golf course on the right, then down through the primeval forest again for a second crossing of Stonybrook, puffing back up the slope to the golf course, and then finally heading north toward our home. 


                               


But before we left the trail we reached the long hedge of berries, Lucy surprised me again. She pulled a plastic Kroger grocery bag from her pocket and said, "Can we pick some berries?"

See that grin on her face? I said "Yes. " She enjoys picking great berries, especially if they're free.

  • Pick 'em.

So we picked. And picked. These blackberry bushes have enormous thorns--for self-protection against pickers like us I guess. We continued despite the risk. Suppose you stretch to reach a berry, trip and fall forward into the hedge of berries. I don't want to talk, think, or write about that right now! But it did cross my mind while we were picking. No pain, no gain I guess. 

A male hiker stopped to inquire about our picking project. We chatted gleefully about the free berries. As he turned to run on, I called out, "These are for sale, you know."

He chuckled and kept on jogging.

A second young jogger stopped. She and Lucy chatted for some time about the varieties of berries in Oregon: raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries and, of course, wild blackberries. When I asked Lucy about the conversation she said, "What a pleasant hello." 

When we'd half-filled the bag we headed for home.

  • Bake a pie.

Back at home Lucy washed the berries and prepared them for pie filling. After supper we ate a couple of  pieces of the award-winning level pie. I mean, if she'd entered the pie into the contest at the Oregon State Fair she'd have won the blue ribbon. I just know that. Fantastic taste: pungent, sweet, powerful berry taste that I'd been missing for decades since my berry-picking as a kid.

The next evening we hosted a family event: a visit from our adult daughter and her two teenagers plus her adult friend and her teenage son. We shared the rest of the pie together after our Friday evening walk visiting art galleries in downtown Newberg. The pie was a hit!






Now I'm thinking that next summer we'll be out on the Gettman Loop picking berries and then (I hope) preparing pie (or even pies--plural! Why not?) 


Do you have a wild berry pie story to share? Please click "comment" and have a go at it, either here or on Facebook. Let's build a wild blackberry picker community!


P.S. Supportive prayers for those shot dead in El Pasto and their  bereaved families! Just as I posted this, the news arrived.    Dear God, when will we develop the guts to control guns? Don't get me wrong. I've owned a rifle. I've killed my game. I'm not opposed to gun ownership. I live in the once-wild West of the U.S.A. But I want my grandkids to feel safe in their communities. I myself want to feel safe as I walk through the dense woods on the Loop Trail in my community. I want strict gun control.)





Saturday, July 27, 2019

HOW (JUST THE SIGHT OF) VINTAGE CARS CAN HELP YOU LIVE BETTER NOW


My dear wife and I live in a community--Newberg, Oregon--that celebrates "the old days" every summer.  The Newberg Old Fashioned Festival is in full swing this weekend, July 25-27. It's a weekend of summer fun: kids towing their homemade floats in the parade, jazz band entertainment, and aisles of booths with vendors selling things old and new, including food items like "elephant ears." 

Ever had elephant ears? What are they? A sort of thick, pliable pancake. Perhaps you've seen them--at your state fair maybe. We ordered one elephant ear. We decorated it with toppings. One elephant ear divided equally between our friend and the two of us and we were absolutely stuffed!







A week earlier my wife and I noticed perhaps thirty-some antique cars in a parking lot a half-block from our house. What had brought them to our neighborhood? we wondered. We walked over to the display to find out. We examined cars from the 1950s and even earlier. Obviously their owners had restored them to tip-top shape and now were making them available for inspection (but not for rides unfortunately.) 

These cars brought back wonderful memories of our own youthful days. My wife posed beside one old Chevrolet that reminded her of a car she'd owned for a couple of years just after her college graduation.

Next and below, a makeover of an even older car and its owner.  Beside it, a restored delivery van. And so on.





Finally, me, beside another oldie. A Chevy again.





We were filled with joy there, amongst these beautiful restored old cars. It was like we'd seen them before. Just the sight of them brought back tons of memories.

But we still wondered, why were they in this parking lot on this day? When we asked someone, we found that the cars really were there for memory care patients, residents in a specialized memory care clinic across the street. With that we realized, of course! Relatives and care staff were bringing the patients--most of them in wheelchairs--from the clinic to the car show, where they could exercise their memories of cars like ones they might have used decades ago. The car club, we learned, showed their cars here, annually, to help memory care patients re-kindle some images from their earlier lives. 

Why not go old-fashioned for a day or two on a fine summer afternoon/evening time? 

I'll tell you that for us our city's old-fashioned days gave us these three really valuable experiences:

  • 1, remember trips from home to college, dormitory to drive-in or to the movies, in cars that resembled some we'd seen in the display;
  • 2, appreciate community support of patients who've basically lost their memories but will re-discover some if prompted by sights like the old cars; and 
  • 3, an experience away from our house, away from our devices like phones, computers and TVs, to get out in the open air with others of every age, having fun with varied age groups under a glorious blue sky dotted with white cumulus clouds.

You CAN really help keep your community or nation healthy and great. Bring people together over social/class/racial lines to celebrate something in common, such as the best of the old fashioned days.

Are we ridiculous for lifting up community-building while leaders on the right bash critics with wild words of abuse that have never been equalled in the U.S.? You decide.

For me, it's better to recall, build, face the future with memories of the past to guide you.  Build on that foundation. Make your community and nation great.


P.S. I try to post each weekend: building community and society with positive ethics and values.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

EXPERIENCE HOPE. THERE'S REASON TO HOPE (AND WORK) FOR A BETTER TOMORROW



You survey your cultural landscape. Maybe you're looking at a boundary. Well, perhaps more than one. Many boundaries around you? Probably. 

Down below in the photo, you see the fence? On this side of the fence, a patio. Note the potted bamboo to the left. I bought the plant in Seattle about ten years ago, planted it in a tub and hoped for growth. The plan has lived in DuPont, Washington and in Manzanita and Bethany, Oregon. But my hope for beautiful bamboo wasn't realized. The plant stayed alive, but barely. I sometimes thought of dumping it.  ("Toss it out! Toss it out!"}

But I always decided that I liked the plant, maybe because of nostalgia. It reminded me of the Greenwood neighborhood where I bought it, very close to the Tibetan monastery. So, despite its failure to fulfill my hopes for it, I saved it anyhow.

When we moved to Newberg, OR, the bamboo traveled in the moving van. Here, amazingly, now it's really, finally prospered. Same tub, same care, but lots more life and more green. Hope realized? I'll say so. But only after a very long wait, a lot of patience and some care-giving.

(If  Trump reads this he'll invent a new campaign cheer: "Green It Up! Green It Up!" But he'd probably be thinking of American paper money, not bamboo.)

In the photo, beyond the fence and across the street you'll see another reminder of hope. The building houses Marquis Newberg, a medical specialty business suppling licensed nursing care for people in need.



Image preview



A typical example: an older person is admitted to a Portland area hospital for surgery. The hospital sees realizes that after surgery the patient is ready for discharge but not directly to home. The discharge staff connects the patient for post-op care with Marquis Newberg. Just across the street from my patio, just past the bamboo, ill and recovering patients arrive every day by ambulance, medical transport van or private car. I visited a patient in Marquis. He was grateful for the staff and their skills. . .they gave just what he needed at that point in his recovery. They give hope beyond. 

Those are signs of hope I see when I look out of the window at the patio and the neighborhood. Scenes of hope up close.


People weaken and stumble if they don't have hope. If you're looking at America across the pond from your home in Asia or Europe or Africa I know it's become difficult to be hopeful about America's role in the world. It's not like the days of President John F. Kennedy, when the U.S. began to send Peace Corps volunteers to assist communities in Africa, Asia and elsewhere with their needs. Many, perhaps most, Americans themselves are losing hope also.

What to do? Take a few days to rest and recovery, like a patient in skilled nursing. Get the emotional care you need--maybe from a group you've joined or from your reading or meditation. Come back to hopefulness, like the bamboo. The potential is there; we need to create the right conditions.

If you regain hope, others will too. Together, we can move our nation, our world, back to our central values: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, peace and justice. It won't happen without plenty of care and cultivation. When election time comes, vote for candidates that espouse values: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

COMPUTER-DRIVEN HOMO SAPIENS-- THE NEAR FUTURE. Reviewing Harari, "Sapiens."



My "implanted computer chip" told me to review this book:





How long has "mankind," (hereafter referred to as "Sapiens" to be consistent with Harari's usage) been around on earth?

Where did humans originate?

What about the domestication of plants and animals: when, where?

How and when was the planet knit into a single area by Sapiens?

These are  questions addressed by Harari, but also by previous scholars.

So how is Harari unique? What's different about his book that makes it worthwhile reading?

Harari points out that history writers tend to focus on great thinkers, warriors, saints and great artists. (P. 396.) That focus leaves a big gap--a lack of attention to the happiness and suffering of individuals. Specifically, in his chapter entitled "And they lived happily ever after," he writes that ". . .happiness consists in seeing one's life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness." (P. 391.) He intends to fill the gap, which makes his history of Sapiens unique and worth reading.

But the final chapter is a true denouement, a real surprise. After writing for four hundred pages on the amazing rise of us Sapiens, he ends the book with Chapter 20, "The End of Homo Sapiens."

In Chapter 20, Harari asserts that "the replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen through the engineering of human beings. (P. 399.)  ". . .there seems to be no insurmountable technical barrier preventing us from producing superhumans." (P. 403.)  "Tinkering with our genes won't necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo sapiens."

Even now, researchers are attempting to create cyborgs: ". . .beings which combine organic and inorganic parts." Imagine humans with bionic arms that are operated by thought. Even more revolutionary, think of a two-way computer-brain interface. (P. 407.) 

Harari writes that "culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology." (P. 409.) Future technology will be able to change "Homo Sapiens" , including emotions and desires. Perhaps his strongest statement: ". . .all the concepts that give meaning to our world--me, you, men, women, love and hate--will become irrelevant."

Questions that occur to me:

1. Who, exactly, would program the control computer that directs the future cyborgs?  

2. Would a democracy be possible in a cyborg world?  

3. Are there any safeguards designed to safeguard freedoms such as freedom to believe?

I admire Harari's writing style. He's dealing with heavy stuff but writes in a popular and witty manner. That's a strength of the book. Another strength: his concern for us Sapiens and our futures. 

My advice: get the book, read it, react to it.