The Age of Words

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It was almost a year ago that I put a note into my possible post topics file about this. Still not sure I have enough to say, coherently, for a significant length post, but I’ll cobble what I do have.

My original note was to post about “people not letting me read their shirts”.

Since that time, especially in the past month or so, I have been observing how many of the shirts that people wear for leisure have something written on them. A lot of it is advertising a brand, or an event, or a social group. Some of it is social commentary, or in-your-face statements about the other person, you and life.

But all of this really emphasizes that we are a very literate-focused culture. I’m not saying that any of this is really literary — good grammar, precise prose, poetic diction and skilled use of metaphor — but everyone can read in one form or another, to use the tech of our day.

Words are every where. Sure, artwork is wrapped within it, but the written word, in the social media and graphic arts, has taken our culture over. The number of shirts, to get back to my original musing, that don’t have something written on them, is much smaller than those that do.

One would think that all these words meant something to the people that put them on, that since they are advertising or proclaiming social commentary, that they would want people to be able to read what is written. Yet my experience is that most people don’t pay attention to how their words are displayed, or ever give thought to whether anyone else can read what is said.

Most of the time people tend to occlude at least part of what is there, so someone like me, who is captive to reading everything he sees, has to make guesses about what is said, or seem to gawk and be impolite to read the statements, invade someone else’s personal space to do so.

If everyone would be considerate, says the totally impractical side of me, they would make sure I can read their shirts whenever they go by, or I go by.

So, what do the rest of you think? Are you a slave to reading everything you see? How do people’s shirts and clothing slogans affect or attract your attention?

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The villany of being the anti-totalitarian leader

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What is your opinion of someone who does something “good” or “right”, but does it the wrong way, without following the rules, the system, ignoring the will and rights of others in the process? Is it right? Does the end justify the means?

My problem of late is that the people who are claiming the moral high ground, are also claiming the moral relativity of the end justifies the means.

What am I thinking about? A lot of things. Let me illustrate with the DACA issue — something I have followed not exceptionally close, and yet can easily see a lot of problems with the situation.

Let’s go back to the election. Before being elected president, a lot of the Trump-nay-sayers were warning us about his totalitarian tendencies. We would all lose our rights and get herded into prison camps, etc. etc. Yet what are the people complaining about with DACA? That he is choosing to NOT exercise extra-constitutional powers like his predecessors, but is actually reigning in the “discretionary” powers of the presidency.

Trump has indicated that he has no problems with the DACA policy in concept, but it is just one more presidential extra-constitutional policy that he is rolling back — the exact opposite of the totalitarian image we have been warned about. If congress were to pass the same policy, constitutionally, he would have no problem with it.

And yet, because he is choosing to follow the law, to live within the law, instead of putting himself above the law, he is now the villain.

What of those who are saying this, making him the villain? Do they have respect for the rule of law, for the rights of others?

They claim they are fighting for justice for those who were benefited from DACA. But DACA isn’t a matter of justice. The people benefiting from DACA had no rights to what they received from DACA. DACA was an act of compassion and mercy. Too many people out there have justice and mercy confused. It isn’t wrong to exercise mercy. It is wrong to exercise mercy to one person through injustice to someone else.

Let’s go back to my first paragraph. Exercising mercy without following the rules, the system, ignoring the will and rights of others in the process, is mercy WITHOUT justice.

Since many of the people I know objecting to the DACA removal are religious, Christian figures, I will throw in a scripture verse. Micah 6:8

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

These people are getting this confused, and trying to do mercy by perverting justice.

A dear pastor friend of mine shared the post of someone else about DACA. Based on his previous statements, and the way he shared the post, I am afraid he agrees with her post. I am disappointed he does, because of the descriptions and attitudes she expresses that are intolerant and unchristian.

She declares that the DACA rollback is both immoral and “unbiblical” (must be an 11th commandment somewhere in scripture that it breaks that I haven’t read yet).

But the worst line, really, is this one:

If any of you want to argue with me, I will unfriend you, ESPECIALLY if you are a so-called Christian, and especially are a pastor. It only means you’ve bought into the heretical White Amurican (SIC) Nationalism they’ve been shoveling and I’ve no capacity for you, you goat. If you wish to ask questions, that’s different. But if I even detect a remote amount of fight in you, you’re out. And if you wish to unfriend me, well I don’t need the likes of you anyways, you cruel hearted fool. And if all of this is too much for you and not “Christlike” enough – take this as a turning the tables moment.

If this is an example of toleration, then give me bigotry. This sort of attitude is an example of what C.S. Lewis warned us about:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. ― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

These Christians would rob everyone who does not agree with them of their free will to disagree and make their own decisions, because they are so sure of their own righteousness. They are modern-day Claude Frollos, the Pharisees of our times.

To clarify my position: I have nothing against the policies inherent in DACA,  but I will not sacrifice the rule of law, freedom or speech or freedom of conscience for it. Nor will I unfriend or troll anyone over this issue. I leave to others their free will to act as they see fit on these items.

 

Should we use food grains to create gasoline?

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As someone who grew up in the farming community (dairyman’s son), I have a passing acquaintance with some of the agricultural issues of the day. Thus I have heard the talk, back and forth, about the pros and cons of using ethanol from grain as an energy source.

Which is why I found this video from the Peterson Farm Bros an interesting take on the process.

One of the chief complaints made about ethanol is that it is creating food scarcity by using food for fuel. In their video, the Petersons make the case that it actually benefits both the food supply and the fuel supply.

Ethanol is created by the fermentation of sugars. Most of those sugars are gotten from various grain crops. The demand for ethanol increases the demand for the crops it is made from. This increases the price of those crops, making them more profitable for the farmers to grow.

But besides benefiting crop farmers, it also benefits livestock farmers. Livestock farmers use the byproducts of the ethanol process, called DDGs. I looked up the definition:

Distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are the nutrient rich co-product of dry-milled ethanol production. Its utilization as a feed ingredient is well documented as both an energy and a protein supplement.

How does this work? The ethanol plant uses the starch from the plants to create the energy in the fuel for cars and other vehicles. The livestock farmers use the protein from the plants, now concentrated in the DDGS, to supplement the feed they are giving their livestock.

This cycling of the byproducts back into livestock production efficiently ensures that all parts of the plant are used, and nothing wasted, by the production of ethanol.

Besides the benefit to farmers, it also benefits consumers. It reduces dependency on foreign oil and is a renewable  sustainable energy source. It does not take food away from people or livestock

 

 

“The World Series is baseball…”

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That is what started a very interesting lunch conversation I had today at Worlds of Fun. Unbenownst to me, the initial speaker had seen a poster behind me about “The World Series of Barbecue”, and had used that to spark his initial statement.

This led to a conversation about baseball, and how the World Series actually is just the United States, well, maybe Canada as well, there is a team or two there (you can tell how little about sports I know). The original speaker mentioned Japan also playing  baseball, to which I said, it might be a good thing we don’t play them, they might beat us in the world series. LOL

Which spun the topic to the question of Japan. We compared the responses of China and Japan to the pushes by the West to open both of them to Western trade.  China resisted, and events were forced in without their control. Japan was forced open, but greeted it and learned. We discussed how well Japan maintained its own culture while assimilating the technology and many cultural things from the west. With my family’s interest in Japanese anime, we noted how well they blended a uniquely Japanese outlook with many Western images and themes in the movies we watch.

One we watched today, “From Up On Poppy Hill”, had some significant sections of the movie where the theme music was this excellent American-style jazz music, but it worked very well in the flow of the movie, done in a uniquely Japanese way.

We reflected this back to the United States, with how it assimilated people and ideas from many different cultures into the unique freedom of the American experience.

I also reflected to the county of India, and its use of assimilation: How it took the influences of its colonial British masters and used them to pull together all the languages and cultures of the Indian Subcontinent, in a very Indian way, to form a very functional, diverse, secular representative state — in its own way more amazing than the assimilation and diversity of the United States.

And yet, even so, the United States is unique. The United States is an idea. You can be French, or German, or Japanese, or even Indian, without believing anything specific. You cannot be American, truly American, without believing a certain overarching gestalt.  People come to the United States, add their uniqueness, and join our gestalt about what it means to be free. Thus, we are threatened, subtly and invisibly, to the core when people come live in our territory but refuse to become a part of the gestalt. That is what may one day truly unwind the Republic — a lack of belief.

As you can see, this wasn’t a tight logical syllogism, but a general bouncing from principles of related concepts into a generalized whole.

I posited the fact that our unique freedom of ideas brought creative people from all over the world to the USA to try out their ideas and make them a success. Not that many didn’t do the same in their home countries, but other countries didn’t have the same influx of people for that reason.

I also posited that, while many people claimed that we impoverished the world and hogged all the wealth to ourselves, that the truer answer is that our exchanges of wealth with the rest of the world grew their economies, and lifted people out of poverty to a greater degree of affluence than they ever had. The metaphor/phrase “a rising tide lifts all ships” was mentioned.

Then we used the idea of ships differently. If the ship of our economy flounders or sinks, too many others sink with it. Our actions have consequences, and while an “America First” policy sounds good, it is only good if it recognizes the secondary effects we have on other people.

I illustrated, through the smaller example of our family, how taking care of oneself is important to be able to take care of others. As the father I need to take care of myself so I can provide for the rest. The hunters in the tribe ate first, so they might have strength to catch the food to feed the rest. But it was a necessity of service that provides for self first, not anything of better stature.

Then we brought it back around to how we need to be very conscious of the secondary effects of our actions. As the big economy in the world, we can’t do anything without consequences, nor can we just withdraw from the world. Not that we couldn’t learn to be a little more circumspect in how we intervene or not. It is too easy to be the giant in the playground, doing things to make ourselves feel good, while actually making things worse. Just because something sounds good, looks good, doesn’t mean it is good, or doesn’t have bad unintended consequences.

We discussed the concept of the “superior American” who goes around the world looking down on everyone else. I mentioned that many of the British at the height of their empire had the same thing. But our real attitude should be one where we feel, we know, we are unique because of our idea, our gestalt, but at the same time not look down on others because they aren’t Americans.

As I said above, America is different from the world, being an idea. I don’t think we realize how that makes us different: we see the world differently than they see us. There are many ways we just don’t understand each other, while being absolutely sure that we do.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, when we remember those who laid down their lives so we might be free, along with all our other loved ones who went before, let us be ever mindful, let us be serious, about the idea that is America, and not too serious about ourselves at the same time. And let us realize that we do live in a different world from the other countries of this globe, a world of ideas has been changing this globe for the past three centuries and hopefully will continue to do so for another three.

We see … and do not see …

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I recall the talks I have had with my daughter about her powers of observation. She sees a lot of things we do not, yet some of the things we expect her to see she does not.

We attend the same places over and over again. We go to the park, to the same restaurants, to church, etc., with the same service people. But she does not notice or recognize the same people who wait on her day after day, even though many of those people recognize and greet her with familiarity.

I have encouraged my family to be aware of the people around them, and to notice the people who work for them and serve them. Showing these people recognition, the often unrecognized, is an important part of humanizing them and the interactions we have with them.

And while I point out this lack of observation on my daughter’s part, I also will admit to places where I similarly miss observations, or mis-interpret them.

In my runs and bike rides around my neighborhood, I have come across cars with people resting in them. Based on their conditions, and repetitions of sightings, I have wondered, finally, after time, whether some of these people might actually be living in these vehicles..

But if so, what would/should my response be? Or am I mis-interpreting these observations?

There is always a lot going on around us, and what we see, and how we see it, can be very important. We can be like my daughter, who seems to miss the people. Or we can be like me, seeing something, uncertain what it means, or what to do.

Even worse, can be the people who see, who observe, and who decide for themselves what is going on and treat those people that way, without realizing what is really going on with them. Speaking for someone who does not want to be spoken for, in a way they don’t want to be represented, is even worse than missing them entirely.

One can observe and do good, by really seeing the person. One can observe and choose a “good” that isn’t good, by seeing a type, a group, a class, and ignoring the person himself for the good one has already decided is needed.

 

“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast” … Proverbs 12:10

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We have domesticated beasts, and we have beasts in the “wild” around us. Man takes a role of steward of both, especially as our habitats start to surround those of the “wild” instead of the other way around.

I remember growing up on the dairy, and the way dad cared for the cattle, nursing the cows and calves. I can also remember our part of the “circle of life” each fall, when we climbed the back hill, when of age, during the fall season, and sat and waited to hunt the deer. Many a time when a shot hit, and the animal was hurt, it as a responsibility to follow the animal, track it, and ensure it didn’t end its life in undue misery. As much as lieth in us, we took responsibility to ensure that any suffering necessary was swift and limited.

Today I don’t live on the farm, in the country in Upstate New York. I live in the suburban sections of the city of Kansas City, MO. We have a lot of “wildlife” in our suburban neighborhoods. Squirrels, woodchucks, deer, continue to grow and multiply, becoming less frightened and moving closer to the people.

On my ride to work on Friday, I turned the corner from Walker Road to Armour Road in North Kansas City, when I saw a deer a few yards ahead of me on the shoulder I ride to work on the part of the road. I thought it was dead, kneeling on all four of its legs, but then I saw its ears flap faintly, and move its head slightly.

The deer had obviously been hit, but I didn’t see a vehicle nearby. It couldn’t have been a long time ago, since the deer was still alive. Since there was no car,no humans to be concerned about, my thought went to how I could help the deer, put it out of its misery.

Since my route goes by the North Kansas City city hall, with the police department headquarters, I rode my bike up to the door and tried to enter. It was locked, and if there was a call button of some sort, I couldn’t find it. Looking through the class to the police window, I couldn’t see the presence of any officers. So I had to leave and head to work.

It wasn’t until this week that I found a police officer at a light, and flagged him to tell him about the dead deer, which by this time was bloated with legs sticking out. He asked where it was, and I told him, and he said he would call the Department of Conservation to take care of it. So I guess they are the ones that take care of deer. I’m not sure if they take care of dogs, possum, squirrels,  etc. And I still don’t know how to contact them.

Epilogue:

We get disconnected from things like these, have people who do stuff for us so we don’t think, and soon we aren’t a part of nature anymore, so our “stewardship” gets full of crazy “green” ideas not associated with reality, or regarding the life of  man and beast.

Densel Ray Ball II: A Demi-Eulogy

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Today’s post is going to be a very dangerous one. For while I won’t be speaking evil of the dead, I may not be speaking with high enough praise to satisfy everyone.

The deceased, Densel Ray Ball II, was a dear friend of mine, though definitely others knew him better and closer. My choices, and those of my family, took us out of his closer orbit, but still left my son and I within the greater orbit of his friendship.

Densel passed away on April 27, following complications from an automobile accident on the afternoon of April 21. He left behind his wife of 21 years, Denise, and two children, Jacqueline and Ty.scan0004

The service, as all funerals and eulogies tend to be, praised the man highly, as was true and right. People talked of his faith, of his care for others, the way he walked with his head up, reaching out to those around him. They portrayed the truth of his faithfulness: to his God, to his Family, to his Church, to his friends and fellowman.

I first knew Densel when he came to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church as pastor. We were between two churches, deciding which one to attend, and eventually chose the other church (close and specific programs). But we kept track of friends at Cornerstone through Facebook, and eventually when they started a men’s breakfast, my son and I started attending, and renewed old and developed new friendships.

And Densel was there, and I renewed friendship with him, and found his care and reach deepen with me and my son.

I also saw how he reached out to the staff at the restaurant, first at Home Town Buffet, and then Golden Corral. The way he observed everyone and reached out, and prayed for everyone, really was true.

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The amazing thing about it, was that once he established the connection, the rest of us, less open to reach out, learned and grew to continue the connection on the times he wasn’t there. He was faithful, seeing Christ in everyone, and he taught us all to learn how to do the same.

Yet, with all that, there was also another side to Densel. The oblivious side. Because that demeanor to reach out to everyone, doesn’t work for everyone. My wife never felt comfortable with it, and Densel never seemed to realize that fact, never changed or modified himself to meet her that way. Because of his obliviousness to who she was, she was never really able to get along with him. Likewise, for myself, I had personal reservations at the start, especially because of the way it caused dissonance in my family, and it took the time of a different angle for it to merge and grow on me, for me to be able to grow and gain an appreciation for his ministry and style, as I kept my own, while learning from him.

One other thing the funeral service did for me, was make me acutely aware of how far I felt myself fall from the standard Densel portrayed of faithfulness and selflessness. It did not bring me to despair, because it also emphasized the role of Christ’s love and mercy for us to be able to become new creatures, and experience and practice that faithfulness.

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The service also showed me how many people were touched by Densel, and I saw people I didn’t know knew him, and we all realized how much the body of Christ is one body, but many members.