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Experiment

July 5, 2012

It’s telling that we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence as our founding.  Not the drafting or the ratification of the Constitution, not our victory in the Revolutionary War, not even the day of our first act of rebellion.  It is simply the day we declared that we have a right to be free, and we choose to exercise that right, come what may.

No matter what we may have lost since then, we have kept that uniqueness.  We have a supreme confidence, and an almost universal sense of being exceptional.  This is the defining trait of the United States.  Not self-reliance, not hardiness, not honesty and fearlessness and integrity, though I do like to think we have some measure of those things as well.

What makes us America is that we think we are different.  And so far, for the past 236 years, we have been.  We foot the bill most of the western world’s military.  We are the first to aid after a disaster.  We have a fearsome military, and we ourselves are a well-armed militia.  We are a confident, resourceful people.  We invented the machine gun, football, the solar cell, the airplane, cheeseburgers, electric guitars, the assembly line,  the transistor and the microprocessor, the supermarket, the space station, the zamboni, and the atomic bomb, just to pick a few at random.  We did all this not out of necessity or malice, but out of curiosity and perhaps a certain amount of pride.  We landed on the moon; our rationale being, anything those commies can do, we can do better.  And you know what, we were right.

 

Our relationship with our government is very unique.  To understand it, look at the way we complain.  For one, we get to complain because we’re not afraid of our government or our police.  When we protest, it’s for the exact opposite reasons that everyone else protests.  Granted, we might have some fringe group protesting some stupid social issue, or occasionally we riot about police brutality or discrimination.  But by and large, while other countries protest that “the government’s not doing enough” and “we need you to fix this or that problem,” America’s protests are more like “just leave us alone!  We’re dependent on medicare and social security but we never wanted to be!  Stop getting us into stupid wars!  Just stop doing anything and we’ll handle it ourselves!  If we really need you we’ll let you know!”

That’s not to say we agree on everything.  But we agree on the important things.  We elected a president who would initiate universal health care and so we’re trying it out.  Not all of us wanted it, not all of us think it’s right, but now that we have it, we all just pretty much assume it will work.  To me that is remarkable.  Universal health care has ranged from problematic to disastrous in other countries, but if you ask any American, they’ll say…what’s that got to do with anything?  Those countries aren’t America.  Even if everyone else in the world fails, that doesn’t mean we will.

No matter what anyone says, this is a great country.  Not a perfect one, but a great one.  But it has lost some of what made it great.  We were once a country full of wild, unruly people.  But we shared the ideal that there is nothing more important than being left alone.  We pursued prosperity and happiness, and we did it without shame or second thoughts.  We believed the good life was worth fighting for.  If there is anything I would change about modern America, it’s this horrible passivity and gullibility.  This is a country that  doesn’t blink at the threat of riot police and SWAT teams, a country that laughs at the prospect of a conventional land invasion, a country that, for most of its history, feared absolutely nothing.

So if you had told me 15 years ago that we would consent to being strip searched at the airport, I would have said you were insane.  When did we become so fearful?  When did we start believing everything we see on TV?  We got attacked by some asshole in 2001, and it was used as a justification for an endless war against a phantom enemy.  There is no “terror.”  Yes, those countries are full of angry, violent people, but mostly because we’ve been there for 11 years.  You can say, oh we were tricked, but you really weren’t.  In 2003: some guy in the middle east is theoretically building some weapons.  OK?  Hey, isn’t it the UN’s job to make sure he’s not manufacturing and stockpiling weapons?  They really should get on that.  If you need us to bomb the guy’s palace, sure we can do that.  That should have been the extent of our involvement.  Post 9/11 it’s like we just…believed everything.  Hook, line, and sinker.  We’re only now regaining our scepticism.

And you know, even with all the screw ups and delays, we still killed the guy that financed 9/11.  He lived for a decade cooped up in a compound on a dialysis machine, then we flew in, killed him, and left.

I guess I am rambling, but my point is, we Americans are not blindly patriotic.  We are a great country full of unique people.  I have very real, specific reasons for believing that.  We let fear rob us of our greatness, but we can take it back again.  Demand peace, demand equality, demand freedom, demand dignity.  Do  what’s right, love your neighbor, remember your creator.  This can be the nation it once was.

We landed on the moon.  That was 43 years ago!  Soon my generation will be in charge.  Let’s set grand goals.  Let’s be the leaders again.  Before I die, I’m going to Mars, and an American ship is going to take me there.  And if the TSA wants to fondle my balls first, they can go fuck themselves.

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Lifted

June 30, 2012

The twilight turns to day, with all Your love displayed
The stars they bow in awe, when the lost return to you

…I can hear Him calling, come and follow me, my child

Iconoclasm

June 24, 2012

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” -Joshua 24:15

“When neither hatred nor love disturbs our mind

Serenely we sleep.”

-The Sutra of Hui Neng

 

Procrastination, thy name is Alan.

The sermon this morning was about idolatry.  Whenever that one guy, Kyle, preaches, I always seem to go back and forth with whether I agree with what was said.  I resisted this one but I guess that’s cause it hit so close to home.  God is jealous for us.  We belong to him and he wants our worship.  He wants to provide all the things we need.  He wants us to be happy with what he provides.  Time and again the bible says that if we love God, he will give us the desires of our heart.  This is what it’s like to be passionately loved.  We don’t really have a choice in whether or not He loves us.  But we do have a choice in how we respond to it.

The preacher’s point was that idols are not just images and carvings and statues like in the Bible.  They are things we worship other than God.  Things that we put in his place.  It’s tough for me to understand the distinction between the things we enjoy and the things we worship.  It was still tough, even when he was speaking trying to illustrate the difference.

In my heart though, I know.  I see the difference all the time, it’s just hard to accept.

I love football.  I look forward to it every year.  Saturdays after a long week, flipping on the TV and watching it for hours, relaxing and enjoying it, getting riled up and yelling at the TV, it makes me happy.  This year I am gonna try to see my dad in Denver and go to a Broncos game to see Peyton Manning.  During the season, all through the week I think about the games I want to watch.  It’s on my mind daily.  You could say I am pretty passionate about it.

But I don’t worship it.  I could be happy without it.  I wouldn’t hurt anyone for an opportunity to watch it.  If it pushed me away from God, I couldn’t enjoy it.  I would have to remove it from my life.

And as I type that, I have to ask…what is it that I must have to be happy?  What would I hurt someone else for?  What do I want at any cost?  I know instantly.  It’s insidious, like all idols.  And like most idols, the thing in itself is not bad.  But it’s poison to me.  When it invades my life, God empties my life and my heart of this thing.  It’s painful.  He’s done it many times and it was necessary each time.

 

As I have probably written before, I really admire Buddhism.  One of my favorite preachers says, “if you can make complete nonsense out of any major religion, chances are you haven’t understood it.”  That’s certainly true for Buddhism.  It’s not nonsense.  There’s great wisdom in it.  Learning about it and what it teaches, has really helped me as a Christian.  But I never became a Buddhist.  It always seemed incomplete, and this is a perfect example.

Buddhism teaches that suffering of the soul is caused by desire and ignorance.  That if we want contentment, if we want freedom, we have to break the ties to the things our hearts long for.  In our ignorance we long for things that never satisfy, like pleasure, money, power.  So since we are never fulfilled, since we are full of suffering, we are filled with anger and hate and envy.

Buddhism says we only really achieve happiness by being generous and kind, which allows us to let go of our desires and also of our envy and hatred.

All this sort of sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  It is a lot like Christianity’s warning against idols.  There’s a lot of wisdom in it, a lot we can learn from it, but it doesn’t seem quite right.  It is impersonal.  We are beings who were made to worship.  To devote ourselves to something.  My love of football has never caused me pain.  It is one of the purest pleasures in my life.  It can only be this way because it isn’t the center, it isn’t the thing I worship.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Wow!  That is tough!  How on earth can that be true?  But in my heart it makes sense.  I love my nephew.  I love him so much.  It is even the kind of love that causes suffering!  It pains me when he is in pain.  But it is the kind of love that will never come between me and God. It isn’t the supreme love in my life.

I guess the point of all this is: we were made in such a way that it is impossible to be happy if we don’t love God.  He made us to love him and to be loved by him, he constantly tells us to get to know him, to seek him, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  This is the hardest thing in the world, at least it has been for me.  But once he is our great love, our center, then he really does give us the desires of our heart, just like he promised.

This is what’s confronting me right now.  How to have peace in the face of a great desire. This upcoming week is gonna be huge.  I am going to talk to some people about a new job.  If it goes well it will be a very very big change for the better.  It’s important to me, and I’m struggling to have peace about it.  But I believe God, I believe him when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I know what I want to happen, but I don’t know what will happen.  I have a God who loves me.  He will take care of me.  That is enough.

Purpose

June 10, 2012

I read something a few days ago that said that life was God’s answer to entropy.  This was so cool I couldn’t stop thinking about it and now I’m gonna tell you why it struck me as being so awesome.

You’ll see a lot of science-type definitions for entropy.  It’s change in heat divided by ambient temperature, it’s the measure  of energy that’s not available for doing work, it’s the total information that’s required to precisely describe a system, and a bunch of other stuff.  It’s useful for describing how things always tend toward disorder.  When energy that has been concentrated spreads out, that’s an increase in entropy.  And energy always spreads itself out, it never concentrates itself.  This may seem obvious, or otherwise not important, but it is.  It is such a constant that it’s necessary for our perception of the whole world and everything we see.  If you watched a clip where a building spontaneously built itself and fire from an explosion briefly appeared and then was sucked together, you’d instantly know you were watching it in reverse.  If you’ve got a cup of  room temp water and you watch it become part ice, part steam, you’d think you were going crazy.  When a system is left alone, disorder always increases (or stays the same), it never decreases.

Now think about life in such a context.  Regardless of your beliefs, I think we can all agree it was definitely a special case when some amino acids and nucleotides were squished together and somehow created life (science doesn’t really agree on how it happened).  A big string of things had to happen that were not at all favored or likely.  It definitely makes me think about our existence in a different way.

I mean, this is one of the rules of the universe that everything is built on.  And yet everything about us, about life, runs completely counter to it.  Life itself is an elegant, supremely complex organization of matter.  Not only that, but we use our intelligence to organize things.  The more intelligent a life form is, the better it is at planning and building and organizing. We collect energy, we extract it, we use it to move things, heat things, cool things, light things, we’ve figured out tons of uses for it.  And while the entropy of the whole system (i.e. the universe) is still increasing, we are, in some sense, the masters of our domain.  A building can’t build itself, but we alone among everything in the universe (that we know of) can build one.

The scientist in me and the lover in me are always looking for starting points, ways to make sense of everything.  The law of entropy and the other laws of thermodynamics are the most basic, inviolable rules of the universe.  They’re also the laws that seem to jive most with the idea of a creator.  I don’t think that is a coincidence.  Science and faith are in total agreement about the chaos of the universe and the miracle of life, however it came to be.  In the bible, the first thing God ever says to us is “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  And we are endowed uniquely to do just that.

The bible says that man is the glory of God!  To anyone who is a skeptic, who doesn’t see the fingerprints of God in creation, I would ask him to consider the possibility of that fact first.  What if there is a God and he made us for his glory?  What if he made us unique among everything else?

I would like to think that we all have this in common–that from the smallest to the greatest, this resonates in our hearts.  Why do we have intelligence if not to use it?  Why do we have compassion if not to act on it?  Why are we moved to sing to him, why are we able to feel joy?  Why are our instincts and tendencies so much more complex and severe than that of other life?

 

When Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, the first thing he did was say “This is the LM pilot, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

Then he took communion.  And he read the verse “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Amazing.  What a joy it is to be alive.

 

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Seething

June 8, 2012

“There are certain people that are just so well-known that you’ve just got to use your common sense,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee. “Because if you start patting them down, people are going to say, ‘They’re patting down Beyonce.’ “I mean, she’s not going to blow a plane up.”

 

You know what?  Screw you Mike Rogers, you detestable jerk.  If you think it’s ok to have one set of rules for me and one set of rules for famous people, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near the political process in America.  I realize that as a politician you know practically nothing about anything, but risk assessment is a science, and some people do it for a living.  And they don’t need any help from someone who says stupid things for a living, such as yourself.

And you know what?  Some airlines hire professionals to provide security.  El Al has been safe for decades.  They hire people who know how to spot actual suspicious behavior.  They know how to look people in the eye and judge their responses.  They use facial recognition software, they know how to search someone without violating their dignity.  And believe me, they have just as many enemies as the US does, if not more.

So please, Mike Rogers, I would appreciate if you would fade back into the woodwork.  No one cares what you have to say.

Countdown

June 6, 2012

I’m too busy at work to write anymore.  It’s a sinking ship and people keep leaving with no one to replace them.  I feel like I am doing the work of three people, and we’re all back to five day weeks.  I have to believe it will be good that I stuck it out though.  Ten workdays left at this job.  Crazy to think about.

So here I am squeezing in some time after lunch.  My blog is a graveyard of half finished posts but I can’t pick one to work on cause they’re all meaty.  They require work, finding and checking sources and such, which doesn’t sound appealing.

My debit card # was compromised about ten days ago.  I got the money back last week but just today got a new debit card.  Turns out not having access to your money is a great way to save.  I wonder what happens with locally investigating stuff like that.  I mean a police report is filed, and it would be really easy for the police to get the security cameras from where the card was used and get footage of who used it.  I guess the benefit would be reaped elsewhere so they don’t really pursue it much.

Looking up natural sleep aids and cures for heartburn make me really glad I’m not old yet.  They think I have this crap just lying around my apartment?  All we have is some generic benadryl and a year old box of nyquil, and my roommate has some ibuprofen I think.  Of course, as far as the heartburn cures go I guess we could have stood to have some baking soda in the fridge lately, since everything in there smells of watermelon now.  Touché, internet.

So ready to go fishing this summer.  And of course, this is where I want to go.

Awesome.

Reveal

May 17, 2012

So I got up at like 6:30 yesterday morning, then played Diablo 3 for about 13 hours.

It is so much fun and I’m really enjoying the monk, once I figured out the right passive skills and such.  13 hours making sure I explored most things and listened to most dialogue and cutscenes got me through act III, so it’s a pretty meaty game.  The Act II end fight was awesome!

I tried to stay away from it all evening but had to get back on and check out the AH.  Apparently the real money AH won’t be open till next week.  Some of the gear I saw was totally bananas though.  I’ve been dumping everything in blacksmithing but people were selling rare weapons my level for super cheap, so I gotta go on a buying spree on the regular gold AH here soon, once leveling slows down enough.

Took me a while to discover elective mode too.  That is really a game changer.  Opens up a lot of new build possibilities.

Overall I am pretty happy with it.  It has a huge name to live up to but so far it’s done it.