Tuesday, August 28, 2012

George The Snake

     I met George in the classroom, not in his natural habitat.

     In my early years as a teacher (of junior-high math and science, primarily), I shared my classroom with a biology teacher whom I shall call Bob, since that was his name; and Bob introduced me to George.

     George was a beautiful little garden snake of some species unknown to me.  In fact, I couldn't swear that he shouldn't have been named Georgette, because I have never been trained in snake-sexing.  I'm taking Bob's word for it, and I'm not positive that even he, the biology teacher, was trained to know.

     George was about eighteen inches long, at most; of a nice greenish color with a pale head, and, if I recall correctly, four thin pale stripes running down his length.  As far as snakes go, he seemed delicate.  (Can anyone identify the species, on this slight information?)

     He lived in a glass sandbox in the classroom, where he had to be fed from time to time (I think he was a vegetarian; on second thought, I doubt it), and he was taken out of his confinement frequently for play with students and teachers alike.

     We handled him carefully, noticing that snakes -- at least his kind -- are very flexible in a side-to-side bending situation, but not in the up-and-down way.  He seemed to like the attention:  he would loop himself on my forearm for periods of time, and exhibited no apparent fear, such as coiling or striking behavior, whether he was being lifted from his sandbox, or being put back, or being stroked gently, or being transferred from one person to another.  He seemed to have a bright curiosity and a general amiability.  (Am I anthropomorphizing too much?)   His slightly shiny skin was absolutely dry and pleasant to the touch.

     I like to think about what George taught me.  I can think of several things, right off.

     That snakes are not all the Spawn Of Satan.

     That even strange and little creatures are beautiful, fascinating, and mysterious, because they have a real life of their own.  Their reality interlocks with our own -- but it is different.

     It helps if you give them names.   You assign to them the status of personhood in your own mind, and with a little luck, you start to care.  Who knows, maybe a little psychic link is established.

     Anyway, George, you were a fine snake, and a credit to your species.  Be fruitful and multiply.  Go with God.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Richard Wurmbrand : Alone With God

A book review.

     Many readers of this blog will already know of Pastor Wurmbrand, either from his early book, Tortured For Christ, or from his later book, Jesus (Friend Of Terrorists).  Or they are familiar with the group that carries on a mission closely related to his, called "The Voice Of The Martyrs."  For those not familiar with this very significant man, one can read the entry about him in Wikipedia, which is probably as serviceable an introduction to the bare facts about the man as any other encyclopedia-style treatment would be.

     Briefly, Richard Wurmbrand was active in Rumania in the years immediately prior to, during, and following the Second World War.  In his early years of activity, he was arrested by the Fascists for being a Jew and perhaps an active member of the Comintern; upon the arrival of the Soviet Communists in 1944, he began to be in trouble as an outspoken Jewish Christian pastor.  He would eventually spend about fourteen years in prison, including three years in solitary confinement.  He was eventually released and came to the United States.

     While in prison, his personal spiritual life deepened, and he composed a number of "sermons" and meditations which, after his final release in 1964, he wrote and published in a series of books.

     I have found his writings to be of enormous value, and the breadth and the depth of his knowledge amazing.  He writes on a wide variety of subjects; and while he draws from a great knowledge of the history of the world and its religions, his thoughts are remarkable -- to me, at least -- for their originality, insight, and spiritual daring.

     Below are a few excerpts from a single one of his books, Alone With God, published by Voice Of The Martyrs in 1988, which are from the meditations he had during his early years of solitary confinement.

     I have intentionally, and of necessity, lifted them out of their context -- because their context is as broad as all of his experience.  His experience, at the time, was one of extremes -- severe torture and prolonged isolation.  By his own account, he was often on the edge of madness, and this must be fully considered when we read what he says.

     Now, for a few quotes from the book:

     I am sure you would like to know how we spend our time in prison.  I must say, it passes quickly.

     In at least one respect I am like St. Anthony the Great.  He never washed himself.  I did not take a bath in years either.  He slept in a tomb in order to remind himself constantly that this is the abode in which all earthly life inevitably ends.  My cell is also like a tomb.  It is thirty feet beneath the earth.  The few planks which constitute my bed could as well become my coffin.  I don't fear death.  I am in a tomb without having died.

     People live during the day on words.  I speak silences during the night.

     I have deviated completely from what I had intended to say.  It is because for the first time I preach what I think.

     There has never been a great love without its share of enigma and drama.  So also is the love between Jesus and me.   Let Him do as He likes.  Reason will never fathom His ways.  Generally "reason and love keep little company."

     Truth is revolutionary.  It even revolutionizes its own definition.

     When I return to my cell, I am no longer alone.  I have with me a preacher, Mr. Morals, who delivers long sermons about how wrong it is to lie.  He quotes Spurgeon to me:  "It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good.  Your duty is to do the right: consequences are with God."  Or, "I have no right to commit sin to increase usefulness.  I have to be righteous even if it undoes usefulness."  I wonder why my Mr. Morals is such a boring preacher, always delivering the same sermon.  I would like to hear him speak for a change about how stupid it is to betray brethren to the police while leaving "the consequences to God" -- such consequences as hungry wives and orphaned children for whom nobody will care.

     Jesus has given us His Word -- one talent.  We should make it ten talents.  There are still new worlds to be discovered in the realm of Christian thought.  To discover them we have to have courage to leave the secure shore of commonly accepted morals.  I, on my part, will "lie" whenever necessary to protect my brethren.

     If an authority, the state or your parents acts unjustly, your duty is to resist and oppose that authority.  Don't ask me for Bible verses justifying this attitude.  There exists a natural law for which no divine revelation is needed.

     The Lutheran bishop Eivind Berggrav of Norway, who sat in prison under the Nazi occupation, later said before the Lutheran World Federation,  "If the authority becomes arbitrarily tyrannical, we have a demonic situation, which means a regime which is not submissive to God.  It would be a sin to submit to a diabolic power.  In such circumstances we have in principle the right to rebellion in one form or another."

     We are partakers of the divine nature and belong to the world which gives commandments, not to that which strives to obey them.  [Emphasis mine, but clearly implied in the text.]

     Is it not possible that the empty spaces in the Bible -- its silences --  are at least as important as its words?  One can find contradictions and debatable matters in the words of the Bible, but nobody can contradict the silence of the depths of its blank spaces.

     Materialists do not love matter.  They have no sense of its "earnest expectation," do not sympathize with its "bondage of corruption."

     The Christian is engaged in warfare as long as he lives on this earth.  But his role can be compared to that of a military physician.  He has to give medicine and comfort to the wounded on both sides.

     I remember the first Soviet officer I met.  I asked him if he believed in God.  I would not have minded if he had said, "No."  Freedom is given to every man to say "Yes" or "No" even to God.  But he gave me the most amazing answer:  "We have no order to believe.  If we get such an order, we will."
     I had met the typical Soviet man, a being who has been robbed of the highest gift made by God to man: to be an individual in his own right.  He had been changed into a robot who waited for orders about what faith to embrace or reject.

     I don't accept as my religion anything apart from union between bride and bridegroom.  All other religion is fornication, idolatry.  I will soar where the Truth, which sages on earth call by different names, is one.

     There are different characters, different callings.  Some are called to battle, some to still waters.  I could not tell you which of these two ways is more legitimate.  But for myself, I cannot help choosing the first.

     Though I had visited with men and God, there was one person in my parish whom I had neglected completely.  I had never visited myself.

     For a long time I have made it a habit to be awake only during the night.  Great spiritual battles are usually fought at night.  You sense in the darkness the occult forces that inspire murderers and thieves, who also perform their works of iniquity during the night.  Stalin worked during the whole night.

     I am quite determined to become mad.  My madness will be to believe that I have the Godhead living in me.

     Scripture does not solve national problems.  A scrap of newspaper found in the toilet informed us that the state of Israel was founded.  Judaism will not have solved its worries by this event.  The new state will have its trouble, just as Romanians who were never scattered have theirs, going from one distress to another.  Empires have passed away without ever having their problems solved.

     An artist sang Rigoletto badly.  People booed her.  Indignant, she said to her colleagues, "What an uneducated audience!  They dare to jeer Verdi!"  They did not jeer the composer but the performer.  I believe that those who beat us opposed not Christ but us Christians who admired ourselves without reason.

     If you were to ask me today, "What is the sum of your experience with mankind?" my immediate reply would be, "Father, they are not guilty; they don't know what they do."  I would include my torturers in this appreciation.  We are meant to be the defenders of men, not their accusers.  We even have to defend desperate cases.  To accuse is the devil's business.

     I once told Isaac Feinstein, who died a martyr's death under the Nazis, "The words of the Lord that He is 'the way' are not of much practical use.  After reading them, you still don't know the next step.  Now tell me plainly, what is 'the way'?"  He answered, "Go away."  The words would have sounded insulting, were it not for his unequalled smile.  His face and gestures gave to his words the meaning, "There is no answer to the question, 'What is the way?'  Jesus intended us to walk in it, not to inquire into it."

     Praised be the Lord!  When you say it, you will realize you knew the next step in "the way."

*       *       *

     In preparing this post, I collected many more exceptional quotes from his book.  I reduced them to this number, which some may still find excessive.  I hope that you can read Alone With God and any other books by this brave and genuinely holy man.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Feeding The Homeless : Banned

     Once again, I am indebted to Dr. Paul Craig Roberts for drawing attention to a situation that I was previously unaware of -- several cities in America have actively banned certain private, or religious, or charitable efforts to feed the homeless.

     The original article was posted, anonymously, at OpEdNews website on March 24 of this year.  Dr. Roberts picked it up on March 25.  It received a new surge of interest in June.  I just ran across it today.

     Please draw your own inferences and conclusions about this information, its reliability, and what it signifies.  I am in the process of drawing mine.

*       *       *

     Comments are of course most welcome.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reflections On A Medical Career

     Not mine, I assure you.

     But Dr. Paul Craig Roberts has featured a post that is well worth reading, written by an ophthalmologist in Tennessee who retired this past April, probably earlier than he would have needed to if things had been different.

     I promise you that the writer is articulate, informed, experienced, and well worth reading.  He will take up ten or fifteen minutes of your time.

     I am not mentioning this for the sake of my many Republican and Democrat friends, especially Christian ones, almost none of whom will be impressed by anything this retiring doctor has to say.  They have nothing but scorn for another doctor, an obstetrician, who is also retiring this year -- from public life, in his case.  (After watching this phenomenon occur repeatedly for the last few years, I am coming to understand some of the reasons why this categorical rejection occurs; and the reasons are so deeply a part of their thinking, for so long, that it is impossible for me to seriously imagine that they will change.  I have only lately come to terms with this.)

     Rather, I am providing this link for the very small handful of people who regularly read this blog.  For you.

     What this retiring doctor has to say may be of real benefit to you personally, and family members who care about what you think and do, and why.  (And who may depend upon you, too.)  He deserves as wide a reading as possible, because -- precisely because -- not one in ten people will pay him any attention.  But some of the readers of this blog will.

*       *       *
     Again, here is the link.  Comments are always welcome, of course.

Third Quiet Realization

     Another quiet realization.

     Consonant with the previous two, but distinctive, still.

     I am unique, I know; but not so unique that I suppose that I am the only one that this is happening to.

     Quiet blessings to you, whoever you are.