Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boomers and Millennials : The Band Played On

A link to a post.

     This is one of those posts that I frequently make, that simply links to another post.  It performs two functions.

     (1)  It preserves a link for my memory; a reminder that I once read this article, and found its viewpoint valuable or interesting -- I can easily come back to it.

     (2) I can entice the present and future readers of this blog to explore the same odd corner of the Great Conversation, and get back to me (and you) with comments, if they care to.

     This link is to be found at the 'The Burning Platform' website, and the article is titled "And the Band Played On."  It mostly concerns American readers; although the troubles it anticipates are likely to affect other parts of the world.

     The article would seem to pit aging Boomers against youthful Millennials in a coming class war -- and the writer is a late-Boomer who is on the side of the Millennials -- his children.  A further reflection, though, reveals the common enemy of both.

     The article ends with a lengthy parable (analogy?) of the United States and -- well, read it yourself.

*       *       *

Thanks to the Lew Rockwell website for making me aware of this.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"There Once Lived An Ugly, Hunchback Dwarf"

     I have shamelessly purloined this story from a book written by St. Richard Wurmbrand, published by 'The Voice Of the Martyrs,' titled The Midnight Bride. (I have also shamelessly canonized this blessed man, although the Church on Earth has not gotten around to this matter yet.  And being guilty of the twin sins of theft and presumption against a saint, I beg his forgiveness.)

     Here is the story, and his commentary, in his own words.

     The following is one of the oldest sermon illustrations used in the Christian church.  It also tests one's understanding of the Christian life.

     There once lived an ugly, hunchback dwarf.  No one ever invited him to a party.  No one showed him love or even attention.  He became disillusioned with life and decided to climb a mountain and throw himself from its peak into the abyss.

     When he ascended the mountain, he met a beautiful girl.  He talked to her and discovered that she was climbing the mountain for the same purpose.  Her suffering was at the other extreme.  She had everyone's attention and love, but the one she loved had forsaken her for another girl, one with riches.  She felt life had no meaning for her any longer, so they decided to make the ascent together.

     While they climbed, they met a man who introduced himself as a police officer in search of a very dangerous bandit who had robbed and murdered many people.  The king had promised a large reward to the person who captured him.  The police officer was very confident:  "I will catch him because I know he has a feature by which he can be recognized.  He has six fingers on his right hand.  The police have been looking for him for years.  For the last two or three, nothing has been heard of him, but he must pay for a multitude of past crimes."

     The three climbed the mountain.  Near its peak was a monastery.  Its abbot, although he had become a monk only recently, had quickly attained great renown for saintliness.  When they entered the monastery, he came to meet them.  You could see the glory of God in his face.  As the girl bowed to kiss his right hand, she saw that he had six fingers.  With this, the story ends.

     Those who hear this story are perplexed.  It can't finish like this!  What happened to the dwarf, the girl, the policeman?  Was the criminal caught?

     The story's beauty is that it does finish here.  Something beautiful has happened:  A criminal hunted because of his many robberies and murders has become a great saint, renowned for his godly life.  All the rest is of no further interest.  The great miracle has been performed.  Christ has been born in the heart of a man of very low character.

*       *       *

     A few months ago, I posted something else about Pastor Wurmbrand.  You can read it here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mark Twain and Corn Pone Thinking

"Morals, religions, politics, get their following from surrounding influences and atmospheres, almost entirely; not from study, not from thinking." -- Mark Twain 

     I have recently read an essay by Mark Twain, in which he proposes that most of our public opinions have their roots in the desire for conformity.  He calls them "corn-pone opinions," on the authority of a young philosopher who said to him, in his youth, "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."  Here is some of what Mark Twain wrote, in the year 1901 -- I have broken it into paragraphs, for easier reading:


     "The outside influences are always pouring in upon us, and we are always obeying their orders and accepting their verdicts. The Smiths like the new play; the Joneses go to see it, and they copy the Smith verdict. Morals, religions, politics, get their following from surrounding influences and atmospheres, almost entirely; not from study, not from thinking.

     "A man must and will have his own approval first of all, in each and every moment and circumstance of his life – even if he must repent of a self-approved act the moment after its commission, in order to get his self-approval again: but, speaking in general terms, a man's self-approval in the large concerns of life has its source in the approval of the peoples about him, and not in a searching personal examination of the matter.

     "Mohammedans are Mohammedans because they are born and reared among that sect, not because they have thought it out and can furnish sound reasons for being Mohammedans; we know why Catholics are Catholics; why Presbyterians are Presbyterians; why Baptists are Baptists; why Mormons are Mormons; why thieves are thieves; why monarchists are monarchists; why Republicans are Republicans and Democrats, Democrats.  We know it is a matter of association and sympathy, not reasoning and examination; that hardly a man in the world has an opinion upon morals, politics, or religion which he got otherwise than through his associations and sympathies.

     "Broadly speaking, there are none but corn-pone opinions. And broadly speaking, corn-pone stands for self-approval. Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people. The result is conformity. Sometimes conformity has a sordid business interest – the bread-and-butter interest – but not in most cases, I think. I think that in the majority of cases it is unconscious and not calculated; that it is born of the human being's natural yearning to stand well with his fellows and have their inspiring approval and praise – a yearning which is commonly so strong and so insistent that it cannot be effectually resisted, and must have its way."


     So:  our public opinions are, according to Mark Twain, mostly "a matter of association and sympathy, not reasoning and examination; that hardly a man in the world has an opinion upon morals, politics, or religion which he got otherwise than through his associations and sympathies."

     This notion could disturb two different kinds of modern thinkers in America, the merely secular and the more religious.

     The modern secular public mind in America (and I am a modern American) considers itself to be a "reasoning and examining" one.  It supposes that it reflects, in matters of philosophy, a careful skepticism; in politics, "studying the issues"; in science and technology, the most careful and exacting methodology; in industry, process control and quality assurance;  in business, statistics and forecasting; in marketing, research and "product placement"; in medicine, careful diagnosis and effective treatment; and so on, throughout the vocations and the professions.

     And the sincere religious mind (which I share) is likewise imagined to be a "reasoning and examining" one:  studying our sacred scriptures and comparing them with science and history; drawing inferences and deductions from our scriptures and "applying them to our lives"; comparing and contrasting our beliefs with the beliefs of others; and so on, throughout the denominations and the traditions.

     But still.

     How much of our secular thinking is more governed by merely cultural considerations of approval, advancement, and prestige, rather than considerations of quality and truth?

     How many of our religious opinions are drawn merely from "presuppositions" and untested notions of people around us, rather than from an authentic experience of man, nature, and God?

     Of course, Mark Twain wrote this over a century ago, and maybe "corn-pone opinions" have passed away from the now-much-more-enlightened American mind, as corn-pone itself has passed away from the now-much-more-corporate American diet, making his observations irrelevant to the twenty-first century.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The World Does Owe You -- Quite A Lot, Actually

     Oh, I know, I have heard it a thousand times, too:  "The world doesn't owe you a living."  And as a stimulus to personal responsibility and self-reliance, there is something to be said for this old maxim.

     But as a statement of fact, it is a resounding falsehood, invented by the World to wash its hands of you, to abdicate its essential role.  The world owes you a great deal, by the simple reason of your existence.

     You were brought into the world by your father and your mother, under the mind and will of God.  Your father owed you his name, and the best provision and protection he could manage in his circumstances: less if his circumstances were difficult, more if they were relatively easy; and nothing at all only if he died before you were born.  Your mother owed you a sacrificial love and care in the same way.  They owed you that much, even if they were evil:  as the Lord of All Worlds said, "You, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children." Not necessarily luxuries, but most certainly Real Good Things.

     The world owes you the full welcome of kindness and hospitality -- even if it sees you as an unknown stranger.  Kindness is owed to every one of your kind -- that is what kindness means.  Not depending on kin-ness, but on kind-ness.  And generous hospitality: and for the lack of that hospitality and human kindness, The Lord of All Worlds personally visited Sodom and Gomorrah and removed them from this world.  Where they went, I do not know; He knows; He did not apologize.

     The world owes you honesty and fair dealing.  If it makes a promise to you, it must keep it.  It must keep its part of any good bargain with you.  It has no special permission to lie to you, to bully you, or to harm you.  If it does, you may call it to account; you may demand redress with the full right of any human being.

     The world owes you the truth about reality: about its past, with its glories and its shames.  Its present works, successes, and failures.  Its intentions for its future -- for that will affect your future.

     The rich, and the relatively rich, have an obligation to the poor, and the relatively poor.  The Lord of All Worlds consigned a rich man to the Flames for his failure to meet his obligations in this world.

     The rulers of countries and cities and empires have solemn obligations to all their people, and that includes you.  Failure to fulfill these obligations is not acceptable.  The Lord of All Worlds drove the King of Babylon from his throne for this very thing.

     The United States Government owes you, if you live within its borders, or under its jurisdiction.  It was created under the obligation to establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquillity, provide for your Defense, and promote your general Welfare, and assure you the blessings of Liberty.  You have this warranty in writing.

     The People have inalienable rights from God; the Government has solemn responsibilities to respect them.  We, and our children, and the stranger within our gates have the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and much else.  Our constituted authorities have the responsibilities to secure, maintain, and nourish those rights.

     The World will not tell you this, of course.  But every good thing it possesses, it has received freely from the Hand of God and the faithfulness of Mother Nature.  Oil from the ground, silver and gold from the mines.  And fresh streams and purple mountain majesties and the fruited plain.  "Freely ye have received," the Lord of All Worlds commanded,  "freely give."  The world owes you a share in its freely received abundance.

      This is, in fact, the Real World Order, as we shall all see, sooner or later.  Preferably sooner; for much later would, I think, be Judgment Day.

      So I say with some confidence that the world does owe you -- quite a lot, actually.  And as long as you and I are in this world, we must accept, as a part of our own personal responsibility, this solemn obligation toward all others.  The Lord of All Worlds has most seriously called us all to it.