Tag Archives: Job

Reflecting on Pulse ~ By One Pissed-off Christian Lady

Pulse

It took a few days to do this. It took a few days because deep within my sadness the responses I saw flying across my newsfeed sickened me; physically took the steam out of me. Weeping in my own wine does not accomplish much. Much of what I have learned on my journey with Job demands that I do more – far more. So, here we go.

The events of June, 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida are not the product of Reason A, or Reason B, or some other simplistic, easy fix, “if only” cause. It was an event that was a culmination of many factors; all of which we share in to one degree or another. Humans do not like to think beyond the binary; it is hard work. To actually accept responsibility for tragedy is a whole different kettle of fish. There were many factors that left 50 cell phones ringing, unanswered, on a bloodied dance floor.

It is not productive to choose among the many in order to gain admittance to the wake. It is not acceptable to exclude a facet of the blood-covered stone to create a better setting for your own agenda. First, and foremost, it is about the arrogant turpitude that allows us to pick and choose those causes that best fit our own agenda. These are my picks, and there is nothing simple about them.

It’s about LBGT

No, you don’t get off the hook. You are not allowed to push this down (actually up, if you know your Native American lore) the totem. Whatever his future plans may have been, the perp saw a few guys kissing, and went ballistic. He targeted a gay club on a busy night and during a time of celebration. Word has it that it was a club that he, himself, had visited.

Did he think Americans would not care? That they might even thank him? Part of what sickened me this week is the number of pastors, and professed Christians, that stepped up to say that it was God’s judgment on the gays. Or that it was a good thing all those pedophiles were gone. (There is a vast difference, and I ought to know). Men who professed a belief in God who stood in front of congregations, and, while insisting that they did not advocate murder, suggested we should not grieve. Were there many? I have no clue. It is horrible enough that even one blasphemed his or her pulpit with this venom. They are no better than Mateem’s father who said his son should have left the murders to God.

It’s about religious fanaticism

The true believer, according to Eric Hoffer, needs the movement more than the movement needs him or her. Sometimes we cannot be driven to our worst (or our best) unless we perceive something greater than ourselves that demands it. Not always a superior being, sometimes just the mob, the organization, the belonging. But we, we of western civilized culture, do not come to the bar with clean hands. Not only is human history soaked in the blood of “others,” we light the fire brighter every time we choose to hate. Defend, yes. Hate, no thank you. Hatred changes you and takes away all that is human. Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu: it really does not matter. The founders of these faiths all spoke of something beyond the faith. Something intrinsically human. We are all selling our sacred heritage short if we choose to use it as a sword, rather than a way to support.

It’s about terrorism, domestic, foreign, and familial

If only. If only he had been dealt with when the charges of domestic violence floated around. If only the FBI had kept closer tabs, if only. If only McVey had not allowed himself to be egged on; if only there had been better communication before 9-11. When are we going to learn that we are part of the problem? If you believe the current administration is soft on terror you are sorely mistaken. Over the past 7.5 years Bin Laden is not the only target taken down. But these people don’t brag. They don’t occupy us with cheerleaders. They don’t stir up the hornets’ nest by blasting every victory across the headlines. They quietly, and efficiently, dismantle the knots of venom. The truly evil are being sought out. The war is with them, not your Muslim neighbor.

Sometimes we do win. Neighbors saw suspicious activity and reported it to police and police responded. A man from Indiana, a mid-western, white boy, was on his way to create mayhem at a Pride parade. But he was stopped. Countless other “almost events” have been stopped over the past several years. So, sometimes – whatever the threat – everything works as it should.

It’s about guns

I’m not against guns. I’m really not. I have, actually, used them and I’m not a bad shot. But, here’s the thing. We need a conversation about what is appropriate. I did some research (that’s what I do) and the AR-15 is not, I repeat not, a military-grade assault weapon. It is a modified, semi-automatic rifle that can be altered to accept a magazine of up to 100 bullets. As a semi-auto, it can be fired as quickly as the shooter can compress the trigger. One clip from Sunday morning records 20 shots within a 9 second interval. If you are going to talk about gun responsibility, and still preserve rights, then it is a good idea to know what the hell you are talking about.

Should citizens be armed with this capacity? I saw a meme float across my feed that froze my soul. “The problem was not the one bad guy with a gun, but the 103 without one.” Really? Please for the sake of all that is holy can someone tell me they don’t really believe this? Think about filling a room of over a hundred people, dancing to loud music, some of whom are at varying degrees of intoxication, and arm them. Then flip the panic button. What are the odds that the right guy gets shot, and that anyone walks out alive?

There are several timelines of the events available on line. I have relied on police reports to sort out the order. Just after 2 AM Mateen entered the club and started shooting. An off duty officer in the employ of the club immediately engaged the shooter and called for backup. Not long after backup arrives, Mateen barricades himself in one of the bathrooms and calls 911. Then he starts talking about bombs and ISIS. Swat, having already been onsite, breaches the building, and takes him down. Regaining control took a team of trained, prepared police officers, with all of the equipment available to them (including Kevlar helmets). The “good guy with a gun” was not able to control the situation; even though he was right on top of it. Some people I know might have been able to drop the perp in his tracks before he got very far. I’m not sure they are the type of folks that would have been in a gay bar at 2 in the morning.

If you are trying to protect yourself from the government I have a secret to tell you – they have drones, and black helicopters, and bigger bombs than you. If you are trying to protect your family in an event such as Sunday morning suggests? Then be trained, be smart and don’t complain when folks with appropriate credentials want to know where those weapons are and who had them last.

 

And here is the punch line. If you really, sincerely, want to be part of the solution. If you want to make sure that nutcases are not able to use hatred and turmoil to achieve their goals, if you want to be the humanitarian, the Christian, the believer you profess to be, then do something with value.

Stop “loving the person and hating the sin” and just love the person. Educate yourself about the LBGT community, and the issues they face. It is not a choice, people. All of the colors of the rainbow involve a complex combination of hormones, brain patterns, physiology, and plain old fashioned self-image.

If you want to be intolerant, be intolerant of violence, be it domestic, work place, any place. Do not let monsters grow in our midst. Get them help, or get them somewhere safer for us all.

Support those in desperate need. Please check before you give. I know of one GoFundMe that raised some $3,509,556 as of noon PT Tuesday. Find a way to put motion into your rhetoric; motion that says you really do care. Not just for gays, for every human soul that crosses your path. Be the change you want to see.

#onepulse
#BreakTheBox

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Filed under Giving Back, Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job, Personal Journeys

Reflections ~ How we think.

This is an exploring post. I have only just begun to read the things necessary to build these concepts in my own mind, but I so wanted to share what I have found. So, here we be in our own quiet alcove, discussing the workings of the mind, again. These are really important ideas, so join me for the hunt – a hunt for how we think and why it matters.

In the process of finishing my manuscript on the Book of Job, I have been researching what makes us tick. Why do we perceive an event, a person, a situation as we do? What is it that makes us believe that we are accurate in our assumptions and interpretations? Is there a way that we can test those assumptions and conclusions while still believing that we are right – and, perhaps, most of the rest of the world is wrong?

I have recently started a hashtag on Facebook, #BreakTheBox. I did this because I like to challenge commonly held presumptions. Not always because I think they are wrong, in whole or in part, but because I firmly believe that whatever you believe, you should know why you believe. That is very hard work – and here is the reason why.

Thnking

I am currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Professor Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 for his work on decision making. Along with his research partner, Amos Tversky, he revolutionized what we know about how we think, how we make decisions. Professor Tversky would have shared the prize, if he had still been living.

Here are the basics. Our perceptions of subconscious and conscious thought go far deeper than what we may expect. Kahneman uses terms fairly common in the field; System 1 (the subconscious) and System 2 (the conscious). How these two systems interact is the basis of everything we do and think – everything. That makes it critical to understand that interaction if you truly want to be the master of your fate, the owner of your mind.

System 1 is the quick thinker. By accumulating all of the information that you are in contact with, the things your senses bring to you, and sorting through that sea of data to arrive at – what makes you comfortable, what feels right. As you can see, this is the basis of our intuitive thought. It is an efficient way for our brains to work because it happens quickly and, for the most part, the reactions are based on past experience. It also allows us to make seemingly instantaneous decisions for our own safety or well-being – such as flight or fight choices.

This is also, at times, an unreliable decision-making process. It can be influenced by such things as presentation of the data (was it in a clear font with soothing colors and using grammar in the comfort zone of the reader). Or, how often the data, or something similar, is encountered. Such as a surprise meeting in one location being less surprising the second time in a different location. System 1 is all about averaging things out and making quick decisions based on, well, gut.

Although not strictly statistical in its processes, for the sake of efficiency, this System 1 also relies on a short-hand version of the data. For instance, in the drafting of a bell curve (natural distribution), once the information regarding probability is acquired, our mind locks on to the higher probabilities and ignores the possibilities. So, once we determine that the incarceration rate of young black men in American is statically higher than whites, Asians or Hispanics, we assume that ALL young black men are prison candidates. Consequently, when events happen in the conscious world, our decisions are guided by a presumption made on incomplete data. This becomes an even stronger influence as we gravitate to information that reinforces what we already know, beliefs and interpretations that are within our comfort zone.

Kahneman describes System 1 as highly associative. It links bits of data to previous information and then builds on that link, whether or not there is a clear correlation. In one example he mentions a test question asking the reader if a man who is described as quiet, introspective, and a loner would most likely be a farmer or a librarian. Statistically, there is an overwhelming response that this is a librarian. Here’s the catch. In my mind it was the farmer. Why? I know both, but I am as familiar with farmers as I am with librarians and so I had a wider associative memory on which to base my assessment. Statistically, there are more farmers than librarians meaning that the probability is higher that the person described is a farmer. That, however, is something that System 2 must discover.

This is not a condemnation of our subconscious mind. This is how our minds are built and it works this way to be efficient with the resources at hand. Here, then, is the catch. Unless you want to be guided by your over-reactive, intuitive subconscious, you need to more actively pursue thinking with System 2. This takes work and our minds are notoriously lazy — they like to find the easy way out. And it does not matter how intelligent the thinker is. There are also physiological reasons why our conscious minds cannot maintain a constant level of focused attention. What, then, is the answer?

We can engage in reprogramming our subconscious. This doesn’t mean we have to question each and every thought and impulse. What it does mean is that we should actively pursue the verification of the associative influence on which our decisions are made. When we hear something that seems right, we should try to understand why this is so. Have we actually thought about the logical end result of our decision or association? How much dis-information is shared on social networks without verification because the piece at least sounds like what the person wants to hear?

To give you food for thought, I leave you with this:

Roses are flowers.
Some flowers fade quickly.
Therefore some roses fade quickly.

Well, maybe, maybe not… Some roses might fade quickly, but the presumptions detailed here which led to that conclusion are not directly related; and therefore, not a basis to decide. You see, the fading flowers might not be roses…

Rose dl

Photo Credit: JM Randolph, WANA Commons, Flickr

#BreakTheBox

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The World of Job and Thanksgiving

This four-day weekend is, for me, a bit of a marathon. It is true that I have plans for more than sitting in front of my computer and typing away at my manuscript. I have made a great deal of progress. Adding close to 20,000 words this month and taking the time to review and refine what is already written.  This is critical since the more information I gather, well, the more accurate I can be. And I don’t want to miss incorporating some new bit or correcting previous assumptions.

Thanksgiving

 

At this point I have outlined the manuscript to the end. The last chapters are sketched and I was in the process of moving notes from various note pages collected over the past few years into the spot they will be the most help. I ran across this quote I had saved from Clive Barker.

“Thence, one of my mantras as an author, although it doesn’t really speak directly of character creation: “I am a man, and men are animals who tell stories. This is a gift from God, who spoke our species into being, but left the end of our story untold. That mystery is troubling to us. How could it be otherwise? Without the final part, we think, how are we to make sense of all that went before: which is to say, our lives?

So we make stories of our own, in fevered and envious imitation of our Maker, hoping that we’ll tell, by chance, what God left untold. And finishing our tale, come to understand why we were born.”

I may not hit my goal in word count or timing for completion of the draft; but I have found that my enthusiasm for the subject is still strong and bits and pieces of ideas I have had for years are falling into place. I have several people to thank for the inspiration to move forward with this project. As you all well know this has been a year of major changes for me.

So this is my Thanksgiving. For friends and family that have supported me and comforted me during one of the most difficult times of my life; and who have encouraged me to seek my path forward.

Wishing you holidays that bring you peace if not joy, comfort if not cheer.

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My Journey with Job ~ Inspiration

This past week I have devoted time to prepare for the 30-day challenge known in writing circles as NanoWrimo. Or, National Novel Writing Month. As it happens there is also a site for nonfiction writers. I signed up for both, mostly because nonfiction inspires me, but the fiction site has better progress tracking devices. And easier communication between participants. In any case, I am going to make a concerted effort to develop the rough draft for the balance of my manuscript, Why Me?

Which brings me to the thoughts which have followed me about during this time of preparation. The first has to do with how we master, or remaster a skill or character attribute, or how we manage the time allotted for all our pursuits. For this I have my wood stove to thank. Many years ago I lived in Montana and wood stoves were an everyday part of life. In the morning you check the coals, stuffed the box and urged it to full flame, closed the door and forgot about it until early afternoon. Then you stuffed more wood in, closed the door and ignored it until bedtime. At that point you damped things down, and, well, in the morning you likely had nice hot coals to start all over. Easy. Well, maybe not.

Fire

My new home has a wood stove. It’s a monster of a thing that at full throttle can run me out of the house. But it, in combination with the softwoods of the Pacific Northwest, can be temperamental. It is not unusual to check the box in the morning to find a cold, half burned log resting in the grate. I have learned, after a bit of instruction from a neighbor, how to nurture my fire during the day so that it neither gets over excited with roaring flames seeking the free air above the roof line, nor dies a sudden death leaving me with cold, charred, logs.

Writing and research are a bit like that. If you want to contribute something of value in the world of nonfiction (or fiction), you need to nurture the flame. It is of no help to run off on a tangent exhausting yourself and ending up with pages of barely intelligible musings with no basis in facts or logic or anything slightly related to acceptable story structure. Nor can you afford to be so remote that passion for the subject dies a cold, charred death rotting away somewhere on your hard drive. Nanowrimo is the starter log for many writers, the initial flame that helps build the fire to a level that can be maintained by adding fuel and substance in a regular and productive manner.

That brings us to thought two, inspiration. Webster defines it as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.” Yeah, that.

Some years ago when I was going through a particularly difficult time, my husband-to-be suggested that I look for a book to read. Not just any book, but something that was connected to the things I like to learn. I chose a book about Hatshepsut. Within a few days I was back on the phone chattering away about some correlations I had found between the information provided and something else I had tucked away from some other reference. In the middle of a conversation he started to laugh. Then he explained. Whatever had been depressing me was long gone. As soon as I was back in my own world the pull of research, the love of the hunt for knowledge, well, consumed me.

This past week that feeling has been growing again. As I begin to collect the references and support that I need to build my manuscript, the more I felt drawn into that special space where ideas begin to link, to spark, to grow into a fire. I do have a rather extensive library in my own home on many of the subjects that are dear to me, but some of the material does not include the latest findings or developments, and well, it certainly isn’t a university library. That requires time on the web seeking sources that carry weight or lead to something that does. Rather than grow weary of sorting through the fluff, I find myself having a wonderful time tracking down men and women who have thought similar thoughts, who have been closer to source material, and who have developed worldviews close to or diametrically opposed to mine.

This is the thrill of creation. Taking the materials at hand and molding something unique that can be shared. I have received supportive commentary based on the first half or so of the manuscript. That is encouraging. Many folks that are familiar with my general thoughts on subjects related to Job do want to see me develop these into something cohesive. I do, of course, hope that others (even those that don’t know me personally) will find this work of value. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the journey from scribbled notes, to polished manuscript.

Keep the flame burning.

National Novel Writing Month: http://nanowrimo.org/

Write Nonfiction Now: http://writenonfictionnow.com/about-write-nonfiction-in-november/wnfinnanonfiwrimo/

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Book Review ~ Seeking our Say in the Court of the Universe

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. Available in many formats for $9-15.00

FacesThere are many among us who have suffered some life changing event; an event that changes us in quick or slow ways, forever. These are the kinds of events that cause us to build “public faces.” More often than not, these changes build a wall between us and others at least in part because we do not wish to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to suffer more pain, or its repercussions, ever again.

We also build these walls in our choice to push those who are suffering away. Much like Job’s friends, we seek, in whatever way accessible, to understand the cause and effect of what we see. As humans we are creatures always in search of order. We cannot tolerate the arbitrary, we must find a pattern. In some of us that results in a search for God (or gods), in others it is the explicit effort to eradicate even the hint of the divine from our lives.

I believe, in some way, this was the seed to human sacrifice. In our ancient civilizations, with vastly less understanding than we have today, there was a strong belief that the gods must demand blood and restitution for the shortcomings of mankind. After all; there were famines, natural disasters, accidents, pestilence, and all sorts of ways to die. Perhaps, in their ignorance, they thought to choose those to send to the gods in order to save their own hides.

We have, of course, changed this view over the last several millennium or so.  Although the Aztecs were hard at it in the early centuries CE, there had arisen a culture in the Middle East that looked on the sacrifice of human life as an abomination. They did, however, hold tightly to the sacrifice of blood offerings. This interpretation of divine demand remained through the birth of Christianity. There was still a strong conviction that someone somewhere had to pay the price for all that was not right with the world. One of the problems we seem to face most consistently is what constitutes restitution and what constitutes the natural course of the universe and is there a difference?

This weekend, I decided to re-read a favorite tale I had read many years ago. There are times when I go through stages of hunting down everything by a particular author and read through it all. This remembered stage was a search for C. S. Lewis. He is best known for titles such as the Narnina series, the Space Trilogy and Christian apologetics. The subject of my blog is a bit off the usual track. It is a retelling of the tale of Psyche and Cupid. I found it quite intriguing at the time and deeply thought provoking now. Let’s visit Glome and meet the Queen whose thoughts and actions may touch your dreams and your fears. Perhaps you’ll find a treasure to take back home.

The story of Cupid and Psyche is quite old. We know it best from the Latin novel, Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) written in the 2nd century CE by Apoleius. The tale itself must be quite ancient since depictions of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche appear in Greek art as early as the 4th century BCE. The basic story is about a king with three daughters, each quite beautiful but none as beautiful as the youngest. Although the older sisters marry, the youngest finds only worshipers and no lovers. So much is the attention she receives she draws the ire of Venus. Venus sends her son Cupid to end the competition, but Cupid falls in love and takes her away to a hiding place. His only request is that she never tries to discover his identity.

Time passes and the young bride tires of being alone all of the time and begs to see her sisters. The visit is disastrous.  As a result of their jealousy of her new style of living, her sisters coerce her into revealing the identity of her husband. By exposing him, she brings the wrath of Venus upon them both and Psyche is forced to wander in a quest to meet the demands of this very jealous goddess. She wins in the end and is restored to her beloved Cupid.

I don’t want to give you all the story twists of Lewis’ retelling; it’s really a charming read. What I will do is tell you something of what I found within the pages of this rather different interpretation of the tale. You see in this story the elder sister does not see the palace, except through the mist in the middle of the night of betrayal.  She believes her young half-sister to be quite mad. She seeks some way to believe, some way to find an answer from her goddess or her Greek philosophical training and finds only contradiction and doubt. She finally makes the decision to coerce her sister into revealing the identity her new found husband.

The results are disastrous as Orual discovers her sister was quite sane and she is now responsible for sending the young lady into the wilderness to be tested by a jealous goddess.  Princess Orual returns home to become Queen Orual on the death of her father only a few days later.  Shaken to the core, she vows to always wear a veil, so that none can see how homely she is, and to slowly extinguish that part of her that was the caring and loving protector of her beloved little sister. She lives her life in constant fear that the gods will strike her down. And she never allows herself to love again.

Queen Orual is a wise ruler. She reverses the policies of her father and finds ways to protect the country from the vagaries of nature, to build their treasury and to protect their borders. An excellent fighter, she rides with her armies when required. The kingdom finds peace, and yet she suffers. It is by chance that during a casual trip, taken for pleasure, she happens upon a temple, built in honor of her little sister Istra (Psyche in Greek). The tale she hears is nothing like the story she knows and she vows to write her own story, the truth. She vows to seek justice from the gods.

I find the tale compelling because it is a search for a very elusive thing; something that we are so sure we know, and yet we face trials, suffering, and retribution. Like Job, we believe we are doing our best, that we make appropriate decisions based on the knowledge we have, only to discover we didn’t have all the facts. No matter how hard we seek answers, we only see darkly the things in this world. And, like Job, we reach a point where we begin to demand answers. Not because we don’t believe, but because we do.

In the book the Queen muses as she writes, “There must, whether the gods see it or not, be something great in the mortal soul. For suffering, it seems, is infinite and our capacity without limit.”

No, not so different from the world we live in. Seeking guidance, following precepts and yet suffering. Seeing a world in pain, and noting that much of what happens is an accident of birth. Is it any wonder that our highly developed, rational minds seek answers? That we reach a point when we stop and demand of the universe, of God, “Why?”

Our Queen sets out her tale in order to challenge the gods, to ask them to tell her what more she could have done with the information she had. In the end she learns that her love for her sister, her suffering throughout her life, brought solace during the years of Istra’s wandering. It provided support during times of trial, and that when the final test came her sister had grown to the point that even her dearest and most loved could not sway her from the task at hand. Istra (Psyche) does, in the end, earn the approval of the gods and win back her place at Cupid’s side.

Orual brings us to the lesson that although we often suffer the consequences of ill informed decisions, we still have a chance to build on our failures and turn them into something productive. We gain “face” if you will by what we do about suffering, how we treat those in pain, how we use the tools we are given to make the world a better place, however small that improvement may be. It is when we strive in this way that we earn the right, the obligation to stand, “gird our loins like a [rational being]” so that when we are asked we can inform.  That search for understanding can never end; else why are we given these incredible gifts of a rational mind, a spirit of wonder, and a will to seek truth?

 “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

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