Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."


This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu!

The media is in rare form for this big story... and the general public is responding like a heard of lemmings. Come on people, think! If this type of behavior (by the media, by politicians, by school administrators) were not actually dangerous it would be laughable.


I am not a prophet and as such I do not know if any real danger will develop in the future (if this strain of flu mutates into a truely dangerous pathogen) but up to this point the only type of swine flu you need to invest serious panic about is if you see one of these coming in your direction:








Seriously:

1. be rational

2. establish a little context (i.e. how many people die from the flu every year?)

3. gather ALL the facts (i.e. do you know the background and circumstance of the 1 US swine flu death?)

4. take the usual and obvious precautions: wash your hands with soap, cover your mouth when you sneeze, if you feel sick then stay at home. This is not rocket science.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 12

It can't be! Absolutely not. No... no.... no.... yes... no... yes.... OK, yes. Sad but isn't it kind of true? I'm so glad I don't have any employees. My favorite line: "I'm trying to get to a point where I can lay in one place and not do anything, ever."





More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taxation and Freedom

The past few days have been extremely busy, so I've gone into my files and found a piece I wrote a while ago. Considering the recent advent of April 15th and the government's current spending practices, I thought this was timely.

The levying of taxes is the most fundamental and most visible power of the government. The illegitimate exercise of this power was a primary catalyst for the colony’s rebellion from Great Britain. The cost in treasure and human life attributable to this power gives cause for sober reflection before expanding its exercise. Whenever government taxes its citizens it takes something from them, something that is the legal and moral property of the people. Taxing is waged on the principle of compulsion. An individual refusing to give the money he or she earned by their sweat and toil is confronted with the full police power of the state which could ultimately deny them of their life, liberty and freedom. In taxation, the ugly, monstrous head of government is revealed -God help us that we never become blind to this basic reality.

To be sure there are legitimate reasons for taxation. As a society we have come to agree that some things are necessary for the common good, things that can only be accomplished by the contribution or sacrifice of each member. Our common defense is one. Citizens rightly contribute a portion of their financial means for the maintenance of the military. Construction and maintenance of roadways, energy plants, water sources and such institutions that provide for the common utility of citizens are clearly legitimate. Even public educational programs can be justified to a rational public although questions of locust of control for such government oversight are debatable. In all these, however, government can and should be closely scrutinized and mandated to provide accounting for the judicious and most effective uses of the people’s wealth.

In our sophisticated and complicated age we must never forget that the more taxing authority government assumes the more power it assumes over the lives of its citizens and the more oppressive it becomes. Compulsion is the natural companion to taxation.

Knowing this, there is a whole catalog of programs that are supported by taxation that are suspect and opposed by a large portion of the populace. In these situations government would be wise to tread lightly if only in consideration of its self-preservation. Beyond this self-concerned motive is the question of its moral right to levy taxes to support these endeavors. The most profound of these is taxation for programs compensating for social inequality and personal deficiency. For example, it is entirely inappropriate to establish a program guaranteeing college (which presupposes the payment of college tuition) to any or all of its citizens. This is an individual matter and an individual responsibility. Likewise it is repugnant and objectionable to fund abortion clinics and services with tax funds. If abortion is a decision that rightly falls to the impregnated woman than so also is the financial responsibility for that decision. This same logic applies to other areas which are rightly matters of personal management and family responsibility including healthcare, energy and product consumption, child rearing, etc. In summary those matters that are not profoundly agreed upon as fundamental to political prosperity should not be taxed and supported by coercion.

The purpose of government has never been to ensure equity among its people other than an equity of rights. Equity of condition is an entirely impossible objective in a free society (a society where people are free to make their own decisions and choices) unless the variable of choice is removed from the individual and made a mandate of the government. When government mandates equality, individual freedom is an illusion.

Read here for a revious post on related subject.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Life is good after all

From my perspective the future looks somewhat ominous. This prediction causes a good bit of cognitive dissonance for me since I am, by nature, an optimistic person. I cannot, however, ignore the dark clouds as they loom larger:

1. the economy is teetering on the edge -a condition entirely of our own making as we've somehow imagined we are beyond fundamental economic principles.

2. we are one desperate act away from geo-political chaos. The world is becoming less and less stable with every passing week.

3. the family, a fairly straightforward and simple social organization, which has been the bedrock of civilization is disappearing into definitional abyss. This is not just a problem of words and meaning but fundamental moral and social functionality.

4. narcisism, entitlement, moral relativism, and disrespect for any form of authority are becoming the social norm.

5. secularism is supplanting "In God we Trust", "one nation under God", endowments of "certain inalienable rights" by a creator, prayer in the public square and reverence in the public's heart.

Pretty BLEAK. Until today at 12:45 PM my hope was rekindled. Today my five year old boy had "field day" at his elementary school. I rearranged my schedule to attend as an observant parent. And a small miracle took place in my heart as I watched children filled with innocence, joy and happiness. Thier pure, unrestrained pleasure while doing the limbo or racing while holding a cup of water over their heads helped me forget my membership in the pathetic adult world. "Lest ye become as a little child..." It is no secret, the answers are right in front of us and they are all less than four feet tall.




A bit simplistic, yes. But what a beautiful reminder of what life could be or at least what it is now for my five year old little boy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wacky Wednesday: Earth Day Version

(I usually try to make Wacky Wednesday free from political themes but on this particular Wednesday someone declared it "Earth Day"... My apologies for politicizing this entry)

There are those who believe that the greatest threat to humanity is our consumption of natural resources, our alteration of ecosystems and our general malicious effect on planet earth. I am a member of the rational middle-ground in this debate and do not hesitate in proclaiming our responsibility to be stewards of all life forms on earth. I also believe that the greatest threat to our planet is not how we treat the environment but how we respond to human evil. Yes, contrary to some contemporary perspectives, there are bad guys (and gals) out there who want to impose their authority over us. They dislike everything about democracy, capitalism and freedom. Unfortunately our current leaders seem to be pretending that many of these "bad guys" are now our best buddies and perhaps we can talk them into seeing things our way.

Maybe they are right... but maybe a little Star Wars wisdom (reflecting the reality of about 5,000 years of actual human behavior) is instructive:



But then again, perhaps we can skip the whole "destroy the planet" part and just sacrifice poor old Princess Leah (this one will give you a chuckle):


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What difference can I make? Part II

This is a huge question best tackeled by taking bite sized pieces... Risking on boring the reader, I will try to be somewhat short in my thoughts although there is so much more that could be said in each installment. So here is one of the first things to keep in mind when asking yourself, "what difference can I make?"

Hierarchy of Causes
Not all causes are created equal. The importance of a cause directly grows from an individual’s values and moral foundation. Weather you believe the greatest threat to mankind is the secularization of society, the transformation from democracy to socialism, environmental degradation or imminent alien invasion, these all tie back to one’s moral constitution. Hence the pre-requisite to understanding the world around us (and the question of how to make a difference in it) is to, as a famous Greek said so long ago, “know thyself”.

When you know yourself you will know what changes are most important to invest your limited time, energy and financial support. We have finite resources and can so easily be distracted by important, but ultimately, unessential causes. The environment is important, animals should be treated humanely, sustainable energy is a concern... but the human soul take priority. Hence to pursue the rights of chickens or the horned owl while partially born infants are exterminated is an indication that the importance of people has been subordinated to other things. Even within the realm of human issues, success in many social causes cannot compensate for failure in causes tied to the integrity of the home. So in the hierarchy of causes we must discriminate, focusing on those which matter most.

But this is not an excuse to turn a blind eye or ignorant mind toward what we might identify as “lesser” causes. A caution is in order: we cannot become so narrowly focused or preoccupied with one or two causes that we become ignorant about the balance of issues. Establishing a sound democracy was the preeminent cause but many of our founders also struggled to abolish slavery, extend voting rights and grant civil liberties -in their time, however, only the first was accomplished.

We are often too willing to let others handle the plethora of causes beyond the few we choose to champion. We live in an era of specialization, a world of experts that are all to willing to convince us that we do not know enough about issue A, concern B or problem C. Common sense and principled stances do not require academic degrees and expertise. Having a say in the complex issues of education reform, for example, only requires an attentive citizenry. Certainly being a mother or father of a student in the system is sufficient expertise.

So one of the fundamental ways a “little” or “average” person can make a difference in ALL causes is to be informed. INFORMation is only gained the old fashioned way: by earning it through reading. Well read people, a well read populace, disappeared with the advent of television and a preoccupation with sports. Reading is the secret of genius and is all but a lost phenomenon on the generation of the iPod, instant messaging and the PS2. We begin by making a difference by reading relevant and important books. This includes but is not limited to:
The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The National Review; classics like Shakespear, Austen and Tolstoy; maybe even curling up with the Constitution or -heaven forbid- the Bible. Finally there are a host of important contemporary books from all different perspectives to help us understand the core arguments of various causes.

In summary, the first step in making a difference is to recognize the grandeur and sophistication of the world we live in. This can be quite overwhelming… but then we must remember that not all causes are created equal. We should know something about many things but apply our passion to those causes we esteem as vital for the continuation of our society. At this point we should not necessarily ask if success in our efforts is probably or even possible. Nor have I yet discussed the important question of how to pursue the difference we desire to make… both important elements to be discussed later. For now we have only touched on the question of what causes.

Your thoughts…

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sermonette: What God wants to do to/with you

C. S. Lewis
The Christian way is different, harder and easier. Christ says "Give me all, I don't want much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work, I want you. I'm not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half ventures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth or crown it or stop it, I want it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires that you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked, the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself, my own will shall become yours."
-Mere Christianity, pp 167-168

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Damn media and hidden agendas! (excuse my language)

I promise to get back to my discussion on "How can I make a difference" but I just can't delay this post (one of my small efforts to make a difference):

You may have come across this story through any one of the many news sources that penetrate your life. The content -the large number of suicides by a group of people in desperate conditions- deeply touches my emotions and pricks my humanity. The story, if it were known, of just one individual whose life situation led him or her to contemplate suicide as a better alternative to the hell they faced as they awoke every day would be nearly unbearable. To multiply that agony 1,500 fold is truly unfathomable. As I once heard someone say about the human experience, “if pain and sadness were water, the earth would be flooded”.

For my purposes now, however, I am going to set the matter of my emotions aside because there is a second tragedy perpetuated in this story -it is the crafting of the story itself: the editorial manipulation of truths and consequential manipulation of sentiment for ulterior motives. The tragedy is not a small matter and is illustrative of what is rampant in our world today. The consequences are many and they are profound. This type of news/reality-crafting makes us less feeling, more impotent, more cynical, more angry; it dulls our sense of responsibility to our fellow man, distracts us from more urgent issues and facilitates apathy in the face of escalating sensationalist tactics employed by media. In short, it causes us not to care and reduces our sense of civility toward our fellow man. Truth, not manipulation, will motivate a man or woman to action… unfortunately truth is not readily recognizable in this world of relativism. Is it any wonder why communities, nations, economic systems and families are falling apart. This is the logical extension of a philosophy that asks, “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”.


Here is the article:

1,500 farmers commit mass suicide in India
Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today.
The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.
"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine
"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."
Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.
In another village nearby, Beturam Sahu, who owned two acres of land was among those who committed suicide. His crop is yet to be harvested, but his son Lakhnu left to take up a job as a manual labourer.
His family must repay a debt of £400 and the crop this year is poor.
"The crop is so bad this year that we will not even be able to save any seeds," said Lakhnu's friend Santosh. "There were no rains at all."
"That's why Lakhnu left even before harvesting the crop. There is nothing left to harvest in his land this time. He is worried how he will repay these loans."
Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death."
Mr Prakash added that the government ought to take up the cause of the poor farmers just as they fight for a strong economy.
"Development should be for all. The government blames us for being against development. Forest area is depleting and dams are constructed without proper planning.
All this contributes to dipping water levels. Farmers should be taken into consideration when planning policies," he said.
This article is from The Belfast Telegraph

While there are serious problems with the integrity of the report, the most egregious issue, as is the case so often, is in what the article DOES NOT include. Let’s first review the purposive but sophisticated lie in the headline: 1,500 farmers commit mass suicide in India
Wow, this was an organized and orchestrated event like Jamestown and the Hale Bob events… No! These are individual actions taking place between ______ and ______. We don’t even know what time frame is considered to mark 1,500 suicides… don’t you think that is a central piece of information for a news story?
The headline was purposely worded to engender the idea of an organized suicide pact and yet to allow wiggle room so as not to be a blatant lie. Why? Because such a connotation will gain more attention, sell more news and further certain political agendas. It is a dispicable strategy to manipulate a tragic situation for certain ends.

Now, what about the information that the article does not include but that is directly relevant to our understanding the import of these events? In other words, what is the relative context of this story, socially, politically, culturally? Do these suicides represent a one, two, three or four alarm “emergency”? Should we drop everything and invest all our resources to fix this problem? Should this add to the aggregate mental anxiety that is stressing our physical and emotional health? With all the problems in the world (so aptly perpetuated by these media “reports”), especially the ones that we are supposedly culpable for, it is amazing that more are not considering the option of escaping through suicide.

A little context is vital to a rational appraisal of the situation. Here are a few questions that should have been obvious to the writers (and that were obvious but conveniently neglected since it would mitigate the effect of the story):
1. 1,500 suicides… in what period of time?
2. What is the source of this statistic, is it accurate?
3. What is the population of India? (figures should always be placed in a per capita or percentage fashion. India 2008 population: 1,147,995,904 compared to US 2008 population: 303,824,640… what would a comparable number of suicides be in the US which is dwarfed by India’s population?)
4. How does this compare to the United States? (again to evaluate the deviation from a known standard to try and evaluate the seriousness of the “problem”)
For example, in the US:
There were 32,637 suicides in 2005
There are 11.0 suicides per 100,000 (2005)
Suicides outnumbered homicides by 5 to 3 (2000)
(indicating that maybe we should focus more social and political policy on suicides than on homicides… but what do you hear more of in the news?)
More men than women die by suicide at a ratio of 4 to 1 (2000)
Male suicides per 100,000:
US: 17.7 (2005)
India: 12.2 (1998)
5. SOURCE? While the last line of the article lists the Belfast Telegraph as the origin of the article there is not hot link or author… why are they trying to make it difficult to get to the source? When I did find the Belfast Telegraph website (see not that difficult to add a link) I was not surprised to discover that no author is listed… Come on, if this is such an important issue and story why isn’t an author taking credit for their journalism?

Well, I could go on but I think you get the point. One more point about media malfesance: The emotionally numbing effect of "shocking" numbers. This is a variant of the boy who cried wolf, let me explain: 150,000 suicides are tragic. 1 suicide is tragic (consider for example if that one was your son, daughter, father, mother or friend). Few of us can really conceive of 150,000 people taking their own life but it sure gets out attention in a headline. But after the initial gasp of breath we become a little more hardened. Like an addictive narcotic, we develop something of a resistance and it takes larger and larger tragedies (i.e. numbers) to make us respond empathetically. We have seen the effects of this social numbness before: The shocking murder of Kitty Genovese displayed it on a small scale while the holocaust is the epitome of social numbness on a macro level. Is this a price we are willing to pay for ratings, for revenue or for narrow agendas? Truth, truth, truth!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 11

It has been a wacky day: a chronically drooling dog, first experience with a sopository (for our baby), the "pleasant destroyer" (griffin) makes his appearance and destroys our cabinetry... I'll let Mrs. Wicke fill in the particulars, she is a much more adept story teller.

As for Wacky Wednesday, this video won't produce fits of laughter but it certainly is wacky, interesting and different. Could it possibly be true? Who knows... what do you think?


Monday, April 13, 2009

I am just one measly person... What difference can I make? Part I

This post is something I owe to a devoted blog follower. While this topic directly follows from my earlier blog about North Korea and the anemic US response, it has wide application to countless contemporary issues. Many of us have an eerie sence of imbalance as the world is turning upside down. In truth, this is not particular to our day and age. Good people in every era have watched as evil advances, the decent are derided and justice appears to be nothing more than a fleeting ideal. This elusive sentiment is evidenced by the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. during his March on Washington speech: "I have a dream, that one day..." This exact phrase was repeated five times. It does not speak of things as they exist but as they might be... his words did not express the reality of the day in which it was spoken. And while society has made major strides in many areas, it seems that we have regressed in others. Whether your concern is the economic, moral, political or interpersonal challenges facing us, it appears as if the individual (little ole you and I) are helpless to really change anything in light of the enormity of the problem. Really, what could I have done to effect the tsunami of the current financial crisis that has swept across the globe? What can I possibly do to stem the moral freefall and secular permissiveness of the past several decades?

As my friend responded to my critique of the North Korean military ambition:
But then I remember - who am I to try to change anything? I am one person. And so I become like the rest of our great nation, blind to the real world. Finding it safer and easier to just turn off the news and not listen. So Thomas I posse these questions to you....How do we change the American peoples attitude? How do we rally together to make the "changes" our nation really needs? How do we undo a bad decision made by millions? In short - how do we make a difference?

My objective is to provide an answer. She... you... we all deserve an answer. As Horton so aptly illustrated, we are all part of this world, no matter how small. Even if our actions display our impotence (I purposely try to use words that have been sexualized by our society in their original, innocent meaning), those actions are no less meaningful simply because of their obscure source. To provide a fair and realistic answer, however, will take more than a short reply so I will break it down into bite sized pieces.

Make no mistake, we are expected to act, to try with our whole souls to better this world even if, from the outset, the die was cast against us. As Don Quixote declared, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly dream" . As Dr. King demonstrated, we are to have dreams of a better world. These things, whether in fiction or in reality, inspire us. They speak to our souls, which itself is evidence that we are, in fact, to try and make a difference. Now let's discuss how, a question that is just as critical as anything else.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thank you Mrs. Wicke


Sixteen years ago today Mrs. Wicke thought it would be a good idea to tie her wagon to mine and commence that path that disappears somewhere in the bright light of the sunset.... Wow, was it really sixteen years ago? Here, Mrs. Wicke are a few of the thoughts on my mind today:

In the partnership that was formed that day by two naive children, all I can say is that I certainly got the better deal. I want to thank you for believeing in me more than I believe in myself, for gently helping me become a better person and for loving me in spite of my faults.

Our life has not been as we expected, to be sure. There have been difficulties and detours. I am not rich, I am not accomplished, I have not changed the world. I am not all that I had once hoped to be. Our path has been exciting in good and bad ways BUT I know I can always find warmth, confidence and affection in your arms. My hopes and fears are safe with you. I know that, together, we can face anything the world might throw at us (that is not an invitation or a challenge). Thank you for choosing to be in my life and for helping me to live more beautifully.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eight reasons for Mormons to celebrate Passover

Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover)! Tonight at sunset the millennia old celebration of Passover begins.

Since most of my readers are Mormon (as am I), I know that we are not well versed in the specifics of the Passover celebration so if you do not feel comfortable celebrating Passover or if you don’t have a good Jewish friend who has invited you to their celebration, let me at least give you ten reasons why you should honor Passover. Before I do that, you may wish to visit this site for a very simple explanation of Passover or this site for a more detailed one.

Eight reasons why Mormons should honor, if not celebrate, Passover:

1. The Jews (descendants of Judah) are our cousins (brush up on your lineage vis a vis Ephraim who was the son of Joseph, who as the son of Jacob). So it is a family celebration.

2. It is largely the story of a people who were persecuted for their peculiar religious beliefs and their exodus to freedom (sound familiar... almost as if this type of thing happens every few dispensations).

3. The word Passover directly relates to the event where obedience literally saved the lives of the firstborn of the Jews by marking their door with the blood of a lamb (oh the symbolism and lessons are profound). Modern Israel can learn do much from ancient Israel!

4. Speaking of the first born, Jesus Christ celebrated this event (this reason alone is good enough for me).

5. Jesus transformed the passover Seder (meal) into the Last Supper (i.e. the Sacrament). We would have a richer appreciation for this link if we learned more about the Passover Seder.

6. The ancient Passover celebration included sacrifical killing of a flawless, perfect lamb. The destroying angel pass over the homes of those who had engaged in this act (can we say, this "covenant"). Literally it was the blood of the Lamb that saved Israel.

7. At one stage of the Passover meal, the prophet Elijah is invited to come into the home (there is even a cup/goblet set for this visitor). The Jews remember and look for Elijah's return. Mormon's know something about the return of Elijah the prophet and how he turns the hearts of children to their fathers... this tieing together of generations (connecting the children to the heritage of their forefathers) is a central element of the whole Jewish Passover celebration.

8. Passover is the precurser to Easter and the holy events that we commemorate. Easter Sunday, the crucifixion, the garden of Gethsemane all follwed from the Last Supper which was the Passover celebration. It is impossible to fully appreciate Easter without a knowledge and reverence for the Passover.

There are many more reasons but hopefully these have given you cause to think more about the holiday few of us even consider. Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 10

Men must be the stupidest creation on earth... they are intelligent enough to think something up and get into a particular situation but then they stop thinking just a few seconds too late. Why are all my Wacky Wednesday pictures (of people engaged in idiocy) about men?


"Hey, there it is. I told you I could find it... Darn I'm good."



"Oh, #*^@%!"
(translation: "I'm an idiot!")

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another seminal poem: The Choir Invisible

I may lose some credibility with some of you but I still hold true to my original statement that I am not a poetry lover. I must be getting older or the levels of testosterone are diminishing... either way, I am happy to announce that I have finally mastered another poem!

For some reason I cannot pick simple haiku or ten line sonnetts. I've got to go for the long ones. Let me introduce you to George Elliott's glorious work, The Choir Invisible. If you have actually taken time to read the namesake of this blog (The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth) you will quickly see that these two poems share many common themes. I love words, thoughts and actions that inspire me to greatness and someday hope that, like Nathaniel Hawthorne's Great Stone Face, I might come to actually achieve some of the greatness spoken of by Wordsworth and Elliott. For now I revel in the beauty of the words and the idea of "joining the choir invisible" and of "he (the happy warrior), that every man in arms should wish to be."

The Choir Invisible
O MAY I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence: live
In pulses stirr’d to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man’s search
To vaster issues. So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,
Breathing as beauteous order that controls
With growing sway the growing life of man.
So we inherit that sweet purity
For which we struggled, fail’d, and agoniz’d
With widening retrospect that bred despair.
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
A vicious parent shaming still its child,
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolv’d;
Its discords, quench’d by meeting harmonies,
Die in the large and charitable air.
And all our rarer, better, truer self,
That sobb’d religiously in yearning song,
That watch’d to ease the burthen of the world,
Laboriously tracing what must be,
And what may yet be better,—saw within
A worthier image for the sanctuary,
And shap’d it forth before the multitude,
Divinely human, raising worship so
To higher reverence more mix’d with love,—
That better self shall live till human Time
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
Be gather’d like a scroll within the tomb Unread forever.
This is life to come,
Which martyr’d men have made more glorious
For us who strive to follow. May I reach
That purest heaven, be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffus’d,
And in diffusion ever more intense!
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world.
-George Elliott

As a curious side note, George Elliott was actually a woman who took a masculine pen name in order to improve the possibility of gaining acceptance for her craft.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mr. Obama, I am shocked!

North Korea, the country formerly known as one of the Axis of Evil, flexed their muscle last week by testing a long range missile. This came after much US hand ringing and rigorous diplomatic efforts. How did we come to such a lowly state of affairs where a nation tarnished with the blood of at least 1.6 million lives (of its own citizens) is now threatening to extend its realm of vicious influence regionally and globally? North Korea’s military development combined with the eminent development of nuclear weapons by Iran should, pardon my language, scare the hell out of us. There are things happening half-way around the world that will effect us in our homes and neighborhoods. The Pacific Ocean is getting smaller every day -and this is not an effect of global warming but, rather, global evil.

The part I do not understand is why North Korea, after being subject to the much touted Obama diplomacy, did not readily acquiesce and happily set aside their military ambitions in exchange for the privilege of sitting down for face to face negotiations and kimchi. This strategy was the beginning and end of my hopes for a safer world… I mean after the failed “cowboy” policies of George W. Bush and that war-monger Dick Chaney. All they did was stave off any additional terrorist attacks on US soil and establish a fledgling democracy in the heart of the middle east… clearly a legacy of failure. I was so looking forward to a policy of speaking loudly, speaking often and speaking fancy words until our enemies gladly threw down their big sticks.

What happened to Mr. Obama’s magical ability to talk the bad leaders of the world out of their nefarious ambitions? Last I heard, the rocket launch went ahead as scheduled… and global stability continues to evaporate like the contrail over the East Asian horizon. And in light of this, what did Mr. Obama do? He resorted to his single and best weapon: his vocal cords. A CNN news article reported:

The launch came just hours before President Obama, in Europe, delivered a speech on nuclear non-proliferation. While saying that North Korea had again broken the rules he made a new U.S. pledge.
"Today I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials. And we should start by having a global summit on nuclear security that the United States will host within the next year."

Are you kidding? North Korea "had again broken the rules" so we, the US, are the ones to make a "new pledge". Is it me or does this seem backwards to anyone else? We don't need any practice in making new pledges, it seems like North Korea, however, could use some work in this department. And just when you think we could not be more naive... we announce "new standards, expand(ed) cooperation, new partnerships". Once again, I think our old standards (you know the ones that led to unprecedented prosperity and saved the world from the horrors of Nazism and communism) are sufficient and I am less concerned with our cooperation and partnerships as much as I'm concerned about North Korea's.
Finally to add insult to injury, we are going to "start by having a global summit". Good grief, another summit... that will fix the problem (please someone nominate a world problem that was solved with a summitt -summit is a code word for increased government power). The only summits that ever solved anything took place at the conclusion of events, not "to start" things. The Treaty of Paris (1787) and the other "summits" at Appomattox and on the USS Missouri all took place to finish things, not to start them. (Note: clearly summits serve the purpose of identifying common ground and coordinating strategy for like-minded parties, but in this case both North Korea has plainly made clear their aspirations... to continue talking when only one party is listening is foolishness).

So where was our ambassador par excellance, our negotiating prodigy as the world took this step closer to instability? Oh, now I remember… Mr. Obama was charming the royal socks of the Queen of England while Korea was gassing up their missile. Yes, he worked his rhetorical magic on the European Union when he sat down in face to face deliberations with them. Last I heard, the European Union was not threatening to annihilate the United States with their soon to be developed nuclear arsenal… in case history escapes Mr. Obama, President Ronald Reagan took care of the European nuclear threat more than twenty years ago. We don’t need your mystical power of persuasion there. Oh, and since history seems to be Mr. Obama's weak suit, President Reagan accomplished this feat, not only with his tongue but with a sword and a big stick. Some might even have called him a bully... but we don't want the rest of the world to think poorly of us; we need to reestablish a kinder global image.
This is not some ill conceived educational program to foster the self-esteem of bullies masquerading as heads of states -this is real life and their are several dictators out there who would love to send a nuclear warhead over the Atlantic, the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico. No country in the history of the world has long endured by adopting a policy of appeasement and conciliation. Freedom has always required the blood of its citizens not because they are masochistic but because the world has, is and will always have its contingent of rulers who lust for power and who are willing to enlarge the scope of that power with force.

Come on Mr. Obama, show me something! I want to see you succeed at "faithfully executing the office of the President of the United States of America". If you fail, then my world and the world of my children becomes a lot more dangerous. If American democracy and freedom is reduced, mocked and challenged by totalitarians and despots, then all the world is compromised. America is the greatest nation in the world with the greatest promise of freedom and prosperity for every human being. This is not boasting. While American's should be careful not to be arrogant, we should never apologize for the principles of America. And, help us dear God, we had better start remembering what those principles are.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sermonette: God's Mercy and You

This is one of the most hopeful, sweetest declarations I am familiar with. I also know it to be true... ours is a God who is perfect in the attributes of love and mercy (even when these are balanced by the attribute of perfect justice which mandates that we will answer for every moral transgression we perpetuated in the course of our lifetimes). I don't know that I have heard an explanation that better bridges His perfect mercy and His perfect justice:

J. Rueben Clark, Jr
"You know, I believe that the Lord will help us. I believe if we go to him, he will give us wisdom, if we are living righteously. I believe he will answer our prayers. I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children. I do not think he intends to shut any of us off because of some slight transgression, some slight failure to observe some rule or regulation. There are the great elementals that we must observe, but he is not going to be captious about the lesser things.
I believe that in his justice and mercy he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose."
- Conference Report, October 1953, p.84

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wacky Wednesday Special Edition: April Fools Report

I hope everyone had an enjoyable April Fools. The festivities were in full swing at our house... both on the giving and receiving side. Since true giving should be done anonymously, I will not go into specifics. . . after all, I don't know anything about it.

As for the joke so generously offered to the Wicke Family. Enjoy:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1st (AKA: April Fools Holiday) is finally here!

April 1, 2009

I stayed in bed as long as I could and finally at 5:45 AM I just could not sleep any longer… I was so excited. It is April Fools Morn! This is one of my favorite days of the year (yes, seriously). The anticipation was almost too much: what would unfold in the next 24 hours, what unexpected turn of events would transpire, who would be the bearer of happy tidings?

In times such as these you find yourself reminiscing on cherished memories of years past. I remember the famed “Juice Moose” (and still lament the absence of pictures to help us remember the event). Then their was Kimball whose run for public office commenced on April 1.

And who could forget the municipal toilet inspection fiasco, an operation that took more than six months to unfold. There are many smaller experiences that span the years: dinosaur bones discovered in our back yard, the Craig’s listed spider monkey… Tears well up in my eyes as the memories come flooding back.

So as April 1, 2009 dawns I can’t help but to wonder what will this glorious day bring?