Archive for January, 2010

Life in the land of Nod

January 29, 2010

The origin of the human species is a curious subject for study. These days, there are two predominant methods for gathering information upon which to form conclusions about that origin. There is science, and there is faith. These two are quite different from each other, so different, in fact, that there is no argument between them.
Each one is a language established for communicating certain messages.
Faith was established in human experience thousands of years before science was. It’s inception is clouded in human antiquities.  Faith is established upon human testimonies of divinely-revealed truth; by definition, it requires no proof, except the shared conviction of those who wield it.
Science came along only a few thousand years ago, having been initiated by analytical thinkers in ancient Greece. But the pragmatic use of scientific method only reached its critical mass in our modern period beginning about 700 years ago in the work of such thinkers as Copernicus, Bacon,  Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, Curie, Einstein, Watson and Crick, etc. The evolution of the scientific method has brought the practitioners of science to a regimented system of establishing fact through hypotheses that are confirmed by empirical proof and data.
Science, a systematic proof of hypothetical statements, is a language unto itself with strict rules for establishing that proof.
Faith, a cultural manifestation of shared belief, is a language unto itself having no rules, but having morals, which are its chief end.
In our era, the body of scientific work following the work of Charles Darwin and others is presented as evidence that the human species evolved through genetic mutations from other species. The evidence for this is quite convincing.
As a practitioner of faith, a Christian, I have no argument with this. And the reason is found not in the scientific evidence itself but in the Scripture, fourth chapter of Genesis, verse 13:
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
So we see from divine revelation that there were, in Adam’s time, other beings on earth who were capable of killing the son of Adam, Cain. Whoever these violent entities are, I know not, for scripture does not say. Whoever they were, they were not sons of Adam; for scripture is quite specific that Cain was the first son of Adam and Eve. The second son was Abel, whom Cain killed. The third son was Seth, who was born after God and Cain had their discussion about Cain’s problems that resulted from his murder of Abel.
Furthermore, we see from Genesis that God granted mercy to Cain in spite of his murderous act and that (Gen. 4:15ff) …Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was building a city and he named it after his son Enoch.
To identify these people who might have wanted to murder Cain is now impossible, and also unnecessary. If readers of the scripture would speculate upon their identity, some may suggest that these violent ones were some variant of Neanderthals, or more likely CroMagnons.
At any rate they were, it seems, a pretty violent lot, and God was quite upset when Cain’s behavior revealed a tendency toward their brutality.
Therefore, if scientific enquiry produces evidence of pre-Adamic humanoids, I have, as a believer  whose faith is founded in scripture, no problem with that.
My faith is formed by divine revelation. My knowledge of this earth is formed in science, among other things.
The history of the human species, as revealed in secular writings as well as in holy scripture, is evidence to me that man is a deficient creature. That is to say, we’re not playing with a full deck, and we all have a few loose screws. Christian theologians use the term depraved. That assessment is correct. There is plenty of evidence in  history of our rampant depravity.
What’s essential to me as a person of faith is this: the existential dilemma presented as a consequence of our depravity requires God’s own salvation, not our own, for we are incapable of it. When God breathed life into Adam, that intervention introduced a new work of His upon this earth. That divine work later found its fullest expression in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So Jesus becomes my role model. That’s not to say that I attain the perfection that he did. But I’m following him.
If you want to trace your ancestry to the CroMagnons, or even to the blue people of Pandora, and identify with them, go right ahead. Knock yourself out.
Have a nice day.

It’s, oh, so much more than than the bully pulpit that Teddy calld it.

January 28, 2010

Teddy called it a bully pulpit; but it is so much more than that.
As our legislative branch of government finds itself in indecisive stalemate, our President steps up to the plate and speaks, among his many talking points, this simple statement:
“We should start where most new jobs do — in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it’s time she became her own boss.”
Oh yes, I know it sounds like rhetoric, and It tastes like cliched boilerplate Americana apple pie, but it’s true. Now is the time for all men and women to come to the aid of their country.
I’m serious, y’all.
Congress can’t fix it. The Court won’t correct it, because the Court understands that we are a free people, and we needn’t have the government do everything for us.
Just because the government bails out the fat cats, that  doesn’t mean we all have to be bailed out.
It’s time for the American people to rise up and do what their government is unable to do, because their government is broke!
Americans, find something productive to do.
Oh, so you think there’s nothing you can do in this situation?
Who’s going to suffer if you don’t act? Those, perhaps, who are dearest to you?
You may have to, uh, take a pay cut. That’s a big part of what this deleveraging thing is all about.
If you’re mad at the bankers, you can feel better about lowering your standard of living just a bit. The bankers don’t like deflation.
Furthermore, this belt-tightening is what we need to make our exports competetive with the developing world. But the real crisis is not in our trade deficit, or even in our budget deficit.
It’s in neighborhoods and our factories. Look around you. Look in your neighborhood, your city, your church. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
It’s up to you. Follow the President’s advice; step up to the plate and show us what ya got.
Let’s we the people lead our leaders back to true democracy.

He’s trying to bring us together.

January 28, 2010

Here are eight statements from our President that we should all hear:

~”It is because of this spirit, this great decency and great strength that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.”
~”To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks. I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.”
~”We should start where most new jobs do — in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it’s time she became her own boss.”
~”And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investment in clean energy — in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.”
~”And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.”
~”I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.”
~”To close (the) credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly and to give our people the government they deserve.”
~”God Bless You. And God Bless the United States of America.”

President Barack Obama
Jan. 27, 2010

Constructing a new mythology

January 25, 2010

America’s Judeo-Christian traditions darken into the shadows of history. The resultant void sucks unto itself whatever  religious relics are strewn across our wasteland of secularity, and appropriates them into a new pseudo-spiritual infrastructure.
And so It appears that James Cameron and his comic book predecessors are constructing a new mythology to replace the old Greco-Roman obsolete one.
Apollo, Venus, Prometheus and that Olympian crowd are a little too primitive to suit our enlightened 21st-century purposes, so the storybook priesthood now anoints a new pantheon. Their divine commission is to  set the agenda for all that we hold dear in the future.
The new collection of immortals originated some seventy or eighty years ago with Superman and Wonder Woman, and later expanded to include Batman, Spiderman and others who you’ve no doubt heard of.
Then, just a half-century ago or so, the blocky old comic-book superheroes made a temporary exit stage left to accommodate a new crop of superhumans  whose fanciful incarnations were revealed through movies and tv.
This late-20th-century god-crop takes on a relatively cerebral character, compared to the old superhuman crowd;  Mr. Spock and Luke Skywalker, for instance, manifest their superiority in aptitudes that appear far more human than the earlier crowd of legendary giants. And smarter too–that’s a big part of the new wave. Since there are far more educated people on the planet now than ever before, especially in the USA where so much of the Oz mythmaking began. The new appointment of emulants includes some very smart entities.  Back in the old days, the first requirement  for virtual godhood was physical strength. Now that has taken a back seat to intelligence, especially with the discovery of DNA and the mapping of the human genome placing new parameters on this whole god-making process.
Now a light-year leap in datastream technology enables the advent of the most potent demigod of all–the blue avatar. This Cameron-conceived character releases, from your local multiplex movie palace, a Pandoran plethora of  highly fortified planet-saving personae. The blue avatar is very special, though, because along with his digital incarnation comes the virtual announcement of the gods’ agenda for our age: save the planet. And this is an agenda of much greater significance than just the old crime-stopping checklist.
James Cameron and his legion of avatar-makers have done a very impressive job of setting that agenda in the context of the old good vs evil drama. They’ve cooked up a pretty convincing crop of bad guys whose resource-devouring rapacity outperforms even the baddest villainry of the old military-industrial complex. Their maiden-voyage launch of the blue Pandoran debacle makes you wish you could just leave this drudgy world behind and become one of those noble blue savages. And that is, in fact, what the avatar does–becomes one of them.
More on this later. Have a nice day.

Narrowing the focus

January 23, 2010

When you are young, your horizons expand. Your world gets wider and wider.
It starts when you’re born. . After cacooning in total darkness and protective custody for nine months or so, suddenly there you are splashed down like a space capsule into a wave-tossed world. It’s probably confusing as hell for a young soul, a rude awakening for sure. But then who remembers it? I don’t.
Your senses go to work immediately, trying to make some sense of it all, not that you have any sense yet–just senses. More than likely, they are overloaded right off the bat. But then somehow you manage to pull it together and register your protest to this rude awakening with a scream. Good for you. If you’re lucky like most people, you’re mama will cuddle you and offer a warm welcome even in the midst of this strangely cold environment.  But if mama rejects you then only God can help you. Maybe you’ll make it through the other phases into real life, or maybe you won’t.
If you do make it, and years go by, your senses slowly learn how to deal with life, and they develop a collaborative arrangement with your body that informs your body of what is happening around you and then your brain tells you how to respond in any given situation. And God helps if you let him.
Time passes; your opportunities for personal development grow and grow. Your world gets wider and wider. If you are blessed, you’ll eventually learn how to live life and enjoy it instead of just having some meaningless routine.
Lately I’ve noticed that when folks get old that whole process seems to reverse. The senses seem to wither away, becoming less precise and less dependable as the days roll by. One or the other of them may even shut down altogether, even before that big bucket comes along and you kick it. And it’s not just a person’s senses that slowly fade away. It’s also their sensibilities.  Old folks just aren’t tuned into what’s going on like they were back in the day. Any particular person may be sharp as a tack with the long term memories and all, but there just doesn’t seem to be many reasons left for them to be tuning into all the other stuff that’s happening around them in this life, especially the useless stuff like who’s the latest movie star and drivel like that.
Most folks will go through this process, having their awareness gradually narrowed until at last it’s just a little speck of consciousness–a little essence of _______(fill in your name) that slips into the universe, whatever that is. For me, it will be meeting the resurrected one, Jesus.
Some folks, though, will not have the experience of that slow narrowing. They will not grow old and pass into eternity. Perhaps their demise will come suddenly, like it did for the person whose foot I saw on the telly last night.
I turned the dam thing on after Pat and I arrived at the hotel room here in Honolulu. And so there on the tube is Anderson Cooper reporting on the pile of Haitian rubble behind him. He gestures downward; the camera pans to a human foot, the only visible part of body that’s covered with a broken concrete slab. Whoever that person was, he or she did not grow old.
Or, It didn’t look like an old foot.

He had a dream.

January 18, 2010

“‘I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”’

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

In defense of God

January 17, 2010

Phil Angelides mentioned to Lloyd Blankfein that there is a difference between acts of God and acts of men/women.

I’d like to add a little bit to that discussion by pointing out that there is also a difference between acts of God and acts of nature.

An act of God would be, for instance his provision every minute of every day of breath in your lungs and beating in your heart.

On the other hand, a financial breakdown would be classified as an act of man, because it is the foolishness of men that makes such things happen.

An earthquake, however, is an act of nature. There’s no need to blame God.

Here’s why:

If this lump of matter that we call earth was once a sizzling, hot sphere of lava that shot off from the sun or the big bang or from however all that creative process spun out, then there would necessarily be cracks forming along its surface as the earth cooled.

Have you ever seen a mud puddle that dried up in the sun? Perhaps you noticed the mud, thick and wet. A few days later you walked by it and noticed that the mud had cracked as it dried.

That process, roughly speaking, is what has happened on the entire surface of the earth since it became a planet. Furthermore, that geological process has not ended; it is still happening. Cracks are still forming in the surface of the earth, rearranging its face.

When a crack happens where thousands of people are living, many  get killed because heavy stuff that humans have made falls on them and crushes them. This is one of many hazards of living on this planet; it goes with the territory.

The cracks in earth’s crust develop along what geologists call “fault” lines.

So understand that the earthquake in Haiti happened as a result of a fault in the earth. This tragic event was the earth’s fault.

It there was any “curse” involved, it was just what somebody uttered when they realized what the hell was going down in Port au Prince.

It’s not God’s fault, and it’s not an act of God.

If you think the earth just happened this way, then don’t blame God because you don’t believe in him/her anyway.

If you’re thinking that maybe there is a God who created the earth, then you may be wondering why did he make such a dangerous place where innocent people get killed seemingly for no reason?

I don’t know, but I do know this: you shouldn’t shove the blame on God for something that is the earth’s fault.

If you ever do meet him then perhaps you can ask him about it.

Where to now, St. Labor?

January 16, 2010

Human history presents to us an account of people  learning how to work together to overcome nature’s hostility. Toward that end, we see that humans organized themselves,  erecting  along the way great institutions of government and culture. We associate the history of past institutions with the names of leaders who founded them—Alexander, Caesar, Napolean. Magnanimous leaders rise up to forge empires or institutions from the fragmented resources of previous ages. Years later, those institutions are slowly dismantled and/or necessarily reconstructed by their descendants.

In the context of our western world, for instance, we read that the disarray of  Alexander’s Greek empire eventually furnished a rubble of culture and knowledge upon which a Roman empire could later be erected. With the passing of more centuries, the Catholic Church replaced the Roman empire as an organizing structure for further civilizing development. Later still, the papal dominance was decimated by Protestant reforms and restructuring. Then came the nation-states projecting their varied hegemonies—Germany, Austro-Hungary, France, Great Britain.

This dynamic of growth and decline is seen throughout the history of the world in kingdoms, empires, nations. We can see similar patterns in business.

In the United States, we saw Rockefeller blasting his way through the American hinterlands, building an empire of oil and railroads along the way. We saw Carnegie forging a great institution of steel. We saw Edison providing the spark for an energized era of electrical empowerment.

Then as sure as you’re born, along came enterprising innovators and aggregators to capitalize upon the industrializing tracks that had been laid in previous years. Ford, GM, Chrysler all carved out, over the course of the twentieth century, their slices of our burgeoning prosperity. That prosperity was founded upon the potential energy of hydrocarbons being kineticisezed into economic dynamism.

It’s a similar scenario in this era, the age of information.

Consider a great company called IBM. There’s an innovative giant that made a big impact on the way American business was conducted in the latter half of the twentieth century.  IBM, through profit-seeking creativity, converted the record-keeping practice of business in this country from traditional hand-scribed accounting procedures to computerized data management. Their resourcefulness produced a string of new developments that  changed forever the way business is done, and generated huge profits for its investors and employees along the way.

For a while, IBM didn’t just change with the times; IBM changed the times.

For twenty years or so.

Then along came Microsoft and Apple. The rise of software-enabled personal computing effectively dismantled IBM’s mainframe empire.

Now Microsoft is where IBM was twenty years ago—too big to adapt, too cumbersome to think out of the pc box. Microsoft’s empire of software and personal computing power is being overshadowed in a networking cloud that will leave their twenty-year windows of opportunity quaintly obsolete. Their expensive proprietary packages will go the way of the punchcard, lying in the chads of business history.

Could IBM have foreseen the rise of Microsoft and Apple and made adjustments to ensure its own position of primacy in the computing world?  No way. That’s not the way it works. Innovations are made by new entities that are not confined by thinking inside institutional boxes.

Could Microsoft have foreseen the rise of Google and Cisco and made adjustments to ensure their position of primacy in the computing world? They did not. Now Microsoft’s dominance is fading into a cloud. Does Microsoft have within its programming loins the resourcefulness to, twenty years from now, evolve with the times and emerge, as IBM has, with a new role? We shall see.

In times such as these great leaders make things happen differently from the way they did before.

Thomas J. Watson and Bill Gates were both legendary icons in the history of business, but neither of them could build an empire that would be immune from the abrasive grinding of the sands of time and competition.

Just as IBM had to be downsized, restructured as a new entity in order to function effectively in the competitive world of business, and just as Microsoft is now being, or must be, similarly rearranged if it to survive, so must be the strategy of every working person in these United States.

The sun is setting on America, and we can’t go west, young man young woman, any more. California’s broke. Now  the westward march of American industry has screeched to a great, grinding halt. Will the working stiffs of this country wither to welfare atrophy while cyber-savvy credit swappers securitize their way to gated-community opulence?

Working people of the USA, we better figure out a way to get through these cataclysmic times—a way that goes beyond making demands upon the diminishing resources of a waning American business empire—a way that goes beyond sucking the dregs of a failing insurance system—a way that surpasses the passing of greenback reserve notes issued by an insolvent government.

And that way will surely involve an old-fashion thing called work. Time to get off our asses; that includes you democrats.

I’m asking you, the working people of America, because, although I worked for twenty-five years as a carpenter in North Carolina, I’ve never been a union guy. From my southern, right-to-work perspective, the unions’ demands on corporate resources were appropriate and constructive in past ages of expansion when there was plenty of work to go around. But now those demands are incongruous with our present predicament of scarcity. And what are we going to do about it?

Where are the true labor leaders of our age?

Let’s face it folks.  The American labor movement, in its present incarnation, has outlived its usefulness. What must it do to morph to something useful again?

What would Eugene V. Debs do? What would John L. Lewis do? What would Cesar Chavez do? Try to write new contracts with dinosauric car companies that have, by their failure to make fuel-economizing innovations, painted themselves into a corner of stylish obsolescence?

The “organizing” for our next phase of the American experiment must be even more innovative than any previous expressions of it.  We’ll have to get back to our roots, literally.

Got veggies?

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

the zero years: poem

January 15, 2010

The zero years, a helluva a decade–
nothing can compare to them.
Beginning with a Two, as if to double
the trouble
of three zeroes strung out across two millenia of vesuvian rubble.
We queried: Why 2k?
O it was just on delay, you see
as our auld lang sine wave of predictability
must  lose its invincibility,
and so it did eventually
in smoky plumes of twin towered dooms
unwinding out across the blue september skies.
Then while we nodded nearly napping
suddenly there came a slapping
as seven swans came swimming
across the Hudson skimming
pennies from high-freq trading heaven, and seven
cosines later, after pandora of Iraqi trouble
when our bubble was filled with rubble
we tumbled downtown crashing, those long tails just a-thrashing.
But who knew?

that just a stone’s throw away

along the uptown Hudson

some Sully captain guy would land our decade of woeful dope

upon a lilypad of hope.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Ni hau

January 14, 2010

You go, Google!