Archive for September, 2011

The American

September 24, 2011

The American invents things, develops new technologies, seeks efficiency, strives for productivity, turns a profit, pays taxes, lives and dies.

The American wants to be self-reliant, but expects there are times  when seeking the help of others is necessary. Independence is a state to be sought after, but when in the course of human events in becomes necessary to link with others in order to get the job done, then so be it. He doesn’’t want to ask what others can do for him, preferring instead to ask, “How can we help you today?”

The American takes personal responsibility seriously. She works hard, but takes some time off now and then.  He generally knows what he wants, but realizes you get what you can until what you want is within reach.

The American collaborates with others to build bridges. Sometimes she discovers deep down inside a destructive impulse to burn those bridges. Maybe she herself has been burned, with injustice or abuse. But what good can come of being vindictive? To forgive is divine. To move on is necessary.

An American gets a transfer, or switches jobs when it just ain’t happenin’

He plans ahead, but expects the unexpected. If something can go wrong, it will. He’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. She sees obstacles ahead, but doesn’t obsess about them; they are understood to be part of the landscape. Trouble comes with the territory.

Yet is he faithful, and knows when to persist, and when enduring humiliation is a chasm that must be crossed. She perseveres through thick and thin.

The American may occasionally use objectionable language, but he learns that inserting the f-word, the n-word, and a few other ill-advised utterances can prove self-defeating. A tactful propriety may prove more productive, and even political correctness has some value now and then. Euphemism can be fun, but speaking truth plainly when others are occupied with beating around the bush can prove quite expedient. Cut to the chase.

The American speaks correction to a bully, a thief, or a drunk.

Most of the time, he is kind, but every now and then a little means streak comes out, and must be checked.

She’ll cut you some slack, but understands there comes a time to take it back, for your own good, of course.

The American is neighborly, but he doesn’t pry into other people’s business.

She is tolerant, peace-loving. He defends the weak instead of exploiting them.

She minds her own business, but persists in making appropriate inquiries; he sees that some folks want to be left alone.

The American wants to discern the difference between a means to an end, and an end itself.

She tries to save money, like grandma used to do. He wants to work hard for everything he has, but sometimes just an afternoon of NCAA basketball will contribute miles of inspiration that neutralizes exhaustion. With potato chips and a beer or two.

He doesn’t do pie in sky, nevertheless understands the power of dreams.

She appreciates the liberty of being casual, but enjoys spiffing up when it is time for cuttin’ a shine.

He takes a shower every Saturday evening whether he needs it or not.

The American turns on his hot water spigot, his car ignition, her electric light, but takes it for granted. It may not always be so easy.

Playing by the rules is a prerequisite for order and for decency, but there are some times when practicality, or fair play, requires that the rules to be set aside. Wisdom is knowing the difference.

The American respects law, but has been known to occasionally scoot under the changing red, on a bad day.

On a good day, which is most of them, he’ll wait his turn.

The American avoids talking about religion or politics. If you believe that, I’ve got some swamp land in Arizona I’ll sell ya. De Tocqueville can tell you more about that.

The American is a democrat, or a republican, but that third-party possibility is always in the back of his mind; it could happen, although when’s the last time it did? 1840? Who knows? Wikipedia?

The American is liberal, maybe even a socialist, but possibly a conservative, perhaps a libertarian, but not a communist, although those who wish to stand beneath that banner have liberty to do so. But they are barking up the wrong tree, or spinning their muddy wheels.

It’s a free country.

The American votes, and likes to keep up with what’s going on in the world, and to form an opinion of her own, although it is not so different from everybody else’s as she might think. Hey, everybody has an opinion, but what’s it worth?

What’s it to ya?

Through each American–through her, through him–government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth, if that citizen is willing to do her part, and pull his weight. The American says keep up the good work, and keep on keepin’ on.

Last one out, turn off the lights.

Btw, Are you an American?

Glass half-Full

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The descent of man

September 18, 2011

This is an ironic coincidence, that we Christians build our dogma around the fall of man, while evolutionists theorize about the so-called descent of man, from pondscum or some ameobic thing like it (just kidding). Either way you look at it, the direction is downhill. I suppose downhill is easier than trudging upward, but then downhill doesn’t descend forever; there is an end to it eventually, a leveling out.

Maybe that stopping at the bottom is hell, if you view life and its end in religious terms. Or maybe it is poverty, if you’ve got a humanist worldview.

Although we Christians emphasize the point that man is fallen–depraved–at least our revelation offers a hope of eventual ascent to heaven. These days, our hope–considered naíve by many– is, I think, more convincing than the humanist alternative. Stalin and Mao proved that communism is hell. Nowadays we’re proving that even capitalism is hell.  Hitler proved that (national) socialism, which is the commie’s evil twin, is also hell. Hell on earth. Watch out; it could happen again.

But the hope of Christ is based not on our faltering efforts (individually and collectively) to save ourselves, but rather, on the finished work of the crucified/resurrected one–his atonement for our shitty sin,  and then overcoming death to prove the point that he knows what he’s talking about.

If I could write a play to change the world–to wow the Tony people and then garner oscars for the movie version–could it have a more spectacular plot device than some guy resurrecting from the dead? I don’t think so. Not even Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise could perform such a feat, much less endure the agony that preceded it. Not even Mel Gibson could endure that.

I mean what could be more convincing than raising up from the dead? But then you gotta believe it, or it doesn’t work. Faith is the thing that makes resurrection work for you. That’s your part of the story; God’s already done his.

God, the Creator, did write such a story, an epic, and he set it in actual history, beginning with Adam and Eve and so forth, and Abraham and Moses and all that, right up through Jesus, Paul and John. Then he had the book published. You’ve probably heard of it, if you’re a bibliophile.

But back to the descent thing (it never fails to happen): While Adam and Eve were falling from God’s grace through their sin, outside of Eden the cro-magnon hominids were, perhaps, descending by successive mutations to full homo sapiens descentive glory.

There is a lot we still don’t know about the human race, but one conclusion we can make is this: our species has perfected the art of screwing up. Marx thought otherwise; he posited a steady progression through capitalism, dictatorship of the proletariat, and eventually evolved communism. But look what Stalin and Mao did with his doctrine. You can’t figure how to make the human society thing work. It always descends, after a pyrric flash in the pan, to dystopia.

I mean, for instance: It makes perfect sense, from a rational standpoint (although not yet a practical one), that we should develop energy generation through solar power technology. We’ve been talking about it since the 70s for good reason; but no American company has really made the breakthrough that would propel solar roof-collectors to mass market efficiency and low-cost affordability. The wallstreet crowd doesn’t seem to be interested in taking a chance on the prospect; they’re too busy playing poker with derivatives and credit default swaps. So our gov. finds what seems to be a good solar-developing company in California, and sinks a half bill into it, thinking that Solyndra might be the group to make the difference. But then the enterprise fails, goes bankrupt. Damn.

Why? Because they couldn’t compete with the Chinese! The commies! who are doing everything faster and cheaper than we can because so many low wagers work there, while all our people have gotten rich, fat&happy, and comfortably numb, and so we can no longer compete. I mean, these Deng-reformed Maoists are overtaking us with their hybrid Hegelian-synthesis neo-communo/capitalism!

A hundred or so years ago we were going great guns with full steam power, pulling stuff out of the ground and making cool stuff out of it and selling it to each other, making money hand over fist and then selling it all over the world. Now everybody else in the world, except the Europeans, are doing all that wildwest development faster and cheaper. Shanghai, Singapore, Bangalore, Sao Paulo are doing now what New York and Chicago were doing a hundred years ago. What are New York and Chicago doing now? Crying the blues and watching reruns of sex in the city.

We, the Brits and those other European post-colonialists, taught the “third” world pretty well. Those developing nations have learned their capitalism lessons thoroughly. They learned it, like all children do, by example. Their mutant version of capitalist development will survive our fittest attempts to catch up.

And the trains, in China. Don’t get me started. I’ve ridden on a couple of them. Let me tell you they are fast, and they are impressive. Our Prez points out, correctly, that we were building vast infrastructure and railways across America, back in the day. And why we can’t we do it again?

It’s the descent thing. Our trains have run out of yankee ingenuity somewhere between stations. While the Chinese maglevs whiz along at 200 mph, although they do sometimes run into each other. Watch out, sloppy safety regs ahead.

Our whole damned nation, and sooner or later the world itself, is running out of steam, or out of oil despite the frickin fracking. And runnin out of money, though there’s plenty of the printed stuff floating around. Our mph and our gdp is in a long, decelerating descent.

But there is an ascent from the devolving madness.  A sufficient tranche of preferred stock has been purchased for me, and for you, if you choose to invest your time. It is a company not of this world, although it is in this world. I will be ascending on its prospectus soon, with a little help from my resurrected friend. I hope to see you there, if not before.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

From baroque Bach to funky Browne

September 17, 2011

My friend David Browne just consummated his latest musical project with a loving embrace of grace.

Beneath a canopy of powerfully eternal security, he and Patty had established a home base in our promised land many years ago. From that sacred place of intmacy, they were able to raise up a crop of fine young’uns, even as David persevered in the development of his God-ordained musical gifts. Together, the musician and his proverbs 31 bride smashed the glasses of postmodern musical conventionality, which dictates that musicians must confound their lives with exhaustive tours and frantic pursuits of musical success.

But not David.  From a quiet place of intimacy with our Creator, D. Browne has been enabled, over the years, to fulfill multiple responsibilities as husband, father, businessman and good citizen; but he managed this legacy of faithful works while composing and recording a prodigious collection of original music.

Reminds me of J.S. Bach.
David Browne’s life does parallel Bach; both have that sort of German knack for exquisite musical precision, although David displays his percussionist heart in a decidedly Abrahamic framework. You may even detect a mezuzah hung somewhere in his mezzo-tenored doorway. But as I was saying, the grand master Bach had managed, about three centuries ago, to glorify God in an intricately constructive way without losing sight of what is truly precious in this life.

As Johann had labored long ago at his clanky harpsichord or on some cloistered organ, so David, in our times, caresses and thumps out a toccata of masterful sound in his garage-top studio near the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring gets a funky new rendering a few hundred years after the original.

Listening to the new cd, A Place I Go,  is for me a little like opening some hobbit hole of contemporary Christian musical passion. Then this awesomely productive audio entity comes leaping out at you in a sound  that’s thick with warm, furry layers of complex virtuosity. I think the den of unique creativity in which David’s labor of love began must have been hallowed out, originally, somewhere near that mountaintop lane–the one pictured in his cover photo. A swaddled child–one of the Browne kids–is seen in the pic going to that place where David goes, a place where he has wisely taken his wife and children. He will take you there too, if you’ll give him a listen.

That place is a place of holy intimacy with the God who created us– the Yahweh of Abraham, Elohim of Isaac, the El Shaddai of Jacob, whose Son was given as the Word made flesh, nailed to a cross and then resurrected, although David never actually mentions, in his tender dynamism, the name of Jesus. But you get the message. You know who he’s singin’ about–the One who walks with us closer than a brother.

A Place I Go is a sacrificial offering sent forth from the most holy place of profound grace.  From his abode of redemption, the artist sends up a smoky thickness of rock-driven conviction, punctuated with delicate piano and smooth acoustic interludes. He even tosses in a dash of  rap on “A Better Way,” and a smattering of scatty electro-phased vocal, propelled by  retrofuture cultural relativity funk on “When I think of you.” My favorite is “Promised Land,” which sojourns on the “ancient steps” upon which our great faith is founded.
Check out David’s new labor of love; he is a unique composer with an expressive gift, and an intense love for our Creator. He is, however, meshugginah.

Glass half-Full

Let them come to New York!

September 10, 2011

In 1944, as the combatants of World War II crept wearily toward  their blood-bought peace, econimist Friedrich A. Hayek wrote:

“Contemporary events differ from history in that we do not know the results they will produce. Looking back, we can assess the significance of past occurrences and trace the consequences thay have brought in their train. But while history runs its course, it is not history to us. It leads us into an unknown land…”

Three years earlier…

It had been the unprecedented wilderland of World War II that provoked, in 1941, Dr. Hayek to wrestle his incisive thoughts down onto some kind of intelligible mat. He began to jot some observations about that death struggle  embroiling Europeans in ferociously destructive warfare at that time.  What emerged from his typewriter three years later was an historical opus which he named The Road to Serfdom.

But back in ’41 on this side of the Atlantic, you (or your grandparents) may remember…

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we Americans joined the Allies in their war to defeat Germany, Italy, and Japan. Together with the British, Russians, the resisting French, and a few other courageous nations, our brave soldiers collectively ran the Nazis into the  European ground,  and then chased the defeated Japanese back onto their island.

From 1945 onward after that terrible war, a widening political rift developed between us Americans and our former comrades-in-war, the Russians. We are a freedom-loving, constitutional democratic republic. The USSR was at that time a communist state. We wanted to make the world safe for democracy. They wanted to foment a worldwide revolution in order to overthrow what they considered to be our corrupt capitalist system, and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat, the working classes.

For several decades the defeated Germans were thereby divided into two countries, one on each side of this politico/philosophical struggle. The dispute was known euphemistically as the Cold War. West Germany was being rehabilitated according to our democratic traditions, beginning with our American leadership as provided through Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. East Germany was being ruled by the communist Russians, led by Josef Stalin and then Nikita Kruschev. Those Germans in the western half of their country joined us western Allies as advocates of free democratic-republican government. Their countrymen in the east part of Germany were stuck with being occupied by the USSR communists.

The strange treaty arrangements that had followed negotiations after WWII divided not only the German nation, but also its capital, Berlin. This bizarre situation was further complicated by the fact that Berlin is located geographically in eastern Germany. Since the Allies insisted that the German capital not be yielded totally to the Russians, Berlin became a divided city of east/west, even though it was located in the midst of eastern Germany. West Berlin, or the western half of Berlin, became a (literally) isolated enclave city-state of western political freedom in the midst of communist East Germany. The freedom-seeking citizens of West Berlin were totally surround by communist, Russian-dominated East Germany.

But many Germans of the east were not content to stay on the totalitarian side. So many fled to West Germany, and many escaped to West Berlin. But the Russian overlords didn’t like this, so they built a wall in 1961 to keep the imprisoned east Germans from getting over to the free side.
But then along came, also in 1961, John F. Kennedy. Formerly a naval officer in the Pacific part of WWII, he had since been elected our American President. He took the mantle from President ( and former Commander of the Allied troops) Eisenhower. Jack Kennedy had kept his eye on Germany; he had been in the Oval Office less than a year when he decided to visit the Germans and give them some much-needed encouragement.

Those  wall-ensconced west Berliners extended an enthusiastically fond welcome to President Kenndy. Standing at the Brandenburg Gate, in the very shadow, as it were, of the odious Wall, he told the eager Berliners:

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future… Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin. Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.”

A very good point, that, Mr. President.

He also told them:

“When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.”

That day of liberation did come for the Germany people, and for all the citizens of  Berlin. Twenty four years later in 1987, another American president, Ronald Reagan, stood in the same Brandenburg Gate location and spoke boldly to the Germans gathered there. He used the occasion to challenge the top-dog Russian wall-keeper:

“Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In 1989, the Russians did tear down the Berlin wall, and the divided Germans were united once again–this time not in a nazified third reich– but in a democratic nation.

The great tide of freedom as expressed in democratic, constitutioanl government, and led by our American republic,  achieved at that time, along with our freedom-generating allies, another landmark victory. The USSR gave up the abusive Stalinist ghost and decided to join the free world.  I’m hoping the Chinese government will one day permit, or be required to enable, such political liberty.

However, as Friedrich Hayek had been trying to express back in the ’40s, history and its struggles are never as clearcut as we would like to think.

The 9/11 attack on World Trade Center and its ensuing terrorism may be a harbinger of a new death-struggle between ancient worldviews on the global horizon. While its true that developed nations have conducted a century of economic debates and political wars–both hot and cold–over freedom vs.totalitarianism, now that old ideological kamph is synthesizing.  Communism (and fascism, as two peas in a rotten statist pod, whether they admit it or not.) are reconciling with “democracy”as strange bedfollows  into a dialectical tension of constituionally-arbitrated political battles: socialists vs. libertarians, democrats vs. republicans.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or back at the caliphate, the real death-struggle among humans has reverted to guess what?–religion!

Go to New York City and see the hole in the ground. It was not dug there by communist workers, nor was it blasted by fascist fanatics.  That rapacious gap was inflicted as an airborn, calculated casualty careening  waywardly on a fateful collision course–a path plotted between Islamic hegira and liberty-hugging westerners. Let the world come and see.  Let them come to New York! Let them come and see the hole in the ground.

We’ve got a new brave-new-world morphing here. The once-new brave-new-world is devolving back into an old brave-new-world. Its a different kind of beast we’re dealing with, much more vindictive than the animal spirits on Wall Street. And its zealous vehemence is much older than either communism or democracy. Now is the time for  citizens in this  land of the free and  home of the brave to reach deeper into our spiritual heritage than politics or youtube will propel us.

Turn or burn.

Glass half-Full


Go and Do.

September 3, 2011

Say, oh
say that star-spangled banner does yet wave. The brave doctor King did
raise his voice and he did
call out to a people from amongst the fields and forges of this imperfect nation. Yes, he did
challenge us from atop the steps of blood-bought liberty to
gather, and to
carve from the mountain of despair a stone of hope; thus did the oppression of a former age
become the foundation of a new work of freedom upon the earth.
Be free.
Pull that barge, and
tote that bale became, no longer,  some strawboss command, but instead, a new summons to
do the work of living free. No free lunch, you
know.
Watch the sun rise and set as ye
stand upon that old mountain of despair, to
conquer it, and to
wield a chisel upon its craggy immensity..
Listen to  the whistling of the wind across our prairie land.
Hear the cry of the hoot owl in the forest.
Sleep.
Rise up.
Gather the seed, and
plant it.
Grow.
Dig out the iron, and
smelt it for steel.
Find the copper, and
collect the sun.
Drill.
Seek the gold.
Give it to your wife, to your children.
Multiply what your fathers and  mothers have sewn into your world. Though it be small, it
be much, enough to
work with.
Extract the resources of a new age from the cracks of the old.
Lift up from the fissures of failing institutions the cornerstones of the next.
Pull that wire.
Draw that dream.
Sing.
Key that message to your people.
Build future. It aint what it used to

be. Your welfare rests not upon an SS check;  yeah, it doth
kindle behind your eyes. It doth
smolder between your shoulders.
Go, and
do.
Labor,
Love.
Wait no longer, but do
wait upon the Lord.
Selah.

Glass half-Full