Friday, October 30, 2009

the sound of one hand clapping



If you know anything about Zen Buddhism (I know very little), you are familiar with the term satori (enlightenment, see Japanese symbol above) and possibly its cousin, kensho, both of which can be achieved, Buddhists say, through the use of koans, little questions designed to help you along the path to the aforementioned enlightenment. One famous koan goes: You know the sound of two hands clapping, but what is the sound of one hand clapping?

I think the writings of the American poet E.E. Cummings (also known as e.e. cummings and e e cummings) are in many ways the literary equivalent of the sound of one hand clapping. What I mean by that is “beyond the reach of my feeble understanding” (I would never be a good Buddhist). Here’s one of E.E.’s e e’s e.e.’s his most famous (and hence, to me, indecipherable) poems:


anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings


anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


Do you hear the sound of one hand clapping yet?

Maybe this one will help. It was published in the January 1920 issue of The Dial and is in the public domain:



I must be making progress. I know the pigeons are clay pigeons.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

But since the dictionary I looked in defines clapping as “to strike the palms of one’s hands against one another resoundingly, and usually repeatedly, esp. to express approval,” is it even possible for one hand to clap?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s wrong with this picture?



The correct answer, I suppose, is “Nothing.”

This is a photo of Harry Reid, the senior United States Senator from Nevada, a member of the Democratic Party, and the Majority Leader of the U. S. Senate since January 2007. He is to the Senate as Representative Steny Hoyer from Maryland’s Fifth Congressional District is to the House of Representatives. Notice I did not say Nancy Pelosi. She is Speaker of the House, a different office entirely than Majority Leader. Her counterpart in the Senate is Vice-President Joe Biden. So much for getting the details right. Let us move on.

I don’t know when that photo was taken, or where, or at what occasion, but Senator Reid appears to be praying. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (that is, Mormons) he may well be praying. Nancy Pelosi is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. She probably prays also.

A more pertinent question might be, “What do Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi pray for?”

I will hazard a few guesses. The passage of their version of Healthcare legislation in their respective spheres of influence? The demise of FOX News? Re-election? Forgiveness? No one knows, really.

But these lyrics from one of the songs in Godspell might be a good place for all of us to start:

Day by day,
Day by day,
Oh, Dear Lord,
Three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.

Day by day by day by day by day....


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not by eastern windows only


Here’s a real-life example of what I think the nineteenth-century English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819 - 1861) was talking about in that poem of his I showed you the other day (you can read the poem here):

Fred Rogers’ Acceptance Speech after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony


If you happen to be among the few people who have never heard of either the much-beloved Mr. Rogers or his long-running, award-winning children’s program on American public television, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, you can read about him and it here and here.

And if you do remember Mr. Rogers, here is a message from him to you.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

The shortest distance between two points...


...is a straight line, as we all know, except when one of the points is the town of Sheffield in England and the other point is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

In a comment on the previous post, Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, took me to task. He accused me of rambling and even of being a tease, all because I had mentioned Santiago, Chile, and the Andes Mountains and these seemed to him to be unrelated to the rest of my post (which, you will recall, was about my friend Yorkshire Pudding’s trip to Easter Island or, as it is known to its closest friends, Rapa Nui).

What I neglected to say in that post was that YP had left his home in Sheffield, England, in the capable hands of his wife, Shirley, and made his way to Heathrow Airport in London (a distance of 176 miles), where he boarded a plane bound for Madrid, Spain (a distance of 783 miles), where he boarded another plane bound for Santiago, Chile (a distance of 6637 miles), where he did a little sightseeing, and then boarded still another plane bound for his ultimate destination, Easter Island (a distance of 2000 miles), a total distance of 9596 miles, give or take a furlong. In Texas, that is what is known as “a mighty fur piece.”

Something else I neglected to mention was that Santiago, Chile, was Yorkshire Pudding’s final “jumping off point” for Easter Island.

More, I trust, will be forthcoming regarding Easter Island itself from the aforementioned Yorkshire Pudding.

Here is a photograph of chili peppers growing.


It has nothing to do with either Santiago, Chile, or Easter Island. I just threw it in for good measure.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogging is so broadening enlightening


My British blogging friend, Yorkshire Pudding, whose real name I have never been able to determine, retired a couple of months ago from a 30-year teaching career. As a sort of present to himself, he has decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and take a trip to Rapa Nui to see the Moai. (If that last part made no sense whatever to you, Rapa Nui is another name for Easter Island and the Moai are the 887 monumental statues that have been found on the island.)


That is not Easter Island. Don’t be silly! That is Santiago, Chile, from the air, with some of the Andes Mountains in the background and a layer of smog obscuring the view. According to Wikipedia, the Andes range is over 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) to 700 km (430 mi) wide, and of an average height of about 4,000 meters (13,000 ft). The metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile, is home to more than 7,000,000 people, which helps to explain the smog.

No, dear hearts, this is Easter Island:



To read more about Easter Island, click here.

To read more about the Moai, click here.

Here is a sample of the so-far-indecipherable "rongo-rongo script" of the original inhabitants of Rapa Nui, the ones who apparently erected the 887 moai:



Perhaps Yorkshire Pudding is also going to Easter Island to see these:


They are described in the middle row of the rongo-rongo script if I have interpreted it correctly.

Whatever his reasons, just click here to let Yorkshire Pudding be your guide on this fascinating journey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When you’re feeling outnumbered or all alone or ready to give up


I recommend reading this poem by the nineteenth-century English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819 - 1861):


Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth
by the nineteenth-century English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819 - 1861)

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!


This particular poem, though quite old-fashioned by modern standards, has been one of my favorites for a very long time. I especially like the last stanza. Did I mention that the poem was written by the nineteenth-century British poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819 - 1861)?

I thought I did.

I wonder if you might have any idea who this could be:


I thought you might.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Your government at work


This October 17, 2009, article from the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale says it all.

Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, please note that your home state is featured prominently near the end of the Sun-Sentinel article.

My brother-in-law and his wife, who moved to Orlando shortly after they spent their honeymoon in Florida almost 49 years ago, have put a For Sale sign in their yard and are planning to move back to North Carolina. Nothing could be finer than to be alive in Carolina in the morning.

Triage is basically good, I guess. And any plan is better than no plan at all.

Ya think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Five, er, Twelve Golden Rings


Because I am interested in where the people who visit my blog are from, I installed that Feedjit thingy over there in the left sidebar to record your visits. When I see a country that has not visited before, I save its flag on my hard drive. Currently I have 97 different flags saved on my hard drive. The most recent addition, just yesterday, was Ghana.

Ghana (not to be confused with Guinea or Guyana) is located in West Africa. Specifically, it is bordered on the west by Côte d’Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast), on the east by Togo (formerly French Togoland), on the north by Burkino Faso (formerly the Republic of Upper Volta), and on the south by the Gulf of Guinea (formerly part of the Atlantic Ocean -- oops, I mean, part of the Atlantic Ocean).


Ghana made me sit up and take notice because some friends of ours, Andy and Kate Ring, have lived in Ghana for most of the past thirty years. There must be something in Ghanaian water, because they eventually had ten children: Thad, Isaac, Toby, Ben, Hiram, Seth, Ethan, John, Alisha, and Mary. (To be fair, several of the children were born before the Rings went to Ghana.) One time I said to Andy, “I know what you’re trying to do, Andy. You’re trying singlehandedly to bring baseball to West Africa.” The Rings lived in northern Ghana, in Tamale (TOM-uh-lee, not tuh-MAH-lee as in Spanish):


When we met them in 1975, Andy was completing an MA in Structural Linguistics at Florida Atlantic University. Andy now holds a PhD in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University, and Kate holds an MA in Social Sciences from Azusa Pacific University. A few months after we met them, the Rings joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. After attending Wycliffe’s Jungle Camp in Mexico for several months, they eventually moved to Ghana in 1979. They started translation work among the Lelemi-speaking people in 1981. In 1995, the Ring family and a team of Ghanaian co-workers brought the Lelemi New Testament to completion. More recently, Andy (I should call him Dr. Ring) has been a pioneer in combining computers and teams of native translators from different language groups who met together regularly in what was called the Volta Region Multi-Project (VRMP). As a result, and much faster than previously, they recently completed four New Testaments in Selee (seh-LAY), Sekpele (SEK-peh-leh), Tuwuli (TOO-willy), and Siwu (SEE-woo). I'm sure I'm showing you only the tip of the iceberg about the work Andy Ring has done involving linguistics.

Apart from their translation work, the Rings have led survey teams in Ghana to identify languages still needing translation. According to Wikipedia, the 2009 edition of the Ethnologue contains statistics for 7,358 languages in the world (not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a ‘language’ and what features define a ‘dialect’) and 580 of these are in Ghana (but see the Update at the end of this post. --RWP). Officially, the language of Ghana is English, but there are nine other government-sponsored languages recognized by Ghana's Bureau of Ghana Languages: Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dagbane, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema. In addition, Twi and Fante (two dialects of Akan), although not government-sponsored, are widely-spoken in Ghana, and Hausa is widely used by Muslims in Ghana.

And you thought learning Spanish was hard.

On April 18, 2009, the Sekpele New Testament was dedicated in Likpe-Maate. Mr. George Maalug Kombian, the acting director of GILLBT (Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy, and Bible Translation), said that the New Testament has now been translated into 20 Ghanaian languages and the entire Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments) has been translated into 3 languages by GILLBT.

Here are recent photos of Kate (with Mary) and Andy (with one of his paintings):


(Photos © Andy & Kate Ring)

I almost forgot. The flag of Ghana looks like this:


[Update. I have received an e-mail from Andy Ring saying he believes the reference in Wikipedia to 580 languages in Ghana is incorrect. He thinks 580 is the correct figure for the number of languages in Nigeria. Andy also included a link to this page in the current Ethnologue that puts the number of languages in Ghana at 79. I apologize for the incorrect figure in my original post. -- RWP, Oct. 20, 2009]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

“Oh, My God!” is not a prayer


Soapbox time.

I have been bothered by something for a long time but have not blogged about it before. Then, the Nightline program on regular network television (ABC-TV) included a segment a few nights ago on the phrase “Oh, My God!” (Alternate rendering: “Omigod!”) and its Twitter and texting equivalent, “OMG!”. It set my juices to flowing.

I didn’t see the entire segment, so I don’t know whether any Christians were interviewed. The part I saw centered on a group of Jewish teenagers in New York who were asked (by their rabbi, I think) whether they ever said “Oh, My God!” or texted “OMG!” He also asked them what they meant when they used it, and whether they had ever considered that they might be breaking the Second Commandment (“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”).


All of them had used it. Not a single one of them thought he or she was breaking the Second Commandment. All of them said it was simply part of our American culture. A lot of people who think of themselves as Christians would probably say the same thing. One or two said it might be something to think about before speaking or texting in the future.

According to various members of the group, “Oh, My God!” and “OMG!” can mean “I’m shocked!” or “I’m surprised!” or “I love your shoes!” or even “He is so hot!” In other words, mindless drivel coupled with a poor vocabulary and a lack of imagination. Whatever it means, “OMG” is ubiquitous nowadays. (Ubiquitous, class, is a big word that means everywhere.)

The narrator also talked about “minced oaths” and mentioned that such interjections as “Gosh” (God), “Gee” (God), “Egad” (God), and even “Jiminy Cricket” (apparently because of the letters J. C., as in Jesus Christ) might be verboten, Commandment-wise. Keep in mind that this program was not on a religious channel. This was on network television. The phrases “Cheese and crackers, got all muddy” (Jesus Christ, God Almighty) and the singularly strange “Jesus, Mary, and Jehoshaphat” were not mentioned.

Perhaps you think such scrupulousness in speech borders on the ridiculous or is a matter of no consequence, but I think the Nightline narrator may have raised a valid point. The phrase is everywhere. “Oh, my God! She looked fantastic on the red carpet in that purple Versace gown!” “Oh, my God! This hamburger is awesome!” “Oh, my God! Our team just scored another touchdown!”

If you have ever watched ABC-TV’s Extreme Home Makeover (the one with Ty Pennington, who attended school with my three children) or TLC’s Trading Spaces (the one that used to feature Ty Pennington before he left for bigger and, one supposes, better-paid ventures) or HGTV’s House Hunters or Property Virgins or My First Place, you have heard the phrase over and over and over again. “Oh, my God! A walk-in closet!”, “Oh, my God! A tray ceiling", “Oh, my God! Granite countertops!”, “Oh, my God! Stainless-steel appliances!”, “Oh, my God! A swimming pool!”

Calling upon the name of the Lord, however, which is the opposite of taking the Lord’s name in vain, is encouraged in Scripture, such as during worship or when asking for help in time of need or for mercy and Divine intervention when witnessing something horrific or tragic. It’s really a matter of recognizing the power of His name versus being totally oblivious to it. [Furthermore, calling upon the name of the Lord requires the vocative “O”, as in speaking directly to someone, not the exclamation “Oh!” --RWP]

Mindlessness among teenagers is understandable. Mindlessness among adults is inexcusable.

And don’t think you can just substitute “Oh, my goodness,” either. Two books in the Old Testament (Psalms, Micah) and three in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Romans) specifically state “There is none that does good, no, not one” or something very similar.

A vow of silence is looking better all the time.

I am now officially off my soapbox.

P.S. - This is Ty Pennington. Bite your tongue.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Strolling down musical memory lane


Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, mentioned Spike Jones in his comment on my Mitch Miller post. Actually, he mentioned Spike Williams and I wondered aloud if he meant Spike Jones and he allowed as how he did. Since I am constantly grasping at straws to come up with new subjects for my posts, a post on Spike Jones suggested itself almost immediately. I was only too happy to oblige.

Spike Jones and The City Slickers was the name of a a band that was not to be believed, back in the Dark Ages. If you are of a certain age you may remember Spike’s contributions to mankind. And if you’re not of a certain age, it is high time that you became aware of some of them. Here are just a few:

Sabre Dance

Cocktails For Two

William Tell Overture (Illustrated)

You Always Hurt The One You Love (Pantomimed by someone other than RWP)

Laura

The first half of that last one shows that the City Slickers could be a real orchestra when they wanted to be. The last half shows that they could never be a real band no matter how much they wanted to be.

Spike Jones and his City Slickers brought a little fun and laughter to what Tom Brokaw has called “the greatest generation.” You remember them. They were the folks who weathered the Great Depression and won World War II and brought us all into the world and tried to give us a better world than they had. I think they probably deserved to act a little silly every once in a while. They earned the right. That pantomime guy, however, may have crossed the line once too often.

Not your cup of tea, you say? Just wait. Another post will be along in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sing Along With Who?


I know, I know, it should be “Sing Along With Whom?” but if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, that’s what I say. (Actually, I have never said that in my life.)

“Dad,” said my oldest son one day back in the early nineties when he was attending graduate school at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, “have you ever heard of a man named Mitch Miller?”

“Of course,” I said. “He used to have a television program called Sing Along With Mitch back in the sixties. Everybody my age has heard of Mitch Miller.”

But, alas, Sic transit gloria mundi, my son had never heard of him. Not, at least, until Mr. Miller attended a concert at Eastman and donated enough money for the entire jazz band to attend an International Jazz Festival in Boston. Mitch Miller, it turns out, grew up in Rochester and was living in retirement in his old home town.

Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah (mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the Putziest one of all?) has accused us of late of being “an old person’s blog,” so this post is just going to add fuel to his fire, I suppose.

Here’s a little snippet of Mitch leading the gang in singing, “Heart Of My Heart.” Everything seemed to sound like The Lawrence Welk Show in those days, didn’t it? And just about everything on television was in black and white.

And if that isn’t enough Mitch for you, below, in four parts, is an entire Sing Along With Mitch show, complete with commercials, including one in black-and-white for a Technicolor movie, Mary Poppins. Very bizarre. This episode also includes a very young Bob McGrath (he later showed up on Sesame Street), a very young Leslie Uggams, and a very young Johnny Carson. See if you can spot them.

Children, this is what passed for entertainment in Grandma’s day.

Sing Along With Mitch (part 1 of 4)

Sing Along With Mitch (part 2 of 4)

Sing Along With Mitch (part 3 of 4)

Sing Along With Mitch (part 4 of 4)

I dare you to watch the entire episode from start to finish. It’s sort of a cross between Lawrence Welk, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and, oh, I don’t know, maybe an early version of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus. I’m just sorry that this particular episode of Sing Along With Mitch was made before they began telling the viewing audience to “follow the bouncing ball.”

Here’s the icing on the cake. Mitch Miller is still alive today. He still lives in Rochester. He is 98 years old. That makes him the antithesis of the old saying, “Gone, but not forgotten.” Mitch Miller, it seems, is forgotten, but not gone.

In my next post, I may show you Mrs. Elva Miller (no relation to Mitch). Then again, I may not.

Monday, October 5, 2009

One down, four to go.


In finishing this meme from Rosezilla, I will err on the side of brevity.

Sunshine - It’s a scientific fact that light, traveling at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, takes a little over eight minutes to cover the 93,000,000 miles between the sun and the earth. After that fascinating tidbit of astronomical information, I can’t improve on John Denver: “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy; sunshine in my eyes can make me cry; sunshine on the water looks so lovely; sunshine almost always makes me high.” But this morning was foggy, and that was nice too.

Admire - Back to the dictionary. One word never means another exactly, but to admire means to regard with wonder, pleasure, or approval; to take pleasure in; to like or desire; to esteem, revere, or venerate. When it comes to celebrities in sports and show business, people don’t admire them so much as envy them, and that’s a whole different emotion. I say don’t admire Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning or Britney Spears or Celine Dion or Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or Elvis Presley or the latest crop of finalists on American Idol. If you do, you run the risk of degenerating into celebrity worship, which starts with envy and ends in, dare I say it, reverence and veneration. Admire the real heroes instead. Admire people in our armed forces who put their lives on the line every day in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to stop international terrorism in its tracks. Admire firemen who go into burning buildings to rescue other people. Admire policemen who stop those who prey on children, the weak, the elderly, the vulnerable. Admire nurses who work long hours at low pay to restore people to health. Admire teachers who pass up opportunities to make a lot more money in the corporate world and choose instead to influence the next generation in a positive way. Sure, there may be bad apples in every barrel, but those are the kinds of people I admire.

Pickles - My dad used to make them in a crock churn using the cucumbers from our garden. My favorites to this day are sweet gherkins, bread-and-butter pickles, and Kosher dills. I also especially like pickled watermelon rind, but perhaps I am getting off the subject. All together now: “My ma gave me a nickel to buy a pickle; I didn’t buy a pickle, I bought some chewin’ gum. Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chewin’ gum, how I love chewin’ gum,....” The first person who knows the rest of the lyrics to this song will receive immunity in next week’s challenge and cannot be eliminated.

Faith - This could be a bunch of platitudes, but I don’t want it to be. The question is, faith in what? The following is not original with me; I read it in a little devotional booklet a couple of days ago:

“As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 NLT). What is that all about? This: Fiery serpents had bitten many of the people of Israel, and many had died. The survivors pleaded with Moses to ask God for mercy. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent of bronze, and set it on a pole; and...everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live’” (Numbers 21:8 NKJV). The Israelites who had been bitten by snakes found healing by looking at the pole -- and sinners find salvation by looking to Christ. Look and live! The simplicity of it troubles us. We expect a more complicated cure. Moses and his followers might have expected more as well: manufacture an ointment, treat one another, or at least fight back. We say, “God helps those who help themselves.” But Jesus says, “Only believe.” You believe the chair will hold your weight, so you sit on it. You trust the work of the light switch, so you flip it. You regularly trust power you cannot see to do a work you cannot accomplish. Today, God asks you to do the same.” (from The Word For You Today, © 2009)

All of us can think of ways we would have done it differently. The lesson here, in my opinion, is that it is always right to ask God for His mercy, and it is always better to take advantage of the provision He has made than to try to create a way of our own that will not work.

End of sermon. End of meme.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fortitude, Sunshine, Admire, Pickles, Faith (part 2)


Okay, so as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, the way this meme works is I received the above five words from Rosezilla down in sunny Florida. Someone had given five words to her to write about (Moment, Finish, Sound, Carry, and Fact) and now I’m supposed to write about five more words she has given to me. Rosezilla changed the rules a little bit and I will follow her lead. Anyone who wants to can participate; I am not going to choose people. Let me know in a comment if you want to play and I will send you five words of your very own to write about. The point is to reveal something of oneself to others.

Here are my five little essays:

Fortitude - I hardly know where to begin. Buried deep in my gray matter is the phrase “Patience and fortitude!” but I cannot say where I first heard it or when or from whom. I think I was being told to hang in there, stay the course, finish the task, don’t give up the ship and all that. Some people say there are four Cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and three Theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), making a total of seven. We’ll leave the other six for another time and concentrate on fortitude. Fortitude is not courage exactly, but what is it? One dictionary defines it as “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously” and another as “strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.” The Latin root, fortis, means strong or brave. I think of a Bible verse, I Corinthians 16:13, where Paul tells the people of Corinth, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” I also think of the first nine verses of the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Joshua, where the same instruction is repeated several times, once in negative form:

“After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Now that my servant Moses is dead, you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Everywhere you go, you will be on land I have given you--from the Negev Desert in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand their ground against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Some people say that if you hear voices you are loony, and that if you think the voice you hear is God’s, you are especially loony, perhaps even certifiably insane. I am 68 years old. I have lived a long time. I have not always acted with courage and fortitude. I have not always been strong. But in these troubled times it is not loony to follow God’s instructions as best you can, especially when what you believe He is telling you to do is to watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, and be strong. The world needs more people, both men and women, who are willing to do that.

And I know this also: When I admit that I am weak, that I need help, that I can’t do it myself, then I am strong, because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. And the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Click here to listen to a song that says it better that I can.

I have written only the first essay. The other four should be along shortly.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fortitude, Sunshine, Admire, Pickles, Faith


Blame it on Rosezilla. The common denominator of those five words up there in the title is, wait for it, it’s coming, here it is, ta-DAH!: Absolutely nothing.

Rosezilla, who is really Tracie down in sunny Florida, received a meme from someone named Beverly who received it from someone named Heidi (and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on) and that selfsame aforementioned meme eventually made it all the way to l’il ol’ moi.

But before we get to that, I feel compelled to explain what a meme is, because the word is not part of my everyday vocabulary and may not be part of yours. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly (not to mention courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent) Dictionary.com has given me three answers:

1. meme /mim/ [meem] –noun, A cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Origin: 1976; mīmeîsthai to imitate, copy; coined by R. Dawkins, Brit. biologist (Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.)

2. meme (mēm), n., A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. [Shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme, from Greek mimēma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate; see mimesis.] (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.)

3. meme /meem/ [By analogy with “gene”] Richard Dawkins’s term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do. Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea. The term is used especially in the phrase “meme complex” denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organised belief system, such as a religion. However, “meme” is often misused to mean “meme complex”. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has become more important than biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons. See also memetic algorithm. ([The Jargon File] (1996-08-11) The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © 1993-2007 Denis Howe.)

There is no number 4. Thanks be to God. Do you know any more than you did before? Neither do I.

Would you look at that, kiddies? The old clock on the wall is telling us that our allotted time is up for today and I didn’t even get around to telling you how this particular meme is supposed to work. But them’s the breaks, rules are rules, and I will have to get back to all of you tool- and language-using sophonts later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Every dog has his day


And today is Jethro’s!

It’s not his birthday (that’s in June) but we acquired him three years ago this month when he was two-and-a-half, which would make him, let’s see, divide by 4, carry the 7, um, er, five-and-a-half, if I have performed my calculations correctly.

Yay, Jethro!

This is not a new picture, but it is our favorite.