Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exactly what did the walrus say, anyway, and why?

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
          Lewis Carroll - ("Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There")

Tra lee! Tra lay! A lovely day - for cabbages and kings!

I never was a fan of Lewis Carroll's books...can't even say I liked then - or now - the Disney versions; however, I understand that die-hard Carroll fans would drum you out of the fan club if you professed to like those treacly renditions. That being admitted on my part, I am not trying to be critical or denigrating to these well-loved and time-honored books.  It is simply a comment on my own tastes in reading and/or listening. Of course you will also have to understand that I did not grow up knowing "Winnie-the-Pooh," either.  Our parents read to us kids a lot back in the day - just not Milne and Carroll!  As a matter of fact, I had not heard of Winnie-the-Pooh until I was in my early teens - and then only because Disney got hold of them and they became the almost universal childhood icons that they are today.  Was I deprived as a child?  I think not. I had a bear friend while growing up, too.  He was created by the wonderful Maurice Sendak, and called "Little Bear."  Loved that guy...still do.  And I must say that my bear does not behave in any way, shape, or form like Winnie.  Little Bear is much smarter!  Anyway, I digress...

So, I ask:  What did the walrus say, I mean really? That it is time to "speak of many things."  Yes; however some of the choices seem rather "out there!" I can't say as shoes (although I have spoken of that haven't I?), ships, sealing wax, cabbages, or kings have ever entered any of my let's-talk-about-this conversations.  "But," you say, "he is talking nonsense on purpose!  That's how Lewis Carroll lampoons adult human conversation!"  Well of course you are right, and also, if I were about to eat something (or someone), I would probably choose to speak to that person or being about anything other than my appetite.  I would choose to "cover my scent" so to speak.  Anyone out there have a dog that does that?  Our dog Princess loves to seek out, find, and then roll (luxuriously) in any kind of small animal poop she can find, such as rabbits', squirrels', or gophers'.  And, (when she used to play around them), she would also choose to roll in a cow pie! Never having known about this propensity of hunting dogs in particular, that piece of information was a revelation to me.  Princess is a basset hound/English pointer cross. She has hunting deep in her blood, and if she catches a scent - BOOM! - she is off to the races, and master or mistress and leash be damned!  Many a sore shoulder or bruised butt has resulted from her impulses.  She does her best to hide her presence from her prey by rolling in the scent of a non-threatening creature.  Since black bears are reported to roam around here occasionally, I shudder to think what she would do.  Roll in bear poop and then chase them too? Dear me! Well, I digress...

Back to what the walrus said. Now, I don't know about you, but why the sea is boiling hot is a question that has never entered my mind.  When a sea is boiling hot it is because a volcano has just sent molten rock up or down into it, so there is no question as to why - at least in my mind! Now "hot springs," or geysers - that's another story, but again - why is not the question so much as how, and even there I think I could give a credible answer.  I understand you can be cooked in very short order (by one of those short order cooks) if you are not careful to stick your toe or some other safer thermometer into the water first. What a way to go!  Speaking of which, one of my favorite stories in that vein is about the two homeless men walking by a cemetery as a very wealthy man was being buried.  The wealthy man had asked that his body, upon his death,  be seated and interred in a solid gold Cadillac. As the two poor men witnessed the crane lowering the "coffin" into the ground, one commented to the other, "Man, that's living!"  Also, the question of whether pigs have wings is rather stupid.  I mean, all you have to do is look at one to know that they don't, although there is a miniature golf course in East Tennessee that supposedly has flying pigs.  Having only driven by that establishment I cannot attest to the veracity of that claim..  I will tell you that I've seen pigs fly when, well...pigs fly!  Now buffaloes!  We all know that they have wings, and that chickens have fingers, but I digress...

I personally believe that there are a lot better things to speak about than the aforementioned items. And these are not things that either a walrus or an oyster would find the least bit objectionable - whatever the circumstances.  Things like "why is it that, more and more, items at the store are packaged in almost impregnably hard plastic?"  The irony has been pointed out more than once that the tool needed to cut open such packages comes in an equally impregnable wrapping.  Why is it that the messiest, sloppiest food products come in the cans or jars most likely to splash their contents when being opened, (and how is it that spaghetti sauce always knows when I am wearing white?)  Just think about it!  Peanut butter comes in those nice unbreakable plastic jars with the ridged easy-grip, therefore easy-open tops.  But does peanut butter splash?  I think not! And another thing:  skunks have their terrible scent in order to keep their enemies at bay. By offending their enemies' olfactory senses, the skunks can then escape and continue to live.  So why is it that they continue to stink for so long after they are dead?  Isn't that a bit like closing the barn door after the horse is out?  And something else to speak about:  why do clocks run clock-wise?  Who made that decision, and why did everyone just follow lockstep right along with it?  Paradigms are one thing, but for something as ubiquitous as the clock, it seems to me that there would be a number of different models to choose from!  But, I digress...

As I was saying:  Has the time come to speak of many things?  And who gets to choose what we speak of?  I certainly would not choose a walrus to be the decider, but that's just me.  I have heard that they are pretty smart, but as evidenced by the choice of topics, that doesn't appear to be the case with this particular walrus.  Also, I feel it important to note that the few things quoted in the verse above are only a portion of the ridiculous conversations that take place throughout the poem.  The sun and moon have a disagreement, and who does the walrus choose to pal around on the beach with?  A carpenter!  And together, they talk a group of young oysters into walking along the beach with them, and not for the exercise, either.  As a matter of fact, this is one of the more blatant early examples of child abuse and exploitation.  (Of course, the oysters' father does bear part of the responsibility for this.) Pushing, er, digressing on...

Another thing to speak of (though ironically, not much to speak of) is an incident that happened to me yesterday.  I have difficulty walking long distances and consequently have a "handicap parking permit."  I had to stop by the hospital in order to pick up some records that I needed to take with me to a doctor's appointment next week.  (And why is it called a doctor's appointment when it's the patient making the appointment?)  First of all, the number of handicap parking spaces is very limited (sort of odd in itself, being at a hospital and all), and the last three unused handicap spaces were blocked off with traffic cones.  Note that there were no other regular spaces blocked - and no regular spaces empty, either, except at the far end of the lot, which is where I had to park.  And why is it that once you have parked somewhere and gotten out of the car, the perfect parking space opens up right next to the entrance?  Go figure!  I once got some good advice which I remember but which I have never used:  If you are going to write a "stream of consciousness" blog, be careful not to lead the reader up the stream without a paddle!  So my dear, gentle reader, I end this - my mind as cluttered as ever - wishing always for you a paddle, and


Monday, May 17, 2010

Last Journey to China

This is the photo-story of the spreading of a portion of Pappy's ashes in Changzhou, China.  God graciously opened the way for this all to come about.  The Chinese people were so loving in their care for this task, as well as a number of others who cleared the way.  Ashley and I hope that you find this as meaningful as we did.

As always,
I wish you enough...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is Truth?

The following discourse is entirely my own reflection on this particular subject, and not intended to be any sort of attempt to answer this question for anyone except myself.  Please feel free to share your own thoughts regarding the truth, or the Truth.  All italics are mine, and translations are from the NIV.

(As many times that I have tried to correct the multiple colors of the post, I have been COMPLETELY unsuccessful!  The words of Jesus are the only ones meant to be in red - the rest should be black!)

From the 9th Chapter of Luke:  . . .(Jesus said) 37b  "for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."  38"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

From the 8th Chapter of John:  31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Pilate's question is the basic question for all time, for all of humanity.  I believe that Pilate really wanted to know, that he wanted freedom from questions and indecision - and perhaps in the same way that the disciples did.  Remember Thomas' plaintive question in John 14?  (Jesus said) " 4You know the way to the place where I am going." 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered,  6"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  Thomas was probably speaking for all of them in his own customary, bare-all way.  He wanted - he needed - to know, he needed to be free.  Yet how can any of us know?

Jesus answers very explicitly, yet somewhat cryptically at the same time.  My thoughts are that Jesus wanted us to search for ourselves, because finding the Truth is about the journey, and not the ultimate discovery.  Once you start out looking, that act is equally, if not more, important than the finding.  So much of scripture is about the search for ultimate Truth, and many of us, while pursuing that end, along the way find it important to discover for ourselves the nature of ordinary, work-a-day truth.  How do we know what we are being told, what we are being lead to believe is true, or is the truth?  And how do facts relate to truth?  The Merriam- Webster Dictionary defines fact in the following way:

Main Entry: fact
Pronunciation: \ˈfakt\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin factum, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere
Date: 15th century

I Wonder what word they used before the 15th century?
Interestingly enough, the first definition of fact  - a feat - is obsolete.  The definition is obsolete as in old, worn out, useless, and irreparable.  So a fact is no longer considered an accomplishment, I guess!  Sounds like a lot of so-called facts that have been offered as truth over the years! The word truth does not enter into the definition until position #5 - and probably for these days that is correct.. So, I wondered, what does Merriam-Webster offer as the definition of truth?

Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural truths \ˈtrüthz, ˈtrüths\
Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English trēowth fidelity; akin to Old English trēowe faithful — more at true
Date: before 12th century
1 a archaic : fidelity, constancy b : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true s of thermodynamics> c : the body of true statements and propositions
3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality b chiefly British : true 2 c : fidelity to an original or to a standard
4 capitalized Christian Science : god
in truth : in accordance with fact : actually

It appears to me as though the definitions are related to one another almost in the inverse; however the final definition is synonymous with the last for fact.  How closely are truth and fact related?  Probably not very closely (although I suppose they can be), because I believe that truth, and certainly Truth, is immutable and unchangeable.  Facts change every day, even though they are often accepted as truth.  The world is flat; the universe turns around the earth; time is a constant, etc.  Even the facts that we have discovered since those, might be proved one day to be false, as many facts have been, at least for the time being! Sergeant Friday (of Dragnet fame) used to ask for "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."  He used the word fact as an antonym for opinion or subjective observation.  Unfortunately, in courtrooms all over the world, opinions often crowd out and outlast the facts, yet the assumption has always been that we use, or should use, the word facts as those things which are clearly known and undisputed today.   Subjective observations - (as all observations are), opinions, and honest belief are no substitute for facts, and certainly not for truth, nor Truth.

Jesus very clearly states that He is the Truth, and as a Christian - or one who earnestly desires to be - I believe what He says.  He identifies himself with Truth which He then equates with God.  Indeed, the Gospel of John opens with: "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And what is the Word, but the expressed and living Truth of God?

So, what is truth?  What is Truth?  The second I can answer because that answer came from the mouth of God, but I give that answer only as a reflection from this cloudy mirror, as something I do not fully understand.  Nor do I expect to on this side of heaven.  The lower-case-t truth is more easily understood, but I feel that our language fails us when we use the words so interchangeably with facts and/or Truth.

I have not answered the question. Can you?  Will either of us ever answer it?  Let me hear from you!

Always, my Gentle Readers,
I wish you enough. . .

Monday, May 10, 2010

To Forward... or Not to Forward

(From "Non Sequitur," by Wiley Miller, December 17, 2009 )

Do you get as many "forwarded" e-mails or other communications - (even gossip) - as I do?  It seems as though every day I get at least 5 or so.  These e-mails often come with certain provisos, such as:  "Forward this to at least 10 of your friends, and you will receive a wonderful surprise," or "Forward this to 10 people and your wish will come true," or "If you do not forward this message you will be doing your friends and family a terrible disservice," or even (the worst of all) "Forward this e-mail to all your friends and God will answer this prayer."  (God always answers anyway - why not go straight to the Source and listen instead of relying on magic?) Also, the ones that tell you to forward so that you can spread the "truth" about certain situations, causes, or issues.  When I first started blogging I mentioned that "truth" was one of the things about which I was going to share some thoughts.  Now is not the time for that - big sigh of relief perhaps on your part - but suffice it to say that the "truth" can be a very slippery thing to try and hold on to!

Some months ago I made the rather large mistake of forwarding a warning about the dangers of some such thing...I've forgotten now what it was.  I was quickly informed that  the information was entirely false, and that many, if not most, e-mails that are forwarded with instructions to "forward this e-mail to at least 10 of your friends" are almost invariably a ruse in order to be able to hack into your e-mail address list, and thereby to propagate more spam. That goes even for the mailings from people who are or call themselves Christians, and who are asking for prayers for friends, family or neighbors who are seriously ill or in need of blood or transplants, as well as the "funny" ones and those seemingly innocuous i-Tunes "shares," etc.  Always be very wary of such requests.  Even if you know the sender to be an honest person,. they might have been duped in the same way. (That's how Ponzi schemes start out...friends giving friends supposedly "reliable" information and thus causing financial disaster or ruin to many - remember Bernie Madoff!)

The best way to send these types of e-mails - even the ones that you are sure of - is NOT to send it on by pressing the "forward" button, but to copy the body of the mailing, leave out all the lists of forwarded addresses, and then paste it into a new e-mail message to one friend at a time.  It may take you a little longer to do this, but in the end your friends will be grateful, because that way, you are not sending out, over and over again, the addresses of your and your friends' contacts, who are then made more subject to spam and even dangerous threats to privacy.

Whenever you receive one of the mailings, please check it out at or any of the other reputable research sites.  These sites are set up for that reason - to stop the dissemination of false, misleading, and/or inaccurate information.  There is so much propaganda in our nation and world these days, and it comes from all sides of any issue or situation.  It is incumbent upon us as responsible citizens to play as small a part in this scheme as possible.  There are enough truly dangerous and scary things in the world already, without creating any more out of whole cloth!

On a more personal note:  unless you are absolutely certain of the political and/or religious persuasion of the person you are sending messages to, please do not send things that might possibly offend the receiver - unless you are certain beyond any doubt of its veracity!  Ashley and I cannot begin to count how many absolutely disgusting and totally false messages we received during the last presidential election campaign from well-meaning friends and relatives.  Almost all of these e-mails were "forwards" that had been circulating for months (if not years), and had never been researched.  Because they spoke to the bias of the individual sending them on, they were taken and often received by some as absolute truth!  As difficult as I find it to listen to ultra-conservative commentators, I do try and make it a policy to listen to those with whom I disagree on political and social issues, or even faith issues, because I feel it is important to explore all sides of question or a topic.  However, the ones to whom I listen are responsible journalists or thoughtful people who have invested time and energy into researching their evidence and do not offer diatribes or character assassination on people with whom they disagree.  Civil discourse is welcome - lies, lible, and blasphemy are not (even if you agree with it!).

I feel qualified to sermonize on this subject, because I have been a perpetrator as well as a victim.  Please consider this posting as friendly advice and not as recrimination against those of you who may have sent these sorts of e-mails to me in the past.  When I receive one, I immediately check it out, and then send the results of the research to the person who mailed it, and request that they then inform the others to whom they sent it, as well as the person from whom they received it.

Let us all as a nation take upon ourselves the mantle of truth - (as difficult a task ferreting it out may sometimes seem) - and ask ourselves each time we give out information in any form:  "Is it true?  Is it honest?  Is it loving?  Is it kind?  Is it helpful?"

Thanks for reading.  As much as I use and enjoy the internet, it can be a very peculiar and disconcerting beast, even if it can bring me "perpetual bliss!"

As ever, Gentle Reader, I wish you


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Smokey Mountain Spring 2010

You all can try and view this slide show, with music. I have had a devil of a time getting it all worked out for posting and e-mailing, but I do believe that I have succeeded. Hope you enjoy, even with my tenuous "art," a bit of this beautiful spring season here in the Smokies. It has brought out a photographer in me that I never knew was there - and maybe in some estimations, it never was! :-D In any event, I wish you Gentle Reader, now perhaps Gentle Viewer, enough...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The God of Light and Beauty; the Light of the Beauty of God; the Beauty of God's Light

"People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I have been pondering the definition and the nature of beauty, and came upon the above quotation. One of the conclusions at which I have arrived is that there is absolutely nothing that cannot be beautiful.  Beauty was the essence of God's creation - and everything God has created, and continues to create, is beautiful - or at least holds within it the potential for beauty; however, the Light coexists with it. Aristotle said, "Beauty is the gift of God." So too is Light.  Beauty and Light go hand in hand with God, and I can think of no example in which they are not linked inextricably together in a tightly woven trinity.

Somewhat in contradiction to those thoughts, however, is the notion that perhaps there is one place where beauty cannot be. When God created the universe, and all that is within it, he gave to humanity a unique gift.  That gift is the freedom to choose.  Our Creator gave us freedom.  We can choose with whom we wish to dwell, and who or what we wish to dwell within us.  A wonderful pastor-teacher-friend of ours said, "The Holy Spirit is a Gentlemen.  He does not enter where He is not invited."  Such politeness on God's part seems bizarre at times.  It is difficult to comprehend a creator who would not wish to have a copyright or patent on her creation, but essentially, God is like that.  This particular gift came with a very high price tag.  For God, not wishing to let any of us go, paid the price with the life of her Son Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in God - who invite Him in - might have within them  the Beauty of the Light of God. The hearts and souls that choose to live without God's invited presence, choose a life without true beauty. But that does not mean that we do not all live within the presence and reach of God.  Because even as we mortals choose to whom we will issue our invitations, God from the very beginning made the choice to invite us. We can ignore God's presence, but we cannot escape it.  Emily Dickinson said, "Beauty is not caused.  It is."

"We can close our eyes to beauty, but beauty is everywhere. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it." - "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." -Albert Einstein is cited as the source of both of these quotes.  He was a man of contradictions, as most of us are, and even as he seemed to distance himself from an acknowledgment of  faith in any particular God, yet he always stood in awe of the created order of the
universe, and never ceased to marvel at its perfect beauty. It was a mystery to him that we would be allowed to probe the mysteries of or understand any of creation.  He said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible."  I firmly believe that Einstein never closed his eyes to the God of Light and Beauty, and that through his inquisitive, exploring nature, he invited the Light of the Beauty of God to dwell within his heart, and came to know the Beauty of God's Light. 

It is incumbent upon us all to keep our eyes open to the Beauty that is everywhere.  We may not be able to comprehend Beauty, but we can certainly behold it.  Since I am so full of quotations in this post, I cannot leave out the most relevant, and it comes from the eloquent mind and mouth of Miss Piggy:  "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."

My mind is still cluttered with these random thoughts about beauty.  I need for you to help me by sharing some of your ideas, quotations, observations on this post, or on the definition and nature of beauty.  Until next time, Gentle Reader, I wish you enough Light, enough Beauty, enough God -