Sunday, 23 December 2012

thank you Mr Singh

Shot and sweet.Who said we have to use generic references to holidays to respect one another?As I was waiting to cross 7th avenue in downtown Calgary today,a c train approached from the west.As he entered the intersection he used the trains horn to play the melody of Jingle Bells.I looked up to see a turbaned man driving the train and smiling.Thank You so much Mr.Singh.Enough said.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

Heaven and Hell were not the only concepts that my father taught me.He also taught that prayer was"talking to God",and he taught us two different prayers.The first was a prayer to be said before we went to bed.It started out "Now I lay me down to sleep."Most people back then knew it,and called it the Bedtime Prayer.Back then we would say it every night.But,more recently,I've never really liked it for children because of the line that says"If I should die before I wake."I've simply grown to think that it's not good to provide children with anxiety that they don't already have.I don't recall,though that it made me anxious,but I certainly see how it could,especially if you also had a keener comphrehsion of Hell than of Heaven.

Along with the Bedtime Prayer we were taught the Lord's Prayer in it's entirity.This one part of scripture was either something he knew very well,or felt was very vital,or both,because he went through it line by line explaining what it meant."Daily bread"meant food and water."Trespasses were all the wrong things we did to others,or,all the wrong they did to us.To "forgive"meant to forget,subject,of course to certain conditions,and "evil"was something bad like sickness,or an accident,or bad people who liked to hurt or even kill others."The power and the glory was something that belonged to God,things that,translated from my father's telling meant that God could do anything.

Forgiveness was also a concept that was very meaningful to my father.When he explained the Lord's Prayer to us,he would especially stress that part of it about forgiving trespasses.How he explained the concept to me then was,again,very basic,but essentially complete.We should try never to wrong others,but at times we would,and they likewise would do wrong to us.When we hurt someone,we were called upon to be sorry for having done so,and to ask them to forgive us.And,we must also forgive anyone who had done us wrong,and who was sorry and wanted to be forgiven.The only thing that he seemed to have left out is the part about God forgiving us for wrongs we did to Him.

Monday, 17 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

Just because my father did not observe religious rituals,at least within our view,doesn't mean that he did not participate in our early religious upbringing.Clearly there was some understanding between him and my mother as to what religious teaching we would receive.Or,perhaps it was simply an agreement that we would receive Christian teaching without reference to it's particular belief in a denominational sense.What he would have said if my mother had chosen Mormonism or Catholicism as a religion I cannot say.

My mother was not the only one to read us Bible stories.My father would read them too,though I don't think that he ever really presented them as something that he personally believed in.

For a while,my father would tell us about God too.In those days what he told us was rather basic,limited and easy to paraphrase:God made us and gave us a soul.God lives in Heaven,which is a wonderful place.But there was another place,called Hell,where the Devil lived and there was a huge fire that never went out.If you lived a good life you went to Heaven to be with God when you died.But if you were bad,you went to Hell,where you would burn forever.

Heaven,and God I did not really understand. I was told that the church was Gods house,but I wondered why I never saw him when I went to church.As far as Heaven went,it was something I could not conceive of.I'd never seen gold or diamonds or even silver,which were the things Heaven was supposed to be made of,so there was just no reference in my mind for what Heaven was or why I would want to go there.So I endlessly asked my parents what I suppose are the normal questions about God and Heave that a small child would ask.Is Heaven far away?How long does it take to drive there?Why can't I see God?What color is God?Which house does He live in when He goes home from church?Can I go over to His house someday to play with Jesus?

Hell,on the other hand was something that frightened me.It was such a bad place that we were not even allowed to say the word for fear of going there.And while all the things of Heaven were abstract,I fully understood the concept of fire and smoke and burning,even if the idea of forever was beyond me.And,to go along with that,I understood being good as doing those things that pleased my parents,and being bad doing those things that angered them.The whole problem was,as I saw it then was that I did both good and bad things all the time.So then,where would I go when I died?A strange logic about this took root in my mind.It went something like this:Doing a lot of good things did not make one bad thing good,so it was kind of easy to get to Hell.On the other hand,I thought,maybe it was the last thing you did that most mattered.If I were to,say,eat all of my Lima beans without arguing or saying no,and were to die as a result,I would go to Heaven.But suppose I were to be hit by a car while playing on the street.Well,then I would go to Hell,because I was not allowed to play on the street.But,of course,if both my mother and I were crossing the street at a light,and I was holding her hand,we would both be bound for Heaven.

At four years old,I certainly had a lot to learn about religion and morality.But the bottom line was that I was convinced that I could never be good enough to avoid Hell.Partly that was because Hell was a lot more real in my mind than Heaven was.It was a lot like thinking of a house filled up with all kinds of beautiful things and kept nice and neat all the time,as opposed to a house that is burning down.The burning house is easier to visualize.But also,I didn't know it then,but my father left out an essential part of the picture.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued.

Where my father went or what he did on those Sunday mornings while we were in church I don't know.But I can say that he almost never came with us.Certainly some mornings he must have been very tired,having just got off the midnight shift and driven the eighty miles home.But I don't really know why,on those Sundays he wasn't working,he chose not to go to the church and worship with his family.It caused me to wonder from an early age what he thought about God,and why what he thought seemed outwardly so very different from what my mother thought.In fact,my father's beliefs remain largely a mystery to me,to this day,simply because so little in the way of belief was openly stated.And yet I'm certain he had beliefs.

My fathers religious behaviour also caused me some puzzlement when it came to my mother and her beliefs.If to her God and Jesus and being a Christian were so important,why had she married someone who,I could tell even then,did not seem to agree with her on matters of religion?I could hardly have put voice to this as a four year old,and yet there was something really unsettling about it.It was not nearly the same thing as disagreeing about painting the outside of the house blue as opposed to yellow,and I knew that even as a kid.Religion,what you believed about God was important in governing what sort of things you did,and who you would become.That's the message I got from one corner,while from the other corner ,I sensed that it didn't matter so much.

None of this is to say that my father was an unbeliever.Neither does it mean that my mother did not lead an exemplary Christian life.But interpreting how anyone believes is,by the nature of belief and how it is lived out,a very difficult if not impossible task.That may not be true where belief is openly and consistently stated,but such was not the case in our home.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

op/ed-slaughter of the innocents.

We are all familiar with the Christmas Story,right?You know,the one fromThe Second Chapter Of Luke.The one that begins with Caesar Augustus declaring that all the World should be taxed,then proceeding to reveal the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.Even if you are just a nominal Christian,or perhaps not a Christian at all,you could likely repeat that story from memory,right?

The problem with the Christmas Story is that it is just too trite.Don't misunderstand me,it's not trite coming from the mouth of God.In that way it carries all the weight that it ever did.The problem is that,because we've chosen to live in a certain type of society,with certain values of our own construction,the story doesn't quite ring true.You see,every year it seems,there are things added to this story that really don't belong there.Things like planes being blown up and children being shot.So the Christmas Story can seem to make so little sense at times.

But if we follow the story beyond the birth of Christ,beyond the shepherds in the field,and beyond the Magi,we can see that the story doesn't have a happy ending.Actually the happily ever after part of this story has just been somewhat delayed,but no matter,the Christmas story has a rather gruesome ending.It's called The Slaughter Of The Innocents,though a lot of people prefer not to read that far.It rather ruins your appetite for turkey and plum pudding,you see.

Let me briefly summarize The Slaughter Of The Innocents.When King Herod heard of the birth of Christ,he intended to kill Him.So,he demanded that the Magi tell him where the Christ Child was.The Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod,and when Herod found out that they had fooled him,being the narcissistic megalomaniac that he was,he demanded that all male children under two years of age in and around Bethlehem be put to death.To make a long story short,for want of murdering one specific child,Herod murdered many children.And it was all driven by the fact that Herod only recognized one god.Himself.

Yesterday morning,just when the tragic news in Connecticut was breaking,one of the first images that surfaced on my Facebook page was of Lady Liberty covering her eyes with her hands and asking,"What has this country come to?"Actually,any study of the recent history of America,and of the recent philosophies of it's people makes manifest even to the relatively uneducated what this country has come to.The question is,what are we going to do about it?

I think it's time to do some collective soul searching.We need to ask some very hard questions.In fact,let's make it just one really hard question.And I know I will offend some by asking it this way,but I'm not going to back away from it.Are all of the Godless beliefs that  our finest thinkers have developed over the past century and a half, serving us well?Are we to settle for the status quo as being the voice of orthodoxy?Here is the really hard question:Have we constructed our world in such a way that we've ended up engaging in our own slaughter of the innocents for the sake of removing a particular child from our moral thinking?Have we not become Herod,collectively,complete with all of his megalomania?

The school room of just forty years ago was different than it is today.You could speak the Name Of God out loud,read the Bible,be taught the Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule.You learned about Christian gratitude,and to respect others as having been made in God's image.We had a Christmas concert each year,not a winter celebration.We even began each day with a prayer.God still mattered.But somewhere along the line He got replaced with the idea that we should never offend anyone.He,God that is had His name changed to Political Correctness.And for at least the last quarter century,that is the only god that is allowed access to the school house.Is that serving us well?

Can we all set aside some significant religious differences long enough to admit that our children being gunned down in school is an affront to all creatures who are made in the image of God?Because there are hardly any,Christian,Muslim,Jew,Sikh,that don't grieve when something like this happens.And I refuse to accept that, if you don't believe in God that you are not overcome by cognitive dissonance in the face of such an event.

The reality is that we were made in God's image.That is a really big concept.I'm not certain as to what all that implies,but I am convinced that it's a line of thought worth thinking about.In part,what it seems to mean is that we have some of the attributes of God,that we are capable of responding to Him.Not only are we capable,but if we do not respond to Him,as a matter of choice,we are characteristically unhealthy,both as individuals and as societies.

Over the past two hundred or so years we've come to believe many things that contradict the idea that we were made in God's image.The contradiction in most cases is rather obvious.It's really not difficult to see,as I name these philosophies one by one,how they lead us down a path to putting ever less value on human life.An irreverent attitude toward our fellow humans has it's roots as an irreverent attitude toward God,a belief that He is somehow no longer relevant to us.

Darwinism teaches us that we've evolved from nothing,for no discernible reason,and without Holy guidance.We are,we are told,sophisticated apes.Secular Humanism and Atheistic Humanism tell us that man is the measure,that we have the answer to all of our own problems.Subjective Morality tells us that there is no real morality,no social contract with other human beings.And political correctness declaws the cat by making the greatest wrong offending others.Each of these thought systems is is a rationalization for denying that we are all children of God.Is there any wonder that there is no peace on Earth?

Examining ourselves is never easy.It wasn't intended to be.But let me ask,what are we going to do about all of these acts of unspeakable hatred?First,recognize what is happening here.Recognize that guns,drugs,or any other thing you want to blame is not the problem.The problem is in the hearts of men,just as it has always been.

We need to start making connections here.We need to see our way through to being able to draw the conclusions that we can draw by virtue of being made in God's image.We have no trouble knowing that the physical health of our children is affected by obesity.Why,then do we miss the fact that their spiritual health is affected the absence of spiritual nutrition?

It's time we had prayer in school again.The Lord tells us to be continually in prayer.I've tried it and it works.Years ago,when I was having panic attacks I was taught that the behavior of deep breathing is inconsistent with panic.In the same manner,I discovered,prayer is inconsistent with wanting to harm others.The prayer circles were formed so fast on the social media sites yesterday,so it would seem to be an indigenous concept to a lot of humans.But what shocked me is the sudden realization that nobody seemed to be praying for the children before this tragedy happened.Prayer in School?Its time to give the issue serious debate again,starting now.

Another thing we need to do is free our children from the present bondage placed upon them.We need to evaluate those godless ideas that have become the voice of orthodox belief in our society.We need to give our children permission to seek God while respecting that others have different beliefs.We need to realize that even if we choose to live a life of religious and moral non-belief or even ignorance,we must not dogmatically commit our children to the same beliefs.If they wish to try to rise above those things,they should be free to do so with our blessings.It all comes down to teaching them how to think,not what to think.Teach them how to honestly evaluate Darwinism,Humanism,Political Correctness,Atheism Nhilism and Subjective Morality.Teach them to do the same with Theism,Christianity,The Golden Rule,The Ten Commandments and all those things we used to believe.

We've lived as godless creatures for decades now,because we've been told we should.But have we forgotten that it is not the only way to live?If we choose not to see our innocents slaughtered,are there some things that we need to unlearn?Isn't it time to give up on our collective megalomania as represented by our current thought systems?Because really,Godless morality can be,and must be made obsolete.

Friday, 14 December 2012

some of my favorite christmas music.

memoir writers homework-regrets.

Regrets?Yes,I guess I've had more than my share,but,from a philosophical point of view,I don't know if I would go back and change a lot of things.The thing about changing things is that you would have to change everything about them,though many times the bad things come with unintended consequences that are good.

I wish I'd known a bit more about social justice issues and standing up for right principles the year I was in grade eight.You see,there was a lot going on that year in our city.It was the year the two policemen were murdered,then,at the end of the school year a little girl went missing and was never seen again.It was also the year I had Malcom Ross as a History teacher and came to know that people in our community had political views that could be extreme and grew out of that time and it's events.That year would have been an especially fertile time for moral instruction and learning.But,a person can only grasp so much at one time.

Teachers were to be respected and obeyed.There was no more to be said about it than that.And,to that end I tried to do my best.

The Science teacher was a young,thin blond woman who often dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt that said"UCLA."I wondered if she really went to UCLA,because I never knew of anyplace you could buy such t-shirts in our town back then.After all,what was wrong with UNB or Mount Allison or Acadia?She would sometimes pose a sort of a pop quiz on the subject matter she was teaching,asking those she called upon to provide oral answers.I had no real problem with this.Most of the time I'd done my homework and never ran afoul of her.The same cannot be said of every student in that class.

One Friday morning,the teacher was conducting her inquisition and called upon a girl who had no idea what to say in response to the teachers question.She couldn't have done the required reading and she just sat there looking like a deer in the headlights.The teacher demanded that she stand up and face the class,then she posed the same question again.When the girl meekly replied that she did not know the answer,the teacher said"there is no excuse for you to not know the answer.You are Stupid."She told the girl,who now looked about to cry,that she would be called upon again on Monday,and that if she didn't have the answer,she would be in trouble.

Monday came,and I think we all knew what was coming.Eventually the teacher called upon this girl again.I can still see the girl,though I don't recall her name.She was a pretty girl,who in my mind looked like a younger version of the science teacher,though perhaps a bit heavier.I never really knew the girl that well.

Again this girl,for whatever reason had no answer for the teachers question.To me,she looked scared half to death.And of course,the teacher responded in the same way as on he Friday before.She stood the girl up at the front of the class and proceeded to brow beat her for what seemed like half the morning,before calling her stupid again and telling her to get out of her class and not to bother coming back until she saw the principal.

The girl opened the door and left.And that is the nature of my regret.I knew that teachers were to be respected.But what I didn't know was that to be respected,you have to be respectable.What I became aware of later was that when a teacher regards a student as stupid,learning usually stops right there.I should have left the classroom too that morning.I should have done the right thing,in support of my classmate,who deserved better than she got that day.I should have got up and walked out and taken as many people with me as I could.But you simply didn't do such things then.Still.I've always wanted to apologize to that girl for not standing with her back then.