Queen Elizabeth II: RIP

“Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, had died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.” So wrote the BBC in their news story on this expected but sad event.

Like many people, I am fascinated and intrigued by the British Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth II illustrated, to me, some of the best this outdated monarchical system of government represented.

Queen Elizabeth II

She was the picture of elegance, grace, kindness, moral strength, femininity, and possessed an air of sophistication that was both serious and approachable. I admired her quiet, wise demeanor and the manner in which she handled herself in public.

One of her many admirable qualities that was attractive to me was her public persona, how she appeared on the world stage and in front of her own people. She carried herself as one would expect someone of her royal position: with a sober, noble bearing. Her even temperedness seemed to be a hallmark of her entire life as the Queen.

She represented to me a lifestyle and ancient heritage that unfortunately has long disappeared and perhaps was never realistic. Monarchies are fraught with abuses and excesses and those who sit on the royal throne are often some of the most selfish, power hungry and despicable of people: Queen Elizabeth was none of these but modeled everything good about it.

There is little argument that, among westerners, the British monarchy is the best known and is the best representation of this ancient governmental system. There is something alluring about a government that has a noble and wise king and queen sitting on their thrones dispensing justice, wisdom and inspiration to those they rule. Unfortunately, as noted above, history has proven that such systems seem to be black holes that attract the worst in people instead of the best. As the old saying goes, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Many of us yearn for the mythical dynasty of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table—or at least the great and noble parts of Camelot. It is, of course, a dream that can never be realized, but so appealing to think that we could be ruled by such a good, noble, wise and gracious king.

I have sometimes thought how different my life would have been if I had been born into a royal family and reared by a mom and dad that possessed the greatest attributes so important to royalty: wisdom, strength, kindness, morality, godliness, fairness, modesty, concern and care for the weak and downtrodden, justice, etc.

A Canadian conservative writer I admire, Jonathnon Van Maren, penned this eulogy of Queen Elizabeth II that I believe expresses the sentiments of many who are mourning her passing.

Queen Elizabeth II gave a glimpse of how such a storybook lifestyle might indeed be possible, and though she did not rule over a kingdom like Camelot, she certainly personified portions of such. May she rest in peace.

Two Videos on Parental Alienation

“Parental Alienation (PA)” and its sister pathology, “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)” is estimated to affect 19% of the population in the United States. This is a frightening number of people that should qualify as a mental health crisis in this country and be dealt with as such.

I have written extensively over the years on these twin forms of child abuse because I have lost all three of my daughters to these devastating pathologies. One of my daughters I have not seen in almost 20 years; tragically, all three want nothing to do with me and has been this way for almost two decades.

Below are two videos that I believe will be helpful for all those who have been affected by these two forms of child abuse and intimate partner violence. As with many Youtube videos, often times they will be removed due to some type of alleged copyright or community standard violations. If this occurs with the two links below, please do an internet search which hopefully will take you to an updated link where you will be able to view them.

“Erasing Family (2020) – Full Documentary- US Divorce Court System”

The second video found below is in Spanish with English subtitles. Filmed in Argentina, it’s impact on the population was so powerful that major changes were instigated in the Argentinian family court system for father’s rights. You can read about this and other interesting facts about the creation of these two films here.

“Erasing Dad (Borrando a Papa) Documentary”

Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?

I believe one of the most consequential events to happen in the history of the United States is the possible overturning of the controversial abortion ruling in 1973, Roe v. Wade.

Since around 1982, a significant portion of my life was dedicated to fighting the evils of abortion on demand. I wrote about this here. In my more reflective moments, I was certain that Roe v. Wade would never be overturned; it would always, in my mind, be the law of the land and we could never go back to the way things were before that tragic ruling.

When I learned of the unprecedented leak at the Supreme Court and that the majority ruling would be to overturn Roe v. Wade, I believed we were facing a moment in our nation’s history that would be remembered throughout the rest of our existence as one of those defining moments—on the same level as 9/11, Kennedy’s assassination, the landing on the moon, etc.

We are living through a profoundly historical moment if—indeed—Roe v. Wade is overturned when the official ruling comes out in June.

What will make this event so historical is not only the unprecedented leak itself, but the fact that the Supreme Court will have reversed itself on a such a contentious subject. This reversal, especially after almost 50 years of precedence, is nothing short of astonishing. Again, I never expected this to happen but believed it couldn’t happen.

Over the course of several sittings, I read through the leaked draft decision. There is no question the final draft will be different if only for the fact that the dissent will also be included (which this one does not contain), but this rough first draft packs enough information to reveal the depth of the issue that this country has faced in our history and how wrongly decided Roe v. Wade truly was.

In a nutshell, what is the significance of this possible reversal? Why has it been such a hotly contested issue for so many decades? I believe it is this: the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) removed from the people the ability to decide this issue for themselves on a state to state basis and forced abortion on demand to be accepted by millions upon millions of Americans who believed it was an evil that should not be tolerated in this country. Here is one relevant portion from the leaked draft, second paragraph from page one:

“For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens. Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113…”

Then, from pages two and three:

“At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process. It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State. As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision represented the ‘exercise of raw judicial power…'”

Note the phrase the “exercise of raw judicial power.” In more vulgar language, this was a decision forced down the throats of all of those millions of Americans who were vehemently against abortion and instantly removed the issue from being decided on a state by state basis and ushered into society a so-called “right” that had not been agreed upon nor recognized by a majority of the citizens.

In short, this was a totalitarian “exercise of raw judicial power” wholly incompatible with our republican style of representative government of “by the people, for the people.”

Freedom minded Americans do not happily submit to being forced to do things by the government at judicial gunpoint and understandably reacted quite negatively at this power grab. The rejection of this heavy-handed decision made by nine lawyers wearing black judicial robes who made up the Court back then instigated a culture war that has never let up for one moment since that fateful day in 1973.

This, as I stated above, is the main reason for why this issue has been so contentious for so long. Certainly the fact that we are dealing with human life also comes into play, but this is secondary in my opinion. Abortion is not an issue that can be decided by nine lawyers but only by the people residing within each individual state. And this can only be decided by those people debating, discussing and then voting on such an issue by a process devoted to the free exchange of ideas that seek to convince others of the right or wrongness of each position. This is the essence of the democratic process.

Personally, I abhor abortion. Yes, I see where there are circumstances where it is necessary (for example, when the mother’s life is in imminent danger if the pregnancy continues), but if one or more states vote that the citizens of that state want abortion and it is decided by a majority of that state’s citizens, well, I would have to accept that even though I would not agree with their decision.

But in a democratic republic, the people decide such issues—not the courts. Roe v. Wade circumvented that process which resulted in both sides warring over it ever since.

If the Court overrules Roe v. Wade, this means the “raw judicial power grab” will cease and the people of each state will now decide what they want to have done in their communities.

Roe v. Wade was a constitutional disaster that should have never happened. My hope is the decision of the Court revealed by the leaked draft will become the law of the land and return this issue back to where it always belonged: in the hands of the people.

Do we know anything?

I had a girlfriend in high school, Michelle, that said to me, “Your problem is that you believe everyone should think the way you do.”

She wasn’t necessarily being mean or snotty when she said this, but making an observation of one of my many character flaws. Over 40 years later and often remembering her words, she proved to be an intuitive young lady.

Pride—the wrong kind—is one of the worst and most destructive of character traits, for both a nation and its individual members; it’s listed as “numero uno” among the list of the seven deadly sins. Throughout my life, I have pondered its negative effects on my own life and in the lives of others.

The opposite of pride is humility, and I’ve always desired this virtue in my life but realizing it is not one that is either easily or quickly obtained in this life. I believe we are born with the vice of pride in our inner beings and must learn to be humble. Certainly no one has to teach us to be proud and arrogant; being humble, on the other hand, does not come easy and only seems to come when we are faced with situations that prove to us our abysmal imperfections, character defects, weaknesses, and limitations.

Pride—the wrong kind—is one of the worst and most destructive of character traits.

Most have heard the phrase, “Ugly American.” It is a decidedly negative description of the behavior of Americans too often manifested when we are visitors to other countries and has often bothered me. To be fair, the citizens of other countries who have been blessed with unfathomable wealth also are guilty of the same behavior, but it hurts and embarrasses me to be guilty of this disgusting vice.

I’ve learned, though, that advancing age, with all of its setbacks, disappointments, failures, and failed dreams, can provide those of us who struggle with pride some desperately needed perspective.

One of the many eye-opening events in my life that brought this needed perspective came when I began to seriously become interested in cosmology and began contemplating the mind-numbing size of the Universe. Most of know the Universe is gigantic, but it was only when I seriously began to think and visualize how big the Universe truly is that a revolution began happening in my thinking.

But what tipped me “over the edge” as far as realizing how little mankind actually knows was the Hubble “deep field” and “ultra deep field” photographs. Learning about these two photographs and the back stories of how they came to be changed my life-long perspectives on the extent to what mankind actually knows. And when we truly understand these photographs and what they actually mean, one conclusion is unavoidable: we truly know nothing. And this shook my world.

Ultra Deep Field

I clearly remember the first time—not that long ago—when I watched a video that told the remarkable story of how that tiny speck in the night sky was chosen by one scientist for Hubble to focus on: he wanted to have Hubble focus on one of the darkest portions of the night sky that seemed to contain little, if any, galactic activity.

And the results changed our view of the Universe as well as disrupted my own viewpoints on faith. For as I looked at that blown up speck in the night sky and realized there were at least 10,000 galaxies contained within that tiny portion, it dawned on me that, no matter how much knowledge man has managed to accumulate throughout our existence on this planet, in comparison to all the other galaxies we could see or calculate being out there, we know nothing—absolutely nothing at all. Perhaps even less than nothing.

What did this mean, then, for the Bible? It meant that whatever knowledge or wisdom it contained, it seems to be—in general—relevant to only what has happened on our tiny insignificant planet floating around in the infinitesimally great expanse of the cosmos. Isolated only to Earth, what possible eternal truths could we count on that would apply to those other portions of the Universe? Probably very little, if anything at all. Our understanding of the Bible—and, in fact, all other holy books—is relevant only to this small isolated planet that is completely swallowed up by the vastness of the Universe.

Even if the Bible is 100% true—even if all of the other “holy books” together taught absolute truth—combined together they all add up to nothing as far as the information we have about God, ourselves, heaven, eternity, our souls, an afterlife, etc.—even less than nothing.

If we take all the sand grains on earth and pile them in a heap, a gigantic, towering mountain, Earth would maybe represent one single grain of sand as compared to all the other stars and planets in the known Universe. Current estimates of the amount of galaxies (not planets or stars) in the known Universe are anywhere between 100 billion and two trillion. And all of our knowledge, wisdom and learning adds up to nothing in comparison to all the knowledge, wisdom and learning of these other grains of sand.

This was a life changing revelation for me that reverberates even to this day. One of the things it did to my thinking is this: I really don’t know anything, and whatever I might happen to know, it amounts to nothing.

This humbled me, taking the wind out of my sails for my arrogant, life long beliefs that I had opinions that mattered. My opinions, even if they are true (and I cannot definitively state they are), are insignificant to the knowledge and wisdom that the Universe must hold.

Today (April 18, 2022), I watched the video posted above once again. Beginning at timestamp 2:42, the video shows an animation of traveling through this tiny portion of the galactic area shown in the Ultra Deep Field photograph. We slowly pass through vast spaces containing stars and galaxies. Each of those galaxies contain perhaps hundreds of billions—perhaps even trillions—of stars and planets. Just one of those galaxies we pass by would take hundreds of thousands of lifetimes and even more to explore if we had the capabilities to do so. Just one galaxy. And there could be two trillion of these galaxies out there, and possibly many more.

The mind is unable to comprehend this; it is impossible, beyond our ability. If we are unable to comprehend merely the size of the Universe, how much more incomprehensible can we understand all the knowledge and wisdom in that same Universe? Again, we simply cannot because it is impossible for us to do so.

What has this done for my thinking? At the very least, it has humbled me. It proves to me that I do not know anything. To believe I am able to authoritatively speak on any spiritual subject—or perhaps any subject, for that matter—is a foolish endeavor. I would be self-deluded in doing so. The best I could present myself to others on any subject would be as an infant still learning to crawl.

My learning of the incomprehensible Universe is humbling, showing I am wholly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. This awareness is causing me to hit the pause button, to reevaluate my life and belief system because I realize, in the final analysis, I simply don’t know anything.

My attitude on spiritual beliefs should never be a dogmatic assertion of “this is the way it is” or “in this book is the pure knowledge of God.” Rather, the best I can humbly say is “this might be so—maybe.”

Michelle was right. She loved me enough to tell me the truth about myself and presented that truth in a gentle—even humorous—way. So subtle was her rebuke that I do not believe at that moment she was chastising me; I was so dense and uncomprehending of the meaning behind her words.

“Know theyself.”

Classical Music

(Updated Sept. 19, 2022)

I started listening to classical music, if memory serves me correctly, in my late teens. This would be around 1977 or so.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, music has ebbed and flowed in my life: early in my life it occupied a major portion; as the years and decades passed, it became less and less so. Still, music is a part of my life and continues to come and go as the mood strikes me.

I’m not one of those men who can hear a piece of classical music and say, “Oh, this piece was composed by such and such…” Rather, my taste in classical music is somewhat limited, I think, to specific kinds. There is a lot a classical music I don’t like (opera, for example), and I think most of this is the modern classical music: it lacks much of the beauty, depth, and true genius, in my opinion, of the older classical music. So much modern classical music, to my ear and taste, is far too discordant for my liking.

Recently, while in my truck listening to our local classical music station, I heard a piece I do not believe I ever heard before and it struck me as one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard.

I asked my iPhone, “Hey, Siri, what song is this?” and the miracle of modern technology informed me it was this:

I have replayed this numerous times and find it to be one of the greatest pieces of classical music I’ve listened to. Here is what appears to be a longer version:

I certainly cannot claim to be an expert in classical music, but over the decades that I’ve enjoyed listening to it, this piece represents the type of classical music that I enjoy. Another favorite classical music style of mine is guitar, lute and piano.

Another wonderful and moving piece is titled, “Pachelbel: Canon in D”. :

Pachelbel: Canon in D

And though I’m not a huge fan of opera music, this short piece below, sung by the great Luciano Pavarotti, never fails to send chills down my spine (most notably beginning at 2:42):

And another of my favorite music is Spanish guitar/flamenco, as seen and heard in this wonderful piece below:

Taking time out of our busy days to relax and enjoy the finer things of life has always been an important aspect of my philosophy of life. And something as simple and easy to do as listening to a favorite piece of classical music is one of the best that a person can do. Soul nourishing, to be sure.

Yearning For Simplicity

The older I become, my craving for the simple life increases. Our world is so consumed by strife, noise, conflict, wars and threats of war, uncertainties, complexities, health crisis, etc., that I desire to return to another time when life was not so insane.

I mentioned in a prior post that, though I was more of a music lover/listener in my teenage and 20’s, I’ve drifted far from those times when music was so much a part of my existence. Though I still listen to music, it is nothing compared to the amount of time I once spent engaging in it. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus summed this up nicely when he said, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” Life is constantly changing, and so are we.

As many have noticed, when we watch a video on Youtube, the algorithms suggest certain videos based on our previous views and individual preferences. One of these suggestions is the music by Neil Young; at 76 years old, he is still playing, performing and writing music, though I only like less than a handful of all the music he has written and sung.

The song that keeps coming up in my feed was one of his best known songs, “Old Man”:

Neil Young performing “Old Man” in 1971

I was 11 years old when this concert was held. Something strange happens to me when I hear this song: I’m brought back to that special time in my troubled life that, though rarely if ever great, nonetheless provided me with an escape and a certain feeling of beauty through certain music that reflected an oasis of sanity and goodness.

At 0:43, Young begins the introduction to the song. This simple guitar melody instantly takes me back to that time in my youth when I first heard this tune. Though I cannot remember where I was or how old I was when I first heard this particular song, that powerful “something” in my soul resonates upon hearing these chords.

One of the remarkable aspects about this particular song is the simplicity of it. Here is Young, 26 years old or so, performing by himself; no backup band, no other singers, no fancy light show or fog machines, but one young artist with his guitar. He is seated on a chair, dressed modestly, and is not jumping all around, baring his hairy chest and waving his guitar in the air…just a simple man playing and singing a simple song and the effect is, at least to me, overwhelming and powerful.

There was a certain simplicity and innocence with Young at this moment in his life, a persona that, to me, was lost as he aged, became a wealthy music star, and achieved the pinnacle of success as a musician. His music evolved into harder rock and roll, with all the trappings of this genre: loud music with a far harder edge and a more “look at me” emphasis, two things I back away from in music.

One man with a guitar. Simple. Uncomplicated. Nothing fancy. And as powerful and moving as one can get, singing and playing a song with his distinctive, trademark voice that over 50 years later, can still move the soul.

Young sings of lost love, loneliness, a desire for something meaningful. Young, with all of his new found wealth as a rising star and with his recently purchased ranch from two lawyers, at the end of the day, coming home to his ranch, is just as lonely and longing for companionship as his old, poor caretaker is. Loneliness and the agony of failed relationships is an equal opportunity employer that does not distinguish between the rich and the poor, the famous and the nobody, or the old—the caretaker—and the young—Neil Young. Loneliness and regret touches all of us without preference, condition, or status.

And one man, with only his guitar and voice, has the wonderful gift of touching our souls with this sad and haunting message.

Here is another classic from, I believe, the same concert:

Heart of Gold

And again, the same powerful feeling as “Old Man” but with the added touch of another instrument, the haunting sound of a harmonica; still, one man, one voice, but now with two instruments. Still, nothing fancy, no theatrics, no jumping up and down, no eye popping and grotesque facial contortions.

And again, at the beginning of his guitar and harmonica solo at 1:48, strong and overpowering emotions and memories are evoked in my mind and soul, bringing me back to that time long ago when I first heard this particular piece of music. In the midst of a life living with an abusive father, somehow this song, like the other, spoke to my troubled life and brought me comfort and perhaps a bit of sanity in a personal, insane world.

I have heard these two particular songs by Neil Young for decades. How many times? Who knows…at least dozens and dozens. Maybe over a hundred; I don’t know.

And like I wrote in the above mentioned post, that special “something” that was part of these kind of songs from my past cannot be replicated today. If Neil Young sang this song today using the exact same guitar, it would not sound the same. He has changed, and because he has changed, that song and the special vibe it threw off has changed as well. I’m unable to explain it better than this.

But simplicity of life, of music, where I live, how I spend my days—all of these things and more are now marked by simplicity. Does Neil Young need a seven piece band to play his early 1970’s music, like “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold”? No, he doesn’t, but what folk/rock stars perform by themselves any more? It seems all of the successful ones now travel with full bands and have brought light shows, fog machines, and all the trappings of “high energy” concerts to their adoring fans.

Not for me. I prefer the old paths, the paths marked by quiet, uncluttered simplicity. A lifestyle centered on thinking, philosophy, and mediating on the deep things of life, the “things that are more excellent.”

So often, less is indeed more.

A Poem of Being

Like the Universe
I am constantly expanding.
Who you see today may not be who you will see tomorrow.
What I think today may not be what I believe next year.
I am not a photograph in a book
static and unchanging,
frozen in a particular moment of being or thinking.
I desire to be a tree and not a rock,
ever growing, shedding old leaves, 
patiently waiting until the spring for new growth.
Such is the forming of a man:
he grows
sheds old thoughts
expands into new perceptions and understanding,
hopefully becoming better
kinder
more tolerant and patient 
towards others and himself.
Aging has not curbed my insatiable thirst for truth
and knowledge.
Like a snake,
I have shed many old skins and grown into others.
Be patient with me
as I will be with you,
let's help one another 
on our journeys 
to become the best we can be.

The six most powerful words (part one)

“I love you” is universally considered by most people to be the three most precious words they could hear from someone they love, or, in turn, say to someone else.

But as wonderful as “I love you” truly is, and as much as I have appreciated hearing and saying them to others, I do not believe, in my opinion, they are either the most important or the most precious. The six words I would rather hear from the mouth of anyone is “I am sorry, I was wrong.”

These six words have the power to bring heaven itself down to a troubled earth, to heal fractured and broken relationships, and to restore to wholeness bonds that have been ripped asunder due to selfishness, pride, and all other categories of sin. “I am sorry, I was wrong” allows the divine gift of forgiveness to begin its heavenly healing process of rehabilitation to oftentimes tortured souls wounded and even obliterated by the sins of others.

In essence, these six words begin the critical yet often overlooked process of repentance, the necessary ingredient of the healing process necessary to bring fractured lives back into harmony with each other, to the state of bliss that previously existed between them.

The word repentance is not common in our society today. In fact, think about the last time you heard the word; can you remember, or has it been so long ago that it has passed out of your memory? Worse, you may have never heard the word used even once in your lifetime. That would be unalterably tragic.

Repentance is defined as, “Sorrow for any thing done or said; the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury or inconvenience produced by his own conduct.” I have taken this definition from the 1828 Webster’s dictionary. Please click on the link above to read the complete definition as it is illuminating.

Humans are not perfect; far from it. Our imperfect natures, our default modes, we might say, is to treat others in a less than perfect manner. We say and do things that are hurtful that cause other people pain because of our stupidity, insensitivity, callousness, pride, and general ignorance of the terrible power of words and actions to bring anguish and suffering to others.

When we say or do something that genuinely hurts another, a rupture occurs between us. This rupture is all the more pronounced if what we said or did to cause the rupture was done intentionally, with full knowledge of the consequence of our words and actions, and not due to simple stupidity or carelessness on our parts. In other words, we can behave in a hurtful manner toward a loved one without the intention of causing them harm, and the hurt resulting from this is much easier to deal with than experiencing hurt from someone who wanted to hurt us intentionally.

Regardless of our intentions and motives, these ruptures between people leave raw wounds on the souls of individuals that require healing to bring the shattered pieces of the relationship back into harmony. This restoration can only be accomplished through repentance and forgiveness, and “I am sorry, I was wrong” begins this oftentimes difficult and complicated process of bringing the frayed ends back together.

What is astonishing to me is this disturbing fact of human behavior: many people have never had these six words of healing pass across their lips. Like the proverbial bull in the china shop rampaging through the lives of others, these unenlightened souls run riot through the fragile existence of other people, both loved ones and strangers, oblivious to the carnage they leave in their wakes of selfish, self centered and destructive words and behaviors.

Loving someone who rarely—if ever— utters these six vital words, or worse, is unable to utter them, is hell on earth. You and the other members of your family living under the same roof with this individual are guaranteed to exist in a world of pain and suffering.

One of the most disastrous and untrue statements in fashion when I was a child was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It was popularized in a famous movie in 1970 called “Love Story.” To this day, I can still remember this tragic line from the movie; worse, I was brainwashed by it, believing it to be true.

Think about the above statement for a moment, trying to grasp its ramifications and meaning: it’s veiled and underlining meaning is, if true love is practiced between two people, lovers for example, each one behaves in a manner that nothing they say or do is reprehensible enough to cause pain to the other, thus, no need to ever apologize. “I love you so much I will never say or do anything to hurt you.” At least this is my interpretation.

In a perfect world with perfect people this might be true, but not in the world we occupy. And I’m sure there is a minuscule percentage of the population that are so spiritually advanced, so mature in their emotions and behaviors, so overflowing with true love, they might be able to act in such a manner that never requires them to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” If so, we need to put these advanced souls in a living museum behind glass walls so all may come, study, learn, emulate, and marvel at their perfection.

Reality, of course, tells a different story: a broken world is populated with broken people who hurt one another in countless ways. Even well-meaning people slip up on occasion, unintentionally doing and saying hurtful and stupid things to one another that cause pain and emotional angst. And for all of these things, each one causing some type of injury to the other’s soul, fraying or breaking the once solid bond existing between the couple (or child, family member, friend, etc.), there needs to be a healing, a restoration, a mending of the broken hearts and wounded souls. This begins with those six words said in sincerity and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to heal the wounds of the suffering other.

Thankfully, my walk with Christ and desire to live a holy life and be reconciled to the Creator of the Universe necessitated a deep dive into repentance and reconciliation. The pages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are full of this divine process of sinful men and women arriving at a point in their lives of awareness of their sinful, fallen conditions and separation from God, and what He requires for His people to come back into intimate fellowship and relationship not only with Himself, but one another, human to human.

Interestingly, the more I learned of the divine process for reconciliation with God, the clearer my spiritual vision became to exposing the lie of “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

This process has not been an easy one and is perpetually ongoing. One of the requirements necessary to come to the place in our soul life where we can even say to another we are sorry is humility and a degree of self awareness that we are flawed individuals prone to making lots of mistakes. Proud people, lacking sufficiently developed souls, cannot readily, if ever, admit they are wrong.

One begins to understand there is a transformational process that must occur in the spiritual, inner nature of anyone before they can say to someone else, “I am sorry, I was wrong.” Our innate pride, often hidden and lurking unexposed in the deep shadows of our personalities, must be recognized and brought to the surface to be decisively dealt with, a high bar to clear for many people who walk around believing they are the greatest and most noble creatures that ever walked on the planet.

The ability to admit to someone that we have wronged them is not “arriving at first base.” On the contrary, first base is reached when a man or woman begins to realize they are full of pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, and arrogance. Once this personal revelation is reached (and the process of getting here can be traumatic, complicated, and time consuming), we begin to view our behavior and the things that come out of our mouths through this enlightened lens.

For example, how many times have you woken up in the morning and made coffee for yourself? No big deal, right? But what if you are married, have adult children living with you, or guests over at your house, or other relatives…have you ever thought, “Let me make enough coffee for them as well” (assuming, of course, they are coffee drinkers)?

Think about how easy it is to, instead of making coffee just for yourself, you also make some for others. All that is required is to pour more water into the coffee machine and add more coffee. Simple, yes? Absolutely, and your loved one(s) whom you made it for will be thrilled that you thought of them and saved them the time to make some for themselves.

But some people are clueless about this. I know a “friend” who I’ve went camping with once or twice and he would get up, make himself a cup of coffee, and never consider that maybe I would want one as well. And the effort required by him to simply add more coffee and water to the pot was nothing. But he is so out of touch with thinking about others and so consumed with himself that he doesn’t even see it.

Now, is this a big deal? Of course not. I’m a big boy and can make my own coffee, but do you see my point? It takes self awareness of others and their needs and how something as simple as making enough coffee for both of us (blessing me and/or others in the process) can pull us out of our own self-centered, “it’s all about me” mentality. But “first base” of this process is first understanding how clueless and selfish we naturally are to the people around us.

I hope to explore more of this in a future post.

Money

Updated January 25, 2022

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10 (NASB)

My relatively long life has proven at least one thing to me: the love of money is pervasive in our culture and can be a deadly, soul-robbing desire that has ruined—and will continue to ruin—countless lives.

I have read and reread 1 Timothy 6:10 many times throughout my life; it offers, in a few words, a profound and dark truth about the inordinate love and desire for money.

Americans are obsessed with making money. It fills virtually every waking hour for so many people and the pursuit of money and gain is the central focus of hundreds of millions of people.

I admit, like most Americans, I pursued money, most notably in my younger days when I first started my business. Like most Americans, I was deceived by the constant drumbeat of materialism that permeates virtually every single aspect of this society, from stupid television and media commercials glorifying the pursuit of wealth, materialism, gadgets and gimmicks, to hobnobbing with friends (including fellow Christians) and customers in the never ending discussions of money and its accompaniments.

Getting married and having children only increased both the desire and need for making money; since I wanted the best for my family and did not want them to lack for the good things and comforts of life, I worked hard and long in a business that well provided for their needs.

I could write a book about money and all the traps and snares I and those I personally knew fell into during mine and their deluded pursuit of it. Now, drawing near the end of my life and looking back, I can almost say I hate the very thought of money and greed and what it did, not only to my life, but to those I loved.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand we have to have money to survive. I have worked hard my entire life to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on family, friends, or the government to put food on my table and a roof over my head. I grew up in a very poor family and was blessed to be able to break free because of my business and some halfway decent wise financial moves from the bonds of that poverty to a somewhat comfortable lifestyle.

My business helped shape me into the man I am today, and though I would have never chosen the occupation I ended up in—a contractor working outside in the extreme weather conditions in Tucson with his own hands—I do not regret my career. It was an honest, oftentimes brutally hard living, but one that provided well for myself and my family. Through my business I learned responsibility, diligence, how to work with customers (not always an easy thing to do), how to manage employees, save, manage and spend money, understand how money works, time management, the wisdom of “early to bed, early to rise,” etc.

And I’ve seen the dark side of money, the greed that motivates so many people in this country for making more and more and more money, never being satisfied no matter how much they have in their bank accounts. I’ve learned people will sell the souls of their own fathers or mothers to the devil as long as they realize a sizable enough profit on the sale—even resorting to murdering their own parents for money.

I recently watched a true story based on the very depths of depravity a man will stoop to in order to make money. It is a three part series on Youtube called “Riphagen.” Part One is here:

https://youtu.be/Q5Pz1Tna8DU

I’ve watched this several times and it is horrifying, breaking all bounds of decency and normality of human behavior. And it is a warning to all of us that, if we allow our greed and love for money to get the best of us, we can become like Riphagen, and perhaps worse.

Ethics of the Fathers” is a Jewish text. The following is taken from the linked page:

“Pirkei Avos / Ethics of the Fathers contains timeless wisdom. It is a collection of ethics, honesty, and advice…”

From Chapter One, we find this profound word of wisdom: “Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.” This is so exquisitely wise and profound that it should be committed to memory and often taught to our children. I have meditated over it many times and have adopted it as a part of my life: to be content with my lot, my small portion in life, however humble it might be, living in an attitude of gratefulness and contentment with what God has blessed me, instead of the constant grasping and striving for more and more, never able to stop and “smell the roses.”

I have quoted Socrates before in this blog: “Know thyself.” These two profound words should be a signpost in each of our lives to look deep within ourselves and see not only the good, but the evil, that resides in each and every one of us. Any man or woman who has not reached the point in their understanding to realize how much the love, desire, and greed for money is a deep, innate part of their inner natures, does not truly know themselves. Left unchecked, unrecognized and unrestrained, this dark force has the power to consume us and others as its corrupting influence works it moral putrefaction to the ruination of everyone.

Let me close with this profound quote from Albert Einstein:

“Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.“

Einstein was one wise man.

Kyle rittenhouse trial and Verdict

The importance of using critical thinking skills in a highly sensationalized case like this one to counteract the misinformation by major news agencies in their attempt to skew the facts.

I never heard of the incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020 until the trial began with much publicity surrounding it. I had no knowledge of the details, nor remember hearing much, if anything, about it in the year since it occurred.

But when I watched the following segment from Tucker Carlson, I was prompted to write this latest post for my blog:

Tucker Carlson: “Rittenhouse trial taught us this”

I have much respect for Carlson and have probably watched him for about two years or more. As noted above, since I was not familiar with the Kenosha incident until Rittenhouse’s trial began, I have to take Carlson at his word concerning his critical allegation of the unfair manner in which most of the media portrayed this explosive incident.

I was trained as a journalist during high school, starting out as a reporter in my junior year and ending up as the editorial page editor in my senior year. When I lived in Rio Rico, AZ, I wrote several articles for the Nogales International, the local paper in the border town of Nogales, south of Rio Rico. At one time I seriously considered a career in journalism, and several people during my high school years encouraged me in that direction as well, believing I had talent and promise for the craft.

There is no question in my mind that the once noble field of investigative journalism has taken a nose dive. Traditional reporters whose job is to fairly and accurately report on newsworthy stories are ethically obligated to put aside their own prejudices, and biases and draft their stories based on facts alone; they leave their personal opinions out of the story.

There is a place for opinion, of course, in any newspaper, magazine or other type of journalistic outlet, in the “editorial section” where people’s individual takes on a particular issue is featured. This was what I did when I was the editorial page editor on my school newspaper, but one must not confuse reporting with editorializing. The two are as different as night and day.

Both have their important place in a news gathering organization like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, etc. But today, especially in those news outlets like CNN, traditional reporting (accurately gathering and then unbiasedly reporting the facts on a notable event without injecting one’s opinion into the piece) is now conflated with editorializing and/or reporting on the story with a particular agenda, political persuasion, personal opinion, or pet bias in mind.

For example, if a major news organization is made up of people from a particular political persuasion, say, left of center Democratic, and if the owners of CNN, the “boots on the ground” reporters, and all the talking heads positions are the same, and if the owners wish to make a political point for their worldview using CNN as their personal megaphone, this would be a betrayal of what a traditional news gathering and reporting organization has always stood for.

And this is what is happening with so many once trusted, traditional news agencies: they are becoming not “news reporters” but “news shapers,” spinning almost everything to either find criticism with positions they disagree with or find bias support for their pet agendas by slanting the news in the direction of their favored positions. In other words, they become propaganda machines masquerading as news organizations.

Most thinking people see the obvious danger in this, and if Tucker Carlson is accurate in his opinion piece mentioned above, what America witnessed in the run-up of the trial by most “news” organizations was a highly editorialized and biased version that was purposely inaccurate when the it was presented (packaged) to the general public.

Kyle Rittenhouse, according to Carlson, was presented to the public in a false light by the major news outlets using sketchy “facts” and outright falsehoods to sway their viewing audience of their preconceived narrative. And what might be part of this preconceived narrative? That seventeen year old Republican, white, male militia members and Trump supporters should not be allowed to attend and foment violence against “peaceful” BLM rallies armed with illegal and violent AR-15 assault rifles.

Rittenhouse appears to have been tarred and feathered as a domestic terrorist who crossed state lines with an illegal assault weapon, intent on causing trouble and mayhem with other domestic terrorists (loyal Trump supporters being the only kind of individuals who can qualify as domestic terrorists). I’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump, but I do see how those in the anti-Trump camp like to lump all his supporters into one crazed, violent, assault rifle carrying mob intent on making sure America remains WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).

But facts can be stubborn things, and the facts, as the trial unfolded, proved the liberal media’s preconceived narrative couldn’t pass the sniff test. And the jury evidently agreed as they found him innocent on all charges.

Why do I write this particular post? To emphasize once again that “every story has (at least) two sides,” and if you and I want to be men and women who think correctly and wisely, making sound, fair and judicious decisions as we confront the myriad of often complex scenarios that each of us face on a seemingly continuous basis, we must develop our critical thinking skills, never rushing to judgment on issues until we have calmly and dispassionately viewed them from all relevant perspectives. And realizing we must hear and listen to both sides is fundamental to the thinking process and coming to the correct conclusion of any thorny issue.

Thinking correctly does not come naturally; our minds must be properly and expertly trained. Being emotional beings, our first responses to unfolding events is to view them from our “gut reactions” and from our particular world views. Unfortunately, too many of us come to the table of events armed with personal prejudices, religious persuasions, emotionalism, cultural leanings, and a simple ignorance bred from not understanding what it means to “think correctly.” We do not know that we don’t know what we should know—and this is a dangerous position to be in. There are few things in life more dangerous than a person who knows just enough to be dangerous.

No one is shot out of the womb fully equipped to think correctly. If you believe you are, you are woefully mistaken. Excellent and wise thinkers are not born, they are made, and often helped along and shaped by passing through the crucible of the furnace of life’s trials and tribulations.

In drawing this post to a close, my hope is that my words and thoughts will be taken to heart by some people to reexamine their thinking processes and at least consider they need help in this area. Oftentimes we have no idea we are on a wrong path until someone comes alongside us and points out we are in error. This kind of personal revelation can be shocking and jarring to our souls because we naturally believe we are always right, and to discover we are “off the path,” sometimes far off the path, can be humbling.

But having our eyes opened is a blessing, and sometimes, the path forward is going backward and pinpointing where we went off the track or where we failed to develop the necessary skills to become better people by becoming better thinkers. And it is never too late to learn if we posses the requisite humility to admit we were wrong.