Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blogs were meant to be written to music.

Encouragement. It's such a easy word to say.
"Hey there - good job..."

We find it astonishingly hard to do in real life, however. Oh, sure, when we are enraptured by someone, kiss the ground they walk on, or simply hold them is high esteem, it's easy. They seem to earn it - unconsciously command it - and it is torn from our soul by our delight.

Perhaps, though, when we think about it, they are the ones least in need of encouragement. It's still good to affirm them - perfectly good - but perhaps it's the ones that don't do well who need it most. Those who have no one orbiting their world, no one to notice their small victories. The ones who mess up - the ones we tend to frown at, and tell them to shape up. Then, maybe, they'll have earned some encouragement from us.

Yet... no plant grows by withholding water. You can either demand that trees come to your banks to drink and flourish, or you can branch out, water the parched land, and leave an explosion of green in your wake.

Guilty as charged.

Now that we know about it, let's change it, shall we?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cultural Myths - The Misconception of the Separation of Church and State

Ah... the separation of Church and State. If you talk about politics and religion at all, it's highly likely you've run across this phrase.
Apparently, however, a lot of mistaken ideas and incorrect applications appear to surround this loose rephrasing of the First Amendment. Where did the idea of the "separation of Church and State" come from, and what does it mean in our daily lives?

Unfortunately for many in our culture, it means freedom from religion - a barrier to protect our government from being tainted by religious ideals, and an edict to keep religious expressions away from the public eye to accommodate those who might be offended.

A few months ago, Fox News reported a bit of controversy surrounding the naming of a street outside a firehouse in Brooklyn where seven firefighters who died on September 11, 2001 once served (read the full article here). A group called the New York City Atheists promptly made demands to have the sign removed, citing that the city had violated the separation of Church and State.

Did it?

The term "separation of Church and State" was first coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists Association, which had contacted him with a concern that the newly-fledged government might lack sufficient protection of their religious liberties. Jefferson wrote to allay those fears:

"...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." 

Jefferson's intent, then, was not to relay that religion had no part in government - but rather that the government had no power to meddle in religion.

This is an echoing of the beginning of the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

Remember - it doesn't say that "Congress shall make no law in support of religion", nor does it say "Congress shall make no law against religion". It says that "Congress shall make no law regarding religion".
None. Not a one.

Now, let's apply this to the situation in Brooklyn.
What law did Congress make respecting an establishment of religion?
What law did Congress make that prohibited the free exercise of religion?

Don't worry if you don't see it. It isn't there. Rather than support the atheistic demands, the First Amendment stands staunchly apart from the whole debate, protecting the religious rights by refusing to infringe on them.

The whole complaint centers on a severe misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Rather than interpreting the Amendment rightly, as a protection of religion, they quote it as an attempt to require the Government to protect them from religion.

Let's pretend that happened, just for a second. Where would that place us? Congress, for instance, would need to make a law that states that no religious-themed street signs shall be allowed in public places.

Whoops! Hang on - wouldn't that means that Congress just made a law regarding religion, and the free exercise thereof? Wouldn't that be the real violation of the Constitution?

If you answer yes, give yourself a pat on the back - it's time for recess. If you answer no... I'll see you after school.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cultural Myths - The Misconception of the Opinion

"We are all entitled to our own opinions..."

True statement, actually. You have the perfect freedom to like vanilla ice cream, as I do to prefer chocolate. Actually, I like vanilla better. So let's share opinions, shall we?

Before we go on, I'll need to define something. There are two main types of opinions - personal preference not based on absolute fact (I personally like vanilla better - not that it actually IS better), or an expert's knowledgeable analysis (like a doctor's medical opinion on which medicine we should take). In the first, all views have equal validity. In the second, validity is established by accuracy. I'm largely talking about the former.

So - we already know all about opinions. Nothing new. What misconception lies hidden?

The issue is when we begin calling things opinion that really aren't at all. In that way, we grant statements validity, and then use the same technique to disregard them at the same time.

In statements of fact, differing statements do not have equal validity. Reality decides which statements are true, and which aren't.

One major area that this comes into play is religion. You don't have to go far before someone will tell you that it's all fine to have a certain religious belief as an opinion, but one shouldn't try to force their opinion on others.
Problem being - religion isn't a matter of personal preference. It makes specific truth claims, claims that differ from others within the pool of religions. And if they're statements of fact, then they do not have equal validity.

Be careful. Don't try to discredit a statement that claims to be fact by labeling it merely an opinion, and watch for when others try to do it to you. Opinions are equal - truth statements are not. An opinion cannot be wrong - a statement of fact can.

And if it's wrong, there's nothing wrong with saying so.

One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.
-Bertrand Russell

Cultural Myths - The Misconception of the Open Mind

"We all need to have open minds..."

Hear that a lot, don't you? They teach us the maxim when we are young and in school, and we never seem to forget it, taking it with us into adult life and forever reminding others to do the same.

According to the Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, an open mind is one that is "receptive to different opinions and ideas". I like to define it as being willing to grant something the possibility of being valid and good, instead of disregarding it out of hand.
So, what's the big deal? It sounds good - and it is. We shouldn't mind hearing other's opinions and ideas. I know I wouldn't like to live in a world where the only voice I heard was mine.

The issue arises when someone attempts to subtly apply the principle to the realm of known fact. Should someone be receptive to something they know to be wrong?

Short answer - no.

If someone were to tell you that 2+2=5, you shouldn't be open-minded to it. You know it to be false - granting it the possibility of being right is a waste of time, and not mentally healthy. If you accept everything you hear and believe with equal validity, then you have bought into a much more dangerous lie - that there is no difference between what is true, and what is false.
In those instances, being close-minded is the best option. You don't have to be mean about it, of course, but unless there's a really good reason to take a second look, there's nothing wrong with tossing the errant postulation into your mental waste basket.

How does this affect normal life? Enter the misconception of the opinion.

"I try to keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out."
- Harold T. Stone

Friday, May 13, 2011


I still think about you, friend, you know. Quite often.
Am I the only one?

Ah, but you've moved on. I know, I know... and you're happy. How could I ever grudge you that? I couldn't. That's really what I wanted for you, after all. And I'm glad.

But can anyone tell me what it means to let go? I never loved you in a romantic way, regardless of how my words sound... but I chose you. I decided to be the best friend to you that I could. I comforted, counseled, encouraged... I followed you wherever you ran, ran, ran away to hide - remember? I wouldn't leave you alone, even when you told me to. You thanked me for that, once, twice - a few times. You tore me in the chase, but the wounds healed with those words.

But you ran where I couldn't follow. You held up one hand to stop me in my tracks, stared at me for a moment, and stepped through the door.
I waited outside. I could hear your voice from time to time - no, all the time. But rarely talking to me.
I looked in your window - I knocked at your door. I invited you to come out - if only to sit on the doorstep; to share the smells, the sounds, the sights, for a moment only. But I obeyed - I never went in. You saw me, you smiled... you looked away.

I brought a gift you'd said you wanted - many times, remember? It was not an easy gift, but I was happy to give it. I delighted in giving it. I would do it again.
But your eyes were full of the gift of another, and the light of mine was overshadowed. I don't blame you at all - his was the greater. And you were happy. How could I ever grudge you that? I couldn't. That's really what I wanted for you, after all. And I'm glad.

But how could my heart still hurt? I never left myself that open. Did I?
Or is this how a heart always feels when it has been replaced, then forgotten? I've never lost a friend like this - is this what it's like? Gentle scars, with gentle pain, in gentle persistence...
How did I do this to myself? What have I done?

You were more to me than I told you. You cared - that was all I asked for. You thought of me - that was all I needed. I didn't tell you correctly then how much you meant - I tried to guard you, protect you. I'm a novice, though, and my hands were rough, and you didn't understand, and I failed.

Now, you are under the protection of another. I can no longer tell you these things.

But I chose you, friend. I have not forgotten. I no longer look in the windows, or knock at the doors... but I pass by your gate every day. Watching and waiting - should you need me again, as you used to.

Then, when that happens... I must tell you no.
But that's what friends are for.

Because, while I never told you... I agreed to a pinky promise.
God help me, I'll never break it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

God's Chisel

Food for thought. These guys have a lot of good stuff at - highly advisable for free time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Am the Deep Blue Sea

"Sit down young children on my sandy shore,
I am the deep blue sea
I have a story for every boy and girl
who would listen to me..."
- Mark Mathis

The gifts of the Sea are free to pirate and trader, passenger and sailor.
The knowledge of the Sea is deep and unending.
The terrors of the Sea are felt by both mariner and marlin.

Yet to the moon, the Sea is a captive. Bound by invisible strings, it rises and falls in a gentle dance, enraptured by the beauty of its lover.

In some ways, I am the pirate, the passenger, the marlin.
In some ways, I am the moon.
In some ways, I am the sea.

I drink of the Great Sea as if a pirate, yet I am loved as if the moon.
I dance below, when the True Moon's soft bidding compels me.
I dive, and am lost in the vastness, and long to never wish for dry land.

For when I am on dry land, I thirst.