Moving the Ancient Boundaries – II

This is a series on the erosion of moral, cultural, and ethical boundaries in modern society:
 ♦ Part 1 — Moving the Ancient Boundaries

stone wall

Do not move the ancient boundary stone set up
   by your forefathers.

        — Proverbs 22:28 —

The societal trend evident today — the gradual and progressive shift from spirituality and faith-based life principles, to scientific secular rationalism, and ultimately to postmodernism, which is the triumph of tribalism, radical individualism, and emotionalism over faith and reason — has many manifestations. The frantic pace of a society filled with countless pressures and endless distractions permits us at best to focus only on the immediate details of our lives — jobs, children, hobbies and activities. Rarely do we take the time to stand back from our culture and society at large to contemplate the profound changes taking place around us. We wake up one day wondering how things have changed so profoundly, with a sense of discomfort over where we are and confusion about where we they are headed.

As our society drifts away from core principles and absolutes established by faith, culture, and tradition, it has done so in a manner which is subtle, yet highly effective. Many of the ways in which this cultural shift has taken place are ancient; many more are a function of a technologically advanced and media-saturated environment. The underlying forces which erode the safeguards which have protected and stabilized society for centuries are not new; they are, however, more rapid and effective in a culture distracted by material wealth, information saturation, and instant gratification.
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More Embryonic Stem Cell Info

I’ve recently referenced an excellent article on the huge gap between hype and reality with embryonic stem cell research (as opposed to the real and growing applications of adult stem cells), and Michael Fumento again points out the huge gap between myth and reality here (HT: Instapundit). Maybe the word is starting to get out — although I’m not holding my breath.

On a separate note, I’ve been quite busy lately, with several personnel changes in the office in the works, but have a few essays near completion on the Faith series (part 1 and part 2 here), Moving the Ancient Boundaries, as well as updates on the Narrows Bridge construction — so stay tuned.

God bless, back soon.

Things I Learned This Week …

I figure any week where you haven’t learned something is truly a week wasted. Fortunately, this week has been a treasure trove of acquired wisdom — which I am duty-bound, of course, share with you.

So here’s this week’s lessons:

 ♦ Why men die younger

 ♦ Why women should always shop alone.

 ♦ Why displaying police sketches on TV can be … disturbing

 ♦ Why I may consider taking up archery (or at least take some lessons):

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 ♦ The latest terrorist threat …

 ♦ Questions to ponder while wide awake at 2 am …

 ♦ And lastly, recreational activities I plan to skip …

Half-Pint Heroes

This week’s news brought the remarkable story of Wesley Autrey, a 50 year-old Vietnam veteran who jumped in front of a subway train to save a man who had fallen onto the tracks while having a seizure.

18-year-old Cameron Hollowpeter suffered a seizure while Autrey, accompanied by his two daughters, was waiting on the platform for the subway. Hollowpeter fell to the tracks after losing his balance, as an incoming train approached the platform. Autrey jumped down to save him — as his daughters looked on — initially attempting to pull him out, but realizing with split-second judgment that there was insufficient time to extract the still-seizing man from the tracks. He threw himself over Hollowpeter, wrapping him in his body to protect his flailing arms, in the shallow ditch between the electrified rails. The train screeched to a halt after passing overhead with but inches to spare, miraculously leaving both men without serious injury.

True acts of heroism are of course newsworthy, and at once both extraordinary and sobering (would you or I have done what Wes Autrey did?) — and draw a sharp and unflattering contrast with what often passes for heroism in our modern culture.

We hear of heroes daily in the papers and on TV: the fireman who rescues a child from a burning building; the policeman shot in the line of duty; the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save the lives of his buddies. Such acts are heroism indeed, comprised of its core virtue: the willingness to sacrifice one’s life or well-being for another. We say this although we expect such things of these men and women, for this is their chosen calling and career, one which by its nature places them in harm’s way for the benefit of others.

Cheap heroism seeps deeply into our culture like some toxic effluent, poisoning even simple principled acts with a pretension of greatness.

Yet there is increasingly a class of acts now painted as “heroism” which deserves no such depiction. Such cheap heroes — the civic equivalent of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace Christians — seem to grow in number daily. They make no sacrifices, take no risks, suffer no losses when their “heroic” deeds are done. In a society increasing bereft of moral standards and the simplest traits of noble character and integrity, we paint a heroic stamp of approval on increasingly pathetic gestures, gilding our self-serving deeds with a thin gloss of glory.
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Holiday Pork Tenderloin

pork tenderloinThe holidays are in full swing — which means a concerted effort to attain new heights of dietary excess, occasioned by an endless stream of convivial gatherings of family and friends. Einstein postulated that gravity has waves; such waves seem self-evident, making the bathroom scale increasingly inaccurate at certain times of the solar year.

This year, for a dinner for our church small group, I decided to have a wonderful chutney-glazed stuffed pork which I discovered last year at Easter, courtesy of a good friend who is an excellent cook. It was, by the estimation of an esteemed group of culinary critics (my family), the best pork they had ever tasted. I think I have to agree.
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Embryonic Stem Cells

A.M. MoonIf you have any interest in the ongoing debate, ethical issues, and clinical promise of embryonic stem cell research, you should take a few minutes and read this excellent article by Maureen L. Condic at the always-excellent First Things magazine.

Dr. Condic is an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine and conducts research on the development and regeneration of the nervous system.

You will find the article immensely helpful at clearing away the fog generated by ESCR proponents and their supporters in the media, politics, and the shallow, vapid, intellectual pools of Hollywood.

Do yourselves a favor and give this a read — and save a copy as a reference for the next time someone waxes poetic about their promise, or the “cruelty” of exercising the utmost caution in pushing ahead with such research.

Northwest Storm

As many of you know, those of us living in the Northwest got battered by a pretty hefty windstorm last week. Packing gusts up to 60 mph (up to 100 mph out at the coast), the winds wreaked havoc with roads and especially power lines. After a very soggy November (15 1/2 inches of rain ), the ground was saturated, and fir trees — not known for their deep roots — started falling like crazy.

Their is an ancient tradition in the Northwest which maintains that most power lines must be strung above ground along streets lined by firs (an ancient Indian ritual, evidently) and hence when the winds blow, the power goes out on a big scale — over 1 million lost power in the Puget Sound area alone.

Once the trees hammer the wires, utility poles go down as well, causing lots of live wires on the ground and a real mess to repair.

We were fortunate to lose power only for about 36 hours — although cable (and therefore internet) are still out at home, with no timetable set to get it working again.

This is the kind of storm which brought down the first Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gerty)

The current bridge has withstood many such storms without a glitch — although it was closed for about 6 hours during the storm. The new bridge under construction suffered no damage as well, although temporary safety fences were pretty well shredded, and were dangling off the sides of the bridge the following day.




With home internet out for the near future, I may be a bit behind on posts for a while, but there’s a couple in the chute not far from completion, so stay tuned.


If you’re like me, your Christmas shopping is best preserved for those special, quiet moments on Christmas Eve, when not a creature is stirring — because the they’re all caught in traffic at the Mall. But this gift recommendation is a pretty easy hit, especially for the music lover on your Christmas list.

My own taste in music is fairly broad — from jazz to classical, an occasional country song, New Age and electronic, and of course raucous rock. There is something in the sound of a Les Paul played at obscene volume through Marshall amps which causes a near euphoric rush of some beneficial neurotransmitter from deep in my limbic system. Most of my music is now converted to digital MP3s, and a lot of different iTunes playlists make for a good variety. Nevertheless, there are a few things as exciting as discovering a new group, or an old group with which I am unfamiliar.

Recently I had such an opportunity. While browsing a less-frequented but excellent blog from my neck of the woods, Nothwestern Winds, I picked up a recommendation for the group Ollabelle, and their most recent CD, Riverside Battle Songs. A quick trip to the iTunes store, a quick listen to a few cuts, and I was sold — hook, line and sinker. This is one of the most interesting and enjoyable groups I have heard in many years.

Ollabelle was formed as a side project by a group of six New York-based singer-songwriters who came together to play informally at the Sunday night gospel show of the 9C club in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Each an accomplished musician and vocalist in their own right, with varied backgrounds in folk, jazz, blues, and session work, they coalesced into a remarkable unit with complex vocal harmonies and extraordinary, intricate instrumental interplay. Their music is somewhat difficult to categorize, with strains of folk, bluegrass, Celtic, jazz, gospel, and rock.

It represents something of a revival of early Negro spiritual and gospel traditions, but does so in a surprisingly modern and pleasantly unpredictable style. What starts out as a seemingly prosaic folk ballad, a cappella in a major key, metamorphizes seamlessly into a minor, then a blues key, accented by Dobro or rich, evocative pedal steel background which makes the pseudo-orchestral synthesizer fills of most modern music sound pathetic and banal by comparison. It is alternatively rich and soulful or upbeat and joyful music. If this music doesn’t set your toes to tappin’, you either have no legs or have no soul.

So there’s still plenty of shopping time to grab this CD for the music-lover on your shopping list. And while you’re at it, grab a copy for yourself.

You won’t regret it.