Santa Sighting

SantaI know you’re all already jaded about Christmas, with the Costco and K-Mart displays showing up in September, the endless bad Christmas TV commercials, and the growing pressure to figure out the perfect present for a gaggle of worthy recipients who already have more stuff than they could possibly use in several lifetimes.

But it’s important to keep the myth and the magic in the celebration — not to mention the profound miracle of grace which this ancient and holy holiday celebrates.

So I am sure you will be excited to know that Santa has been sighted a bit earlier than normal this Christmas. My hunch is he’s been taking productivity and time-management courses this year, and has come to the conclusion — reluctantly, no doubt — that this night-before-Christmas-and all-through-the house stuff, while magical and all, is just not working for him any longer. Last year’s last-minute wildcat reindeer strike nearly wrecked visions of dancing sugarplums for a whole slew of sleep-deprived, sugar-addled munchkins, so Santa’s playin’ it safe this year. If he misses Christmas, the resulting class-action lawsuit would leave the Elves on welfare and the reindeer eating bark again.


Santa, I might add, has also gone high fashion — even the Manalo would approve of his new couture: silks, jewels, natural furs. No more frumpy red suits with bulging buttons and black buckled belts for him — it’s Project Runway, baby!
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The Flying Imams

I know I’m late to this party–but only a bit later than Dean Barnett, so I don’t feel too badly. As many of you know, six Imams were removed from a US Airways flight out of Minneapolis just over a week ago, for behavior which nervous passengers found unsettling–such as loud public praying in the airport, angry talk about how evil the U.S. was and the injustices inflicted by us on Saddam and the Iraqis, and bizarre requests for seat belt extensions by those who obviously didn’t need them. After their removal from the flight, an investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they later flew home (on another airline) uneventfully. Of course, the usual suspects (read: CAIR) chimed in to protest this obvious injustice, religious discrimination, and racial profiling. No doubt a host of lawsuits will be flying soon, darkening the sky like Qassam rockets during Ramadan.

We’re sorry–we really, really are. No American should be treated this way.

But in the interest of helping our bigoted, infidel, intolerant American minds, allow me to make a few suggestions to our Imam friends to help ensure your future enjoyment and freedom from hassle as you wing your way around our great nation, avoiding those nasty chaffed handcuff wrist marks and the oh-so-burley FBI agents who force you to bow your heads as you get into their patrol cars:
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New Blog Theme

Day LilyI’ve been working on a different look and feel for the blog, based on a new WordPress theme called CutLine. The designer (Chris Pearson) has created a very clean look with some excellent page layout features, especially image handling and pull quotes.

I’m still in the process of thinking through how best to handle archived posts. One of the big downsides of the blogging medium–especially for essay-oriented sites like this–is improving access to earlier materials which many newer readers may not have seen. I have handled this in the past with periodic reposts of older material, especially during light blogging times, as I have been doing lately. But it would be nice to have older material more accessible and categorized more clearly, perhaps with short excerpts rather than simply titles.

Any thoughts you might have on this–or tips on other sites which have addressed this dilemma in a creative and useful way–would be appreciated.

For a sneak peak at the new look, mosey over here and take a gander.

Thanks, and hope your Thanksgiving was a wonderful one.

Libertarianism & Morality

This essay was originally posted in November 2004.
 
nebulaOn April 25th 1990, the long-awaited Hubble space telescope was launched. In the planning stages since 1967, delayed in deployment for 4 years by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, scientists were ecstatic at its potential to view deep space as never before from above the atmosphere’s distorting optical envelope. Within days their excitement turned to dismay, as pictures from Hubble returned out of focus.

The giant mirror, 94 inches in diameter, had a spherical aberration. When the mirror was being polished to its correct shape, the device used to test its curvature–called a null corrector–had been made to the wrong specifications. Thus, when the null corrector indicated that the mirror was perfect, it was in fact slightly aspherical. The extremely faint light of distant celestial objects could not therefore be sharply directed to the focal point, resulting in a halo effect and a fuzzy image. Upon investigation, the problem was found to be due to the interchange of metric and English measurements when engineering the testing device. Subsequent space shuttle repairs rendered the optics perfect again, giving rise to the spectacular photographs which the Hubble telescope has since obtained.

In the case of Hubble’s mirror, an inadvertent change of standards, resulting in an aberration 1/50th the diameter of a human hair, nearly doomed a multi-million dollar space project. Consider the likelihood of success if each of the engineers on the project had been allowed to use their own set of standards. Yet in the realm of human behavior and morality, an idea preposterous to a scientist is widely accepted as legitimate, even desirable.
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The Engine of Shame – Pt II

This essay, the second of a two-part series, was originally posted in October 2005.
 
DRGWIn my previous post on guilt and shame, I discussed their nature and differences, their impact on personal and social life, and their instrumentality in much of our individual unhappiness and communal dysfunction. If indeed shame is the common thread of the human condition–fraught as it is with pain, suffering, and evil–it must be mastered and overcome if we are to bring a measure of joy to life and peace to our spirits and our social interactions.

Shame is the most private of personal emotions, thriving in the dark, secluded lairs of our souls. It is the secret never told, the fears never revealed, the dread of exposure and abandonment, our harshest judge and most merciless prosecutor. Yet like the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain is far less intimidating than his booming voice in our subconscious mind.

The power of shame is the secret; its antidote, transparency and grace. Shame thrives in the dark recesses of the mind, where its accusations are amplified by repetition without external reference. Shame becomes self-verifying, as each new negative thought or emotion reinforces the theme that we are rejected and without worth. It is only by allowing the light of openness, trust, and honesty that this vicious cycle may be broken.
 
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The Engine of Shame – Part I

This essay, the first of a two-part series, was originally posted in October 2005.
 

Steam locomotiveA wise friend–a man who helped me emerge from a period of considerable difficulty in my life–once taught me a simple lesson. In less than a minute, he handed me a gift which I have spent years only beginning to understand, integrating it into my life with agonizing slowness. It is a lesson which intellect cannot grasp or resolve, which faith only begins to illuminate–a simple principle which I believe lies close to the root of the human condition.

My friend taught me a simple distinction: the difference between guilt and shame.

While you no doubt think I am devolving into the linguistic morass of terminal psychobabble, I ask you to stick with me for a few moments. What you may discover is a key to understanding religion, terrorism, social ills such as crime and violence–and why the jerk in the next cubicle pushes your buttons so often.
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Light Posting for a While

Virginia V Mosquito Fleet ferry
Virginia V – Mosquito Fleet ferry
 
I’ve been a bit out of pocket of late, in no small part due to an ongoing family crisis (which I alluded to here) which has consumed a lot of time and even more emotional energy. So I haven’t had the time or mental wherewithal to put many cogent thoughts together for posting. Hopefully this will change in the near future, but in the meantime I’ll repost a few of my earlier essays which some of you may not have read, or may do some shorter posts as time and energy permit. I may also post some photos I’ve got lying around: the above is the Mosquito Fleet ferry Virginia V, which made its maiden voyage in Puget Sound in March 1922, and is the last remaining steam-powered ferry of the Mosquito Fleet, seen above, restored, sailing in the Tacoma Tall Ships Festival in July 2005, where I took the above shot.

Thank You for Your Prayers


 
I’ve been under the weather with a sinus infection, so it may be a few days before I get back to my frequently infrequent posting schedule. But I did want to express my tremendous thanks and gratitude for your prayers and support. Last weekend with my daughter went far better than I had anticipated, although she and her husband still have some tough trials and days ahead of them. If you find a moment to pray for them, all of us would be most appreciative.

I realize that some, perhaps many, of my readers are skeptical about prayer and its effects on our lives. I am not here to attempt to prove these things to you, except to say that I have seen countless instances in my own life and those of many others where profound changes have occurred as a result of prayer, explainable in no other way.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Anchoress (or, as I prefer to call her, Anchor-Babe) had a post today on this very topic, asking for prayers for her husband in his travels. She says:

… when some emailers and cyberpals read that I \'m having a rough time physically, I can tell I \'m being prayed for … and it is so incredibly moving to me, to know that somewhere out there a perfect stranger is speaking a word of good for me. Nothing is more humbling than that.

Because I believe – no, I know – that prayer makes a difference in people \'s lives, I try to remember in my prayers some folks who I suspect have no one praying for them. Mostly that involves praying for public figures – some of their names might surprise you – and certain friends of my sons who have been raised without much exposure to church or faith.

Like her, I too can sense the support and strength which comes when others pray for me and mine–and I experienced its power last weekend, as did my wife and daughter. Thank you from the depths of my heart.

The Anchoress finishes by asking:

If you \'re inclined to prayer and you have room on your prayerlist for a stranger, I would be most humbled and grateful if you \'d remember my husband. Thanks.

Done deal, sister–may God be with you both.