An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
If you have suffered through even a moment or two of those annoying celebrity videos exhorting you to vote, then you will appreciate this. It's long, but I think that itself is part of the parody. Have a nice weekend all!
I just received the latest newsletter from Peter Georges and it was truly a blessing to read of their work going on there. I was particularly interested this time because he has a whole story and series of pics in dealing with kids at Mulago Hospital Complex, which is where much of my work takes place - albeit in different areas of the complex. The pics brought back many memories! Those seemingly ever-present smiles give me both joy and a bit of shame.
As usual I commend this effort to you and ask that you consider supporting them.
Holy Father Nicholas please pray for the children of Uganda.
I stumbled upon THIS website that is overflowing with interesting forums, debates, and lectures. I'm presently watching John Stossel discuss his new (at that time) book HERE. Cato, as most of you know, is a libertarian think tank and Stossel has become a rather vocal proponent of libertarian thinking. In this forum he talks a great deal about schools and freedom of choice and free market competition. I find many of his points convincing.
In looking through the web, one will find that there is clearly a great deal of debate about school voucher programs and particularly with regard to specific instances in which their trial has been evaluated. The opinions seem to range from wildly successful to no benefit at all. But in my mind, this itself is an outstanding apology for their continued use and even their expansion. In my mind, overall performance (as measured how?) isn't the criteria we should use in discerning their effectiveness (Let's face it, the state is notoriously BAD at discerning "educational success.")
The effectiveness of educational choice is discerned better by individual families and not by state educational bureaucrats - who ironically often have a vested interest in voucher programs failing. Parents makes these choices for a variety of reasons and there is solid evidence to suggest that children in their varied learning capacities and abilities learn better in different learning environments. Thus, if parents have an array of educational options to choose from, they can opt for the program that best suits their kids. CHOICE IS GOOD. COMPETITION IS GOOD. FREEDOM IS GOOD.
Of course some will decry tax dollars being spent on religious education. Well, this (IMHO) represents a profoundly skewed interpretation of the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights are there to protect you and me from being coerced by the government into a particular religion. (period) I could - in my opinion - form a somewhat convoluted argument that government schools are presently teaching our kids a religion called pluralism...but I will desist. The point is: by providing parents with the money that would be spent educating our children anyway and allowing them to use that for a religious education is in no way "a law respecting an establishing religion" however, we might pause to ask to what degree do government schools today demonstrate a propensity for "prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?
Arguing over the success of vouchers is pointless. The point should be that it is the right thing to do and parents can decide if it works for their family. Ironically, here in Washington and in other places around the country, schools are trying to reclaim the growing number of home-schooled children by offering a wide variety of choices. Our family participates in such a program in which we homeschool and additionally participate in extra activities with other homeschooling families through a particular school district. The district gets money from the state for our childrens' "attendence" and we receive a stipend for buying curriculum (as long as it is not overtly religious). It's a pretty good deal and gives us a return on our property tax "investment."
But vouchers (or as Stossel puts it: attaching the money to the kids) would afford us the ability to put together Orthodox schools INSTANTLY. And as Stossel notes: they would actually SAVE tax payers money because they can do it for less than the public schools.
Anyway...watch the Stossel talk. I'm finishing it presently and may have more to add later.
Fascinating, really. However, I cannot help but think the explanation offered for a rationale of evil actions is more akin to insanity rather than evil, per se. The real answer for why one pursues evil actions is more complex, and yet simple to enunciate: an exalted image of self combined with a sort of gluttony for all manner of self-indulgence. The two are of course intimately connected to one another.
I believe that a complete surrender to the passions will result in an ever increasing desire for more and more perversions of self-indulgence, and in accord with this one will continue to allow pride to inflate self-image to astonishing proportions. In the most extreme, other people perpetually become objects of personal gratification.
It's not difficult to see this. The pornography industry caters to this "instinct" in us, but so do other more subtle arenas including more everyday life at home, business, and entertainment. Evil is giving up on seeing people as anything more than playthings and providers for your needs and desires.
It is too easy to look at child molesters and serial killers and computer simulations to see examples of evil. The REAL challenge that we must all seek to engage is to find the seeds of evil in our own heart and root them out by force.
...the work strengthens the idea that transsexualism has a biological basis.
A mistake both sides of the "culture war" makes: a biological basis for anything must mean God ordains whatever it entails. This is why so many religious people are so apprehensive about the idea that gay (or transgendered in this case) people might actually have a genetic basis for being so. They assume a sort of biological determinism; the belief that we are who our genes make us to be and as such God (who we must apparently must assume puts all these genes together for us) would not cause us to be born with such a biological inclination.
I can see how secularist scientists can ascribe to biological determinism - in fact I know many of them. But how this sort of data is necessarily damaging to the Christian view of personhood is absolutely beyond me. We "scientists" are studying a world we KNOW to be fallen...and in fact abnormal, and yet we do by default use terms such as "normal" to basically refer to the majority. There is of course a much deeper and Christian meaning to the word normal.
Fr. C's homily this weekend talked about the Earthquake in Constantinople which was commemorated yesterday. He spoke of two erroneous theological worldviews: one which is essentially deistic and the other essentially mechanistic. In the former earthquakes just happen to happen and in the latter God makes them happen explicitly. Reality isn't quite as clear as all that, and I see genetics as being very much the same.
I can no more theologically explain a "transgendered gene" than I can a Down Syndrome gene (typically an extra copy of all or part of chromosome 21). I cannot wrap my head around why some may have a genetic predisposition toward anger or depression or addiction or physical beauty or a wonderful singing voice or Williams syndrome etc etc.
What I do think I can explain though is that our biology does not determine us. Who we are is wrapped up far more in what we do than what our genes say we should do. In other words, what we do with what our genes have given to us makes all the difference and somehow in THAT process God's grace and love may be found. Miracles - REAL miracles - are also found there.
All of this said, I will also note that this article is typically titles misleadingly.
"Male-to-female transsexualism gene found"
And then the details: "While the genetic link was statistically significant, it was weak – 55% of the transsexuals had the long version of the gene, compared with 50% of normal men."
I would have personally inserted the word "very" in front of weak...but I'm no expert. I would however take issues with the overly grand and sweeping conclusion of the title.
But, in my theological worldview, the article is of little account.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:42 AM [+] +++
So here are parts 3 and 4 of the Stossel series. I see them as being related in that they both demonstrate the inefficiency of government and what I would argue is its inherent inability to do anything as well as the private sector. Ray Nagin (of all people) admits it best: "The private sector does it better." Ironically, I'd say, the celebrity heroes of New Orleans are probably the sort who think they shouldn't have had to be down there to begin with - whereas in reality they were far more desirable to the people there than the feds.
Unfortunately, Stossel doesn't discuss the scandalous heavy hand of government in New Orleans confiscating legally owned firearms. Too controversial I suppose? But imagine the stupidity here: the New Orleans Police are too strapped to do their jobs and so they take away lawful citizens' ability to protect themselves. Make sense? You see, this way the only people who have guns in New Orleans are the over worked police and criminals who no doubt were happy to watch the police confiscate the legal guns. Ahhh.....government.
And, clearly McCain's campaign finance reform is just shy of useless. One wonders if it is even possible to pass legislation to "reform" this process? Without, of course, creating such a tangled maze of legalese that we might as well kiss all grass root efforts goodbye. One needs a team of attorneys to safely do anything that is remotely "organized" for political purposes. Am I alone is asking: "What have we wrought?" It is truly astonishing how much money is wasted in getting someone into the White House, it is actually offensive! And the nonsense that is pandered to us in ads and debates..."Bring me a bucket!"
Wouldn't it be nice if the two candidates would just each write a lengthy essay laying out their cases. And that's it...you read it and do your own research and make a decision. Meanwhile, having written their essays these yahoos go back to their REAL jobs (and I don't mean as senators) until we make a decision. Ah, but you'll say: most people won't read them! Yeah, right, as if people are presently making their decisions based upon well-informed opinions?
Anyway...somewhere out there is a smaller and simpler government. It's likely a pipe dream to wish for it to come back, but as John Lenon sings: "I'm not the only one." And I think more and more people in watching the government flounder in trying to "fix" the economy (which is like trying to fix the weather), that they'll start thinking that perhaps more government is NOT the answer? PLUS...are you sick of the "culture war" that both sides inflame? Well...as I suggested, I really believe a quick and easy solution is to have the government govern us less and thereby we needn't worry about it needing to so closely express our personal values. Heck the government could be overtly atheist and why would I give it a second thought if its jobs were primarily to balance the budget and provide for the common defense.
I was just this morning reminded of this fact via an email from a fellow Orthodox Christian who happened to find a comment I left on a blog years ago and worked his way over to Paradosis and then to my email. It's a small Orthodox-Internet world, I guess.
A few words from St. James...surely for me, maybe for you:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.
So then,my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Doers—Not Hearers Only
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you[b] thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
I suppose it is an indicator of my television ignorance, but I was truly surprised to find a kindred "soul" in a political-social commentator on ABC. John Stossel is a self-proclaimed libertarian and he has been doing a series entitled "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics" on 20/20 for the last few weeks. In my liberty-leaning head, they are truly a breath of fresh air from the fluff and mud of the campaign and so I am going to share them here. In this first introductory clip we are offered the radical suggestion that we either consciously or unconsciously ascribe far too much illusory power to our politicians. The whole libertarian point is that USUALLY if things go very well the government really had nothing to do with it and USUALLY if things go poorly the government had a great deal to do with it. We like and tend to think that government - and specifically our presidents - have everything to do with everything....sometimes even our personal happiness.
Case and point: both parties are presently selling us a bill of goods with regard to the financial crisis - by which I mean to say that they claim THEY are going to fix it (like so much else in our lives). Both parties are either blaming the other party, blaming DERUGULATION (meaning government lets go of the reigns), or blaming nameless "greedy" wall street people. Either way, the blame game has an obvious ulterior motive: retain or gain power.
There are others as well and I will share them later - including a GREAT one about the Farm Bill and subsidies.
Politics sometimes seems so profane...perhaps partly because of that sense is why I lean libertarian? I cannot say...part of it is also perhaps the perception that the world is headed in a post-Christian direction and as it does so it seems sensible to deny the government more and more access and influence over our everyday lives? The Left and Right (Religious or otherwise) are generally assumptive of government oversight in our lives and this creates this tremendous battle in making sure that oversight leans a particular cultural, social and moral values direction. But what if the government had a great deal less oversight in our lives and agreeing upon that we would then not have our passions so raised in worrying about who's in charge and what they'll bring into our living rooms? Would it give the "free market" of ideas, values, and beliefs an even greater freedom to dialog, discuss, and debate? Just a thought.
Last Sunday as we were singing the Second Antiphon, I was convicted over the extent to which I'd been putting too much of myself into the political system; investing too much concern/worry/faith in it all. Fact is, the Federal Government is neither going to usher in, nor wreck the Kingdom of God - no matter what they do or who moves into the White House next January. So, how much energy should I invest in this? There is so much for me to do in my own life and in the lives of those around me that REALLY IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT.
Praise the LORD, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.
The LORD shall reign forever— Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
...to be rid of my arachnophobia....THIS is quite possibly the most horrifying thing I have ever seen.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:20 PM [+] +++
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
A new flock of Reds are shortly on the way. It's a bit of a "risk" in tight times, but we have plenty of egg buyers and not enough eggs. Come late spring we should make up the funds I hope - and if the economy seriously tanks we'll have additional food producers of our own. It will be fun to have a new batch of peeping chicks.
In related news, we have been busily training the pups on the invisible fence. They are certainly getting the hang of it, but aren't quite ready to be completely free.
We're also putting together and executing plans to expand the goats primary paddock along with a new barn entry-exit to get them away from the muddy area that my french drain clearly did not fully eliminate. I'd love to dump about 8 inches of gravel in that whole area - once money allows or a free ad pops up on Craigslist.
While this may be a little much (buying land in South America?), I am none-the-less a big proponent of self-sufficiency...even in the very worse of times. We buy fire insurance, we install smoke detectors, we even install CO detectors....why not be a little prepared for the worse? Or at least be prepared for a brief period of not so much fun and not a whole lot to watch on TV.
I wonder if people see survivalists as wacko in part because they look through lenses that are colored with a bit too much faith in the "establishment"?
A bit of self-sufficiency will do no one any harm. I've no idea what the future holds, but I'm guessing I'm not the only one who wished they'd asked more and gleaned more from grandma and grandpa with regard to the Great Depression and just generally being able to endure hardship. If things really go south, my guess is we are going to discover just what pansies we all really are...save those we now call wackos.
What's that old wise tale about the grasshopper and the ant?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:34 AM [+] +++
Catholics pondering abortion
Article HERE. Well, I'm not sure I like the title because without details there is NOTHING to ponder. It's wrong, obviously. But the devil is in the details...so here, an Orthodox borderline libertarian ponders the legality of abortion. Specific enough?
While, I am largely evolving into a libertarian in my old age, I find the issue of abortion one that I cannot grant liberty to because of a lack of consensus on whose pay is within the scale that affords them the intellectual, philosophical, religious faculty to decide when humans are gifted with rights of life and liberty.
One of the few things I readily cede to the power of the state is the protection of life and liberty. As such, acting on my belief that life truly does begin at conception, I believe the state has an obligation to protect that life and its liberty. It's simple, because I'm not trying to change the world's mind or evangelize the world - at least not through legislation. I am responding logically and reasonably to my perception of the issue and the role and authority we have long and rightly given to the state.
On many other issues I find a great deal of room for political grayness despite a religious and personal black and white...but not with abortion. From my perspective, it is ONE of a very few places where clear Christian teaching and an obvious mandate and role given to government (philosophically and legally per the Constitution) come to together in harmony. All complicating factors aside (not to belittle them, it's just that the life and liberty of the powerless victim of abortion trump them.)
I once derided a pro-life activist who told me back when I was far more neutral on the subject that I'd feel differently about the issue if I saw millions of children being shot and disposed of every year. So if I really believed a fetus is a human being I should not feel any differently about abortion and mass executions. I thought it absurd and will admit to still wrestling with the analogy...clearly it is different because abortion is not done in the public and has all the appearances of a clinical procedure. That is unless you've seen the remains.
Long time readers here will know I have. Back in 90's while I was doing a lab internship, I had a stint in a pathology lab and while there, I numerous times held in the palm of my hand the shredded remains of a "fetus"...7-8 weeks is usually what was documented as the age, but none-the-less it was clearly a tiny dead human; hands, feet, fingers...face. It was more than a little eye opening and in describing it I've been outright called a liar. People are largely ignorant of the matter (by which I mean human tissue matter), preferring to envision a blob of a few cells.
I understand the difficulties surrounding the issue such as the socio-economic problems that a poor unmarried woman may face. At the same time I also understand that pregnancy is a completely preventable "disorder" by which I mean to say - as a borderline, part-time libertarian - that there is at least a modicum of personal responsibility at play here. Yes, you know us borderline, part-time libertarians and our old fashioned appeal to personal responsibility and such. I think we can work with all of these factors (via education, private crisis pregnancies centers, etc) and still do the right thing and offer governmental protection of life and liberty to those who are decidedly the "least of these."
Will it ever happen? I don't know...I may even doubt it. But that's no reason not to stand up for life in this culture. Far stranger, and even more frightening life related issues arise everyday on the political scene, I think we are obliged to be a vocal witness against some of the insanity.
Additionally, I'm not saying people should necessarily vote on one issue alone, but I will argue that THIS is one issue we should all agree on - even if other matters may sway us to vote for a candidate less convinced about it or less willing to do anything about it. I'm not suggesting anything beyond the fact that my support of a ban on abortion is not an attempt at legislating my religious beliefs. Again, it is a logical and necessary conclusion to the philosophical, religious, and political persuasions I hold to be true. To do otherwise would be demonstrative of a serious inconsistency in every major aspect of my world view.
...have passed since my beloved began to grace this world. LOL! (running and ducking) And I would be remiss in failing to note that today is her birthday! And I would also be remiss in not mentioning that she is truly everything to me and ranks me a hundredfold in most every way...except maybe in drinking SnowCap and that's nothing to be proud of.
I suppose one could assume that if you are actually making plans to sin that there is a serious malfunction in the heart. It is one thing to "stumble into" sin, but quite another to scheme your way into its clutches. Perhaps everyone, if they think hard enough about it, can find a scenario in which they are indeed making such plans - sometimes very subtly and without a great deal of conscious effort. Other times, however, one may with unsinkable hubris deliberately light the last boiler so as to steam full speed ahead into the icy darkness of the North Atlantic. Confession to follow once the RMS Carpathia arrives on scene.
But plans needn't be long and drawn out to be no less plans. What I mean to imply is that when you get down to a detailed analysis of the "Spiritual Warfare", there is always SOME degree of planning going on. It doesn't matter if the initial prompting arose from within or without, an effort is made to engage and entertain the prompting. Even something as seemingly instantaneous as yelling at the kids does in fact have a process of prompting, decision, and planning before it actually happens. A key to fighting such day to day sins, I gather, is to be able to recognize the existence of this lightening fast process and by so doing empower yourself to thwart it (careful: God is the source of this...I have seen first hand the disaster that follows neglecting to see God as the author and finisher of such empowerment - in fact my terminology is very likely ill-rendered here but as I can think of nothing more apt in this early morning trip across the sound I will let it remain.)
If one is unable, or I should say unwilling, to sabotage a sin planning process that is blatantly obvious and may run over a period of minutes or even days, then one is certainly not going to have any success in the "little everyday" battles that last seconds. What to do?
Maybe one needs to make and engage a different set of plans and by that I mean plans for holiness. Naturally everyone tends to think immediately of prayer and the need to offer our orthodoxos to God more regularly. Surely this is so, but in my own life I can see that it is also surely not all that we can do. We can immerse ourselves into a habit of holiness without becoming the equivalent of lay monastics - though perhaps the world would see it as such.
For instance turn the television off. I get some of the strangest looks from people when I tell them we don't have cable of satellite or even an antenna to watch any broadcast television, so clearly this makes us oddballs of sorts. And while our decision was both fiscal and quality time related, I have no doubt it has benefited me. That said, don't under estimate the mind's ability to find ways to waste time and entertain itself with meaninglessness. A wise priest once told me that simply cutting oneself off from the ability to commit a particular sin will simply open a door to some other sin. In other words you are not getting to the root of the matter. That said, media (and television in particular) is a powerful source of influence I believe...I still have vivid memories of media experiences from ages ago - like being haunted sometimes. Has losing regular access to television bettered me? Heck , I don't know...but I am certainly not worse for it! Whatever benefit I have failed to gain I am certain I neglected on my own.
Get off the internet. To no small degree, the internet has replaced my television habits. Sometimes this period of time is fruitful (case and point being this bit of reflection right now) and sometimes it is not so fruitful (reading political news) and other times - of course - it is down right destructive (no example needed). But this is time I could be reading, studying, talking to family members, praying, singing, or WORKING. Yes, working, I believe, is a habit of holiness. I have a long list of such opportunities available to me.
Much of my life has seen periodic spurts of tremendous interest and energy into a variety of issues, concepts, or hobbies. Short-lived and ultimately never amounting to much. It's a waste. Part of making a plan for a habit of holiness I think means restraining these passion-ridden expeditions into whatever it may happen to be to catch my interest. Think of a fish and shiny lures...that's me.
FOCUS. DISCIPLINE. PLANNING.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:32 AM [+] +++
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Look, let's be honest. Winters here in western Washington suck. Winters on a Western Washington Farm (even little bitty ones) suck golf balls through garden hoses. But, there is a small shinning glimmer of grace to be found in winters here.
And on Friday I came home to find my fridge stocked with it:
Ahhhh...sitting by the fire tonight and enjoying some quality time with an old friend....let it rain and let the mud multiply beyond all reason.
Last night I made my first attempt at jalapeño-mozzarella. I am quite enjoying it today - it came out wonderful and all I really did was mix a few minced up pickled jalapeños into the mozzarella during the kneading-stretching step. At present we have 3 pounds of the "Basic Hard Cheese" aging in the fridge and I am really excited about that. I've got a few more books on hold at the library as I really want to educate myself more about the process and also on some additional varieties to try. We've had people wanting to buy our cheese - many apparently willing to pay a pretty good premium on raw, all natural, goat cheese. It has certainly got me thinking about trying to start a real grade A goat creamery.
Not sure if I have linked here before, but THIS is a great resource. Via this site I also found this a resource where people have documented the process of building their own small scale creameries, for example:
There are many others and I am seriously dreaming of doing the same for St. Brigid Farm. I see cheese making as having a real connection with the work I do in the lab - it really is science, except in the case of the farm, the data generated is delicious.
I've been thinking about Mission a great deal lately. I will have some more detailed thoughts laid out shortly - for whatever they are worth, but I do want to note this news from our mission to Kitsap County.
Last Sunday we had a meeting in order to lay out our options with regard to buying/building our own place of worship. A fellow parishioner did a great deal of research into our options and then laid them out for us. After some discussion, it was then noted that a number of people had told Fr. C that they had money set aside for when the time was right to start us along in the process of building our church, this being the case we were asked to write down what dollar amounts we were willing to contribute. It was our hope to ascertain a rough idea, based on all the research we had set before us, what direction to head in and what sort of time frame in which to do it.
When the tally was read, I was floored. I can only really speak for myself, but I suspect everyone was surprised by the level of commitment shown. At the beginning of the presentation someone reminded us and said that we have absolutely no time line and that it may not even be in our lifetime that we see our church built. I believe given what we saw later, there is no doubt this very well could happen much much sooner than that. We arguably do have enough for a down payment right now!
Glory to God! I really must express what a joy it is to be a part of all of this; to be a part of a community so committed to the cause of establishing an Orthodox Church and bringing the light and life of Christ to Kitsap county.
And some absolutely SHAMELESS "commerce": Additionally, if you should feel so inclined or led, please feel free to help us financially by clicking HERE. If you don't use pay pal and would like to contribute, please feel free to email me and we can make arrangements.
I think I've blogged before about a few of the unusual names I have come across in our dealings with folks in Uganda. For instance, one gentleman's name is "Gad" and yes, believe it or not, the "a" is pronounced as "ah" rendering the man's name homonymous with "God." (As a side I have made it a point today to both try to pronounce properly and use this word "homonymous" in context 10 times today.) I am sure you can imagine the interesting conversations and associated misunderstandings this can and has led to, especially since actually discussing "God" is something not yet taboo in the Ugandan workplace. Thus, sometimes hearing the phrase: "I need to talk to Gad about it" or "Gad told me I should..." can be quite an adventure.
Another gentleman's name is intriguing, but goes the Latin route: Deogratious. As far as I know, such names are all but non-existant in the west today. Have you met anyone named Deodatus or Duesvult or Theodosios? But those of us who are Orthodox or Catholic are certainly familiar with such names in our hagiography at least. We still do see them in our baptismal names - particularly with converts I suspect, but certainly not exclusively so. Of course the Greek versions we know well: Theophilus or Thephorus etc. I'm really not sure if you see such names being bestowed upon little Greek girls or boys these days, but if you did I think it would be difficult to imagine such usage in everyday life. that being said, for native Greek speakers I wonder if it feels odd (for example) to refer to a Bishop as "Bishop God's Friend"? (Theophilus)
Anyway, recently I have found the most unusual African name in my experience to date. The man's name is "God's Power." No Greek or Latin here, that is the man's name. I can't say for sure if the apostrophe is supposed to be there. I don't know if I'll ever meet him...but I simply must wonder if he has a nickname or what the shortened version could possibly be????
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:09 AM [+] +++
This story notes a number of the accomplishments we have made toward developing pluripotent cells synthetically. And some work has been done to even get omnipotent cells as well. What I find impressive about this article is that it does not contain the usually obligatory opinion that we still need to grind up developing humans to do the job properly. Nice to see.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:15 PM [+] +++
Saturday, October 11, 2008
34 degrees in air, 180 degrees of coyotes
First fire of the year is presently burning in the wood stove this morning. Near freezing temperatures...in fact it may have gotten lower but I didn't look when I was awaken at 4am to the astonishingly loud sound of coyotes barking and howling - with Mina and Killick responding in kind. I listened out the window upstairs for a moment and hearing they were far too close, I opted to drag my butt downstairs and make sure they weren't working their way into the barn or coop. I honestly didn't think they were because I didn't think they would be making such a vocal racket in the process, but I'm not a wildlife biologist. For all I know they were calling for help with the digging process.
Ruger in tow, I started on the back porch. My first thought as I stepped outside: Brrrr! October, and it is about as cold as it gets around here! And then the coyote let loose. YIKES! This pup was really close! But he/she was not anywhere near our animals...rather it was singing from not more than 10-20yards (I'd guess later) northeast of us. But, I could also hear at least one other voice coming from the south on the other side of the house. Killick was going absolutely ballistic, so I made him go back inside and I went around front.
I stood on the front porch and could hear the other one yelping - but this one was MUCH closer. And then I could hear him rustling in the woods somewhere between our house and the neighbor's driveway. Wow...this fellow was so close his voice would have drowned out the neighbor's generator! I'll bet these guys can be heard for miles. The coyote's yippy howl is really haunting and that combined with the cold air and the bright stars - Orion was prominent in the upper southern sky and the hazy milky way cutting a seemingly endless swath through the darkness - made for a rather eerie and yet beautiful scene.
I waited until I could neither hear them anymore nor stand the cold. Feeling reasonably sure they had moved on (and not toward the barn or coop) I went back to bed. I have not counted the cats yet, but assume they were both inside. Goats and chickens are fine.
The fire burning has a nice ambiance to it for sure...but I really wasn't ready to let go of summer. Yes, fall and winter have their beauty to them - rain not being one of them.
Monthly we have our newest “Godson” (it always seems strange in reference to an adult) over for dinner after Liturgy. He and my wife will discuss their Nourishing Traditions and conspire to see what new non-traditional and yet traditional healthy foods they will force me to eat, which admittedly I will probably end up enjoying. I’m rather along for the ride in all of that, but its all good. Last Sunday we also talked about something else that really was an eye opener.
Our guest noted as we were discussing planting trees that for many people these days the notion planting a tree that won't yield fruit for years is a fools errand...even unthinkable. Even more, planting a tree not for ourselves, but for our kids to enjoy! Previously I had mentioned my history studies with my kids and how we were discussing the transition from nomadic life to farming (some would say the beginning of civilization) and it occurred to us that in many ways we have returned to a nomadic life. It was rather a revelation to me, but it is largely true. No, we are not chasing mammoth herds around again, but we are chasing jobs, technology, innovation, and really money in general. Yes, many move out of some alternative choice (look at us), but for certain we are largely a society with little to no direct connection with our land. And frankly, I don't know what long-term connections we will have to our current land...thoughts of more and better land are in our minds, but time and the economy will tell.
So what if we are modern nomads? Well that is a good question. I note it without any definitive means of applying a moral judgment on our new nomadic life. But, it does seem sad to me and I have been trying to comprehend why I feel this way about it.
Obviously at one point the vast majority of us were farmers and those few who weren’t almost certainly still made use of their land in someway to feed their families. This agrarian way of life, of course, began to change as the Industrial Revolution really got underway. More and more people became less and less attached to the land and more and more attached to cities – where the jobs were/are to be found. It was all a perfectly logical progression. We became mobile and have increasingly done so ever since.
Does attachment to the land DO anything for us? Honestly, I think it might and the word I would suggest is permanence. In some of what I am about to consider, the old chronological order debate of the chicken and egg may be applicable…but I would feel inclined to put up an argument that my answer is chronologically accurate. Anyway, I suggest that our abandonment of the land and the attachment to our modern nomadic life has perhaps instigated and propelled us toward the rather crazy disposable, one-time use world we see around us today. Nothing is expected to last and I wonder if we tend to think it doesn’t need to. I’ve asked before: how many ratchet sets have I owned? How many different front lawns have I mowed? Would I be different - would my life be different - if the answer was “one” and the previous owner and mower was my father? And Grandfather? I don’t know….maybe? It is interesting to consider though isn’t it?
Families today are spread out all over the country. Moving from one house to another is just about normative and moving from one state to another is no big deal. I’m not sure where the phrase “home is where the heart is” came from, but there was once an actual geographic connection with the notion of home – sometimes for generations. To the attorney in San Francisco, his Grandfather’s farm he inherited is little more than dirt with far too little monetary value.
Can you imagine a time when people bought and made things with the expectation that their grandchildren would use them? Can you imagine someone giving thought to planting a fruit tree from which they know they will never see food, but their kids will? Is leading this nomadic life part of what has produced our microwave generation? Yes we own a bit of land…but do we sense a need of stewardship over it? Or is our attitude really all that different from renters? I suppose we all tend to develop a certain affinity for our cities (Seattle?) or general areas (The Pacific Northwest?)…but I don’t think it’s the same.
I sense an inherent value in my kids playing in a tree my grandfather planted. I’m not sure I can accurately express that value right now. I think we DO lose something in adopting this new nomadic life today but I shall have to think more about it. I think there is a move toward what they are calling today “sustainability” but I’m not sure that is the same. I’m talking about a living connection with the past…a closeness to home and to family (extended) and to an abiding tradition of life. And even more that I cannot now bring beyond vague inclinations in my brain...later maybe.
Some will undoubtedly see mistakenly see this post as an apologetic for agrarian life...it's not. I'm wondering here how our shift from life connected to land may have effected our lives and attitudes...good or bad? Both?
To plant a tree I will never eat the fruit of...and to be pleased to do so.
Much more to ponder…no definitive conclusions yet.
I’m sitting here in my vanpool contemplating a thoughtful little movie I just watched called Henry Poole is here.
It is a film that tries to find some middle ground between the blatancy of 1950’s era 10 Commandments and the far more common modern films either devoid or harshly cynical of faith. That said, the film rarely confronts the issue of God’s existence – though it is rather implied – but the characters certainly do not. SomeTHING is happening...not SomeONE. It does the best that it can to deal with religious faith while still remaining accessible to an ever expanding demographic of faithlessness. By this I mean to say, you cannot make a movie these days in which God is real in any traditional sense and be expected to be taken seriously.
Ironically, the filmmakers’ optimistic study on faith is centered upon an object of much scorn and laughter: a “miraculous” water stain upon the stucco of a southern California house. We have the obligatory lack of a personal God involved in the “miracles”, a way out for the faithless – though with a big question mark, some holes in the plot, and even a quote from Noam Chomsky about how somethings are inexplicable. I grimaced a little at Patience’s explanation of the power of faith, it seemed to be something both a New Ager and a Word-Faith Christian could affirm. And really, you think maybe you could have found a better quote than Noam Chomsky’s? Blech!
But, I still found the movie delightful. Some more nuanced than myself may find it simplistic, but I thought their were some very powerful scenes about the struggle and triumph of faith and it was more than enough to make me overlook the film’s failings.
I cannot recall how I stumbled upon this book review by Garrison Keillor, but this portion written of the agnostic author struck a familiar chord to me:
Thanatophobia is a fact in his life — he thinks about death daily and sometimes at night is “roared awake” and “pitched from sleep into darkness, panic and a vicious awareness that this is a rented world . . . awake, alone, utterly alone, beating pillow with fist and shouting ‘Oh no Oh No OH NO’ in an endless wail.” He dreams about being buried and “of being chased, surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned, of finding myself bulletless, held hostage, wrongly condemned to the firing squad, informed that there is even less time than I imagined. The usual stuff.” He imagines being trapped in an overturned ferry. Or locked by kidnappers in the trunk of a car that is then driven into a river. He imagines being taken underwater in the jaws of a crocodile.
Beyond the big knock-down stuff, he dreads the diminution of energy, the drying-up of the wellspring, the fading of the light.
I can vividly remember as an atheist contemplating my own demise and I can still remember the horrible darkness that would fall upon me at that moment. Some would say it is not rational for an atheist to fear death because there is clearly nothing to concern yourself with in that unfortunate event: no pain, no suffering...you simply cease to be. EXACTLY! Pause for a moment and contemplate your lack of existence. Seriously, try it...really put your mind and heart into the notion that you are simply no more. No consciousness...no being...no essence...GONE.
For me it was always a shivering thought...incomprehensible. It was as if everything within me made war against the notion and that deep down inside I was "programmed" to find the idea of my non-existence in death as obviously untrue as was the obvious truth of my existence in life. And yet...the same "endless wail" haunted me because I had no objective means of discerning and thus believing in eternity.
But it was not the participation in death that ultimately led me to become a theist. Not at all. It was not my inability to deal with non-existence. No, as I too often do now, I would simply sweep such thoughts out of my mind and run from them when they would try and press in upon me. Death itself can be ignored, but the means by which we look at death necessarily affects how we look at life and THAT is much harder to ignore.
I will always argue that any atheist who is not also a very nuanced hedonist is an idiot...or at least a hypocrite akin to television evangelists who frequent brothels. Simple logic combined with a materialist world view would dictate as much, and yet...something within us wars also against this. Something compels us to love...even if twisted and rusted and imperfect...we all are compelled to some degree of real love. Knowing this; sensing this was my undoing as an atheist.
While I would be intrigued to learn more about how Mr. Barnes ultimately comes to grips (now) with death, I'm afraid my interest isn't strong enough to propel me to read his entire book. I mean how much of this could one bear:
“There is no separation between ‘us’ and the universe.” We are simply matter, stuff. Individualism — the triumph of free-thinking artists and scientists — has led to a state of self-awareness in which we can now view ourselves as units of genetic obedience.”
And thoughts such as:
"A man can fear his own death but what is he anyway? Simply a mass of neurons. The brain is a lump of meat and the soul is merely 'a story the brain tells itself.' Individuality is an illusion. Scientists find no physical evidence of “self” — it is something we’ve talked ourselves into. We do not produce thoughts, thoughts produce us. 'The "I" of which we are so fond properly exists only in grammar.' Stripped of the Christian narrative, we gaze out on a landscape that, while fascinating, offers nothing that one could call Hope."
Sadly this is often the narrative fed to us (and our kids) by science today...as it has become the arbiter of all truth.
Death is no friend to the Christian. We do not see death as some grand freeing experience. It is as much our haunting enemy as it is to the atheist. Only we are called not to avoid thinking upon it, but to actually seek to ponder it - to stare it in the face. And to prepare for it. All the while knowing it is trampled down.
Scientific community and Main Stream Media discover that in the early history of the Church there were gnostics and other odd mystical belief systems that may or may not have anything at all to do with Christianity. All of this, of course, assuming that the bowl and engraving is legitimate. It kinda looks to me like someone recently went to work with their swiss army knife on that thing - awfully clean looking cuts for being nearly 2000 years old...but then...what do I know.
So, do you recall the cheese press I made a couple of weeks ago? The picture there shows our first batch of hard cheese being pressed and yesterday we busted it open after its obligatory 2 week aging period and I was really impressed. I’m not sure I can say it is akin to any particular cheese, but I suppose it is somewhat close to a cheddar or a jack with a very slight hint of a cream cheese taste plus the subtle addition of flavors unique to cheese made with goat’s milk.
We basically followed professor Fankhauser’s recipe for “Basic Hard Cheese” and we allowed it to form its own rind – which I think adds a nice touch to the cheese as I enjoy eating that as well. This was our first test of the method and I count it a rousing success. Thankfully this success buffers the less successful garden that seems to just about be finished.
We’ve been getting a fair amount of rain and cool temperatures in the last week. And on Saturday we had our first official windstorm – though pretty mild compared to what we’ve experienced before, it did knock out power in some places. Our tomato tent did just fine (had a little plastic come loose), but the corn outside didn’t fair very well. However, I think the corn had run out of time anyway and so I don’t think we ever would have seen a harvest from it anyway...sadly. The coming winter will be spent in evaluating this year and planning for next. There will be no long day of canning and freezing this fall….alas. We must consider what will produce better results next year - an earlier start for sure – but if weather doesn’t cooperate what can one do? I think our wet August really stunted everything; even our wild blackberries seemed to go from ripe to molding slush in a period of a couple days (so no wine this year). Fall seems to be utterly upon us as the little windstorm announced on Saturday…expect to see me in the woodshed quite a bit this month – chopping and stacking.
But, on the bright side, we do have our cheese now. We must make more. I’d like to see a continuous line of cheeses aging in our fridge, including at least one brick that is chock-full of jalepenos!
Ummm...so 364 days of year of secularism ( which is to say: default atheism) simply isn't enough? Curiously enough...how many persons of religious persuasion do you suppose can actually identify WHEN the national Day of Prayer occurs? Further, even if they could...does anyone REALLY notice anything different about life in American on that particular day? So how exactly does one experience a "hostile environment"? of course, it's an absurd appeal to politically correct sensitivities.
Why do I have this image of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln opening up a big ol' can of whoop ass on the leader of the "Freedom From Religion Foundation"? (Of course, I don't mean literally, I mean a trip to the verbal woodshed) Didn't the paraphrase for the establishment clause used to be: "Freedom OF Religion"? Curious change.
I would not be surprised if they win.
All of this said, I was sorry to hear that they lost their case against the government with regard to the "faith based initiative." You want to know why I think they lost? (Yes you do). They lost because the "faith based initiative" isn't about "the church" with its values and beliefs infiltrating the government, it's about government infiltrating its values and beliefs (secularism, which is to say: default atheism) into "the church." The FRF I would have thought should have appreciated this more nuanced means of flipping the political game table on Christians.
I have been enjoying teaching ancient history, and though we may have any number of reasons for homeschooling, one I had not really considered was simply the joy and privilege of formally educating my own children. It has really become a special time for them with Dad and they all seem to be engaged and interested in the topic – to varying degrees.
I teach them all at the same time and I do not dilute my points and questions for the sake of the younger ones. I have been surprised by how much they retain and how well they are able to work their heads around more complex questions. Our oldest usually gets additional work in order to explore further, though.
Last session we were discussing the shift from the nomad (hunter-gatherer) life to the more settled existence to be found in farming. We began to discuss what is to become a recurring theme in our historical studies: technology. Farming was a massive technological advancement for humankind and really is the foundation upon which all other future technologies would arise. Settling down was key to all of this. One thing we noted was that some groups of people never gave up a nomadic “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle and that such cultures rarely saw any grand technological advancement in the thousands of years that they have been in existence.
The nomadic life is one strictly concerned with survival. Precious little time is allotted to anything but hunting, gathering, and moving. Here is where I get a little theoretical: amidst such a lifestyle there is precious little time to think and thus develop new technologies or flush out vast arrays of ideas. And while farming may keep one very busy, you are able to eliminate the additional efforts of chasing Mammoth herds with your family in tow. You have time to think about better ways of doing things and indeed, specific advances in farming began to arise very quickly (i.e. irrigation methods.)
Now, one thing that I make as an over-arching theme in my history is the idea of tradition. Tradition, as I define it here, is a collective memory. Tradition and history are intimately linked, but whereas history USUALLY is about facts and dates; tradition is an expression of the hearts and minds of a people – expressed and developed within the context of their history. It expresses WHO a culture is, in the deepest sense of the word “who.” But make no mistake about it, tradition has many practical applications: a farmer teaching his son what his grandfather taught him about farming is as much a demonstration and engagement of history as it is tradition. It was essential to life, success, and future development.
Now indeed all cultures have tradition and those traditions are communicated in different ways, but technological development has also played an active role in assisting to communicate history and tradition. The most significant of which just happens to be the next big leap we are making in our class: written language.
It is not surprising that the majority (perhaps all?) of cultures that retained a nomadic lifestyle never developed a written language. For them, history and tradition is communicated through oral records: stories, songs, even dances. Of course I suppose there may be some cultures that got to farming, but proceeded not much further...but for certain I think farming was a necessary step in moving much more forward. One typically doesn’t see hunter-gatherer cultures using helicopters to hunt down their prey and combines to harvest wild wheat.
Naturally this caused me to consider the uniqueness of our society today; A society that is everyday pushing the technological envelop to some wild extremes. And, I may suggest that a huge proportion of our most advanced technological endeavors today are devoted to entertainment or perhaps war. War we have always had, but the advance of entertainment has done something significant to us: it has filled our time. It has usurped our free time (which has grown over the centuries) and that used to be filled with thinking, writing, planning, educating, passing on traditions, considering the grand scheme of things - all those things that truly advanced our civilization in the past. It begs the question: Have we stagnated ourselves? Have we dumbed ourselves down? In looking at the quality of television programming and commercials and ad campaigns (and even political campaigns) I’d have to suggest that we most certainly have. Look at the political debates of the 18-19th century as compared to today? We are supposed to be a far more highly educated society today and yet a hundred years ago the people running for office flushed out serious political and philosophical issues. Last night (as is our custom) we were treated to an hour and a half of fluffy accusatory political TV commercials and the one deemed more polished and akin to an iPOD ad is considered the “winner.” It's like watching the superbowl for the ads...who really cares about the game? Just an example...let’s not delve into the politics anymore.
Consider how dumbed down we have become with this example: The year is 1870 and Virgil needs to buy a new milk cow for his family. He heads across town to look at a cow that a larger farmer is trying to sell. He gets there and sees that the cow looks rather anemic. Her udder has a few sores on it. He is about to begin a more thorough investigation when the selling farmer whistles and his wife comes out wearing a bikini. She begins to dance around the cow...suggestively and saying how wonderful the cow is and that buying such a cow would surely make the buyer a REAL man. Naturally, the farmer, buys the cow without further inspection and without any haggling.
At some point in history, we started buying things because they were "cool"...I suspect that was the beginning of the end for us.
Yes, this IS how we are marketed to...even for things we truly NEED! Is it too much to suggest that all of our leisure time being chewed up by mind-numbing (and sometimes propaganda bearing) entertainment is rendering us intellectually sterile?
We’ve even gone so far as to largely hold notions of tradition in DISDAIN! We scoff at it and we ignore our elders, considering them of little use to us. All their knowledge and potential advice is going with them to the grave, and more and more we are growing willing to help them to get there more swiftly. What need do we have of age, experience, wisdom, face to face tradition when we have wikipedia and factcheck.org? Both of which I expect 11 year olds are currently using to demonstrate that Grandpa has no idea what he is talking about. After all, what do those who fought it have to say about WWII? Revisionist historians recently graduated from Berkley know FAR more.
I also read of the decreasing amount of history courses being required in colleges and high schools today. It’s sad, but it rather fits our general context today in which we burn our incense before the icon of the iPHONE.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:01 AM [+] +++
Sound advice...and not just for brokers and the wealthy. They have no monopoly on having need for such advice. As a political side...I get nervous with the thought of government deciding when "someone consumes more than they have earned." The question ought not to be directed to others...but to ourselves, no? I mean really...should we be looking at other people and telling them they earn or consume more than they should? I know a few Ugandans who see my "humble" life in a radically different light than I do. We have a tendency to place the "too much" mark just above our own consumption levels don't we.
We should always be examining our lives and our consumption and our stewardship of what we have and what we do - but how often do we do it? But if the economy really crashes...then we will really be forced to apply our values to our finances, won't we?
A jar of dirt in every home is NOT a bad idea!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:32 AM [+] +++
The other night my wife was measuring me for some vestments we are ordering. Come to find out, I have shrunk. About 1.5" I reckon! What the heck is going on with that?!?!? I can only assume is has to do with my back problems and that the discs are going "bye bye"...but man was that an eye opener.
Additionally, I have begun to abstain from beer during the week. I had decided that for both economic and caloric reasons I needed to cut down on my fine ale consumption. Thus I have only allowed myself to consume during the weekend. Not surprisingly, I am now losing weight too!
A good thing, one would suppose. Unless when entering your lab one morning with your hands full you begin to feel your pants slipping. Unable to put anything down, one then feels said cascade to one's ankles. And then one must scoot their way to a table, unload their stuff, in order to retrieve said pants to their proper location. And then....and ONLY then...does one examine the surroundings to see how many actually saw the event. Thankfully there are benefits to arriving at work very early.
Sometimes I think God allows such things to happen to me in order to remind me of what a goof I truly am. In some ways, my life could be a hit comedy series.