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.
Fr. Thomas Hopko has begun a fascinating series on Darwinism. It appears to be off to an intriguing start.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:45 AM [+] +++
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Ban High Fructose Corn Syrup?
I recently noted people on Facebook becoming "fans of" banning High Fructose Corn Syrup. While I appreciate the sentiment (I don't particularly trust the stuff myself), I think we may be missing something here. Government meddling is precisely WHY you find the stuff in everything to begin with! The price of sugar is kept artificially high by the Feds and thus it is largely unused and replaced with the much cheaper HFCS being substituted. So don't demonize the corporations, they are simply trying to give you the product you want for a price you are willing to pay. And as we know, more and more companies are seeing a market of people willing to pay extra for real sugar. See Here for details on why sugar is so expensive.
A quick and easy solution is to read labels and pay the extra for real sugar. Or, if you want to pay a fair price for it, don't ask the government to do MORE (like a ban), ask it to do LESS and the problem is solved. Hmmmm...
2009 Nanny of the Year steps up to do a 2010 REPEAT!
Not content with winning in 2009, NYC is up for taking care of its people again! What ever would New Yorkers do without the state???
Salt is evil and an enemy to the collective...ahem...I mean state.
I generally support freedom of information laws, such as food labeling, but give me a break. We do not need the state to read the label for us and then go about seeing that high salt food not even be offered to us...ever. What on earth does that say about us? Do we really need THIS MUCH OVERSIGHT!! Then they go on to give us this line:
"High blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke kill 23,000 New Yorkers and 800,000 Americans per year, costing untold billions in healthcare expenses, the Health Department said."
Well there you have it. We must FORCE "good health" upon people because we are all sharing the expense - really? Like in health insurance? Hey, here's a free market solution - allow insurance companies (if they so wish) to deny coverage to people who were not using reasonable safety devices. And besides, I'd like to know what untold billions of dollars is involved in funding public health policy bureaucrats. In my mind they are like the vast majority of human resources employees such as those who write the questions and tally results for things like "Diversity" quizzes. The other issue is the extent to which public health policy makers really know what is healthy for you. Remember kids, this is the government we are talking about and they are busily being lobbied by all manner of interests - whether corporate profiteers or non-profit ideologues.
I'm presently reading a book called "Good Calories / Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes (here's a NYT review) and in it the author presents extensive evidence to suggest that the whole government/science/media complex that brings to us public policy and "conventional wisdom" is as flawed as...well...as flawed as any of us...or a large crowd of us. In my experience, once they get it wrong, they largely expect/hope that by simply being more quiet about the issue people will forget the extent to which they trumpeted it in the beginning. After a decade or two we'll probably forget and while they'll call HUGE press conferences to tell us what we ought to eat when the "research is settled" (it often isn't), they don't do anything nearly as loud to say something like: "Well, gee, turns out eggs aren't so bad after all." (In point of fact it was egg farmer associations and corporate agribusinesses who made the announcement on the behalf...I still remember the TV commercial of the egg being freed from chains.)
Of course, we don't ever want people to lose faith in the government's ability to protect you, preserve you, and keep you. We've made gods of them with our expectations of safety and health...not stopping to think whether our faith is either well-placed or needed at all.
I say poo-poo to you Bloomberg. Public health science's job should be to educate us (which they have not done well - see Taubes' book), not shackle us. I say assert your freedom people and protest by eating a spoonful of salt and follow it with a McNugget fried in Transfats. Then have a beer and a nice bit of pipeweed in a church warden amidst a smoke-friendly pub, pausing to sing a few rousing choruses of freedom and death to tyrants.
Apparently, after seeing "Avatar" you might wake up the next day to realize that your world doesn't glow in the dark, that you cannot connect your ponytail to your dog and ride him as ONE, and that the cedar tree in your frontyard doesn't act as a communication God-hub to the rest of the universes life forms and after such revelations, suffer severe depression.
I suspect young teen girls may suffer similar pain to realize that neither Vampires nor Edward are real.
Over this Christmas season my brother-in-law let me borrow a copy of a book he heartily recommended entitled "The Road" written by Cormac McCarthy. All I knew about it was that it was in the "post-apocalyptic" genre and I'd been warned it was "very dark." For all I knew this was going to be a very gruesome "Mad Max." But by the time I started reading and had adjusted to McCarthy's style, I was hooked and had the 280 or so pages read in a day and a half. At first I was unsure what to think, but after a few days of thought...haunted by it...I've come to the conclusion that this book is absolutely fantastic.
We are never told what caused the end of the world as we know it, but as McCarthy describes it, it would appear to me that this is a nuclear winter. Some no doubt will wish to see this as some vision of the future after man-made climate change takes full-effect, but McCarthy doesn't seen to care much about WHAT caused the situation, on the contrary his novel is fundamentally about being truly human amidst absolutely inhuman conditions and also it is a beautiful love story. A love story between a father and his son.
I will not give too much of the plot away, but I will tell you how this book moves me. I saw in "The Road" an analogy of our lives today...right now.
For most of us, this life is so easy, so rich and comfortable that it is often difficult to see the hell that surrounds us...and is in us. Some people suffer it to varying degrees and surely we all die...but some others sadly (or perhaps more blessedly?) have a truer vision of the horrors of which we humans are capable. Some people suffer through a reality that is not unlike "The Road" where there seems to be NO hope at all and people visit all manner of hell upon one another.
But if it is sometimes hard to see the "post-apocalyptic" state we do live in already, it is even harder to see that state manifested in our own hearts. "The Road" exists invisibly amongst us everyday. In the "The Road" the sun has been blotted out and ash is continually falling, thus all plant life has died and by the time the story-line of the book takes place (years after the beginning of the end), there remains no life other than human...and thus nothing to eat, except old and difficult to find canned goods, and each other. Cannibalism has frighteningly become to some the only way to survive and the horrors of it are not hidden in the book. Yet, the man and the boy (neither of whom are ever named) refuse to let go of their humanity and they see themselves as "the good guys" and those who are "carrying the fire" of humanity. And with all this cannibalism I was reminded of this from St. John Chrysostom:
Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.
Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Gal. v. 15. Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse…
One need not think too hard to see that our sins are often like cannibalism, so much of the base of our sinfulness is manifested in objectifying others and devouring them for our own benefit. Surely subtle in most cases, but not always. So I kept asking myself about the cannibalism in my own life and wondering how well I am protecting those I claim to love from it in the same way that the man in "The Road" struggles to protect his boy from the more overt cannibals.
"The Road" we all walk is right here in front of us. The dangers real. We struggle to protect ourselves and we struggle to protect those we love. But we must recognize that many of the dangers we face on the road are created from our own hearts and souls. It is astonishingly perilous and these notions of "being the good guys" and "carrying the fire" become perhaps more difficult to reconcile in my analogy, but I see a place for them. The book would seem to have no hope, but if you read closely I think you will see that the hope is found in the love between the boy and the man. Indeed their love sustains them and McCarthy describes them as "each the others world entire."
In the book, the man's wife (and of course the boy's mother) - who we only read about in flashbacks - decides that traveling "The Road" is too much for her to bear. She despairs completely and will not carrying on the struggle. She surrenders. I found her final conversation with the man to be heart rending and almost too difficult to read. For you see, there is no axe wielding warrior hero in this book who would come and rescue her from the jaws of death...the victory on "The Road" is won more subtly.
When we surrender and refuse to tread "The Road" that is real, we surrender to all the passions of cannibalism. We do not escape these passions, not even through death. Death is the wages of these passions and despair the surest way of yielding fully to them. There is always hope and we must learn to see that. Love. I was saddened that the man could not verbalize this hope more clearly...but it is sometimes hard to do so, especially while we ourselves are in the midst of tremendous struggle. And indeed sometimes despair is so deep, so beyond reach... it would seem no mercy can soothe it.
Anyway, I could go on and on about this analogy and the power of this book - there is much more to be found in it. I think what most struck me was the fact that this story challenged me. It challenged me because I see the reality of "The Road" in my life. I am aware of at least SOME of the passions that lead me to devour my wife, my children, my loved ones and my friends and I am encouraged to fight to protect them from the cannibals in my heart. Perhaps that sounds cheesy, but the end of the book had me weeping from the beauty of the love between that unnamed man and boy. Weeping also for my failure to recognize and engage my job properly amidst this life; "The Road" we are all on.
In an interview McCarthy said simply that he hoped his book would help people appreciate their lives and the lives of those around us. It surely does that, but I would add that I hope it will also encourage readers to continue the struggle to be fully human no matter how bad and hopeless things appear. To love and to live in the fullness of that Love no matter what. Which is Christ. Therein is the clearing skies lacking in the book.
ADDENDUM: A film by the same title was released last month. I've not seen it, but it has received positive reviews and I'm told it is very faithful to the book. McCarthy is an excellent writer and I worry that much of what so moved me was his prose, but we shall see. Some scenes might be unbearable and I hate to cry like a baby in a theater, so perhaps it would be best to wait for Netflix? A writer at Hollywood Jesus offers a very good review of the film in which she sees some of the same themes I mentioned.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:57 AM [+] +++