Morphing Time

Okay, okay, before you panic, I’m not into the Power Rangers.

Karen and I were taking a walk Saturday. While I’m a coastal person, she is into the whole mountain, green, woodsy thing, so that’s where we went for a walk, leaving the city sounds (such as they exist here) behind for a bit. We weren’t far along on the path before she grabbed my arm and forcibly altered my course because I was about to step on a caterpillar.

We soon realized that the path was littered with caterpillars. In fact, the walk was difficult because stepping around them was akin to navigating a mine field. They were everywhere. I momentarily entertained the notion that we were being invaded.

Needless to say, the conversation became about caterpillars and butterflies and so forth. My wife, being a storehouse of knowledge and trivia, know that these particular caterpillars became moths (Certainly, my friend Carly would know much more about butterflies than either of us). But, butterflies are much more interesting to talk about, so the discussion stayed there for a moment.

Sometimes, when I encounter a stray fact that I don’t use everyday, I flash back to when I first remember learning it. I remember (vaguely) being in class the day I learned about caterpillars morphing into butterflies and such. I couldn’t tell you how old I was or in what grade I sat, but I remember. It struck me that, when I first learned this fact, it was absolutely miraculous to me that those sorts of things could happen in nature.

Saturday, though, I would have just kept going if I hadn’t been stopped to consider those little life forms that I almost stepped on.

Isn’t it amazing how we stumble past the miraculous every day and never pause to appreciate it? Or even recognize it? I wonder how much closer we would all be to God if we did so. All truth is God’s truth, and we can certainly begin to realize (if not understand) how big He really is if we just take a moment to look at what He painstakingly created, what we flippantly run past without looking every day.


All About the Benjamins

Okay, okay…first off, I have to say that I was completely bored when I did it. Boredom should be considered the equivalent of temporary insanity…the things that it can make one do is astounding. It forces us to grasp at any fleeting thing in order to pass the time. It forces us to perform life experiments that carry the risk of unending humiliation should they ever be discovered. It forces us to watch (gasp!) Fear Factor.

I know, I know…there really are no excuses for it. But I did it. I’m not happy about it. I watched people precariously perch on top of a yellow car that had been hoisted several stories into the air in the rain at an angle, attempting to get flags that had been tied onto either end of it. Two of them gave up entirely. One screwed up his arm pretty bad as he fell. And, of course there was a winner. The winner walked away with $50,000 because fear was “not a factor” for him.

(Applause, gasp, realize what I just watched, become horrified, repent in an overly religious way….)

The guy that went before the winner, though…the one who screwed up his arm…was talking all kinds of smack before he went up. Constantly talking about how no one was there to be friends, and that all of their encouragement to each other was fake (moments earlier, the others had been yelling encouragement to him while he screamed like a girl tied down in a pit full of rats that were biting his fingers and crawling up his crotch). They were there for the money. Nothing else. No camaraderie. Just money.

All about the money.

And so goes our culture. And so goes the source of my personal frustration. Like anybody else, I can think of a lot of things that I could do with $50,000. But I wouldn’t do anything to get it. I certainly wouldn’t let rats crawl around my stuff. But, the insanity of these contestants aside (there’s a thin line between courage and stupidity), I’m disturbed at the philosophy behind this show.

The philosophy is that we, as a society, would do nearly anything for money. Or, more importantly, that we have to do things for money. Things we don’t like. Even things we hate. Because we have to pay the rent. We also have to pay for things that we should never have to pay for (like healthcare), and we’re forced to pay for things that should be nothing short of illegal (like insurance). And, of course, we are the nation of debt…the debt that has screwed up our economy as badly as this guy screwed up his arm, the debt that holds us captive to our credit cards and education loans (education: something else that should be free).

Because of this, most of us don’t have the freedom to do what we love. Men who love their families and want desperately to spend more time with them can’t because they have to sell their souls to earn a decent lifestyle. Single mothers who desperately want an education beyond high school can’t get it because they’re forced to wait tables at IHOP or answer the phone as an administrative assistant who is paid far below what she’s worth.

Because of this, artists can’t create because they lock up in fear that they won’t be able to sell enough to eat. Musicians are prisoners of their record companies who could care less about artistic integrity as long as their pockets are deeply padded. Poets wonder what they’re going to eat tonight because a magazine only paid them $150 for four poems.

Because of this, politicians…well, don’t even get me started on politicians.

The rise of impressionist art was, according to many scholars, triggered by the angst that man feels arising from a de-humanizing society that reduces us to numbers and skills. This angst continues to plague us as we realize that standards continue to invert, as we realize that we are a prisoner to a culture that demands 60-hour work weeks for a salary of $30,000 a year.

So, college students give blood over and over because they need the money to pay for a privilege called education. People who love to create force themselves into a jungle called the office in order to make it. Adults climb on top of yellow cars and let rats crawl up…well, I don’t want to keep repeating…

Can’t we see the desperation we’ve driven ourselves to? Can’t we see how suicidal we’ve made ourselves? No wonder shrinks and therapists make such a great living.

No wonder we’re all unhappy with our lives, and feel like we’re treading water without a direction or purpose.

No wonder spirituality is forced to the bottom, along with other critical aspects of humanity like artistic expression.

No wonder we’ve created a need for attorneys and insurance agents and counselors, so we slave away, exacerbating the problems in our own lives to pay them to contribute to our problems.

No wonder we think God is dead.

No wonder.

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Focus, Focus…This Is All About Me!

This is just a new level of low.

A deadbeat dad and his girlfriend were apprehended yesterday after fleeing the country over a year ago to avoid giving his son a kidney transplant.

His son, for crying out loud!!!

I read a study somewhere recently that talked about the enormous rise of attribution of our culture’s difficulties to narcissism. Suddenly I’m convinced, because if this isn’t narcissism, I don’t know what is.

This is a level of self-absorption that I just cannot get my brain around. I listened to an interview this morning with this guy’s son. He said he couldn’t forgive his dad. I understand the need for redemptive second chances as a Believer, but I have to say, I understand where this kid is coming from.

I’m sure prison will treat the dad well. Can’t say I’m unhappy about that.

Spiritual Video Poison

We’ve learned here in America that there’s just nothing quite like empowering a sociopathic gunman after his own death. After all, why leave him with the nasty label of deranged killer? Let’s have the decency to raise him to the status of martyr.

When I read the breaking news about the Virginia Tech gunman’s so-called “manifesto” I was intrigued by the quotes from the document. I worked in the counseling field for several years, and it was insight as to what was broken in his mind.

But when I saw the images being played (and played and played and played) all over mainstream news media, I was taken aback. Then disturbed. Then appalled. An image that particularly forced me to look away from the screen after the first time was the image of Cho pointing his weapon toward the camera. For a moment, I had a glimpse of what the victims may have experienced in their last seconds of life. I’m not sure I should ever have had that.

I have two issues here: first of all, why is the media slapping the victims and their families in the face with this? I’ve also worked in the journalism field for a while. The quotes were enough to carry a news-worthy story. The video should carry the same decision as graphic terrorist execution videos that the news media refuses to show: tell us it exists, quote the deranged ranting, and that’s enough. These victims don’t need more nightmares.

Secondly, by airing Cho’s videos we’ve given him exactly what he wanted. We’ve empowered him in death beyond what he was able to accomplish in life, even in his last horrific actions. There are other disturbed individuals out there, and now they have a twisted role model. Remember in Star Wars when Obi Wan Kenobi proved more powerful in death than he was in life? We’ve just created an evil version of that.

Not everything that’s newsworthy needs to be aired. Not everything that’s ethically acceptable is morally acceptable. To quote an Apostle, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate” (I Corinthians 6:12a, The Message). While the public certainly has a right to know, the extent to which that information was disseminated in this case is a poor professional judgement call. It’s, ultimately, a poor spiritual decision, because the effect it has on the spirit of our nation and on the spirit of the victims, their families, as well as survivors at Tech, is absolutely poisonous. It’s a cancerous link to the past they are trying to leave behind.

And that’s the last thing they need right now.

Walking Away

As the story of the senseless slaughter at Virginia Tech has unfolded, I’ve seen a lot of faces on the news recently. I’ve heard the stories that go with those faces, the hopes that I can imagine were wrapped up in those stories, the passions, the proud parents, the potential futures. A gifted dancer. A self-sacrificial leader. A professor who has survived the Holocaust in what must have seemed another lifetime in order to block a doorway and lose his own life shielding students from the gunman.

I’ve seen the face of a killer, staring out from the world of the dead in his photograph, chilling me. I wondered initially was can cause someone to commit this insanity. I think I caught a glimpse of what was broken inside when I saw his picture.

Thousands are probing their faith right now. This is the age-old question that theologians call “the problem of evil:” why would a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Have you ever seen a parent pour years of painful effort into raising a child, only to have that child ignore their best efforts, and break the parents’ hearts as they chose a different path anyway? We’re the children that have broken God’s heart.

You see, He couldn’t have created us in His image without giving us freedom. Freedom to create, freedom to think and examine, freedom to choose. The bittersweet agony for God is that He knew the possibility that some, even many, of us would choose not to love Him back. Some simply ignore His best efforts and follow a different course.

And so, in a world where nothing is as it should be, as it was designed to be, insanity and sociopathy take control, and precious lives are taken. Instead of walking toward the sunshine, we prefer to take comfort in the shadow.

We just keep walking the other way.