Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2013

Costs and Benefits

Recently, I accompanied my son's class on a trip to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  If you're unfamiliar with the place, it's a collection of actual buildings of historical import moved there at Henry Ford's direction.  He was trying to bring a bit of America's (and a smidgen of Europe's) history to the Detrioit area.  Of course, there is an emphasis on the Industrial Revolution and its subsequent developments and technology.

So, the narrative at the Village (OK, there are actually three--farming, handicrafts (including glass blowing, pottery, and textiles), and the wonders of mechanical energy) is all about the benefits of steam, coal, and electric power.  Nowhere to be found, however, are the costs stemming from the Revolution.  Nothing is mentioned about the home economy that was swallowed, the great migration to cities and industrial centers that created slums.  Absent as well are the ecological costs of extraction, manufacturing, and consum…

The Giving Universe?

“You can’t out give the universe” –business writer posting on the internet
  A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!" “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me “A sense of obligation.” --Stephen Crane
I’m not sure where the first writer gets her ideas about the universe giving anything.When I think of the universe, or even a bit closer, nature, I picture an indifferent void.
Does the universe give anything?Sure, it gives energy, or rather dissipates energy leftover from its creation.But it is “giving” only because it is radiating ontologically, it can’t do anything else until all that energy is gone.
But there is no motive there; no good will, altruism, generosity.That’s like thanking a rock one slipped into one’s pocket for good companionship.Sure, the rock accompanied that person, but only because the rock was kidnapped grabbed.
Neither does the universe possess malevolence.It may seem cruel, hurtling life-extinguishing rocks from space, churning …


I don't know about you, but I almost always feel a twinge of guilt when I walk past a homeless person.  Something in me says, "That's a human, made in the image of God, that you're walking past right now who appears to need help."  Some Many of them are scammers, but many aren't; the trouble is trying to discern between the two.
     I got a phone call from a friend on Monday, just shortly before I had to take my children to school.  It seems he had let a stranger spend the night with him and needed someone else to be with this stranger before he could be taken back home to North Dakota.  I hesitated thinking about how inconvenient this would be, how I couldn't do all that I wanted to do that day because I was adult-sitting some stranger.  And there was a bit of fear.  "Look, he's a Vietnam vet, he was tortured by the VC, he's got no teeth.  He's an old man; if he overpowers you, you're some kind of pussy."  I should mention…


I'm in the midst of starting my own business and I'm attempting to write content for my website.  This has to be the hardest writing assignment I've ever faced!  I write a few sentences and then scribble them out because...because they suck.  As evidenced from my lack of blog posting here, I'm out of practice.  And yet, I'm not.  I've been creating samples for my website and those are not all that difficult.  I'm stuck on trying to sell my business.
If my business were about pulling garlic mustard or some other related thing, I bet I'd have no difficulty.  I'm excited and frustrated at the same time.  Is that even possible?  Who's the patron saint of writers?  Ah, here he is
Except another source claims it is St. Paul.  Anyway, Sts. Paul and Francis, pray for this sinful writer.

Our Most Valuable Resource

I came across this formula the other day; you should try it too: take your age, multiply it by 365, subtract the product from 25,000.  Do you know what that number signifies?  That is approximately how much time you have remaining if you live in North America.  I was shocked to see my number in the 8,900 range.  While 8,900 days is rather abstract (it comes out to 24 years years and some change), it is strange to see your life expectancy spelled out in such a specific number.
     How much time have I wasted?  How much will I continue to waste?  Now, that number was simply a general outline; I could drop dead today--laid low by an aneurysm or killed in a car crash--or I could live to be 96, no one knows, but serves as a good reminder that no one, NO ONE lives forever this side of death.
     I've found myself less enchanted by video and computer games these days, notorious time suckers that they are, and yet I still find plenty of ways to sift out my hours in a less-th…

Worth Quoting

From Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism
War:  What is it good for?  No one ever answered Edwin Starr's question.  Well, Edwin, I'll tell you what it's good for.  It's good for taxes; it's good for day care; it's good for year-round schooling; it's good for the metric system; it's good for daylight saving time; it's good for the Interstate Highway System; it's good for divorce; it's good for school consolidation and the space program and the IRS.  In short, it's good for nothing that a genuine conservative might cherish. And:
I am going on here, piling quote upon quote, because war effaces and perverts everything that traditionalist conservatives profess.  Every damn thing, from motherhood to the country church.  And yet postwar conservatives, and especially the scowling ninnies of the Bush Right, revere war above all other values.  It trumps the F…

On Memory

When the river is coffee-colored, you won't see anything below the waterline, you'll have to reach in and pull out a rock to see what's living in those waters.

Worth Quoting

"What kind of king is Jesus?"                                              --Ken Meyers, Mars Hill Audio Journal

I find this to be very relevant on Memorial Day.  What sort of model do we have for creation, for politics, relationships, whatever?  How far have we fallen short?  Discuss.

Another Publishing Triumph...2013

My thanks again to Chris and the Englewood Review of Books.

What we have here is a failure to...imagine

Somehow I had a decent discussion with some of my 7th graders yesterday.  We had been covering the birth of Buddhism and discussing the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, when I brought up the concept of the purpose of morality.  For an example, we briefly turned to the Ten Commandments...specifically the command to refrain from stealing.  I asked students to imagine what the world would be like if they knew that nothing they had would ever be stolen.  I was surprised, though I shouldn't have been, by the limited vision they possessed.  The majority opinion was that the world would be boring.  Somehow, the idea that knowing your property would never be unjustly taken from you only conjures thoughts of boredom.  Mistakes and poor choices are the only way we can learn one student offered.  I shouldn't be too hard on them, I asked this question at the beginning of my teaching years and received nearly the same answer from high school students.
We are quite good (in a pedes…

Bad News/Good News

It's spring (in the northern hemisphere)--so that means about a billion different things.  One thing it means to me is garlic mustard is sprouting again; soon to stretch to adult heights.  So, on Thursday, 4 April, we trekked off to the Martin Hollow to survey that damned plant.  The bad news?  It's still around.  The good news is, thanks to two years of intensive pulling there is a heck of a lot less on our property this year.  In fact, we weren't very diligent, but we only pulled about a half pound or so of that stinking weed.  One of my areas of concern only had about 20 plants in it--that's good considering each adult can contain about 900-3,000 seeds depending on whom you consult. 
Now, we make forays on to the neighbor's land--the person is absentee, so you can grumble about trespassing all you want, but he or she is NOT stewarding the property, and if I don't do it, it'll only be back on my land soon enough.
This summer, we're going to try to mak…

Ite Incendite

Among the many topics my spiritual director and I discuss, we always return to prayer.  That should be obvious for anyone who knows anything about spiritual directors or anyone who practices a spiritual or religious life.  The discussion turned to speaking in tongues because I think I talk too much when I pray.  I can't shut that nous up, as the Eastern Orthodox sorta say.
     Having grown up Pentecostal, speaking in tongues was de rigueur for most of the services I attended--I think I was 15 or 16 years old when I first "spoke" this way myself.  For the next few years I used this gift without knowing much about it.  Mind you, I wasn't the guy yelling in tongues all the time (I don't think I've ever yelled in that language) nor was I the interpreter--I haven't been graced with that charism.  Part of the problem was it wasn't
 explained much in my circles--you just did it, if you had it.  If you didn't have it, well, you better keep praying …

Limits? Hell no!

While listening to the always excellent Mars Hill Audio in which Ken Meyers was introducing a historian talking about the unintended consequences of the Reformation, he briefly mentioned how we Westerners think that limits are ridiculous.  I think about my friends (and in many ways I detest dividing people up by their political beliefs--but here goes) who are more leftish and how many of them would see limits put on an unfettered corporate capitalism or on the unjust use of the Earth either through extraction that pollutes or destroys or over-harvesting some natural resource.  Rightly so, I think.  I think about my friends on the right who would say that there are natural limits to human nature, including sexual expression, and we should respect those limits.  I'd agree with them too.  The problem comes with ideological blinders, however.  None of us (or very few, anyway) seem to see the big picture that with limits comes freedom and human flourishing.  The idea that we should be …

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Hall

Last weekend my family attended what was our third Young People's Family Concerts performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.Overall, we've greatly enjoyed our time.  It gives us a chance to dress up a bit and listen to something other than hyper-sexualized drivel.  They've played quite a bit of different pieces: the meat and potatoes of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart (my favorite was the piece from Bach's BrandenburgConcerto) as well as Copland, Stravinsky, Britten, and even Williams' Star Wars Suite (over which my son swooned).
     The conductor, Teddy Abrams, is light and clear in his explanations of setting up each piece and how the orchestra works--though I think he sells it a bit too much when he has told us three times now what a "great audience" we were.  I am a highly satisfied patron.
     It's funny the affection I feel for classical/orchestral music.  I didn't grow up in a household that listened to it.  I was subjected to either O…

Good News for the Land

What does cutting down the invasive shrub autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) on a cold Saturday in January have to do with the Gospel?  Quite a bit, it turns out.
     My family has been trying to figure out a way to incorporate community service (a bland phrase, if ever there was one) into our monthly schedule.  So, for our first attempt I took my wife and children to Island Lake State Park in SE Michigan to help restore (in a very small way) an oak savanna.  An oak savanna (or as the old timers called it "oak barrens") was one of a few landscape types found in lower Michigan prior to European/American settlement.  Essentially, it's a prairie with some oaks scattered here and there.  The Indians maintained prairies by setting the land afire occasionally to keep them relatively treeless.  Thus providing habitat for the largest food source available--the American bison.  The Western way of farming (which has fed all of us) destroyed prairies and, of course, drove out…