Thursday, December 29, 2011

HEXAPAWN, aka You Got Book Learnin', But You Ain't So Smart




What is Hexapawn? Why do I have a picture of a human brain (no, it is not a cauliflower) alongside a game board? Well, let me explain. I am afflicted with epilepsy, which is not actually a disease per se. Rather, it is a broad term describing disorders where the synapses within a brain misfire. Synapses structure that permits neurons to pass electrical or chemical signals among one another. I will refrain from going further down that road, as it is very complex and better handled by a professional. But, I want to talk about Hexapawn and the brain.
No, stop that right now! This is NOT boring. I will make sure of that. Just read. Let me ask you something? Have you ever known someone who is highly talented, but suffers a significant failure, only to allow their spirit to be crushed? You know, the person who fails and says “Oh well, I guess I just am not cut out for that.” Maybe you hear that person (whine), “It was too hard. I guess I will just keep the job I have.” Another one is, “The next time, I will just mind my own business.” You can think of some examples yourself. I have a relative who precedes many of his sentences with “I know you probably don’t have time to talk to me but…..”, or “You don’t need to talk to me now, I know you are busy. I was just wondering….”. Crushed spirit. Anathema to people who are determined to live a successful life (like me).
If you speak to, or read of, a person who achieves significant success, you will invariably hear stories of failure. Remarkable failures, in fact. This person viewed each failure as a learning opportunity. Just like working on your car, doing a math problem, mastering your job, learning to ride a bike, how to maintain a successful relationship…a successful person’s failures have helped that person to be a future success. This is because he or she learned from failure. Following disappointment, that person eliminated the actions that precipitated those failures. In other words, they aren’t going to do THAT again. Now they know, it doesn’t work. How many times have you failed at something, and if someone were to ask you what you will do the next time to succeed, your reply was basically, “I don’t know what I will do, but now I know what I WON’T do (you won't do the thing that resulted in failure).”
I have failed in politics (a number of times), in business, in some career goals, and I have sometimes failed to be the best father or husband I can be. I have failed to live up to my standards as a Christian. On three occasions, I trained for MONTHS to run a marathon, and never successfully completed one,due to injuries (although I will succeed THIS year). MAN OH MAN, I have learned a LOT. My inevitable successes are due in large part to my learning moments (i.e. failures).
Sometimes, when you are a homeowner, or when you buy Christmas presents for your kids, you have to put something together or install something. It can be nerve wracking. My wife sometimes gloats by saying, “I am the one who is mechanical.” It so annoys me, because it pricks my male pride. Anyway, when we would assemble something, a swing set perhaps, I would read the directions step...by...step. Lydia, on the other hand, would just “start messing with it”, and she would have things assembled while I was still reading. Was she REALLY so much more mechanically inclined than me? I don’t know about THAT. She used a better “heuristic” (way of learning). She “messed’ with the thing, found out a certain approach would not work,then tried an alternative approach. That often (but not always) is quicker than painstakingly reading instructions. So, now I know. Now, I try figuring it out on my own BEFORE I retreat to instructions. Have you ever known a nerd who is a genius with book learning but can barely tie his or her shoelaces? Perhaps the nerd gains comfort from books because he or she is so intelligent and is good at mastering the contents. But, in doing so, he tends to refrain from doing “hands-on”. He has had such great success studying books, so why try a different approach? Hence, the proverbial genius with no “common sense”. That nerd has just failed to hone "common sense", whereas people who are not so good with books do a lot of hands on learning, so obviously they refine that approach.


Have you ever build a robot? You can build one out of matchboxes and jellybeans. Oh, yes you can. It is not my idea. Jeffrey Satinover (2001) wrote a book I am currently reading, entitled “The Quantum Brain: The Search for Freedom and the Next Generation of Man”. He explains his hypothesis of how we learn through experience, by explaining how to create a robot that plays Hexapawn. I will make it as ridiculously simple as possible for purposes of this blog, but feel free to refer to his book (Amazon) for a more detailed explanation. Fundamentally, if a person lines up 25 matchboxes to create the hexapawn board (like Tic Tac Toe), he or she can then put jelly beans in each box. For brevity’s sake, I will not detail the exact colors and proportions of Jellybeans that Satinover used, but the point is this: First, you “play” Hexapawn against this computer (i.e. matchboxes and jellybeans), by making your move, then randomly drawing a jellybean from the corresponding box, to represent your “opponent’s” move. When you win a game, you then eliminate that jellybean. The next time you land on that matchbox, you draw a different jellybean. When you again win, you eliminate THAT jellybean (perhaps by eating). YOU ARE PROGRESSIVELY ELIMINATING THOSE LOSING COMBINATIONS (moves). What is left, ultimately, are those jellybeans that creating a winning combination of moves. Voila! This is artificial intelligence. The computer has corrected itself and become increasingly more intelligent. In theory, it inevitably wins. (If this is not clear, post a comment, and I can elaborate).
LESSON: You learn and improve by LOSING. You do NOT learn by winning (according to Satinover).
Lesson: Do, and learn, and succeed. Doing, and not giving up, is in ITSELF a victory. The great irony: failures can be successes! It is entirely up to YOU. If you CHOOSE (yes, we have a choice. You can use “failures” as a learning moment to reach your ultimate success. What is success, by the way? Most people use objective standards. In other words, the world programs them how to think, and they swallow it hook, line, and sinker. The world tells them what success is, so that is what they aspire to achieve (often wealth, power, sex appeal, or fame, or even a Corvette). Be like everybody else? How unbelievably mundane! The truly happy people, those who have joy and guaranteed success, are those who set their OWN standards of success and work toward those, realizing they cannot fail, because even if they do not reach their objective, they WIN! They win because when they go to sleep at night, when they are on their deathbed, they can look back and, like the Apostle Paul, say, “…I have fought the good fight…”. That, in itself, IS the very definition of success.
So, use those darn synapses. Allow them to continue to correct themselves, by DOING, by LIVING. If in doubt, ere in the way of guts! Ere in the way of courage! Ere in the way of adventure! Ere in the way of passionate love! Ere in the way of compassionate self-sacrifice! Ere in the way of doing the heroic, those things that will create a lasting legacy. Choose your brass ring and go for it. If someone says you cannot, or should not do it, well, God gave YOU this life. You do not answer to them, but to God. THEY have enough to worry about with their own life. So, do it. Not tomorrow. NOW!
I leave you with the well-known observation by my favorite President, Theodore Roosevelt. It is actually an excerpt from a speech he delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, in 1910, entitled “Citizenship in a Republic”. This excerpt has come to be known as:

THE MAN IN THE ARENA

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

With that, I bid you adieu.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NOT PEACE, BUT A SWORD, aka Into the Meatgrinder


…I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
If you are reading this blog, good for you. You are about to read something that is very important, and you would do well to take heed. After a bit of a hiatus from this blog, being involved in other things, I have a responsibility to now share something. The idea of "Thinking Outside the Box" is to cause us to look at an issue from a totally different perspective, one which heretofore has not been considered.
To the Christian, this offers some thoughts on a subject with which he or she is familiar (hopefully). To the non-believer, I want to respectfully say, "Wake up. Time for a little dose of reality."
Two things happened to me in the last several months which cut into my spirit (in a good way). My heart was pierced because I know these things were from the Lord himself. I do not want to be overly dramatic, or in the view of some, perhaps a bit flighty (not that I really care so much). Born-again believers know that Yahweh (whom most people call "God", so that is what He will be referred to going forward) speaks to us in a quiet, still voice. Yes, we can imagine things, or think God spoke, when we just want him to validate our own desires. However, on those rare (in my case) situations where He does speak, we instantly know beyond a shadow of a doubt.
On October 8th, I could not sleep, and at 3:00 AM I was in prayer. I did not talk a lot, but mostly I cleared my mind and listened. Then, as I began to pray for some situations I said, “Lord, you know I am a man of peace…” God instantly, and unmistakeably, spoke to me and said, “You are NOT a man of peace. You are a WARRIOR.” This was spoken to me, not audibly, but in the Spirit. I immediately knew what He meant. Although I am a compassionate, (relatively) nonviolent man here on Earth, our battle is being done in the Heavenlies. We are pawns, and we are also the prize, in an intergalactic battle between Good and Evil…between our Creator and a wicked imposter, who wants to destroy your soul. I want to describe Satan a little bit. You may think I am weird, “creepy”, writing something that is unnecessary, or dwelling on “sick” thoughts. Well, I can only say that I think this is important. Satan, the devil, is often thought of an evil entity, who would like to glare at us and say, “Ha, Ha, now I am going to take you to Hell! You REFUSED to say the sinners prayer. Time up. You lose.” Well, Satan, and his hordes of demons, who do his bidding, want to:
Pounce on you, then tear you to shreds, savoring every bit of flesh and blood here on Earth, as they slice, dice, and decimate your eternal soul.
Satan comes as an “Angel of Light”. The Renaissance painting at the beginning of this blog tells a wonderful story of God’s deliverance of Rome from a pestilence, as a result of intensive prayer. However, it shows him as ugly, when in fact he will come in the form of beauty, wisdom, celebrity, and money. He will find your vulnerabilities, and capitalize on them, putting you into bondage and a living Hell before you know what has happened. He will put you into HELL ON EARTH, until you only wished you were dead. Do you know that every day we meet people who are in unrelenting mental anguish…EVERY DAY? People who seem to have everything kill themselves! The same demons who want their soul in eternal Hell, have started afflicted them with that Hell, that torture, HERE and NOW…because these people have absolutely no defense. Sadly, they are clueless.
Satan is like “Michael Myers” on the movie Halloween (note the photo on my Facebook page). I am not recommending you watch this movie, and put that garbage into your mind and spirit. But, the truth is, many of you have watched it. Like this “Michael Myers”, who is a tool of Satan doing evil, Christ has his own Michael. He is Michael the Archangel, doing battle in the heavenlies. He always wins, because he has the armor and weapons of God Almighty, who is perfect.
Yes, AMAZING – One of the most mind boggling, fantastic things in the entire universe, so beyond our understanding, is this: God allows Michael and the other angels to move as WE direct. We do not TELL them what to do, as they get their powers from God. Yet, as believers, with His Spirit living within us, we can pray, invoking the name of Jesus Christ –At the very name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Hell shudders, demons tremble, and ultimately, they must flee. Warfare is done in the Heavenlies. No, that is not a figure of speech. The Heavenlies means just that. Right now, in the atmosphere around you, millions of angels and demons are at war, and you help affect the outcome.
Do you think this is silly? Are you too educated for this type of superstition? You will never convince ME. I KNOW of all this from some experiences that I will perhaps elaborate on at another time. There is not enough space or time for me to elaborate on the other time I sensed the Lord speak recently, which was through a dream,
For now…digest this…take it or leave it. But, I hope you take it. I hope you stop and contemplate the eternal consequences, laying aside all your prejudices, pre-conceived ideas, or “important” things that are pressing right now. Ask God to validate all this. Nobody else knows what you are thinking, so if you are so sophisticated that you do not want to consider this silly stuff, stop and realize that honest consideration of the thoughts of others CONSTITUTES and DEFINES intelligence and being educated. The stakes are too high not to think about this. The good news: If you allow Christ to have dominion over your soul, and purpose to serve Him, and ask for His wisdom, you can have the honor and privilege of being a tool, through prayer, in this eternal heavenly warfare that will determine the course of our world for eternity (and don’t worry, we win).
Oh yeah, the “meat grinder”. In World War II, the Marines invaded the Japanese island of Okinawa. The Marine Corps (and Army, who helped just a little) suffered 12,250 deaths and 36,361 wounded. Japanese casualties were estimated to be well in excess of 109,000. Marine rifle companies would charge the enemy and come back with 90 percent casualties. In some cases, the entire company would go out to fight the enemy and never, ever return. They were ALL killed. Yes, this was known as the “meatgrinder”. Too many people walk straight into the meatgrinder every day of their lives, where the Devil chews them up then spits them out. Even Christians stray into the meatgrinder at times, which is so tragic because they already have all the armor and superior weaponry they will ever need. And those faithful knights in service of Christ, those angels, stand ready, awaiting the word of prayer from these saints. Just say the word…the Word of God, prayers offered in reverence to Him, and those angels are authorized to prevail in battle. Just waiting…waiting for prayer WARRIORS, who will be used to usher in the Kingdom of Peace.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Master of Paradigms


I have a confession to make: I love Stephen Hawking. I mean, I just love the guy! Do I think he is so great because he is an internationally acclaimed cosmologist? No. That would make him really, really cool, but that is not why I love him. Because he is a Christian like me? No. In fact, he calls the Bible a “fairy story”. I am enamored with Stephen Hawking, who is paralyzed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), because he is like Rambo in a wheelchair. He is just plain tough. Gutsy. A man’s man. But, the icing on the cake is the fact that he is Master of Paradigms. I will explain why he is a “tough guy”, and why he is MP (Master of Paradigms), but FIRST a little bit of background on Stevie, in case you have not yet heard of him. Most of America is focused on tripe like EHollywood and who is going to win the Super Bowl (while Rome is burning), so maybe you ain’t hip to Steve. For the rest, a refresher doesn’t hurt.
Dr. Hawking is a theoretical physicist by training, spent years as a distinguished professor of mathematics, and is now a cosmologist. A theoretical physicist uses mathematics and the principles of physics to understand and predict natural phenomena. A cosmologist studies the cosmos, i.e. outer space. But, Stephen Hawking is to Black Holes as Paula Deen is to butter. He likes the cosmos in general, but black holes are his thang. Paula likes cooking in general but butter is her “thang”. In fact, she is drawn to butter, like a fly to honey. Oh, correct that. She is drawn to honey too. Anyway…
Interestingly, theoretical physicists, worldwide, were asked to rate their peers. They were asked to list the 20 most talented TPs (theoretical physicists….I made that up myself) on the planet. Stephen Hawking was not on the list. Not surprising. He is very bright indeed, but some of his appeal is the fact that he is paralyzed and he is pretty darn good at PR (after all, he has been on Family Guy. He also has hosted some feature television documentaries). Among lay people (that’s me), you know, the average guy or gal who watches the science channel while sucking down some potato chips, he is numeral uno. They know Stephen Hawking. That is because he is macho and Master of Paradigms. Before I explain those points, just a couple of professional bullet points:

- His credo: “My goal is simple: A complete understanding of the universe, why it is what it is and why it exists at all”.
He, like most high-octane TPs, is searching for a universal theory. In lay terms it is, in essence, a theory about how all of creation works together. In other words, gravity, chemistry, electromagnetism, mass, velocity, etc., etc….scientists want to find a central design, a set of principles upon which links it all together and makes sense. This quest has gone on for decades, but has become even more focused with the advent of quantum physics, which reveals subatomic particles have no apparent rhyme or reason for what they do. How can you teach a schoolboy or girl principles of science, when no such principles are known to exist?
This is illustrated by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Fundamentally, it states that the more precisely a certain quality of a particle, the less precisely one can measure other qualities. For example, if we succeed at more precisely determining the positioning of a particle, the less we are able to measure the momentum. Why? Scientists are pretty much in a quandary about such things. But it eats at them, in part, because mankind, in its pride, MUST understand why all this happens. Many researchers, subconsciously, are searching for “god”. Even Stephen refers to god, but to him, god is an overriding unified force that binds the universe together in a systematic, comprehensible manner. We know that force is the Holy Ghost, but that is revealed by Spirit, not intellect, so people with high IQs, who rely exclusively on their brains, are quite handicapped. Anyway, this is his lifelong quest.
- Without delving into all the mumbo jumbo that led up to these results, here are some things he “determined” (all theory of course, as in science, NOTHING is ever proven. All is theory):
He deduced from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that universes started with a
Big Bang, and end with Black Holes.
This unified Einstein with quantum mechanics, in essence, bringing science a step closer to a Unified
Theory.
Because Black Holes (allegedly) result from Big Bangs, they emit radiation and
eventually evaporate (don’t ask, I don’t completely understand this concept).
In contradiction to many TPs, he theorizes the universe has no boundaries in imaginary
time (A truly fascinating subject. I wrote a previous blog on imaginary time).

OK..BLAH, BLAH,BLAH
HERE IS WHY STEPHEN HAWKING IS MACHO:
We live in a time, in America, where pro football players won’t play because they are bruised. I work with guys who think they are tough, because they go to the gym and create shapely muscles. But, a guy can do all this and be a gutless, whiny, “girly girl”. There is always some guy who whines to everybody, “I just can’t do that today (Cough Cough), my throat is sore. Or grown men wrap their arms around themselves and cry, “I am SO cold”.
Here we have a man who is totally, completely paralyzed, and has been for most of his life. When he is barely able to make a sound, it is nearly inaudible. Yet, with a synthesizer, he can be heard. He dictates complex scientific papers to an assistant by using eye motions that correspond to letters of the alphabet, much as Morse code, as it is too exhausting for him to speak for extended periods. He is the man, the legend, Stephen Hawking! That takes guts. He does not complain. Here are some of his observations about his life (condensed):

“Before my condition had been diagnosed, I had been very bored with life. There had not seemed to be anything worth doing. But shortly after I came out of the hospital, I dreamt I was being executed. Another dream, that I had many times, was that I would sacrifice my life to save others. If I was going to die, I might as well do some good before I go. I didn’t die … I have had a motor neuron disease all my life, but it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work … I am lucky that my disease has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But, it shows that one need not lose hope.”

He is the very picture of tenacity:

“It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.”

And I should dare say,”It’s not fair”, or “it’s too hard, I can’t do it”? Nah, I won't say that stuff.

HERE IS WHY STEPHEN HAWKING IS MASTER OF PARADIGMS:

This blog is all about paradigms. Theoretical physics is all about challenging old paradigms and establishing new ones. That is what makes it so fascinating, so compelling. Even within a profession that inherently challenges paradigms, he is often a rebel, challenging the paradigm challengers, as it were (I was never sure what “as it were” means, but it seems appropriate and I always wanted to say it).
For instance, he has promulgated the theory of “wormholes”, which could theoretically be portholes for time travel. Many prominent physicists say that is just a bunch of poppycock.
He looks at our world in from a perspective none of us may ever have considered, in his case, a mathematical perspective of the highest order. He challenges us to think, to question, and not to assume. In the long run, I want him to realize the ultimate object of his quest is God, with the Big G.
In the meantime, he inspires us to do something we all should - use the gray matter God gave us and think. Don't just accept the information, opinions, and paradigms dictated by lost souls in this world. Don't just regurgitate slop you learned in school. Question. Think. And never give in and stop blubbering. Stephen Hawking can distinguish himself, and so can you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE INVISIBLE UMPIRE


Summertime in Pittsburgh….the Pirates are winning. Sweet. As the fair weather fans remember how much they like the Pirates, and the old perennials, we decide to go “catch a game”. That’s me, Lydia, and her friend Kelly.
Sometime, oh I don’t know, right before the 7th inning stretch, I noticed something. Huh? I looked at the diamond, with particular emphasis on 2nd base because of an outstanding double play that had just taken place. The Cubs were just getting into position for the next batter, but there were TWO men standing at second. Not one, but two. Well whaddya know? It was the Ump. I opened my eyes real wide and said to old Chuck (me), “Hey old Chewey (me again), look at the umpires all over the field..first base….second …..third….outfield…..and of course, home plate.” We tend to notice the home plate guy, because he is always running his mouth (ha,ha). “Strike”, “ball”, “safe”, etc. However, I know the other guys are there, but I just kinda forget about them. I quit thinking they are there because (no offense umpires), but nobody CARES about them. They don’t care about them. They come to see the team, and umpires are only useful as somebody to occasionally yell at, and even then that is usually just the home plate guy.
I have talked to others, and I am not the only one who thinks this way.
Do you ever watch boxing? There are three guys in the ring at all times. How many of you guys get caught up in the fighting and forget for a time that another guy is standing right there? How’s about the basketball referees? (yins). How often do you drive the same path, never noticing a certain business? My daughter (who writes a better blog than I) once pointed out how we often do not notice the homeless. I would like to build on that: How often do we not see pain, loneliness and desperation among those around us? One last illustration, if I may: Have you ever gotten a new car, AND THEN you notice all of them on the road? It goes something like this, “Hey Marge, look. That’s OUR car. I never noticed, but there are a lot of these on the road. My wife and I will look at a bumper sticker and say to each other, “Look…Marine Corps”. If either of us has had a lot of caffeine or sugar, we may follow that statement with a “hoorah”.
Here some of my personal take-aways on this whole failure to notice the other guy standing at second base:
- How often do people see no evidence of Jesus in the world, thinking those who believe are ridiculous, or at least a bit dim? YET, these people are simply not focusing on Him. They are captivated by the world, and all the things that are going on around them. They are not looking for Jesus, as we don’t look for the umpire, so naturally, they don’t see Him. But, he is standing there the whole time, and he sees all. In fact, He is watching them.
- Conversely, when someone truly believes, he or she focuses on Christ, and does not really see the inane activity of the world. That Christian knows it is there, and that person should be cognizant of what is going on in this world, in order to be used….that is a different path, which we will not go down. But the point is, we see what we focus on.
- How often does divorce happen because someone is so focused on themselves (MY dreams, MY fulfillment, MY needs) that they fail to see the treasure before them…the spouse and/or the children with whom they have been gifted?
- How often do people focus on their problems (addictions, failures, wrongs they have suffered, self-doubts that plague them), when they never open up and SEE the people around them who just MIGHT be their friend, encourager, or helper). Instead, they focus on their hurt, in fact nurturing it as some kind of sick self-identity. Often, the answer is right there along. I am not offering flippant answers to life’s very real pain and complex issues that often seem intractable. I am only saying people fail to see what is right in front of their nose. Sometimes they CHOOSE that path. I have an unnamed relative, whom I love dearly, but who is bound and determined to see no answers out of his self-imposed dilemmas. He says, in essence”, “Nope, I do not care what you say. “I am miserable, depressed, worthless, and hopeless, and NOTHING you say or do will talk me out of it.” I have to be very frank with you…how sick. There is no complex way out for this. It is simple (but not easy): God is standing RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOUR NOSE. He is waiting for you to get your eyes off the losing ball game and look at HIM. He is the ultimate umpire, but we gotta see Him and listen. He DOES have the answers. They may be hard, but they ARE the answers.

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

From Psalm 139

Thursday, June 30, 2011

NO...STOP...DON'T aka: A whole lot of nothing.



When I was but a boy, there were a lot of "super" toys. Of course, there was Super Man. That is a no-brainer, but there was also "Super Elastic Bubble Plastic" and "Super Friends Figurines", among others. However, the greatest, superest toy in the history of mankind, and arguably the most dangerous, is the "Super-Collider", and it is located in France. It is a truly magnificent scientific instrument. When I attended the county fair in my formative years, I thought the "round-up" was the ticket. But no, this has it beat.
Actually, this blog entry is NOT about the Super Collider, but it will be mentioned. It is about...well....nothing. Just nothing. But, nothing is a fascinating subject.
The Super Collider, in super simple layperson terms, is also known as the Large Hadron Collider,a giant, concentric, cylindrical coil, or what some may call a "coil thingy". Think of it as what your garden hose looks like, wrapped on a spool. In fact, there are almost thirty miles of this tube. The U.S. planned to build one that was 57 miles long, and much more effective, but Congress axed funding. I hate when Euros beat us at something but, oh well. The bottom line is this: These geniuses (no sarcasm intended...they really are geniuses) want to create millions of megavolts of electricity to accelerate a particle, like a proton for instance, at speeds bordering the that of light, then slam them into each other, creating conditions as they existed at the origin of the universe. BOOM, there it is! Small black holes will be created for a fraction of a second.
The problem is, some rebels within the whole scientific community, and they are just a small, unorthodox minority,say...LOOK OUT!...these tiny black holes could swallow our entire planet, and we all die. Yes, a super killer toy, operated by mad scientists.
A black hole, again in "baby talk", is an area in space that consumes, i.e. "sucks up", other bodies in the universe, even light. In fact, we have never really seen one, because the absence of light makes them invisible to the human eye. However, they seem to emit radiation, so we can hypothesize where they exist. We do not know a lot about them, and most of what we know is conjecture and a work in progress. Because they suck everything in, and have absolutely no discernible mass, a black hole is actually A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING. Some cosmologists (scientists who study the universe believe black holes may contain entire universes (not planets or galaxies, but UNIVERSES). So, if a universe is a whole lot of something, then when it becomes nothing, it is a WHOLE LOT of nothing. It also is hypothesized that a black hole is an entry point to the space time continuum. If you are not familiar with that, read about it to get the theory and mechanics. For the purpose of this concise blog, let me just say it can be a means of time travel (see "wormholes", a possible medium for intragalactic travel).
Here is where we talk about PARADIGMS. THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. I want to offer some bullet point thoughts:

- God is infinite. Even if you are an agnostic or an atheist, science makes clear that creation is infinite. Therefore, when a black hole swallows a universe, it is what I decided to call "reverse infinity". A black hole is nothing...infinitely so. It is infinitely nothing.

- It follows then, that the magnificence of infinity, the incomprehensible vastness of the ever expanding universe, the bounds of which cannot be fathomed, is mirrored in perfect fashion, by the incomprehensible nothingness of the ever contracting universe that exists in a black hole.

- Think of it this way. If you were to look in a mirror, you would see a reflection of yourself (this illustration is also used to explain matter/antimatter, but that is a different subject), SO look in a mirror. On one of the glass side is you. Think of yourself as everything. Pure infinity. All that is. Conversely, think of the mirror reflection as being on the other side of the glass (like Alice in Wonderland). That image in the mirror, on the other side of the glass, is "nothing". Pure nothingness. The everythingness and the nothingness are both expanding exponentially at incomprehensible rates. They a mirror image of each other, and therefore of equal, but opposite, value.

- Black holes form when a certain amount of mass exists in a small area (a really HUGE amount), such as when a star explodes (supernova). SO...if a black hole were to exist, even a tiny one in a supercollider, the idea of these rebel scientists is that it would begin to consume everything around it. As it grows exponentially, nothing can stop it. Like a crazy science fiction movie, it will eventually suck in our earth and solar system. WHEN THIS HAPPENS TO A UNIVERSE, when it gets sucked into a black hole, THE INFINITY OF A UNIVERSE BECOMES THE INFINITY OF NOTHING...the reflection on the other side of the mirror.

- A paradigm that says God is omnipresent, is infinite, and omniscient,in royal magnificence, is also present in the equally magnificent splendor of reverse infinity. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient in...NOTHING!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE, aka...The secret of symmetry



"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work."
Ecclesiastes 4:9

"No man is an island entire of itself..."
John Donne

Announcement Please: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! I introduce to you, one of the most fascinating, dare I say "awe inspiring", and compelling phenomena of all time. He is everywhere! And, I do mean everywhere! The one and only, the incomparable....SYMMETRY! (yay).
"Whoopee" you say? (derisively, perhaps). Symmetry is an "it", but I introduced it as "He". Why? Because, like all things in creation, it testifies to Yahweh(God).
In fact, symmetry is so all encompassing, found throughout the universe, that I could use any of a bazillion examples (if there is such a number). Anything from science, to history, to people, to relationships. Symmetry is cool. Many know what it is, but for the uninitiated, here is a boring definition, straight from Webster:
"Property of sameness. Balanced proportions. Exact correspondence in position." Now, here is my "regular old people" definition: If you split something in half, and each half looks like the other, only opposite, that is symmetry.
Why this subject? You may think I have too much time on my hands, but I usually sit behind my house on summer evenings and look at the sky, before bed. I enjoy it, and it gives me time to just think, without distraction. When I was thinking about some very heavy stuff: Anthony Weiner (soon to be ex Congressman). Then, by association, I thought of Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards, which led me to thinking about marriage and divorce (note the Scripture above).
What on Earth do these celebrity adulterers have to do with the photos above?
God has a unique creation, as this principle of symmmetry extends back to God's first command to "Let there be light..." (Genesis 1:3), and probably even before that. Then God created Adam, because He did not want to be alone. Then, God formed man to work the garden He created. Why would God do that? After all, He is...God, for heaven's sake (excuse the pun). He could have done it. The fact is, God wanted someone to love. Yes, HE, God, the creator of all, wanted to love somebody. I don't understand how, but it is amazingly true. After all, the Word teaches that God IS love, and He is infinite. Therefore, He has an infinite amount of love to share. He created the garden for man, so that he COULD work it.
Then, God created woman for man, because it was not good for man to be alone. Yes indeed, the power of two (again, notice the Scripture at the top). In the King James Bible, it refers to two people as a cord that is not easily broken). Spiritually, men and women are symmetrical. They are equal before God. They complete each other.
So, when marriages break up, the one is always weaker than the two. What? But what if there is spousal abuse, domestic violence, etc? OK, the "potential" of one is less than the potential of two. This is a fallen world, with disease and sin, but these are infections of God's creation. Again, all other aspects being healthy, it is always better for two to become one, in every sphere of life. So, these famous people have weakened their future potential as human beings by AT LEAST 50%, and probably a lot more, and that is even before factoring in their lost credibility.
This extends into all of God's creation, not just relationships. Here are some examples:

1. Look at a tree, a person, a leaf, a worm, a snake, a dog...I could go on for days. Check out the ever expanding universe, extending outward, at equal rates in all directions. The sun and the moon are symmetrical. It is virtually impossible to even TRY to draw something that is not symmetrical. OK, you may not want to draw a circle or square, but try your hand at a triangle, or something crazy, like a tetrahedron - sorry -symmetrical. You might even say, "Oh yeah, I will just draw a bunch crazy, crooked lines and shapes, a swirley mess. Nope, it is symmetrical. You look at it on a piece of paper, along a vertical and horizontal axis. Turn the paper sideways, so you are looking straight at the outside edge of the paper. If you could split the mess that way, you would have symmetry. It is part and parcel of creation. It is fundamentally inherent. I am adding a few bullet points to consider:

1. The universe is composed of matter and its complete opposite, antimatter.

2. Atoms are positive and negative.

3. Even something like water, totally fluid, is symmetrical.

4. The Law of Conservation of Energy, like any principle of physics, involves symmetry. This law states that energy remains constant over time (symmetry). The amount of energy you have at the end of the activity equals the amount at the beginning. Also, this law states that energy will take many forms, but it is still there.
5. Interestingly, it is not JUST creation where this is found. People themselves, created by God in His own image, have a natural affinity for, and inclination toward, symmetry. Studies have revealed that people who have more symmetrical faces are perceived as being more attractive. Notice anything man has created. Look at a car. Mentally split that car in half, and you will notice each half is equal and opposite the other. I am currently looking at a house that is symmetrical, and a potted plant. Split that plant in half - whoops, there it is. Symmetry. One might contend the plants inside are not planted symmetrically, but alas, each and every plant in the pot is symmetrical.

Whew! Enough of that. Here is my paradigm changing take away:

When we go through life, hopefully as believers, but even the unbelievers can benefit from this....anyway....When we go through life, let us create unity. Whenever we have the opportunity, let's work to make two as one. Let's bring people together, not tear them apart. Let's create oneness. Let's cause others to be bound together, in marriage, in friendship, in fellowship, and in love. Let's fix things, not destroy. Let's create and restore. This needs to permeate our lives.
Oh yeah, Jesus commanded this by the way, when He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:10). After all, unity, strength, and symmetry are of God, as demonstrated in all His creation. As sons, we were created in His own image. Let's be that image, starting today.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jesus is just alright!



Jesus is just all right with me
Jesus is just all right, Oh yeah
Jesus is just all right with me
Jesus is just all right

I don't care what they may know
I don't care where they may go
I don't care what they may know
Jesus is just all right, oh yeah
Jesus is just all right


DISRESPECTFUL! BLASPHEMOUS! RiDICULOUS! Those were my first thoughts when I heard the Doobie Brothers' song, "Jesus is just alright" in the early 1970s. "Get it...Jesus is JUST alright! (I thought). That is wrong to say that! God might kill them for saying that." What did I know? I was just a little kid in Leavittsburg, Ohio. We did not grow up in Church. The names of God and Jesus were invoked in my home on a daily basis, in no uncertain terms. But, they were not spoken out of reverence, or even out of respect. BUT, I always knew about God, for as long as I can remember. Even as a pre-schooler, I felt He was always there, watching me. This doesn't make me any more holy than somebody else, but it is just an awareness that I had. I knew He loved me, and I knew HE was in charge. The Big Boss. He held our lives in His hands and boy, was He going to be pissed when He heard the Doobie Brothers' song!
What is my point? Well, I just heard the song in question again, thanks to the miracle of utube. When I first heard the song, it was on a .45 rpm record. At that time, only NASA had computers, and maybe a few big universities.
One's perspectives change over the years. After being a little wiser, and having had some good old fashioned life experiences, you "see the big picture". This blog is about paradigms, and we are about to deal with one of the biggest paradigms of them all, and THE most significant one...our paradigm of God. A little background information, if you please:

Back in the 1060s and 1970s, America went through a weird stage where some, but not all, of its youth were questioning authority. Without getting into a historical dissertation on all that, let me make a bare bones, true statement. Some rebellion is bad, but some is good. There was plenty of bad during that time, in my view. But, there was also some good. NO societal paradigm can ever change without people standing up to convention and questioning authority. At significant times in history, people have stood up and said, "Enough Already!" The get fed up, frustrated, and angry. That foments change.
I think one of the most historically overlooked developments in that period is the Jesus Movement, aka The Jesus People, or just plain old "Jesus Freaks". This movement began in California and spread East. It was one of the most benevolent, sincere youth movements in 20th Century American history. The real shame is how it is rarely explored as a significant part of Church history.
Remember, I said there is BAD rebellion. Brats who rebel against all that is right with America. Many of the men who suffered through the depression, then put their lives on the line during the Second World War and Korea, simply could not understand how young men could grow their hair long like a girl, scream and strum on those blasted electric guitars, while questioning the country that THEY, Moms and Dads, had built for them. Well, let's leave that now, because volumes have been written on it. Let's talk about GOOD rebellion.
The Jesus Movement was comprised of young people who loved the Lord, and threw off the stale old conventions of the American church. They saw a Deep South, where church going was the order of the day. It was a social norm. Something was WRONG with you if you did not go to church. Why, you might even get thrown out of the local Rotary Club. Yet, these same "church goin' folk", would never allow a black person (euphemism) come in to worship with them. They would rationalize by saying things like "They would rather worship with their own kind." These same "Christians" enforced Jim Crow and blocked schoolhouse doors to resist integration. They were the same hypocritical Bible thumpers who beat the Freedom Riders, killed a man named Medgar Evers for registering black voters, and blew up a Baptist church, killing a couple of little girls, while the White Church stood by. Church goers went to Klan meetings at night, where they planned the next lynching of a black man who may have cavorted with white women. I am not making this stuff up. It is not just a caricature. This is the type of thing that repulsed these young people, when they fell in love with Jesus.
Guess what? The Northern churches had issues, as well. Throughout history, people have prostituted out God's Church to their own ends. Business people used it to network. Politicians have used it to gain influence in the community. Red baiters used to associate Christianity with being American, to the exclusion of other nations, as in "God hates those ungodly commies". Even preachers, as they have done throughout history, used the church to fleece their flocks or just as an ego trip. If a "hippy", i.e. someone with long hair, went into some of these churches, they would get a cool reception indeed. In some churches, to wear jeans and not a necktie, or a dress, would be a serious issue with some people.
Jesus spoke about this:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead mens' bones and all uncleanness. Even so, you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Matthew 23: 27-28.
If I was in charge of ordaining pastors, I would require them to MEMORIZE the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew, then explain what it means to them. John 10:13 refers to hypocritical pastors as "hirelings", and He explains how they will scatter to the wind when their flocks need them the most.
So, get it? They kids were saying, "Hey, we want to be the real McCoy! We love Jesus. We want to proclaim that, celebrate Him, and freely share His love with others. We want to show the rest of the world that Christians don't have to be bigots. They don't have to sing southern gospel, wear a necktie or dress, and they can wear their hair as long as they please" (the words are mine, but I think this sums it up). Imagine that! FREEDOM in Christ? Well, gee whiz, maybe they will be inspired to read their Bible and see how it is all about freedom and love, instead of just quoting it out of context, to their own purposes.
So, I hope I have made my point. Now, back to the song, and the reason I have a picture of a black Jesus (or African American, or whatever we are supposed to say today). JESUS IS JUST ALRIGHT was written as a GOSPEL song. Surprise, surprise! It was written Arthur Reid Reynolds, and recorded by the Art Reynolds singers. Later is was recorded by The Byrds, but it really blasted off when The Doobie Brothers recorded a high tempo version.
Every generation has their slang and the 1960s, early 1970s were no exception. "Alright" was a very positive word in Jesus People parlance. It meant "great", "outstanding", "super cool", or "awesome". It did not carry today's connotation of mediocrity (as in, "I dunno, I guess it is just alright"). This song meant JESUS IS JUST ALRIGHT. NOTHING LESS. In the words of the song, "He took me by the hand,led me far from this land. Jesus is my friend.".
This song is just one small example of how bigotry can twist someone's perspective on The Gospel. This song was a sincere expression of love, from a disenfranchised song writer, who found that finding Jesus was the coolest thing that ever happened him. It is kind of like the Zulu tribesman who jumps up and down with a ceremonial spear, in traditional dance, and proclaims his love for Jesus in his own culture, (yes, this happens). If you like southern gospel(and I do like some of it myself), or wear a neck tie and work in a bank, if you are a multimillionaire, great. Use the gifts God has given you for His glory. However, not everyone looks like you. Not everyone dresses like you. Not everyone thinks exactly like you, or likes the food you like. But we are ALL known by our love.
I read a book recently, by a pastor in Los Angeles who decided to live in the streets, as a homeless person, as a launch to his ministry. He decided, before he could begin an inner city church, he needed to understand the people t whom he was going to minister. A church deacon, who used to live homeless in the LA's Skid Row district, after advising the pastor not to do it, finally relented, but gave him some advice. He said, "They gonna know you not from there. You can't fool 'em. They can smell ya. But, if you gonna' do this fool thing anyway, here." He gave him a big Bible. He said, "Have this on you at all times." "Why?", the pastor asked. "Cuz them addicts, they ain't dressed very nice, and they don't have nothing, but they fear God. They fear Him, 'cuz they got nothin' BUT God to hope for. They'll leave you alone if they know you's a God man." The pastor carried the Bible, his talisman, and he was "alright".
Now....about the picture at the top, of the Black Jesus. Does it bother you? Hmmm. There is another popular song that was recorded by, among other people, Johnny Cash, entitled, "My own personal Jesus". I conceive of Him as white, and somebody else conceives of Him as black. Maybe we are both right...or wrong. Who cares? That is why he is PERSONAL.

Monday, May 30, 2011

THE FLAVOR OF THE DAY, aka The questionable quark.


I recently spoke to a self-proclaimed quantum physicist. She sold water softeners. She was a nice lady, and a lot of fun, and I was speaking to her over the telephone about a business matter. Let's just call her "Marge". Here is part of the dialogue:

Me: So Marge, what do you do for a living?
Marge: Me and my partner own a businees.
Me: What kind of business?
Marge: We sell water softeners.
Fair enough...two hard-working entrepreneurs selling quality products to the American consumer. I respect people like that. Let's continue...
Me: How did you get into that field?
Marge: My partner, he's a quantum physicist. Yeah, he knows all about
quantum physics, and he is teaching me. You know, you can get cancer
and stuff from the vibrations in your water if you don't get rid of
those free radicals.
After thinking about my daughter's dorm at Kent State, which was right where the infamous shootings took place in 1970 (get it..."free radicals", hha ha), she asked me to wait because a customer was coming in.
I heard the following:

Marge: Are you here to get a water softener?
Customer: Yes.
Marge (estatic): Oh my! It is good to meet someone else who is interested
in metaphysics.
WAIT! The jig is up! You said METAphysics! I knew it. You have no idea what you are talking about, do you Marge? Besides, I never heard of a physicist working for years, and spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a PhD, only to become a water softener retailer.
What does any of this have to do with Kool Aid, that delicious sugar water, flavored with toxic dyes, that was such a staple of my 1970s childhood? Only this..Kool Aid had a lot of "Kool" flavors. Let me explain...
"Quantum" simply means a measure ("quant" ity) of anything. However, in popular literature it has come to be equated with subatomic physics. This means means measurable particles below the atomic level. When I was in science class, as a pup, we were taught there is nothing smaller than an atom. Even then, there was a lot of literature about subatomic physics, most notably from Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, but from other lesser knowns, as well. It was all based on an original paper by Max Planck, a true genius whom most kids never learn about in school, sadly. But anyway, according to my junior high school teacher, who also taught phys ed by the way, and never took off his whistle, I learned the atom was the bottom of the rung.
That is not the case. Let's touch on a teeny bit of science and no, it will NOT be boring. Use your imagination! When you do that, very little in life IS boring. Quantum theory (aka "quantum mechanics") have SO MANY implications, that one could easily write twenty volumes on the subject and not scratch the surface. It affects the unified theory, string theory, the space time continuum, um, oh, never mind...let's talk about a cat. If you are a cat lover, don't be offended. I am not, so here we go:

A number of subatomic particles have been discovered, and more are being identified all the time. Now remember, we don't actually "see" these things. I wrote, in a previous blog entry, about the unfathomable size of the universe, well this is still about that unfathomable size, only at the other end of the spectrum: the miniscule. We found them mathematically because they are too small to see.
So (I will get to the cat in a minute. Hold on.), two of the most noteworthy particles are quarks and leptons. When I was a kid,our gym/science teacher showed us a model of an atom. It featured a nucleus, surrounded by electrons. I believed this just like I believed the standard health class rhetoric about the 4 food groups, and the idea that the Ruskies were going to nuke us while we lie in bed.
In fact, the atom consists of many particles, including quarks. A quark can exist in one of 6 flavors. "Flavor" simply means the quark's orientation vis-a-vis other quarks. That is because every quark has an anti-quark. Just like every proton (+), has an opposite electron (-). Yes, opposites attract. Ask my wife. So anyway, everything in the known universe has an opposite, including quarks. This has non-scientific implications. Christianity, in its most basic sense, is a story of good versus evil. God versus Satan. If one accepts the premise that good and evil are opposite one another, a complete "no brainer", then it is readily observed in the physical world. Again, everything has its opposite, so this validates the concept of sin. If you love someone, Mr. or Ms. Unbeliever, that in itself confirms the existence of sin.
Also, subatomic particles appear to behave with no rhyme or reason. Or do they? Perhaps their behavior is so complex that we are unable, or do not have the intellectual capacity, to ascertain and identify the patterns of behavior. So, the fact that we do not understand everything about God does not mean He is nonexistent. Just as mathematical evidence of quarks exists, evidence of God exists. Again, physical realities validate spiritual possibilities.
Oh yeah, the cat. A nice fellow named Schroedinger explained one reason we may not be able to determine the behavior of subatomic particles, and quarks in particular. In his hypothetical scenario, a cat is put in a box, which is then a vial of poison gas is put inside. The vial is attached to a Geiger counter. If the box is opened, it releases the gas and kills the cat. If left closed, the cat remains alive. However, if it remains closed, how do we KNOW it is alive? It is an assumption. So, the question is asked, "Does the mere act of observation, in fact, change the phenomenon being measured? I say "yes". As a doctoral student, we account for this when doing research. So, remember the proverbial question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody sees it, did it still fall?" If something happens at the subatomic level, and we do not see it, does that mean it did not happen? No.
Here is the corollary: BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT SEEN, HEARD, OR OBSERVED SOMETHING ABOUT GOD, DOES THAT MEAN IT IS DOES NOT EXIST? Of course not! There is a preponderance of evidence. Christianity is NOT just a matter of blind faith. Evidence exists in nature. Just as a physicist affects subatomic particle relationships in his or her efforts to observe them, we too affect our perception of Christ when we try to perceive Him, because we are flawed, and we taint everything we see. We bring our own biases to Jesus and see him through OUR prism.
The old paradigm: Science and faith are opposite one another. MY paradigm: My faith is VALIDATED by science because the creator, Jesus Christ, is not just The Savior, The Great Physician, and Master of our Souls. He is "Chief Scientist" as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THAT INFERNAL HERB!


Jack Webb. What a jerk! He seems like three middle school principles all combined into one. He seems like a Drill Instructor from Parris Island (without the hitting). He gave many a stern lecture about “pot, weed, herb, Mary Jane, joints, wacky weed, etc. The scourge of the planet. According to Jack, as well as the police officers who brought the stuff into our 6th grade health class, it is a “gateway drug”, eventually leading to LSD or heroin. Someone who smokes that stuff could eventually have “flashbacks”, or space out and jump off a cliff. Weird! I don’t know what’s weirder: the weird things pot is supposed to do, the weirdness of so many people refusing to look at facts rather than hearsay, or law enforcement establishment’s obsession with it. Oh yeah, here is another weirdy….some hippy types, are obsessed with making it legal, like it is a big crusade, akin to the civil rights movement or universal suffrage.
Let’s look at some paradigms:
#1) Pot is a scourge, and a symbol of all that is wrong with America’s moral degeneration.
#2) It’s no big deal.
Here is MY paradigm: Let’s not focus on pot, per se. LET’S FOCUS ON PRIORITIES. America is so many things. People are multifaceted. People LOVE simplistic solutions. That way, their life can be orderly, and they are not burdened by the anxiety that comes from not having a firm grasp of their world.
Instead, let us look at ALL the issues facing us in our world. Let us examine ALL the ills that plague our world. We cannot possibly list them all. The first and foremost problem is sin. All other problems stem from this. Sin manifests itself in many ways: greed, lust, dishonesty, addictions (which enslave), poverty, ignorance, a lack of love, etc.
Somewhere on this list we would eventually come to “marijuana”.
I have NEVER smoked marijuana. Honest Injun. When I was in junior high, these guys came on the bus, wearing jean jackets, and stinking. I asked the kid sitting next to me, “What’s that smell”. Answer: “marijuana”. The marijuana users I knew were not my friends. They always acted like they were “burned out”. They would say things like, “Heey Maaan…..(nothing to follow. Just a foggy, distant look”. I thought it was some kind of physiological brain damage phenomenon. Now, I realize it was an act, perhaps of self-delusion. They were playing a role. Nonetheless, they got bad grades and spent time in detention, so I did not want to smoke pot and become one of them. Besides, it was sometimes made clear to me as a child, that I was worthless and a real screw-up (authority figures). I was bound and determined to NOT let that be prophetic. Nah, I just studied and kept my nose clean. Anyway, whether I smoked it or not is rather immaterial.
As I said, two police officers came to our school with a glass case chalked full of all kinds of drugs, like pot, heroin, amphetamines, whatever. We saw what a joint and a hash pipe look like. I did not live in an urban area, and would probably have gone through my entire 1970s childhood never giving that stuff another thought, outside of the latest Starsky and Hutch episode. Now, this demonstration, for some kids, was like putting gasoline on a fire. They thought it was cool, and fantasized about maybe actually trying it. Exercise in ignorance.
There was a scene in Dragnet where a baby drowned in a bathtub, while the mom was high on pot. The thought is actually morbid. But…have you ever read in the paper about someone smoking pot, then beating their wife, or getting into a fight and killing someone? How about people with emphysema or cancer, caused by pot? Do you know someone who smokes 3 packs of joints a day? Is it possible? Yet, alcohol-related deaths are common, whether by accident or scirosis of the liver. People become violent and kill other people, or crash vehicles. Cigarettes kill people regularly, on a large scale.
On the other hand, I see no redeeming value in using non medicinal substances. I think pot is NOT a good thing. However, I want to tell you about Robert McNamara. In case you do not know, he was the president of Ford Motor Company, and later Secretary of Defense. Under his leadership, “cost-benefit analysis” became the flavor of the day. The concept is simple. It is the old techniques where someone makes two columns, plus and minus. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of each option and make a decision. McNamara is now vilified by many. He is responsible for the methodology that resulted in many Ford Pinto deaths. Bottom line: Ford decided the burden of spending an additional 11 dollars per car, to install a safety device to keep fuel tanks from exploding, exceeded the value of the human lives that could statistically be lost by the explosions. Also, he applied the infamous “body count” as a measure of success in Vietnam (a tremendous military success, nonetheless). However, the cost-benefit of Marijuana enforcement is worth looking at.
Statistics are very malleable, but every estimate I have found, indicates tens of billions of dollars spent annually in the U.S., to fight a war on marijuana.
Our border is porous. We are fighting a prolonged, HUGELY expensive war overseas. We are printing money at unfathomable rates, because we do not REALLY have it. We have urban violence, murders, hardcore drug proliferation, white collar crimes, and prison overcrowding…blah, blah, blah. We have a limited pie, a finite amount of money to spend. We need to decide HOW MUCH we want to spend, and WHAT programs we want to take the money from, because we must be realistic, money spent somewhere means it cannot be spent somewhere else.
In some states, medicinal marijuana is legal, while it is illegal under federal law. A lot of incongruities exist. There are SO many issues…juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, lack of respect for the law, moral degradation and the collapse of the nuclear family. Also, there are the issues of wisely spending finite law enforcement dollars, gaining tax revenue, regulating the quality of what is ingested, etc.
Laws against marijuana are a mid-twentieth century phenomenon. Traditionally, it has been legal, and was used as far back as the 19th century American West. We are kind of in limbo, and I don’t like limbo. I hope our society will make a decision either way, with pot, and then move on with it already! Stop the confusion and inconsistency under the law. As believers, we are to follow the law, regardless, but it would be nice to know what message our government is giving.
My paradigm: Cost-benefit analysis. What are we going do with our law enforcement dollars that will give us the most benefit? Marijuana is one of many sub-issues within that greater question.
See ya!

Monday, May 23, 2011

WHAT TIME IS IT?

Alright, we have all had our laughs. Funny! Good times! Good, decent people who think Harold Camping is nuts...wicked people who look down on the scum (Christians), and who think they are the scourge of the Earth...arrogant, educated humanists who look down, disdainfully, at the harmless, right wing hicks...and finally Christians, who either are embarrassed at these shenanigans or are saddened: It is over. The Great Rapture scare of 2011! By the way, Mr. Camping has been telling Christians to NOT attend church for several years, so he is not one of us. He runs a cult. Anyway...
By now, it is clear I am going to renege on my previous commitment to write on marijuana. That will be a labor of love reserved for another day.
Now, I believe the Bible teaches Jesus is going to return, and He will first protect his Church, by taking them away from this Earth, which will endure tribulation. (although it, in fact, is already enduring tribulation, and has since the beginning of recorded time. But, it is getting worse, simply because humans can damage the Earth, kill each other, and destroy ecosystems like never before).
This blog is not about theology, but about paradigms. So, here is a paradigm for ya: Why do we discuss WHEN Christ will return (unbelievers, bear with me)? First of all, time is a human construct. There is NO SUCH THING. That can be validated scientifically and, for those who believe in the Bible, through Scripture.
The concept of the space-time continuum originated with Einstein. In the most fundamental,kindergarten sense, it is the idea that, after the Big Bang, the universe as we know it emerged in four dimensions (Since that time, the idea of eleven dimensions has emerged which, of course, is a subject for another day). Three of these dimensions are spatial, which we can discern with our eyes. The fourth cannot be seen, which is "time". So, we identify EVERYTHING in our creation by three spatial dimensions, and time. For instance, I am going to the local grocery store. I know it exists, because I can identify where it is in a three dimensional world. I also know it is there NOW. Viola: the space time continuum!
So, although scientists recognize the space-time continuum, which is literally HOW we know natural things exist, it REALLY would not exist in the absence of man. The whole idea of a "space-time continuum", i.e. three dimensions plus time, was invented by people. We are natural, EXTREMELY finite beings, so we have to think up this stuff, in order to understand everything around us. The universe, according to the theory of relativity, is ever-expanding. It expands in all directions. Three dimensions, not just one. Yet, mankind thinks of time in a way that is linear.
We (non scientists) tend to think (such and such) is going to happen at a particular time. For instance, it is going to rain tomorrow, or CHRIST IS GOING TO RETURN ON MAY 21st, 2011. The whole idea is fallacious. Modern cosmological theory contends that the universe is INFINITE, a concept which our minds are literally not engineered to understand. It is supposed to be expanding and contracting, and engaged in a series of big bangs...blah, blah, blah. Anyway, this is not a linear concept. But, we think LINEAR. In other words, we view this world as traveling from point A to point B, using that make believe railraod we call "time".
Christians fall victim to this, because the Bible teaches that Christ WILL return. However, he stated, "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). Revelation 4:8 shows us the angels praising God by singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." The footnote in my study Bible states, "God's power and holiness extend from eternity past to eternity yet to come." Also, reference Isaiah 41:4.
SO, WHEN PEOPLE FEEL COMPELLED TO NAME A TIME WHEN CHRIST IS RETURNING, THEY ARE OPERATING IN THEIR OWN LIMITED PARADIGM. GOD'S PARADIGM IS BIGGER. WE INVENTED TIME, BECAUSE WE THINK IN A LINEAR FASHION. GOD JUST IS. PURE AND SIMPLE. WRAP YOUR BRAIN AROUND THAT, IF YOU CAN.
I want to present two views: Secular, and Christian. Most people in these camps THINK they are opposite from one another, but how wrong they are!
Modern cosmological theory states (arguably)that our universe consists of a never ending series of big bangs. It is not linear, because there is no end. IT JUST IS. Do you see the big clock at the beginning of this blog entry? Twice a day, that hand winds around full circle. It starts at 12 midnight, and eventually it ends up pointing, again, to the twelve. It has come full circle. This illustrates the cyclical big bang theory.
Regardless of denominational persuasions, true Christians agree on this: God created a perfect world, but it was contaminated with sin. God solved this problem in the person of Jesus Christ. The end of the current age is coming, with the return of Christ. Then, the world will be RESTORED TO WHAT IT ONCE WAS. Bible students often speak of God's dispensations (plans for the ages), but the fact is, we are NOT proceeding from point A to point B. There is NOT a time in the future when we will end up somewhere where we have never been. According to Christian theology,the purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to restore the ORIGINAL relationship we had with God, i.e. to make things right. So,think of Adam's fall in the Garden at 12:00 on a clock dial. Then human history progressed to 1:00, 3:00, 7:00, and we may be at the 11th hour. Who knows? But, according to our faith, one thing is sure: the hand will once again be on the 12:00. God's original plan for man will be restored. It is not a linear trip to some future, as of yet unrealized, destination. Christ is ultimately setting BACK the hands of time. We are going BACK to where we started. Because, you see, God isn't GOING TO BE anything. He just is.
Here is a take away: Don't plan on "being". Don't look forward to "future" events. JUST BE! God has made us in His own image. He wants us to emulate Him. He said, "I am that I am". HE JUST IS. So we, too, should just be what He wants us to be. When we do that, we understand His salvation, because PAST does not really exist, not does future. His salvation is from everlasting to everlasting. He has wiped the slate clean, and restored us to what He initially chose us to be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Operation Flying Saucer!


No, I’m serious! The Brazilian government had a top secret program called “Operation Flying Saucer”. OK, it was really just “Operation Saucer”, but a little hyperbole goes a long way when you’re writing a blog. Apparently, in 1977, this effort began because Brazilians were reporting hundreds, if not thousands, of UFO sightings over a relatively short amount of time (UFO is Unidentified Flying Object to the uninitiated, ha ha). Can you IMAGINE the U.S. government ADMITTING they had such a program? Ridiculous, right? Ever hear of Operation Blue Book? If not, just look it up. I can just imagine a meeting of the Brazilian National Security Council(notice how I translated this from the original Portuguese):

National Security Advisor: Mr. President, we want to tell you about super top
secret program: Operation Flying Saucer.
President: Holy Moley! Is this what I think it is?
Advisor: Yes, Mr. President. We are being visited by flying saucers.
President: Have we captured one yet, and reverse-engineered it?
Advisor: No, don't be ridiculous.
President: Listen, is this room secure? No leaks! There could be a worldwide panic.
Uruguay is desperate for this kind of intelligence,so they can hit us
where it hurts.
Generalissimo: We'll be ready for them, Mr. President.

A "nut" (highly unorthodox individual) posted this diagram on that paragon of truth, the internet. It is a supposed diagram of a reverse engineered flying saucer (at area 51, no doubt).

So far, I have been having fun with this, but now for the serious part. Remember, this blog is about PARADIGMS. We need to step out of our old paradigms, and think outside the box. I will take us to that point, but first I need some background information; a little context, if you will.
Here's the deal: A.J. Gevaerd, editior of the Brazilian "UFO Magazine", investigated this program. The government acceded to his inquiries, and tacitly admitted the program did exist. Colonel Uyrange Hollands (ret.), of the Brazilian Air Force elaborates on the now unclassified mission of the program:

1) To collect as many witness reports as possible about the lights and objects being seen and that performed the strange attacks.

2) To register the lights and objects in the jungle with the highest photo and film technology available.

3) To engage, if possible, in a coordinated attempt to contact the "intelligences behind the phenomena".

Here is where we look at a commonly existing paradigm and begin to step outside the box. As a metaphor, imagine you are sitting in a new car, admiring how it looks, sizing it up, making value judgments about it, and drawing some definitive conclusions. Wait, first STEP OUT of that car, then step back 10 feet. NOW examine the car. It is a whole new perspective, right?
The common paradigm for UFOs has been the idea that they house alien beings from other worlds. Maybe so. I am a Christian, and I have yet to find anything in the Bible that states that is NOT true. We know that the Bible does NOT contain all of God's truth, although what is in it IS truth. Try finding something in the Bible about the periodic table of elements or the NBA (you get the point). John 21:25 reads, "Jesus (God) did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." So, the existence of these aliens is possible. However, bust out of that paradigm. They are UNIDENTIFIED flying objects. They could be anything. They could be yet misunderstood weather phenomena (I don't think so personally, but it is possible). They could be SPIRITUAL beings. In a future blog one day, I will discuss the three dimensions of our known world, and the evidence that there could be more dimensions, as well as the strict limitations of our senses. I will not go off on a rabbit trail. I just want to say these things could be supernatural, and not natural. That IS my own take on it, although I admit we should not paint UFO sightings with a broad brush. They could be a collage of many things, including people who have a vivid imagination or want attention, and in some cases downright schizophrenia.
Let us take a minute to think about my own beliefs on this subject. The UFO phenomenon is absolutely real. Many educated people, including President Jimmy Carter and some scientists, have seen them. I, myself, had a sighting in 1980. I also think SOME, if not all, of these UFOs could be of a spiritual nature. In Ephesians 2:2 (NIV), Satan is called the "ruler of the kingdom of the air". The King James version calls him the "prince of the power of the air". We read how Daniel (Chapter 10) prayed and fasted for 24 days, but his answer was delayed because the angel who was delivering the answer had to do battle with the Prince of Persia. Also, Ezekiel (Chapter 1) saw a wheel in the sky, and described it in clear detail.
As a side note, I remember when, in the 1980s, a Bazetta, Ohio police officer said he "chased" a UFO. It was on the local news because they had his radio transmissions where he was giving the play-by-play to headquarters (the dispatcher). I really don't know why you would chase a UFO. You can't catch it. Anyway, there is no context for this. It is just interesting, and I thought I would mention it.
As a little "teaser", my next blog will be about marijuana.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Flickering Flames Affect My Brain


Last weekend, Lydia and I went "back home" to Warren, Ohio for a little Mother's Day visit (When we lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania was "back home"). One of our common activities, starting in the summer and extending into the fall, is to visit our friends Dan and Vicki, on their piece of property. It is like a little Ponderosa in the country, and when weather permits, it inevitably includes a campfire. I am not going to talk about the fun and enjoyment of a campfire. Most red-blooded Americans, at least where we are from, have some kind of warm and fuzzy campfire memories. People talk, eat hotdogs (referred to as "weenies", only when cooked over a campfire), and generally relax. Many boy-girl relationships have blossomed around a fire, I am convinced. I have also noticed, it is like a truth serum. People engage in small talk and reminisce, talking about old times or how they hate their boss. Often, somebody throws a wrench in the works and mentions currents events, whether in the world, or in their own life. Eventually, prolonged exposure to the flickering flames casts a spell, a slowly building hypnotic state. During that time, some people begin to succumb to the truth serum and share the things that are buried inside, that they would not talk about under more stressful, guarded circumstances.
This brings me to the point I want to talk about. Campfires can be fun, but I am not going to go down that road. Rather, I want to mention something that is rarely talked about when sitting around a fire. WHY does it mesmerized us? Somebody might say, "It is relaxing". Yeah, but WHY? It can't be just because it is a focal point for us to look at. I don't get the same effect from going into a backyard and staring at a tree. I can' t invite people to come over to my house so we can stare at a tree and have good times. Insert "stare at a picket fence". You name it. It doesn't work. No, there has to be something more because, I am telling you, I am one of the easier prey. When I began looking at the fire, I fall victim to its seductive charms pretty quickly. I stare...stare and listen....stare and talk. It absolutely has to be a physiological process in my brain. Incidentally, let me say it is not just fires. I am captivated by the ocean surf. I can sit by the ocean, frolicking from time to time, all day. I rarely grown tired of it (I am an "ocean person". You either are one or you are not.). I visited my daughter once, and she has a radio that doubles as a nature sound machine. You can turn it on and listen to a soundtrack of the ocean surf, or the woods, the rain, or a waterfall. I like them all, but the ocean surf actually sooths me to sleep. She bought me one of these machines of my own.
Anyway, I am going to ask my son-in-law,the physician, about the physiology of the brain, as it pertains to this subject matter. In the meantime, I have two directions I want to go with this. First, the idea of hypnotism (if you are fundamentalist Christian, I love you, but don't wig out, like "If you are a Christian man, you shouldn't be messing with that stuff". I get it. However, I do not believe in Christian Stalinism. I just want to discuss this. As a college admissions officer, I speak to people from across the country, every day. Because I work with doctoral and masters degree candidates, I often speak to people who are quite accomplished and have strong formal educations. I spoke to one such man recently who was a hypnotherapist. He was not a self-styled kook, but an actual practitioner, licensed in his state. But, he did hypnotism. He kind of weirded me out when he told me he could hypnotize somebody over the phone, as we were in fact speaking over the phone, and he said, "How do you know I didn't hypnotize you just now as we were speaking?". However, I told him I have no desire to be hypnotized, nor do I allow myself to be, as I am not susceptible to it. I did not mention the fact that I have the Holy Spirit, as a believer, etc. Anyway, he gave me a kudo. "Right you are!". Indeed, according to this guy, you have to want to be hypnotized, and some people are susceptible, while others are not. So, we got into a deep discussion of what hypnotism is, and is not. Most people talk about it flippantly and do not even know. Even hypnotists don't agree and Christians (that's me, by the way) are often misinformed. That is not my point, however. The point is...well, let's keep this fundamental. Does anyone here remember Pavlov's dog? Anybody who took basic Psychology 101, or has even done some light reading on the subject, understands this is the quintessential case study on cause-and-effect. The guy rang a bell when he fed some dogs. Eventually, he stopped providing food when he rang the bell, but the dogs continued to salivate when the bell rang. They associated the bell with food, simply enough. OK. This is, arguably, part of the whole hypnosis thing, according to my psychologist friend. It is association, and just as a dog does not say "Hey, that bell usually means it is time to eat. Therefore, I will begin to create more saliva to eat a meal", a person who is hypnotized does not say the following: "Now that I have snapped my finger (or clapped my hands, or whatever other distinct act triggers the response), I will stop desiring a cigarette". It is cause-and-effect, like the bell and the dogfood. So, is that part of the campfire effect? Is it a cause and effect relationship, where it casts a hypnotic spell over those who are most willing and susceptible? Remember, going to a campfire event is an act of WILL. You go there because you DESIRE to be relaxed and enjoy it...just like someone who subjects himself or herself to the hypnosis of a therapist. I dunno. So, that is one direction on the subject, and here is my second.
Could it be that the mesmerizing effect of a campfire, ocean, or you name it, is strictly a physiological phenomenon? I am not a scientist, of course, but I do have my Time/Life book on the human brain. That sounds so non-intellectual, but actually, it is a fascinating resource for a lay person, and when I bought it, I read it in one day. That is how cool it is. However, I could not really find anything in there which I could bring into this discussion. I did a Google search, and I found something written by a guy who said, if you stand around Stonehenge, while staring at a flickering candle, some kind of pulsations start in your brain, and..........that is when I quit reading this tripe. I think he was going to say aliens would come or something. I also found out something about flickering flames and brain damage, only to find out it was a Pink Floyd album. So, I did eventually find a couple of academic papers on the subject. A basic theme seems to be the theory of evolution (let's not start that discussion, but yes, it is a theory). Some academics theorize that prehistoric man would spend large amounts of time gathered around campfires, this being their only source of light, cooking, and safety during the evening. Therefore, over extremely long periods of time, the human brain developed, and was wired, in such a way that it has an affinity for flickering campfire flames, and associates them with other brain processes, like reasoning and communicating. Shamans, and other religious types the world over, use fire. It is used in some sorts of meditation. Remember, Shamanism in all its forms goes back a long way, well before Christianity.
Anyway, it is what it is. But, it is an interesting subject, if you ask me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

CHECK IT OUT. OUR UNIVERSE. OUR CREATOR. AMAZING!


When we moved to Pittsburgh,two years ago, I got in the habit of sitting "out back" and relaxing each evening, gazing at the summer sky. I have always liked astronomy, and as a boy in the 70s, I watched Star Trek reruns, dreaming about how "cool" it would be to travel accross the galaxy. I even took a college course in the subject, but the Cosmos began taking on new meaning for me recently. The older I get, the greater the revelation that my life is finite, and I am but a fraction of a grain of sand in the entire universe (that is OUR universe, as it is theorized there are more than one). The fact that we are so miniscule and the universe so unfathomable, strengthens my faith in God. It also elicits great reverence and respect. He owns all this, yet He still cares for me. Amazing!
Lydia and I began attending lectures at the Allegheny observatory here in Pittsburgh, complete with fascinating speakers, tours, and sometimes viewings. The first time we went, Lydia and I got to spend a couple of hours viewing the heavens with a super zealous observatory employee who was more than happy to pull some "OT" for us (overtime, to you youngsters). I clearly saw what I was told was a galaxy. I simply could not comprehend it, yet I comprehend that it is incomprehensible.
Stop, take a breath, and allow the following information to soak in. Really digest it. If you are normal, and really absorb it as I am asking, it will take your breath away:

THE SOLAR SYSTEM, ALONE, IS TOO BIG FOR US TO IMAGINE. The distance from the Sun to Earth is 93 million miles. Can you imagine outrunning light? What can be faster than light? Theoretically, nothing. To us, light seems instantaneous, at 186,000 per second (approximately). However, it takes about 8 minutes for light to reach us, from the time it leaves the sun. Pluto, the farthest "planet" (not the farthest celestial object), is estimated to be 3.7 BILLION miles from the sun.
Some scientist think there are 300 BILLION suns in our galaxy. The closest, Alpha Centauri, is 4.4 light years away. It would take 4.4 years, traveling at the speed of light, although in theory, reaching that speed would cause matter (you and your space ship)to become pure energy.
They believe there are 100 BILLION galaxies in the Universe.
There are theorized to be a huge, perhaps infinite, number of universes. I once googled theories on how many universes exist. Yes, if you are like me, you were indoctrinated, in 6th grade science class, with the idea that the universe, by definition, is singular. In other words, when we speak of the universe, we are speaking of everything...you know,infinite creation. But, by use of mathematics neither one of us probably understands, that is believed to not be the case. You may say, "That is impossible. There has to be a beginning and an end. There has to be a final number, a final amount,of anything". You say this because the human brain is wired into a paradigm that says infinity does not exist. I am about to stop myself, because that is a subject so fascinating that it is suitable for its own blog.
Don't worry if you are not overly hip to the whole cosmology/astronomy thing. This is not a blog about astronomy, per say. It is about critical examination of paradigms. However, at future times, I will elaborate on antimatter, black holes, the space/time continuum,the eleven dimensions of space, and how they ALL bear testimony to God Almighty.
FOR NOW, FOR STARTERS,CONTEMPLATE THE INFORMATION I HAVE SHARED. MEDITATE ON IT, AND KNOW HE IS GOD.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome to my blog

 My wife, Lydia, and I ride to work together nearly each morning.  During that time, she often speaks on the telephone with her sisters.  But, when she isn't, I share things I have been thinking about.  She is sort of my Freud. She just listens.  Anyway, I sometimes think of things with no apparent context, but in fact there is a reason. I am interested in many things, perhaps being eclectic to a fault.  I see things, which remind me of other things, that are interesting, that make me wonder why certain things are or are not.  I will share some of those as they occur here. Often, they are things that are in some way related to my faith, because that is who I am.  Yet, I also think about science, history, nature, people, animals, stupidity and genius, kindness and cruelty.  I think of all things in an overall context of my relationship to God, but when doing so, I like to turn things inside out and look at them from a different paradigm, and see how it really works.  If you are a pollyanish, hymn singin', legalistic type of Christian, at times you will not like what I write. If you think Christians are superstitious, you will think I am an ignoramus. I don't care.  This blog is my world...ha ha!  I have known bankers, visited a governor at his mansion,had lunch with congressmen, dinner at a billionaire's home, and toured the West Wing. I also know the guy who lives under the bridge her in Pittsburgh, and the janitor at my job, and frankly, I like them more.
   My first entry will be a little discussion of our universe, because it just plain fascinates me.  But first, a word about MTV. Why MTV, you ask? (assuming you do ask). When MTV was first "launched", I was a young lad, but I remember how revolutionary it was...music television. It reminds my of the launch of my blog.  3....2....1....lift off. Music television is on the air.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VVvK7pNgYY&feature=related