When I began to compile these weekly five items I did so as a way in which to share little bits and pieces of the positives that I’d come across each week, or even had passed on to me by others. Now and then I got a little preachy and they became too long to hold the attention span of even myself. Then I became too busy to compile them, and when I did set aside time I found the little beams of light harder to find in the state of suffocating negativity in which we presently reside.
Therefore I’m all but certain that this will be the final edition of the Friday Five. In part because of the reasons I’ve listed above, but also due to my own schedule. At the moment I’m not sure that this won’t be the final posting on my blog, though a quick scan of the twenty to thirty drafts of future posts reveals that there are a few things worth polishing and posting at a later date. For today however, and as we approach the start of Advent this weekend, I offer the following.
— 1 —
Let’s begin with a little Johann Sebastian Bach. No worries. It’s just four minutes long. Four wonderful minutes.
With Christmas approaching and fresh news of horrifying violence arriving daily from around the world, read again God’s plan for all people, as described by the prophet Micah. It’s a plan forgotten by most, ignored by many, and refused by many more. As to the rest of us, well…it’s something I can’t help but look forward to.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
And many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and none shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God
for ever and ever.
… And he shall be our peace.
— 2 —
The Legend of the Christmas Rose is a longer story, and one you’ll want to set aside time for to read and savor. I’d not heard it before, but thoroughly enjoyed it yesterday and wanted to pass it along.
Just as I do whenever I read the parable of the prodigal son in Luke (Lk 15:11-32) and consider whether I am like the prodigal’s father, his brother, or the prodigal himself, I found myself doing the same with this story. I wonder: am I more like the Robber Mother, Abbot Hans, or the lay brother?
I encourage you to read for yourself as you prepare for Christmas.
Robber Mother, who lived in Robbers’ Cave in Göinge Forest, went down to the village one day on a begging tour. Robber Father, who was an outlawed man, did not dare to leave the forest, but had to content himself with lying in wait for the wayfarers who ventured within its borders. But at that time travelers were not very plentiful in Southern Skåne. If it so happened that the man had had a few weeks of ill luck with his hunt, his wife would take to the road. She took with her five youngsters, and each youngster wore a ragged leathern suit and birch-bark shoes and bore a sack on his back as long as himself. When Robber Mother stepped inside the door of a cabin, no one dared refuse to give her whatever she demanded; for she was not above coming back the following night and setting fire to the house if she had not been well received. Robber Mother and her brood were worse than a pack of wolves, and many a man felt like running a spear through them; but it was never done, because they all knew that the man stayed up in the forest, and he would have known how to wreak vengeance if anything had happened to the children or the old woman.
Now that Robber Mother went from house to house and begged, she came one day to Övid, which at that time was a cloister. She rang the bell of the cloister gate and asked for food. The watchman let down a small wicket in the gate and handed her six round bread cakes – one for herself and one for each of the five children.
While the mother was standing quietly at the gate, her youngsters were running about. And now one of them came and pulled at her skirt, as a signal that he had discovered something which she ought to come and see, and Robber Mother followed him promptly.
The entire cloister was surrounded by a high and strong wall, but the youngster had managed to find a little back gate which stood ajar. When Robber Mother got there, she pushed the gate open and walked inside without asking leave, as it was her custom to do.
Continue to read the rest by clicking here.
— 3 —
After spending the first six years of my “SmartPhone” life using various Motorola Droid phones, I switched to an iPhone 5s in January 2015 when my son, fresh out of boot camp, purchased the then-new iPhone 6. The iPhone 5s were all drastically reduced at this time so it was an easy and (relatively) inexpensive leap. And all was right in the land.
But over the course of the last year I’ve been thinking it was time I scaled back and “downsized” as it were. I seriously considered switching to a “dumb” phone for awhile. But because of articles like this one from Heather Wilhelm that I read with alarming frequency I knew one way or the other I was going to make a change to a less expensive phone, and close off access to social media in order to once again increase my drastically reduced attention span.
And then Apple unleashed OS11 which, once installed, killed my phone. The battery suddenly would only remain charged for 1-2 hours. The conspiracy theorist in me blamed Tim Cook for unleashing a way for them to force people to upgrade to the newer phones. Tinfoil hat firmly attached to my dome, I didn’t concede, and in October bought another Motorola. From Ms. Wilhelm’s article:
Who among us hasn’t looked up at least once, smartphone in hand, slightly dazed, only to discover that precious bundles of minutes or hours have somehow slithered by, lost to all eternity, usually in exchange for no discernable enlightenment at all? A photo gets a new “like.” A Kardashian or a sports star or a president says something amusing or absurd. Strangers squabble. The phone tightens its leash. Are there any updates? Any infinitesimal variation on the news? We must check again, even though we know we shouldn’t.
We are wasting our lives.
According to the latest data from Apple, smartphone users check in compulsively, averaging around 80 times a day. (A 2013 Kleiner Perkins report estimated the number at a whopping 150 times a day.) American adults eat, sleep, and breathe media, according to a recent eMarketer survey, consuming an average of twelve hours a day.
“The smartphone has become a repository of the self,” wrote Nicolas Carr in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, “recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are.” For many, this is increasingly true. It’s also flat-out creepy. As Carr and a growing number of smartphone resisters note, our foremost national addiction isn’t good for anyone’s mental health.
Studies have linked smartphones to decreased concentration, lower problem-solving skills, a general sense of “brain drain,” and depression. A growing number of Silicon Valley insiders — including Justin Rosenstein, who invented the Facebook “Like” button — are publicly pushing back against highly developed and intentionally addictive social-media apps that they compare to heroin.
If adults can’t handle smartphone technology, how could kids possibly stand a chance?
In her article Heather writes about an organization called Wait Until 8th that advocates for parents to hold off on getting their children smartphones until at least the eighth grade. This is, in fact, what we did with our second child. He received his first phone, a cheaper LG SmartPhone, for his 14th birthday in September. He is in 8th grade. He is the last member of his travel baseball team to have one.
PS: The James Wright poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” is quoted by Heather in that article. I’ve printed it off and it is now one of my favorites and warrants a post all its own. Perhaps one day…
— 4 —
Tribalism is, in my opinion, the biggest problem we face as a nation. Divided largely into Democrat or Republican tribes, we are now a citizenry that cannot fathom voting for someone on the “other team” no matter how corrupt our tribe’s candidate or how upstanding and good the other tribe’s candidate may be. As a result we have Democrats who will defend to the death sexual miscreants such like Al Franken or John Conyers, and Republicans who do the same for the likes of Roy Moore. It would seem that after years of taking their lumps and observing the hypocrisy on the Left in their refusal to eat their own no matter their flaws, the Right has decided at long last to do the same. No longer aspiring to stay above the fray they have decided to crawl into the gutter, too. What has been the saddest spectacle of all has been the acquiescence of those Christians on the Right who have cast their lot with the contemptible, as long as they are the contemptible who belong to the right tribe. If you sit back and watch as I tend to do more and more these days you begin to see that there is no difference between the two tribes, really. The best example of this is President Donald Trump. Until just before announcing his candidacy he was a known registered Democrat and considered a fairly liberal individual. Once he slapped the R after his name he became the most evil, hated and deplorable human being (if in fact he is human) since Mitt Romney carried around that binder full of women. It was astounding to watch. Had he ran with a D and somehow won the presidency he would be universally loved and adored because of the fact that he was a Democrat.
I’ll stop here before I bore you all to death. It is only but a start of what I’d like to say, but I’ve learned my lesson on Facebook, much like author T. Adams Upchurch describes in his article What Has Facebook Done to Political Discourse?
Not until the presidential election season of 2012 did I awaken to the realization that no good was coming from voicing my opinion on Facebook, but a lot of bad was coming from it. I saw that nobody was changing his vote one way or the other based on my opinion. I was merely preaching to my own choir and reinforcing views it already held, while provoking the other side to dig in and fight all the harder for their party and candidates. Since then, I have stopped casting my pearls of political wisdom on Facebook, and I have become a mostly passive reader of other people’s posts, clicking the “like” button or scrolling on past, but rarely commenting. And my peace, joy, and contentment have returned.
Mine has returned as well, outside of being frankly bored with it all. I can only handle so many pictures of someone’s lunch, just as I’m certain I have friends who tired of reading about baseball. A year ago at this time I lost several good friends who went down the unhinged rabbit hole after the election. Some are still down there doing God knows what. On Twitter I unfollowed every political pundit or news service with the exception of those like Heather Wilhelm who are genuinely decent people who outside of tweeting links to the articles they write refrain from tweeting or retweeting political ravings. One of my resolutions for 2018 is to never again read online comments of any kind. Honestly, they are depressing as hell. There be zombies.
— 5 —
I’ll close with a thought/quote of my own. It came to me as I read Twitter comments after yet another tweet about yet another scandal. The tribes were evident as each one immediately formed ranks and began to fire what can be best described as “whataboutisms” back and forth. Basically that’s when Tribe 1 posts about an event or action a member of Tribe 2 is guilty of doing, and instead of addressing that action Tribe 2 “defends” their own by derailing the conversation towards a similar thing that a member of Tribe 1 has done, but that’s completely unrelated to the subject of the tweet/article.
Easy example ripped from this week’s headlines:
Tweet: “Al Franken has been accused of groping a female at a charity event.”
Response from Al’s tribe: “But what Roy Moore did is just fine then in your opinion?”
Whataboutism. Both tribes use it. And it’s so damned lazy when they do so.
Another term for this is moral relativism. Again, both sides use it. And again, it’s lazy.
And this brings me to my thoughts recently about relativism because I was seeing it all of the time on social media.
The thing I’ve found about moral relativism is that too often there is nothing moral about it. It’s just an excuse to justify bad behavior. ~ Me
I’m just so damned sick of it all and social media has amplified it to, as Nigel Tufnel said in Spinal Tap, “Eleven”.
So that’s it. Perhaps the final Friday Five.
I’ll close with the word exchanged between me and my Japanese roommate when we last saw one another on the day he graduated from college in 1989, a year before I would do the same. Tatsuhiro was an outstanding human being and remains a friend of mine to this day, despite having half the United States and entire Pacific Ocean between us. We often called him “Tatsmyhero” as a play on his name. He surely was mine.
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves; when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little; when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly – to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. ~ A prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake