Category Archives: 1

The New Era Continues

Rex Tillerson told Chris Wallace on Fox’s Sunday morning show that the video of him seeming calm and experienced during a Saudi sword dance appeared the way it did because this recent sword dance was not his first sword dance. Indeed AmericanOil companies — like Tillerson’s former bailiwick of Exxon Mobil have plenty to do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The oil industry has been an imperfect bridge of communications but it is a bridge and conduit for a great deal of communication between the  United States and Saudi Arabia. Aramco, a Saudi oil giant tries to make its voice understandable abroad in communications such as this piece.

 

But it is not any less a fact that terrorist funding, Islamic teachings openly hostile to America and many other things besides oil have flowed from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors for a long time.

Today, in Israel trump has his speech to the Sunni Arab nations behind him and will visit Christian and Jewish holy sites in Israel such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Bethlehem and the Wailing Wall.  But when one considers all that was being said about the anti-Islamic nature of our President’s views as President Donald John Trump was quietly preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia it seems unlikely that the man who just closed this enormous arms deal which will strengthen Saudi defense and bolster the US defense industry is as rabidly anti-Moslem as some of his critics have suggested.. That relative success he enjoyed in Saudi Arabia will mark one leg of his trip to reach the sites near the center of the great Abrahamic religions. His visit to Israel and Vatican City will be well watched.  But the trip to Saudi Arabia came as a chosen starting place. Much can be said about how this relates to positioning vis-a-vis Russia, Syria and Iran. But many American constituents have concerns about Saudi Arabian influence in the world as well. Concerns which are not going away any time soon.

 

Meanwhile, back in the United States social discord is widespread and it is not at all easy to measure where it is going or how intense it will become. I myself am fairly deeply alienated form many aspects of our society and that allows me to take in the fact that Confederate monuments in New Orleans are coming down in relation to one act of terrorism in South Carolina while we cuddle up to the country where 9-11 actually germinated and where Osama Bin-Laden has his roots and had many supporters.  Of course terror in the deep south was not unknown before the South Carolina church shooting. But different terrors are overlooked and minimized at different times.

The President has confronted the issues of Islamic Terror but made peaceful gesture to the larger cultural networks around the terrorists — in distant Saudi Arabia.But meanwhile back here, nearer to my home, New Orleans is being transformed. There is no doubt that the removal of Confederate Monuments will remake the city’s image in some way. Not that there was not room for improvement, but this change has a distinct context. I believe that context will have a cost.

I am not blogging as much about politics as I once did. I am also preoccupied with other struggles and my success or lack thereof distinguishes me more from Tillerson and the Arab princes than our positions in geopolitics. Change keeps marching on and it is good for most of us to remember both the good of our country and our own self interest when we try to judge the significance of that change.

The Long Road: Unresolved and Continuous Stories

For anyone who can still buy a ticket this is the day of the Move Beyond Tour with Derek and Julianne Hough going to New Orleans. I had hoped to get there myself  — although it was never likely. However I think it will be a good event at the Saenger for those who can. I spent my morning at a rosary and funeral for a distant cousin — Agnes Motty. Her brother James and I were pretty close friends decades ago and I was very happy to see him again after not seeing him for decades. However, I did not monopolize him on his return trip to the homeland he does not visit that much. James was a very accomplished artist when I knew him best and says that is not much a part of the life he lives now. His sister Agnes I barely knew and there were a few of his brothers I knew just a bit mostly Louis. But it was clear the long held love they had for the sister who never married was a powerful bond among them as they gathered for the funeral.

This is being typed in part on May 18, 2017 which is my sister Sarah’s birthday. While I am a lot older than Sarah she is next in age to me among my full siblings and living siblings. Also, I have known her much longer than I knew my deceased half-brother Paul. We still spend a decent amount of time together and I called her today  she had just returned from a trip celebrating her oldest daughter Alyse graduating from Mount Saint Mary University in Maryland with many honors. Sarah and I already celebrated her birthday a bit along with an early Mothers Day and me entrusting her with a graduation gift for Alyse which she delivered in Maryland we did that over a coffee and play session we often share with her children at McDonald’s in Abbeville on Mondays. Sarah is a person who exists mostly and largely with little reference to me she has issues and concerns and autonomy that have little to do with me. But she is also one of the great long stories of my life — not to make her feel older than she is.

 

Part of this post was typed on Mothers Day, May 14, 2017 with the view to it appearing whenever it appears.  My own mother was with my Dad and others sort of separately but also with Sarah on a trip principally to visit with others in the family who are attending her granddaughter (my niece)’s graduation from Mount Saint Mary University.  It turns out that much of the family were able to gather for that event. I was happy to celbrate Mothers Day early on May 6, 2017 with most of my siblings and my mother. For all of us our relationship with our mother is a truly primal on and for me as for many it is a very long running one as well.  I was not on this trip but we have been on many together — my mother and I. The picture below is of my parents and my sister Susanna sharing a meal in the oldest building in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which was built during the end of the colonial and the start of the revolutionary period in American history. History which has long been a pursuit of mine constantly reminds us of a long set of ties to things which themselves have been around for a long time. This is the theme of this post.Family in Gettysgurg

This month I have stayed abreast of space news and watched with interest and increasing distance the discussions on the future of space exploration in which I was once a more active participant.  Time has not been kind to that involvement so far but it is an interest which has been on of the long-running interests in my life so far.

The truth is the theme of continuity has been one that has been on my mind this week, the way we all attempt to carry on in various ways. I am carrying on less successfully every year by many measures but I still hold out hope for an uptick in some trend or another. I still hope for a better life trajectory than I see before me.

 

That brings me back to my original concept for this post today. Although Julianne Hough is young I have been her fan for a long time.  I admire the fact that she had a long career in the performing arts before I became aware of her when she was still a teenager. I suppose she is just one of a lot of possible famous and nice looking people that one could take an interest in but there is more to it than that. There is a kind of message in her life that contrasts with a lot of what I do not like in the world I live in.
Julianne Hough is very attractive, but she also works hard at being human. That is not all I could say but it is a start. I would have liked to see her tour for various reasons and maybe one day I will but it is not today.

Love is a strange thing and so is family and so is friendship. In fact sex in all its permutations of attraction and disillusion is a bit odd at times as well. The handful of very famous beautiful young women who get the kind of attention Julianne Hough gets also have real lives to live and she is rooted enough to maintain a close relationship with her family. Not only doing this show with her brother but that is most notable.  Family love reminds us all that life is largely about the long run.

So here’s the deal…. I spent a little time with James mourning his sister, I called my  sister to wish her a happy birthday and I missed seeing Julianne perform with her brother. But I was aware today that each day one has to try to make life connect to the day and people who were there in the past and will be there in the future.  I also tried to trust in God for some things to work out in plans I make. But I know nothing has worked out in a big way in many years. Small successes are getting harder to find — but the show must go on. Not just for those of us in show business but for all us who live this life on any kind of stage. And we all do live out a kind of performance for those who observe our lives.

May the Fourth Be With Us All

George Lucas created the fantastical world of Star Wars after showing he could make films by creating the successful realistic film American Grafitti. He was deeply interested in mythology and also in a particular scholar of Mythology — Joseph Cambell. I read a lot of Campbell and learned from him. But we have very different points of view on many things that matter. I am for example a Christian.  Campbell was not.
I like Star Wars,  I really do and I have seen all of the films and almost all of them more than one time. But I also enjoy a wide variety of science fiction and a wide variety of other forms of art, literature and entertainment. It is certain that to me Star Wars is not my religion or my principal path through life but rather is  among my  preferred entertainments. But in a year when I am posting very few entries to this blog and in which I am not setting up a lot of holidays as thoroughly as I could I am posting on May the Fourth which is a Star Wars Fanday because it sounds like the famous blessing of that Galaxy Far, Far Away — “May the Force be with you.” Joseph Campbell was involved in the creation of the Star Wars Universe in ways both direct and indirect and was involved in promoting it directly through his series of television interviews with Bill Moyer titled The Power of Myth.  Besides being a popular television series for something of its type it was also a widely distributed book. A quirky take on the connection between Campbell and Star Wars can be found at the link here. Star Wars is not mostly about science then and is not largely hard science fiction but it is not very anti-science either. In addition it may well have had an element of challenging Christianity in the culture but some of the most devout and active Christians I know enjoy Star Wars quite a bit.  Tonight the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on movie screens across the United States and this is an example of the impact that Star Wars has had and also the fact that in the abundance of new science fiction blockbusters Star Wars is only one element one can forget how fresh and different it was when New Hope, the first film appeared. Chris Pratt has also done another science fiction role besides that of Peter Quill in the film Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence which was a great piece of hard science fiction and did fairly well — for hard science fiction. But Star Wars helped to create that audience as well.

I am not blogging frequently these days. I am working on a variety of other things but not at all with the assurance that most of it will be a fruitful and worthy expenditure of energy.  But I am occupied or preoccupied with a variety of other things. Our lives and our society are full of images and events with resonate with the Star Wars universe.  It opens us up to be spiritual, social, scientific members of our society and also to escape into a world that is not ours at all.

 

 


So we can look at the time we spend watching movies (and I watch a lot of movies) as having a special place in our imaginative lives. Perhaps for Christians like me whose lives have been adventurous but presently are not so adventurous and whose quests seem out of flow — there is something to remember in Star Wars today that will make us better at living the lives we do live and following the quests we are on.

Earth Day note.

I’m very much aware that I can now recognize the fact that I participated in a public ritual in my home town during the first observance of Earth day. It makes me proud and pleased that I did. I was just a young boy.

There has been a great deal of good work done on environmental issues since that day. However, mostly I am aware that these days I am turning away more and more from the really big issues. I am going in a direction of narrowing horizons and more limited resources. That doesn’t suit the part of me that takes up grand causes. So this Earth Day I am not doing much.

 

Why the Moon Matters Much

It is hard to look at the news cycle at the current moment or at the state of the world and readily conclude that a blog post about the Moon and humanity’s future as it relates to the Moon ought to be our top priority for understanding and exploration of ourselves and our world. Yet, amidst all my other concerns I am sure that the Moon ranks very highly indeed. It is true that I do not get paid to think about these things and have many other concerns. So there is an element of arrogance in my persistence in exploring these ideas.

When I was a child the Apollo Program was a very big part of my life in the way that other great institutions are part of a child’s life. Apollo 11 was uniquely significant amongst all space related achievements of the human race up till now. Huge numbers of people could see that the human civilization was transformed in some profound way by the fact that we could perform a crewed landing on the moon and return the crew safely to Earth. It seemed to little kids of certain types and to many others that future would involve significant human development on the Moon.  I was eight years old in 1972 when Apollo 17 was completed. The years since have seen no return of human beings to the Moon. But the Moon remains a unique site with unique and totally irreplaceable potential for human kind.

I wrote a novel in which the first set of chapters or part or book is titled The Moon. But the novel has not been published. In that novel I set the action of the early chapters mostly on the moon in in crater cap colonies.

Of course we now know that there is some water on the moon, a significant amount. But not enough for the kind of lifestyle that I depict in my novel. I do believe that a well run colonial system on the moon would eventually find other deposits of water frozen into the substrata as the novel describes and this would be among the most valued mineral assets in such and economy. However that need not be true for colonies to thrive there. There is enough water to start small colonies and we could capture comets and crash them into craters on the far side of the moon in controlled landings.  There is no question that we can approach comets and land devices on them. That was proved in the Rosetta Mission.  We could select small icy comets and learn to steer them into craters on the far side while building all early colonies on the near side. Most comets are less that ten miles across in their frozen state and there are a huge number of them. They are mostly made of water. we could develop an industry to send a comet a year of less than a quarter mile in diameter crashing into the Moon’s surface for the first many years of settlement and supply enough water needs for a thriving economy there. In time we would orbit more and even smaller comets around the moon and then break them up using most of the water on the moon and some on the ships we would build in orbit around the moon. The mass added in water would be equaled by the mass launched from the moon in space ships and components for spaceships and space stations made on the moon. Thus over a century or so we have a satellite of the same mass but perhaps two to ten percent of it mass would be liquid water and atmosphere in the crater cap colonies. ships to mars and other places could be huge, fast, safe and luxurious and still be cheaper than anything we could build on earth according to proper economic and fiscal analysis.

The best discussions we can have about the future of human development on the Moon relate to understanding how it must function in our future. There are many reasons why we should develop the Moon and do so soon. I want to discuss a few of them. First, the Moon is an accessible place the lack of atmosphere and the low gravity make it easy to launch materials into space. Earth can support lunar operations relatively easily. Rescue and support ships could reach the Moon in a few days. Communication is very rapid. The economic potential for a fully developed Moon is vast and the uses for an increasingly complex civilization on Earth are myriad.

The real world impact of developing sizable colonies on the Moon could be transformative for our civilization. Mining, space based solar power plants, huge communication satellite communication capacity and a thousand other industries could yield large results on Earth in a relatively short time. All of these concepts are relatively respectable for discussion around the world even though many people in the discussion would never really consider space colonization as a serious option. There is a great deal that needs to be tended to on Earth it is true but there are those of us who believe that colonizing the Moon will help us to tend to the things that concern us on Earth.
Beyond that it’s essential to the defense of the Earth from an attack from outside. That means taking responsibility for a threat potential which is not given serious respect in moast places. We can say that vigilance sanning and resources on the moon as weel as continuous activity around the comets and asteroids would help us to guard against collisions from and comets better than keeping all our resources on Eath and we can see that the threats from such collisions are real. that is one way in which lunar colonies would be a protective and defensive asset.  But that is not the whole picture occupying the Moon effectively would also provide at least some real advantage in deling with any technological species coming to meet us with good, evil or neutral intentions. So we must consider whether alien threats are worthy on any consideration.

As far as the possibility of Alien contact goes nothing could be less important when it is not happening and very few things could be more important when they are happening. A framework for estimating the chances for communicating with another civilization is provided by the Drake Equation. This equation is used to estimate the number of communicating civilizations around during the lifetime  (or the present moment of) a program searching for their communication signals thus predicting the  success probability for the Search for Extra(T)errestrial Intelligence or SETI

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

  • N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
  • L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

As far as security, national and otherwise goes. There is real risk if there is and it could be enormous. there are plenty of people who have claimed encounters with aliens, some may be highly credible. For examples see here, here and here. One question some people have long asked is whether the universe is more like a desert or a jungle. The desert theorists have been the most assertive in the most respected parts of the scientific establishment for a long time. But the recent search for exoplanets has revealed a lot of exoplanets and a good number of those in what is called the Goldilocks zone around their own stars (not too hot and not too cold for liquid water) and that has changed the assessment. Of course in most very ancient traditions and mythologies the Heavens were a jungle of sorts — full of mysterious and mystical creatures and creators. We don’t have to theorize about the existence of theoretically habitable planets anymore. Information about them can be seen here and here — and there are almost certainly a vast number more.

Various pieces of the alien threat assessment have to be considered.

I propose the Franksummers3ba Equation for the number of Alien First Contacts by direct visitation that humans will experience on earth and in the possible colonies within our own solar system. It is based on the Drake Equation.

N = ( R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fs • fe• fb • fr • fp • fs  •L)M

  • N= The number of civilizations which might arrive at Earth and contact  or confront humans here or in surrounding future colonies relatively unannounced.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fs = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that develop space travel .
  • fe=The fraction of those civilizations that choose to locate planets like ours.
  •  fb=The fraction of those civilizations that build and launch interstellar craft: finding the political resources and will to do so as well as the wealth.
  •  fr= The fraction of those civilizations  which develop individual craft or groups of craft capable of reaching our solar system  from their launch point.
  •  fp= The fraction of those civilizations  which either reach a high percentage of detected planets in range or which highly prioritize reaching a planet like ours.
  • • fs= The fraction of those civilizations which use stealth or secrecy beyond our capacities of remote detection and which find it preferable to avoid electromagnetic or similar communication at a distance in advance of first contact.
  • Ll  = The length of time such civilizations launch such craft divided by the period of time humans survive in this solar system.
  • NOTE:  the brackets indicate that this is the product which gives us a number for contact from any launch site even though the next operation is also mathematically identical multiplication.
  • M=The rate at which civilizations of this sort reproduce autonomous launch sites which are in these parameter or civilizations enter these parameters which are otherwise disqualified by one or more factors through creating autonomous launch sites.

 

 

So that’s all I have time for here. But this is yet another post in favor of taking space colonization seriously. I am not sure what else I will be able to write on this subject because my Earthbound concerns are sufficient to take up my time and energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tragic week

An important contact in the formation of this blog posted this.

The Norton View

The security services do a remarkable job and have managed to prevent a number of attacks on Parliament.  There is always the danger that one or more will succeed.  Wednesday saw such an attack, with a tragic loss of lives.   Whenever such attacks happen – the Palace has witnessed IRA bomb attacks as well as the assassination of MP Airey Neave within the precincts – there is a review of security, but with the recognition that Parliament has to continue operating as a Parliament and be accessible to the public.   There is the obvious concern not only with the Palace itself, but also the surrounding area.  One aspect to be considered is pedestrianizing the area around the Palace, not least St Margaret’s Street and part of Parliament Square.  As for immediate changes, these will be operational matters for the security services.

I had a fairly packed programme lined up for the week.  On…

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I am doing a space post soon but here’s a formula on little green men and such

I propose the Franksummers3ba Equation for the number of Alien First Contacts by direct visitation that humans will experience on earth and in the possible colonies within our own solar system. It is based on the Drake Equation.

N = ( R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fs • fe• fb • fr • fp • fs  •L)M

  • N= The number of civilizations which might arrive at Earth and contact  or confront humans here or in surrounding future colonies relatively unannounced.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fs = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that develop space travel .
  • fe=The fraction of those civilizations that choose to locate planets like ours.
  •  fb=The fraction of those civilizations that build and launch interstellar craft: finding the political resources and will to do so as well as the wealth.
  •  fr= The fraction of those civilizations  which develop individual craft or groups of craft capable of reaching our solar system  from their launch point.
  •  fp= The fraction of those civilizations  which either reach a high percentage of detected planets in range or which highly prioritize reaching a planet like ours.
  • • fs= The fraction of those civilizations which use stealth or secrecy beyond our capacities of remote detection and which find it preferable to avoid electromagnetic or similar communication at a distance in advance of first contact.
  • Ll  = The length of time such civilizations launch such craft divided by the period of time humans survive in this solar system.
  • NOTE:  the brackets indicate that this is the product which gives us a number for contact from any launch site even though the next operation is also mathematically identical multiplication.
  • M=The rate at which civilizations of this sort reproduce autonomous launch sites which are in these parameter or civilizations enter these parameters which are otherwise disqualified by one or more factors through creating autonomous launch sites.

Looking Up and Other Matters….

I like to go out at night and look up at the sky. I also sometimes am doing it while I smoke but I did it even in the years when I rarely or never smoked. I like to find Orion’s Belt and try to identify Miranda, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Arcturus or start with the Big Dipper of Ursa Major and then find the North Star Polaris and also Arcturus.  If I can connect both of those pieces of the sky and maybe see Venus and another planet then that is a good night for me — I don’t use a telescope, rarely use binoculars and my knowledge and skill are limited.   The sky is never the same but much of it is fixed in patterns much older than human civilization and certainly than my own life. the stars move in ways easily remembered once you get started and the planets wander a different set of courses. Stargazing is not that much like observing human life. I am considering following the North Star to a new life in Alaska. not quite literally, but I am thinking of starting again there and I do think of it sometimes as gaze at Polaris. We’ll see how that goes. But Lent is also a time for a journey more like driving to Alaska than the journey that I will undertake in all probability — it is a bit like hiking to Alaska for some but not for most of us. But it is across and internal landscape of recollections and reflections, it is across a landscape of rituals too.

Lent, life and learning are all processes. Each has an inner logic and meaning proper to it. none can be perfected in an instant. I recently assembled a swing set. That was not nearly as much of a project as living a good Lent, much less undertaking the rest of life’s challenges. This Lent I have spent some time in the company of the people who participate with Sick Pilgrim spirituality. they have tolerated me fairly well and I find much to empathize with in their group and activities despite having a very different perspective than the typical members on a number of things. This evening I hope to attend a penance service. It gets harder and harder to untangle the knots and i find it hard to be generous because I am very aware of so many wrongs against me for which I have no redress, aware of human areas of indebtedness which are mutual but painful to both parties and which can never be resolved, aware of the limits of my capacities to really transform my life in Christ. It is a process — but not an easy one for me. One of the priests scheduled to be at tonight’s penance service was once my spiritual director when we were much younger. It is hard for me to imagine that I could ever have a spiritual director again, but I have not given up the idea entirely. I have made little project in my plan to go to Alaska unless things improved for me a lot but a complete stranger has offered to help me with some of the logistics and for some reason I am inclined to let her help — so maybe it will happen. Getting from Abbeville to Anchorage or Ash Wednesday to Easter are both processes. Neither are instantaneous.

swing set

A big little project for grand little people

 

My Facebook work status remains “none” it was “Nothing at None” when I selected it from a set of options but now it is just “none”. But that is not simply and strictly entirely accurate. I stay pretty busy and although some of that busy time is spent in Catholic religious activity  — most of the busy days are not spent largely that way. Some of the time is spent trying to get to Alaska, a lot is spent trying to make life work where I am and some is spent caring for people and projects in places that I have left behind indefinitely. Some less busy time is spent staring at the night sky — while smoking or not.  It seems like time is really flying this Lent and in my life as a whole. I hope to get to a penance service this evening. But am aware of competing interests and concerns. The season of Lent is fast approaching its culmination from Palm Sunday, through Holy Week and into the Holy Paschal Triduum and then into the Easter season. Palm Sunday also known as Passion Sunday commemorates Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. It was to be a very busy week for him with lots of teaching and some

A very special part of the holidays  is Holy Thursday. on some years for  many others not celebrating Holy Thursday (and as well as in memory and Memeorial of Jesus’s Passover  for many who DO joyously and sorrowfully celebrate Holy Thursday) this is one of the days of Passover.  Lent’s culmination is a time to remember dates like the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread and Catholic Christian celebrations related to the Lord’s Supper and the Last Supper. This Lent that will come on to my calendar for the first time as a minister of communion. I will be tuned into the Bible readings around that part of the Lenten Season in a slightly different way.

” On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the paschal lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you wish us to go to prepare the Passover Supper for you? ” He sent two of his disciples with these instructions : “Go into the city and you will come upon a man carrying a water jar, Follow him. Whatever house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Then he will show you an upstairs room, spacious , furnished and all in order. That is the place you are to get ready for us.” The disciples went off. When they reached the city they found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover supper.” Mark 14: 12-16 New American Bible.

Later on Jesus would speak of having longed for this holiday feast. He would rejoice in sharing it with those he did before his terrible Passion — in which he would be the Lamb of God. This holiday feast is essential to understanding the Eucharist, Breaking of Bread and Lord’s Supper which would take place soon and which we commemorate tonight. In the time since Jesus celebrated that Last Supper, the Christian Church has passed through many trials and been near the Gates of Hell if not quite to them. Hammered by Roman persecutions, Barbarian invasions, Vikings, Islam, Communism, Nazism and a thousand other threats it has produced a countless number of good effects across many centuries in numerous lands and places. It has gained knowledge, richness and tradition and been adorned with beauty in its history. However, there have been many bad things that have happened to it and within it as well. I want to discuss some of that badness in this note today. The Sick Pilgrims I have been associating with include the stranger who has tried to help me make it to Alaska. We are a group ( to whatever degree I can represent the group) in some way connected to the Paschal mystery of Lent’s culmination and the Eucharist. So is Family Missions Company which has a team with my sister Susanna and her three older sons in Haiti right now. So also are the Catholics gathering at the Penance service tonight. It is a set of mutual obligations culminating in a ritual feast that is not also a regular meal. It is rooted in the Passover meal of the Jews but it is a Christian ritual. I want to write a little about the connections of the Christian and Jewish practices of the season. It is not a simple subject and I will just graze over it really.

Some like to find a total harmony between Jewish and modern Christian Paschal practice that does not exist and that false finding is a fault. It is now usually a truly modern fault but it has roots in the past. But it is a much lesser fault than modern antisemitism which is rooted in faults of antisemitism that have haunted Christianity but is found in new and horrible forms more recently.   Antisemitism, which in itself is a very imperfect term is really one of the great blemishes on Christianity. That does not mean there are not intrinsic conflicts between the Jewish faith position which is not explicitly also Christian (and it  has always been rare since the second century for a community to be truly Jewish and truly Christian) and the Christian Church. However, the idea that somehow the Holocaust was a long time ago or that it was within a great tradition in Christianity are both absurd ideas. people slaughter each other and are slaughtered and those without long status in a state homeland are most likely to be slaughtered and Jews fall into this category and often haven many places and this is a long-standing situation. But the Nazi extermination of Jews is the worst and most outlying expression of some very distinct and new horrors. While supported by many baptized Christians Nazism was clear enough about the difference to be officially Anti-Christian in it policy and Philosophy. First get rid of the Jews and then get rid of Christianity was there clear plan. They knew Jesus was a Jew after all.

Some facts:
1. When Jews converted to Chrisitianity in medieval Europe the King was their godfather and a grerat feast was thrown.
2. Medieval Churches and early renaissance churches in Inquisitorial Spain and elsewhere were built with the sign of the Star of David often included. These churches had abeilief that the extant remains of the House of David were still royalty on Earth and had no trouble sseing how Jesus related to the House of David and struggled in his lifelong postion as regards the House of Herod.
3.For centuries all Christians knew that Jewish rabbis in a hundred cities instructed gentiles in the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament throughout the Hellenic world and Jews were respected intellectuals in much of the pagan Greek world. Those who studied but did not convert were called God-Fearers and it was in the God-fearer network that early Chrisitianity mostly spread. But modern Jews, Protestants and Anglicans reject the Greek version of the Old Testamant and the Greek Orthodox church has been much disabled by Islam and decimated by it and so there is no historic basis of understanding that is true to the origins of the Christian Church except in the tenuous and disturbed fabric of the Roman Catholic Church.
4. Rome has had recent centuries of the Church influence by the very poor heritage of Western Europe and Britain who now often find themselves ot good for Rome and lost much of its other constituency to Islam. It is able to conventiently forget that when the Holy Family fled into egypt they went to a city that was in a cultural and religious state of sophisitication which may be among the greatest ever achieved by mankind. They create a poor ,dirty persecuted Jew more and more as Western Europe loses its sense of all that formed the Christian experience.

I love St. Francis, but he was not a scripture scholar and Jesus was not much of a mendicant although he accepted some gifts. Jesus was an Earthly Prince — Son of David, from a long dethroned royal house. He was a Rabbi accepted at Synagogues . He was a Craftsman who could earn his keep. He was more than all those things but not less than any of them. The scene quoted from Scripture above is often misinterpreted here :

” He sent two of his disciples with these instructions : “Go into the city and you will come upon a man carrying a water jar, Follow him. Whatever house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my huest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Then he will show you an upstairs room, spacious , furnished and all in order. That is the place you are to get ready for us.”

The passage clearly  shows his sophisticated secret network and not a miracle. His Apostles carried some weapons even in heavily guarded Jerusalem and he had many followers. The later Medieval and early modern imitation of Christ as mostly poor and obscure is just antisemitic and antichristian nonsense. He did suffer poverty, homelessness and persecution for good causes.He did accept crucifixion. I will not get to all of that now.

I see a few things also of interest in this time of  year as I remember it . Our family like many (but not the majority of) Christians has sometimes  celebrated a Pseder meal with lamb, bitter herbs and a translation of the ancient Hebrew words into the vernacular of our community (English). I like to try to do this and attend Holy Thursday Mass but sometimes I catch the earlier broadcasts of the Mass where there is a conflict with this custom. I let the occasion interrupt my work and I think especially of other Christians even those like the one helping me to get to Alska — even if it may not happen.  For we are all on a journey together.

Spiritually, the Christian Church may be the spotless Bride of Christ but in many ways it is a train wreck. I say that with conviction, I simply think that it is still better than much else in the world even in its flawed human aspects. We all need to clean up our acts to some degree or other -especially me.Happy  sober Lent and Happy Upcoming Holidays to all of you. Happy Spring if nothing else. But if you have time while being happy to think about developing our culture in more healthy and authentic ways — then I am all in favor of it.

I am not sure how to describe my overall state of mind at the moment. But I am full of memories good and bad and hoping that things are looking up.

 

When Hitting Bottom is not an Option

Time is a complicated and simple , momentous and ordinary thing about which much has been written. One of my favorite films is largely structured around observing the close and almost exact passage of time. That film is High Noon. Many different things have been written about the film on the right and left of American politics. But the film like all great art transcends the mere positioning of ideas and motifs on the political spectrum. I watched the film on a Tuesday morning when I was feeling a bit worse for wear and doing some emergency laundry at my parents house. Drama has been on my mind as there is a major play production impacting my life in various ways. I helped a friend go over some lines yesterday, Monday the thirteenth. I also spent some time organizing other projects for the week. One of them requiring some special care and attention to avoid risks and another being a simple matter of getting to another play in which two of my nephews are performing. the film embodies much of what I value most in really good drama. It is a story of a man confronted with a terrible crisis on the day that was to be his wedding day and the day of his retirement from law enforcement. He finds little support in his complicated desire and determination to do his duty but where it comes it is precious to him and unexpected and  makes for an ending that is made to stand the test of time.  It is also a film about not being able to hope for the best and let things take care of themselves. It is a film about feeling very much obligated to do the right thing when there are many reasons to do otherwise.

High Noon

So High Noon is a film I have seen many times. But this time I watched it again in a state of weariness on my parents couch on demand as a free movie with pauses in between various parts.  On March 14, 2017 I bought some newspapers and went to early voting. I find this  Tuesday a little trying as I am weary from having stayed up to finish defrosting a small refrigerator after having already had a pretty full day, the Day before. The villain of the piece is a gunslinger named Frank Miller and I am named Frank and have Miller ancestors — but I still greatly admire the film. It is a film which asks a lot of the viewer in terms of thinking about love, religion, public duty, courage, individualism and friendship. I put it often at the top of my list as the best film of all. But sometimes I might shift it around — however, it is always near the top. Gary Cooper’s character Will Kane has his own way to make in a very bleak time.

The truth is that not everyone goes through life in the same way. Not all of us  are using the same basic navigation system to get through life. But for me that is neither good nor bad in all cases. Right now I am close the point where all things fail at once in a life but one does not hit bottom. Hitting bottom is not an option for everyone. The people fighting over the reform of America’s healthcare system have many motivations. Some are motivated by political self interest, some by a desire for profit. But many who also have some of one or both of these two interests are also struggling for the good of the country and are convinced that there can be disastrous consequences if there plans fail and those of their political opponents prevail. We all are aware to some degree or another of the legacy we strive to leave behind of the young and vulnerable lives our decisions influence and of the values we want to pass on to posterity. Even when things are urgent for other reasons  we still have business to tend to that involves the future more than the unpleasant exigencies of our future.  President Ronald Reagan spoke of Morning in America and he used it as a phrase in his campaign advertising. but perhaps we are at the minutes before High Noon in America, I often feel that for me it is simply too late for anything really good to happen. But for America it is perhaps a time of consequence a time when one must act and act well. We do face impending showdowns with Iran, North Korea and others to varying degrees and we do face showdowns between political parties but perhaps there is more than that in this time.

 

 

Perhpas this is the time we will last be able to choose to stand up and make the future right for others or lose that chance  as a country. I am not sure but it is on my mind today.

Lent and the Return

This is now fairly deep into Lent and it is also near the time of the time change when we will all spring forward an hour, and most of us will find our waking a bit cruel for a while.. The Wednesday that is the seventh of March I spent  some time working on a gutter system and I have been otherwise preoccupied with a variety of little things but I am also aware that it is Lent — deeply aware that it is Lent although not as deeply as I might like to be. President Donald J. Trump gave his first address to the Joint Session of Congress on Mardi Gras and did not mention that the next day was Ash Wednesday nor that the Louisiana delegation had to neglect a major regional holiday to be present there and absent from Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday commitments at home. It is not that I recommend such recognition as a Federal Duty but then again I do not recommend scheduling such an event on Mardi Gras. So that is how my Lent really began — although I left off watching the speech at my parents house and went to a friend’s house for a last glass of sherry and a last slice of King Cake before midnight. But there was a dissonance between what I wanted and had on my mind and what the national scene was doing.Now the party of carnival season is truly over and my life is Lenten although not in every ideal sense. Perhaps not very holy but very austere in some ways.

Amid the other duties, noise and goings-on of life I am going over one of my unpublished novels. I wrote it online and printed two copies several years ago. So this set of marginalized, copy editors marks and other small and medium size changes are the first writing done on paper. For me writing novels has always been objectively better than self amputation, maintaining street heroin, or robbing convenience stores. But it probably feels much worse and is less rewarding.

However, it keeps my natural effervescent and exuberant qualities in check.  But the point of all this is that if ever one feels unable to control one’s giddy inner child then writing long novels can be excellent therapy…. However, most readers probably are not afflicted with excessive joy.

Nor is is impossible see that Washington faces real and austere challenges. A recent email from the White House says.

It’s been seven years since Obamacare was passed, and now, more than ever, we are seeing the harmful effects of this disastrous law.

Obamacare has led to higher costs and fewer health insurance options for millions of hard-working Americans. Independent analysis found 41 states faced higher average healthcare deductibles last year, with 17 states facing double-digit rate increases. Nearly one in five Americans have only one insurer offering Obamacare exchange plans.

In just the past year, Obamacare premiums have increased by 25 percent on the typical plan and coverage choices have dropped by 28 percent as insurers have left the market.

Things are only getting worse. This past year, nearly 20 million American citizens opted not to get healthcare insurance, with 6.5 million paying the penalty and millions more asking for a hardship exemption from the penalty.

Now, not nearly everyone will agree with Trump’s tone and take on this issue but I am relieved that he is trying to end the individual mandate. We all have sacrifices to make for America to make it and those sacrifices are Lenten enough in nature to deserve some thought in that regard. I think Catholics often have a variety of struggles as regards Lent. But it is a time to try and take our medicine with or without sugar to make it go down. America could use a little Lent just now.

I went to mass the morning of the first day of this Lent and received my ashes for Ash Wednesday. There was quite the crowd at church at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.  I am very much aware of all that I am not doing for Lent and all that it might be better for me to do.

In the distant times when elves abounded on Middle Earth….
Actually no that is in no sense descriptive or proper — but a long time ago — I did a lot of penance and then at other times I did a lot during Lent . Then in recent years I have more often than not failed to give up anything for Lent. I have lacked the generosity of spirit necessary to add another sacrifice to the wearisome burdens of my daily life and the lacks I feel so keenly. But I have received the Ashes and kept a decent fast. There was another period in my life when I was often in a blur and sometimes forgot what day it was and violated fasts publicly in a huge way in Catholic towns on a few occasions. My sin there was running around in a chaotic state rather than consciously breaking a fast. But this year I did give up something for Lent — nothing huge and not smoking which anyone who hangs out with me lately would be likely to suggest but I did give up something.

Back in the days when I often prayed for hours alone or in a chapel AND wore a knotted cord that bit my flesh in secret AND gave way more in alms than a normal percentage AND volunteered for lots of ministries that few wanted and some everyone did — Back then I found it easy to add on a Lenten Penance. Lately, as I aim at catching the bottom rung of the safety ladder hanging out of purgatory in the knick of time any sacrifice seems heavy. But I have small ministry in the church and it seems fitting. So as I went for Ashes I decided I would do something. I also have noticed that since Mass was early and I had a priest who is not a real brander and stainer in his approach I once again have fading ash syndrome by the time I get out into the world — that is good and bad. The pros and cons go beyond this little post. But I have Fading Ash Syndrom in both Ash Wednesday pictures here, quite a few years apart. I sometimes envy those with Strong Ash Condition late in the day. But I used to wear a cross a whole lot all the time and it sometimes irked me. Now I am an annual fading ash guy.

A Fading Ash Guy scheduling in his liturgical ministry in a busy week. Life brings us places we did not expect to be posting almost undetectable ash crosses and musing about minor penances. I am not the publican or the pharisee in the famous parable of Jesus. Maybe I am the guy not mentioned in the parable who would like longer phylacteries and a more lawful beard, a little more booze and gold and a little more repentance. Beware of being lukewarm we are warned. Those who know me would say there are parts of my psyche that always run very hot and others very cold. But perhaps the lukewarm has found much of the central region.

While I certainly know that my flesh shall turn to dust it is less clear how much I will repent and believe the Gospel this Lent. But Lent does not depend solely on me. God is God however unworthy or indifferent I may be….

 

 

There is a lot going on in my life and yet not so much as to justify spending a blog only on what is going on in my life. Problems with Mexico, Russia, North Korea and Iran are not figments of our national imagination. We must address real challenges each day as a country — we must sober up from the carnival atmosphere of the election and do some good in the world. That can mean doing some good for ourselves as well. For example,  I think it’s time for everyone to realize that North Korea is able to withstand even the very most brutal diplomatic tongue-lashing. I don’t mean to trivialize the problem but maybe they know we dislike their weapons program by now…. Sobriety and a little fasting from delusion is in order. There is a real fact that our secrets are out in the world and the White House leaks like a sieve and the Academy Awards handed the Best Picture award to the wrong movie first.

I would like to thank the academy, my parents and everyone — but I am not receiving an Oscar. On the other hand, that may not have much to do with getting to give those speeches anymore…
Also not important for determining who is crowned in a huge international pageant. Steve Harvey crowned the wrong woman not long ago. these are little things compared to the open prey our secrets and promises to one another have become but they are not extremely small things. We see a continuity to our national political life. We could use a little Lent.

I have a suggestion for major televised award shows, go ahead and use whatever approach prevented these messes in the 20th century. Maybe don’t just fumble along like idiots on your program’s biggest moment. Just saying….

Then maybe we can run our country with some sobriety as well. I have been remembering two serious older Americans now deceased this week. I have been remembering Justin Jesss Spiehler the grandfather of my nieces and nephew. His obituary from years ago is linked here.  But in the spirit of such memories, I spent a few days this Lent looking for and not finding a report of the decease of Judge Marcus Broussard, known as Buddy Broussard, a jurist and attorney in Abbeville. I hesitate to post his name first although I knew him. He and I were for a few years the only two active, dues-paying members of Mensa in Abbeville. I knew his son as well and he was friends with my maternal grandparents. I look forward to seeing the kind of character I knew in those men come to the fore — they weren’t perfect but they were good solid Americans I admired, are we?

This month I am on schedule for ministry at early morning mass. I hope to keep a holy Lent there in Church but I hope to return from church with a little Lent to bring to my country as well.