Monday, February 28, 2022

Pray for Ukraine


Comparisons to Hitler are too overused.  Look at the political discourse in America over the past several years and see the number of people who have been called Hitler.  The usage has dulled a bit of the impact here for us.

The image above was shared on Twitter by the official account for the country of Ukraine.  They know of what they speak.  The country had been invaded by Hitler's army in World War II.  And they then remained under Soviet control following.

We are now in day five of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.  The Russian army is now attacking Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, with a population of 1.4 million.   Part of their three flank invasion, entering from the north, east, and south, and targeting Kyiv and Kherson additionally.  Though the first few days have not gone as Russia expected, they are ramping up their attacks and have been accused of targeting residential areas.

Ukraine, for its part, is fighting for its life and has proven perhaps surprisingly effective so far.  This is David facing Goliath, and it's remarkable that David has lasted as long as they have.  "The war has united people as never before."

This should put things in perspective in our country.  That our petty squabbles have been just that - petty.  That the claims of "tyranny" in mask mandates and vaccine mandates pale in comparison to actual tyranny.  Pale in comparison to actual authoritarianism.  This should be something that could unite all of America - united in support of Ukraine in repelling the Russian invaders.  

Sadly, of course, it has not.  We've had GOP leadership is blaming Biden for the invasion.  Trump, for his part, and who has expressed admiration for Putin, described the Russian leader's actions leading up to invasion as "genius," "smart" and "pretty savvy."  They try to distract with old information regarding Ukraine being one of the most corrupt governments in the world, as if that would justify the invasion, even if it were still true.  Lauren Boebert says we must now liberate America and Canada, like Ukraine needs to be liberated.  She shared in an interview with Fox, "I pray for Ukraine and I wish them the best, but we also have neighbors to the north who need freedom and need to be liberated, and we need that here at home as well."  

It's almost as if they don't know what those words mean any more.  It's all performance.  It's all a show for a base that they can't lose.

My tolerance for it has finally all evaporated.  

We've seen true examples of leadership.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown us that you can start as an entertainer and still be the leader your country needs.  He is armored and in the trenches with his people, refusing transport instead reiterating a request for aide.  He has spoken in Russian to appeal to the Russian people and to combat Russia's propaganda machine.  As the situation has demanded it, he has risen to the occassion.

Continue to pray for him.  Continue to pray for Ukraine and for the Ukrainian people.  Pray for the millions that have evacuated and are displaced.  Pray for the Russian people who do not want this war.   Pray that the swift sanctions work.  Pray for the rest of us as we figure out how best to provide aide. 

Pray for sanity to prevail.  For an end to the conflict.  

Pray for peace.

нехай Бог захистить Україну

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Paul's Mistake?

"After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. 'After I have been there,' he said, 'I must visit Rome also."
Acts 19:21

"Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost."
Acts 20:16

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me."
Acts 20:22-23

"After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos.  The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.  We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.  After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria.  We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.  We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days.  Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem."
Acts 21:1-4

"Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seve.  He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.  After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, "In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles."'  When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?  I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'  When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.'"
Acts 21:8-14

Continuing in our study of Acts, we come to the end of Paul's third missionary journey and read through a summary of the verses quoted from Acts 21.  This section continues to fascinate me.

There is an interpretation of these events that reads as if Paul disobeyed the Holy Spirit by proceeding on to Jerusalem despite an instruction not to and a warning of the consequences.

In reading commentaries, Paul's saintliness is so lauded that the commentator's cannot begin to believe that Paul would have erred.  An unwillingness to attribute any fault to him.  We see this in how many churches also treat Paul.  I continue to assert there are denominations that should more appropriately be called Paulists over Christians because of the inappropriate weight they place on Paul's letters.

Reading Matthew Henry's commentary, the directive in verse 4 is not mentioned, the warning is seen just a a preview of what awaits him, and the urging by his friends after Agabus' prophecy is seen as misguided and misplaced.  "But we see in them the infirmity incident to us all; when we see trouble at a distance, and have only a general notice of it, we can make light of it; but when it comes near we begin to shrink and draw back."  I believe this conclusion comes at the exclusion of the whole passage.

From a more contextual reading, I see Paul slipping into a very real danger Christians face in fervent service to the Lord - letting their own desires rush the general plan of the Lord ahead of his time table.  This was Abraham's problem in trying to rush God's promise, leading to the birth of Ishmael and a competing nation to that of Israel.

I see a similar pattern here in Paul. From chapters 19 and 20, we see that Paul had been led by the Spirit to proceed to Jerusalem.  This seems a general directive, a general direction Paul is to be traveling.  And God does give us these directions.  General parameters of where we are supposed to be moving.  Go to "the land that I will show you."

We also see that Paul had a great internal desire to get to Jerusalem as quickly as possible.  He wanted to get there by Pentecost.  We perhaps see the reason behind this desire in Romans 9:1-5.

"I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit - I have a great sorrow and anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own raise, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

Paul had a great desire to be back among his people, the Jews.  Though he knew and was fulfilling his mission among the Gentiles, he longed to be back home. 

Perhaps he was also desiring a great audience.  We know that Pentecost for the Jews was an important festival that included a pilgrimage.  It meant that there would be a great number of people in the city and the temple, just as there were when the Holy Spirit first came on the believers.

And from my reading, it seems possible that Paul used God's general direction, for him to go to Jerusalem, to accelerate that time table.  He sailed past Ephesus, missing another stop there and avoiding spending time in the Asian province.  Not wanting to chance another tense encounter.  And perhaps it's this rushing that leads to the Spirit's warning.

For the disciples in Tyre to warn him through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem.  Luke makes a point to record that this warning was coming through the Holy Spirit, not from the disciples' personal affection.  And the language used was emphatic.  They were exclaiming to Paul through the Spirit "Do NOT go to Jerusalem!"  To Paul's general directive, this was a specific instruction.  While he may be needing to move toward Jerusalem, now is not the exact time to go.

But Paul pressed on.

Because of this Paul gets a second warning, a stronger, visual warning.  This time reminding him what awaits him in Jerusalem.  Imprisonment at the hands of the Gentiles.  And Paul responds to this with what can be seen as a very noble and pious statement.  That he is ready to die for the cause of Christ.  

The problem occurs, though, when you are placing yourself in a position to die for Christ where Christ himself is calling you to live for Him.

We see from the whole context that Paul was always going to end up in chains and imprisoned, but what if his lack of heed to the Spirit's direction caused him to be imprisoned earlier than he should have been?  Perhaps he did not need to be a prisoner at all, as we'll see in later chapters how it is Paul's specific assertions that keep him in the court system when he could have been freed. 

Should he have spent more time in Asia and on his missionary journey instead of rushing to Jerusalem?  Would we have more letters and more guidance from his time with those groups of believers?

That is the great unknown.

But we do get a warning regarding running ahead of the Holy Spirit.  Regarding putting our own desires ahead of the specific direction of God.  Regardless of how noble the intention.

And from his prison letters to Corinth, to Ephesus, and to Phillipi, we see the grace of God.  To be able to take our mistakes and to make beautiful art with them.  To advance His kingdom and purpose.

Lord, I pray to follow Your direction and to not let the desires of my heart influence my steps in that way.  To not fool myself to believe my desires are noble, but to follow the letter of Your word.  Continue to move me and shape me as needed.

For further reading, I recommend Paul's Mistake, by Ray Stedman.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

I Know Paul, But Who Are You?

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirts went out.  But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.  Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.  And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.  So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. 
Acts 19:11-20 (NASB)

I'm currently going through the Book of Acts in a couple of different Bible studies.  In the men's Huddle that I'm a part of, we just finished a four-week read through the book and we're nearing the end of an eight-week study in our couples group.  We've hit a point where we've reached some of my favorite accounts from the life of Paul.  

Chapter 19 starts the passage with the successes and blessings of Paul's work in Ephesus, the power of God being displayed mightily in this city.  So much so, you could see it is truly the work of God and nothing Paul could do.  It's such the power of God pouring out of Paul, even into handkerchiefs and aprons that he is carrying, transferring that healing power of God to those in need.

And what we see next are the hangers on.  The profiteers.  The schemers that are finding ways to bring benefit to themselves from the real, genuine miracles that they are observing around them. Here, they are Jewish healers or exorcists who believe they can use the magic words "in the name of Jesus" to their own gain, despite having no belief in Jesus themselves.  They are copying Paul's actions without having the personal faith and relationship that he has.  And we see how it turns out for them.

This message got me ruminating on the ways that we try to use Jesus for our own personal gain, instead of following Him for the purpose of His glory.  Put another way, how often do we treat our faith as rabbit's foot or bargaining chip for our personal development?

We still see "faith" healers today.  You can find many places on television and the internet to find many, many different spiritual leaders who will provide divine healing or the removal of evil spirits for a "slight" monetary fee.  I believe much of the appeal, as it is, to Scientology is found in this idea. Followers pay for audits or continuing mental health and emotional health treatments.

But the idea of using Jesus for personal gain goes far beyond this long lived example.

How many politicians are using Jesus and their "faith" as a badge for political gain, to get that set of voters?

How many "religious leaders" are using Jesus for pure monetary gain?  Does Creflo Dollar's ministry really need a Gulfstream Jet?  Does Kenneth Copeland need to only fly first class or need a $7 million tax-free estate?  How much wealth accumulation is enough?

How many of us wear our faith when it is beneficial for us or can bring us something?  We only communicate with God when we are asking Him for things, but at no other times. "Slot-machine" prayers.    We only share our faith when it makes us look good or lets us voice our opinion and insight.  We attend a particular church to "network" or for the services that it offers us.

This passage provides us a warning for this misuse of Jesus' name.  These sons of Sceva are swept out battered and bloodied by the evil spirits they are trying to drive out, along with the most scathing response to their attempts "who are you."

This is the scariest thought in the new testament.  Are we known in the spiritual realms?  Do we have any identity there?  We see Paul has recognition because of his works.  And the sons of Sceva suffer for their misuse and usurping of Christ's name.

It's up to us to determine where we fall.  Will we be the ones attempt to use Jesus for our personal gain to our own destruction, or will be the ones used by God for His glory?  Lord help me be the latter and turn me from any attempt at the former.  May the glory be yours.

Monday, February 21, 2022

President's Day 2022

Today marks Presidents' Day, a state holiday set aside to honor and remember all who have served as the President of the United States of America.  The holiday falls on the third Monday of February, a date chosen as a midpoint between Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and Washington's birthday on February 22.  

Since 1862, there has been an ongoing tradition that Washington's Farewell Address be read in the United States Senate.  I can think of no better way to remember and honor the office of the president than to do likewise.  

It's surprising how much it is still applicable to us today.  He pleas for unity and warns against partisan fighting.  He emphasizes the purpose and importance checks on political power.  He pushes for neutrality and free trade.

I've included the text of his address below, with my emphasis added, as well as a bonus at the end.

The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions, with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; than, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of american, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds, in the productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the union as a primary object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those, who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric ?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices ?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers."

George Washington
United States - September 17, 1796

One last time.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Happy 5 Jude!

It’s so hard to believe how fast this little boy is growing up. He’s definitely in the little kid category now; no longer a toddler. 

He’s our Harry Belafonte loving, video game playing, Muppet Show watching, word creating little goof. My favorite new word of his is crappersnappers for when things go wrong. 

I love his new obsession with Dr. Pepper, which he’s doing to copy his dad. I love his desire to look handsome. I love his love of spooky things.

I hope you have had an awesome day today buddy. Looking forward to all the new discoveries this year ahead. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentine's Day 2022

Though we recognize it everyday, today is a special day that we have set apart to celebrate love. All kinds of love - brotherly love, familial love, and romantic love. Particularly romantic love. 

We refer to people as our Valentines. Our pair, our date for the day, now matter how we celebrate.  And certainly, our celebrations have changed.  Our dinners may not be fancy.  It may not be a romantic date.  It may be silly and even childish.

But nonetheless, love remains.  

To the ends of the earth gorgeous, and many, many more...


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

National Pizza Day 2022

It's National Pizza Day!  A worthy celebration for the Keeler household.  I've definitely eaten more than my fair share.  There was a lot of pizza consumed in law school.  Probably more than I should have.  And the kids now can always agree on pizza.

Pizza has to be nearly the perfect food.  All food groups in a single delicious dish.  It can be a single filling deep dish slice or a perfect binge food.  Crust to your preference, zesty tomato sauce, melted mozzarella cheese, and virtually unlimited combinations of toppings. 

I love it all.  From thin neopolitan to Chicago deep dish.  From the authentic pizza we got in Florence to the cheap oven bakes.  As an 80s kid, nothing beats Pizza Hut for nostalgia.

I like white pizzas with alfredo sauce.  I like buffalo or barbecue chicken pizza.  I'll even take pineapple on pizza with a good Hawaiian style.  With the kids, I'm growing to appreciate just a classic cheese pizza.

I do miss pizza buffets.  I know Cicis still offers it, but I miss the Pizza Hut buffet.  Or Mazzios.  Or Mr. Gattis.

I think the best we've had has been a quattro formaggi in Florence (Jamie cried over this one) and The Malnati Classic Chicago at Lou Malnati's.  John's in Time Square ranks up there as well.

We also have several great local pizzerias.  We have our favorites here in town like Rockstar Pizza, and we're really close to Chicago to get Lou Malnati's when it strikes our fancy.  

So, grab a slice in celebration today.  And again this year, why not support your local pizza place and show them some love.  We want to make sure pizza is here to stay and not just at the national chains.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Black History Month 2022

February is Black History Month.  While "officially" recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, the celebration has its roots dating back to 1926, with the celebration of Negro History Week.  Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History choose the second week in February because of the recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.

For both the week and the month, the focus remains the same, the coordinated teaching of the history of African Americans.  To recognize the overlooked contributions and impacts that African Americans have had on the course of American history.   The Hidden Figures if you will.  President Ford recognized this, for his part urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

This mission also serves as a powerful antidote to the tendency we have toward creating selective histories, false narratives, alternative facts.  The early celebration of Negro History Week in the 1930s had to counter the growing and dangerous myth of the "lost cause" of the South.  The false narrative that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, that it was a war of Northern cultural and economic aggression toward the South.  A lie meant to maintain a Supremacist status quo.  As Woodson would write, "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it."  This aspect of the month's recognition has led some to claim its focus is rewriting history.  

It's not.  

Instead, it's refocusing history.  Removing lies and myths that have been perpetuated for too long and have had too many lasting harmful effects, and in their place shedding light on long dormant corners of our history.  Uncovering the reality of history, in many instances for the first time.

We've seen the shock this causes to the American conscience.  How many white Americans learned about the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 for the first time by watching HBO's Watchman?  How about the Wilmington coup of 1891, focused on ousting a biracial local government and replace it with a white supremacist one?  That being the only successful coup in American history.  How many people learned about the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and the other Hidden Figures mathematicians through the eponymous film?  How many know about Hiram Revels, Bessie Coleman, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, Madam C.J. Walker?  Why do we more often find out about them outside of history class?

This is why the fight to preserve and improve our education system is so important.  For us to not give into those voices that are hiding the truth through the lens of "parental insight into eduction."  It's time we taught the truth and the whole truth.

This month is the perfect time for that education on an individual level to combat any attempts to hide it again.  Read African American authors, watch television and film from African American artists (which we are doing).  Google "Black History you should know" and explore - there are dozens of articles that could provide a great springboard for education.

There's a wealth of information out there to make this month an enriching experience.  All you have to do is be willing to learn.

Friday, February 4, 2022


“I moved past total bafflement to trying to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis, maybe. Dammit I can’t believe the word ‘Damn’ would get the book jettisoned out of schools on its own, but that’s really where the genuine focus seemed to be.”

“I think they’re so myopic in their focus and they’re so afraid of what’s implied and having to defend the decision to teach
Maus as part of the curriculum that it led to this daffily myopic response.”

“It has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it. I’m still trying to figure out how this could be… I think of it as a harbinger of things to come.”

The seminal graphic novel Maus has been in the news a lot lately.  Usually, it's a cause for celebration when comics are being talked about to such a degree, but this time sadly, the attention comes from a moronically misguided decision by a Tennessee school board.  The McMinn County School board in Tennessee voted 10-0 in favor of banning the graphic novel from its schools.

Maus is not only widely regarded as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, it is also considered one of the greatest books of the 20th century.   The novel, told in two parts, tells of author Art Spiegelman's father's experience as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust.  It tells the story through a bit of allegory, with mice representing the Jewish people, cats representing the Nazis, and ethnic Poles as pigs.  And the novel provides an unflinching portrayal of the horrors of the Holocaust.  A cartoonist by trade, Spiegelman preferred the comic form because it forced you to look.

Because it is an unsanitized account, the graphic novel does have eight mild curses and a small drawing of nude female mouse (a very small image of a mother in a bathtub having committed suicide by slitting her wrists).  The board cited the reasons, as well as mentions of murder, violence, and suicide as part of its decision. “The values of the county are understood. There is some rough, objectionable language in this book, and knowing that and hearing from many of you and discussing it, two or three of you came by my office to discuss that,McMinn County Director of Schools Lee Parkison said during the board meeting.

"There's only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days."
Neil Gaiman, on Twitter in response

I shouldn't be surprised, but I always am.  This is just another part of the fear of education.  Make no mistake, there is a significant portion of us that is truly afraid of education.  Afraid of the power of education.  How it can affect people, how it can change them, how it can move us.  This is the same impetus behind the seditious parental voice in education laws, behind Iowa's proposal to add cameras to every school so parents can livestream their child's classroom.  It's behind the opposition to critical race theory, behind the Indiana laws requiring teachers not to comment on the morality of history or political positions, and to deny them the ability to ask a student's opinion on anything.

It denies that children have any independent value on their own.  They are merely an extension of their parents will.  And they are to be instructed in only what their parent wishes them to be instructed, so that they believe exactly as their parents believe.

A child cannot be allowed to have independent thought.  That would not do.  Because their mind might be changed.

To that end, teachers must be only babysitters.  They become extensions of the parent's in providing only the instruction on topics they agree to and with.  Children are clones to be programmed with that content.  And that content must be carefully screened.  Anything offensive, anything challenging, anything that doesn't fit the norm must be removed.

We know the truth, though.  History is never on the side of those who burn books.  They may have their time for a moment, but the truth will out.  And it would seem to be the definition of futility to ban books from a school library and curriculum when most of those kids have access to anything and everything in their pocket.  But then again, it's not about reality, it's about control.

It is a consolation that Maus has returned as the number one best seller on Amazon.  A nearby comic store in Knoxville offered to provide every student of the schools with a copy of the book.  More people are talking about Maus now, than they were just a few weeks ago.  And more people are talking about the Holocaust than they were a few weeks ago.

With that, maybe just maybe, we can learn from history.  And that can help keep us from repeating it.

“If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change.”
Ray Bradury, Farenheit 451

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Groundhog Day 2022

"Then put you're little hand in mine, there ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb..."

Well, the little bear rat in Pennsylvania saw his shadow, so supposedly we're in for six more weeks of winter.  Looking at our forecast up here for the next couple of weeks, I'm inclined to believe him, especially with this impending winter storm. 

An odd custom, tracing back to German traditions regarding Candlemas and the bear, then the badger.  Really it seems at some point, any hibernating mammal would have sufficed.

United States groundhog day itself dates back to the 1840s, with the round woodchuck in Pennsylvania identified as Punxsutawney Phil starting in 1886.  As weather forecasters go, this little rodent is either really good or pretty terrible.  Part of the problem is defining what an "early spring" means; depending on your definition, his accuracy is somewhere between 28% and 70%.

Phil has become an international film superstar thanks to the movie surrounding his holiday.  His co-stars had nothing but good things to say about working with him.*  This success has also translated into Broadway fame.  Shockingly, he is also a wanted felon, with outstanding warrants for his arrest Butler County, Ohio, Merrimack, New Hampshire, and Monroe County, Pennsylvania dating back to 2013, 2015, and 2018, respectively.  For fraud, naturally.

Whatever your feelings on the groundhog, I must say, the Wikipedia article on Punxsutawney Phil is extremely entertaining.  It reads a bit like a defeated and sarcastic conspiracy theory gone awry.  Well worth a look.

*with Bill Murray's recent behavior, perhaps we could change the day to check to see if Mr. Murray sees his shadow and what his prognostication is.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Lunar New Year 2022


Xin Nian Kuai Le

Today marks the start of the Lunar New Year.  Derived from the Chinese New Year, it is celebrated in China, as well as neighboring Asian countries like Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia.  

This year is the Year of the Tiger, the third of the twelve year cycle.  

As with our western new year, while our celebrations may look a little different this year, I hope that this lunar cycle ahead is a joyful and prosperous one for you and yours.  Things here are already shaping up to be an exciting and adventurous year ahead, hopefully a return to a bit of the familiar.

Happy New Year!

Congratulations and be prosperous! May your happiness and longevity be complete!