"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Primitive Pete's Life Lessons

My favorite time in eighth-grade wood shop was watching the educational films--the best of which was The ABC of Hand Tools, starring the inimitable, Primitive Pete. That young fella couldn't understand why everything he did in his shop went wrong, because he did everything right. No one could convince him otherwise. Pete's specialty was multipurpose tools, which included all tools. His favorite was the claw hammer. It was designed to work with screwdrivers, files or virtually any other tool. In fact, claw hammers would do anything but drive nails. For that he used a monkey wrench. Primitive Pete has millions of kindred spirits in today's culture. For instance, there's Primitive Pia, whose definition of physical attractiveness includes a deep, tawny skin tone. The obvious best choice for that outcome is the infrared tanning bed, or in mid-summer, the sun. Skin cancer? That's for wimps and old folks. If you were to tell her that regular tanning multiplies her likelihood of getting melanoma, she'd just look at you vacantly, check her cell phone and run off for her next tanning appointment. Does she know that melanoma is one of the hardest cancers to eradicate? Does she know that melanoma has to be cut out of the flesh, leaving massive scars in her toasted skin? Poor, prematurely aged Primitive Pia won't find that one bit attractive. Then there's Primitive Perry, whose hormones force him to pursue sexual contact with anything that breathes. Hugh Hefner is his idle, and the Playboy bunny is his icon. Multiple partners are cool, 'cause variety is the spice of life. But Perry doesn't notice that the more he indulges his hormones, the less control he has over his life. He becomes as two-dimenstional and shallow as the porn he's addicted to, and each "conquest" gives him less satisfaction. Ultimate frustration awaits poor, emotionally repressed Primitive Perry, driven by his drive to avoid it. Primitive Pricilla's singular passion is to look like Hollywood's skeletal starlets who grace gossip magazines' covers. If she can't reach that ideal, she believes she will surely die. Trouble is, no matter how hard she exercises and diets, no matter how thin she gets, she always sees thirty pounds of fat flabbing back at her from the mirror. And though she believes she will die if she doesn't reach her ideal look, poor, emaciated Primitive Pricilla will most surely die if she keeps trying. Primitive Preston simply must reach the crest of corporate success. That materialistic mania consumes his every waking moment--every dream. Hard work, endless hours and cut corners are the rule of his life. Relationships? No time for that. Family? It can wait. What won't wait is the heart attack lurking in poor, rich, powerful Primitive Preston's not-so-distant future. Success is a fickle lover. Primitive Pieper won't feel complete without a dominant male in her life. The more dominant the better. His belittlement and beatings aren't fun, but she loves him, and he always says he's sorry. If she gives him a chance he's bound to change. Hopefully it will happen before he completely looses control, and as so many women have done before her, poor, battered, unworthy Primitive Pieper dies at her lover's hand. Perhaps the most pitiful of all is Primitive Porfirieo, who recognizes his spiritual component and spends his life pursuing spiritual fulfillment. Porfirieo intimately knows all of history's philosophers, enlightened ones and holy men, having studied each exhaustively. He's frustrated, though, because none of them have it quite right. To remedy their individual philosophies' shortcomings, Porfirieo creates his own enlightenment based on the best of all the others. He may even manage to attract a few disciples ... and their money, but he always remains "teachable," open to the best of what's new in spiritual enlightenment. Porfirieo loves Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and even Yogi Bear. But following just one of them because He said He was the only way to the Father is out of the question. Porfirieo knows it can't be that easy. You have to figure it all out and come to an enlightened state of existence by your own works. Poor prideful, Primitive Porfirieo. God hasn't a chance against his personal wisdom.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

60 Minutes II comment

"Geepers?" Gimme a break. Steve Hartman's "pushing the limits of indecency" pushed the limits of credibility. Yes, I understand all journalists' revulsion toward censorship. The cure is, in fact, far worse than the disease. Our societal mores, however, are fast auguring in to the Pop Culture cesspool, a putrefying latrine that our entertainment media fills daily. And we, the people, are so used to the stench that it seems perfectly normal.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Idiots Savant

Before you click on the link in this post, I must offer a disclaimer: PLIM.org proclaims some ... shall we say ... unique doctrine relating to a special, "divine revelation," supposedly received by a Dr. H. C. Kinley back in the 80s. The problem is some of it sounds reasonable. But remember this: All convincing lies wear the cloak of truth. An article by Lee Warren, of PLIM.org treated the subject of "idiots savant" in a fascinating way, but ignored one possible explanation as to where they get the knowledge that enables their narrow-but-deep range of ability. I've observed developmentally disabled people trying to grasp information and concepts. While learning is as complex as any other human ability, some aspects seem fairly consistent across the board. One is what I might call "the light bulb factor": given enough information, the cognitive light bulb blinks on. Compared to a genius, I'm a decidedly dim bulb, and idiots are about that dim when compared to me. When I see or otherwise sense something, my neural, sensory-receptor system converts the stimulus to electrochemical patterns. My brain automatically tries to match those patterns with others already residing in memory. If no match occurs, I experience confusion and disorientation. When even an approximate match occurs, my mind drags all the related data out of hiding for comparison with the new information. Those comparisons are then stored for future comparisons, and so on. Sensory input, however, isn't the only source of neural stimulation. The mind also creates a cognitive database, corresponding to the sensory one, of conceptual interpretations of outside thoughts, ideas and concepts that run parallel with sensory stimulation analyses. What we call creative thought is simply oblique sequences of relational database hits, processed to become "new" ideas. In fact, nothing is really new, but simply fresh interactions of old information, rather like a cow chewing her cud. Everything we sense or think contributes to that bi-polar, relational database. In some people, however, the process of analyzing what they sense is skewed. Due to an organic inability to correctly assign stimuli to the corresponding faculties, the broad range of sensory information is processed in terms of the one receptive faculty, giving the affected person the appearance of genius in that one area. Most of us have looked through color filtering material to see that filtering effect in action. A red filter makes all red objects in the field of view look white, due to our visual cortex automatically adjusting to the filter's overall color cast. The red-tinted picture with the white stop sign seems perfectly normal. That is analogous to the skewed perceptions mentioned above. Because its only frame of reference is itself, the perceptually-challenged mind seems, to itself, perfectly normal. The idiot savant is an extreme example of the "normal" skewing within each mind's conceptual structure. We all have "blind spots" in our thought process, just as we have blind spots in our visual field. Our marvelous brains, the creation of our infinitely MORE marvelous Savior, accommodate to missing or skewed information so they can continue functioning with minimal disruption. Part of the social adjustment process called maturing is realizing that we have such blind spots in our frames of reference. And once we reach that realization, we must seek a source of objective, unskewed information--or maybe I should say, the only Source of objective Truth: the self-existent, eternal One.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

And The Greatest of These ...

God's Word, especially passages like Psalm 119, urge passion, and even zeal, in our response to His revelation. After all, it contains, in finite form, God's infinite mind. The Bible, however, is nothing as long as it remains only ink on paper. His Holy Spirit transforms those static impressions into His living, holy, sufficient Word when a human mind reads, absorbs and meditates on them, and not before. But even then, the finite number of decidedly finite, human minds can only glean a finite, albeit astronomical, amount of Truth from those holy words. That leaves the surface of His Word unscratched by all our human digging. Since we humans seem motivated more by fear than by conviction, I must admit to a fear concerning the many campaigns to defend God's Word and the teachings it contains. 1Co 8:1 says, "... Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." We must guard against that pride in our knowledge, our work, our scholarship and our teachings. We must exercise even more zeal in guarding against such puffing up than we exercise in our quest for, and proclaiming of, Truth. When the Pharisee lawyer asked Yeshua which was the great commandment in the law, Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40) Of all the legal intricacies Yeshua could have expounded; of all the New Testament principles He could have emphasized, he chose to teach love's preeminence. Regardless how vigorously we defend God's beloved Word, we must first obey His Greatest Commandments. If we fail in that commission we instantly adopt the pharisaical spirit that impaled Yeshua to His ignominious death. If we fail to FIRST love God, which includes loving what He expressed of Himself in creation, we have failed His law in all respects. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) Simon Peter's simple statement exemplifies the depth of God's Word, because in those few words he summarized the entire Bible. God's love for humanity, expressed through Yeshua's sacrifice, covered the multitude of sins. Praise the eternal, self-existent God!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Radical Prison Reform Pattern

Why does the correctional system insist on "socializing" prisoners who's behavior is characterized by anti-social behavior. Such predators target less violent prisoners, often perpetrating inhumane, even heinous, crimes against them. And the popular image of prison staff has many of them complicit with such unthinkable behavior through their overt, sadistic cooperation, their black-market profiteering or through unconscionable negligence. If that is indeed an issue, why not build maximum-security prisons with only solitary cells, where all the prisoners' needs, including feeding, exercise, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, medical care and recreation are provided right there? I envision a waterproof, climate-controlled cell where all sleeping and sitting surfaces go straight to the floor--no hiding places. A tray would lower from the ceiling with food(no utensils), flushable paper clothing or anything else the prisoner might need. Speaking of flushing, a bidet instead of a conventional commode would eliminate toilet backups. Cleaning--both of the prisoner and the cell--would take place with a daily shower, followed by a drying stream of warm air. A built-in treadmill and various hand holds would provide exercise. A computer terminal with the monitor behind a transparent, wall panel, a membrane keyboard with built-in trackball, and extensive, non-violent educational and entertainment resources would provide screened stimulation and communication. That same computer monitor would double as a specially-programmed entertainment and visitor access system. Any necessary physical visitation, such as with a physician, a dentist or a barber, would have at least two guards in accompaniment, be recorded from at least two sides to prohibit hidden actions, and anonymous, independent oversight personnel would review and account for every instant. All corrections personnel would be warned on placement that even one prisoner-involved procedural violation would result in their termination. There would be no "corrupt guards." Isolation and surveillance are justified by violent prisoners' antisocial behavior patterns, which thrive on concealed physical contact with their victims. When people act like dangerous animals, treat them like dangerous animals. While the initial investment would be sizable, costs of inmate care and facility maintenance would be minimal. Just think: no addiction, predation, violence, escapes, vandalism or criminal mentoring. Something has to change in our violent, corrupt penal system. Why not make the changes thoughtful, functional and fundamental?