I enjoy most episodes of the TV show, NCIS, but one I watched recently left me more than usually disturbed. To strip the show of all the redeeming and mitigating features, not to mention the whole rest of the complex episode, what happened was that a man used a hidden camera to videotape a couple of women in an undressed state, and put the videos online. Wrong. Immoral. Creepy. And it's true that one difference between now and BI (Before the Internet) is that such pictures never go away. It's bad. I don't deny it. I don't want to think about how I might react if someone did that to one of our daughters or granddaughters—or grandsons, for that matter.
But still, I think the show is a good example of the overreaction I'm seeing all too often these days. We've gone from ignoring and minimizing the problem of some forms of misbehavior to giving them unwonted significance. As C. S. Lewis once said, in pondering the existence of devils, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them." In the NCIS episode, the event causes one of the women to commit suicide and the other to exult in the murder of the man she believes to have ruined her life forever. And our NCIS heroes reinforce the belief that the cameraman has done irreparable, irredeemable, unforgiveable damage.
What's wrong with this scenario? When people have been violated, when terrible things have happened to them, it's good and right to acknowledge the wrongfulness of the action, to allow them to grieve as much as they need to, and to take action to prevent similar incidents. But are we doing the victims any favors by encouraging them to believe they are ruined forever? That they can never escape what has happened to them? I'm going out on a dangerous limb here, because I've never had an offense that great to recover from—and my track record for forgiving much lesser offenses isn't all that good anyway. But aren't we in danger of perpetuating the crimes, giving eternal power to the victimizers and plunging the victims into helplessness and hopelessness? Condemning them to a life trying to avoid "triggers" the way someone with severe food allergies must live in fear of what that innocent-looking appetizer might have come in contact with?
I think we can do better.
The trigger for this post? Just two days after the NCIS show, I read this Salon article by a former college professor. ("I believed in trigger warnings when I taught a course on sex and film. Then they drove me out of the academy.") WARNING: The article is definitely not grandchild-safe. The author was teaching about "the evolution of the representation of sex throughout American Cinema." You'd think that alone would be warning enough that students would be seeing disturbing images and discussing topics that would make them uncomfortable. I should imagine that anyone signing up for such a class would know what he was getting into. "My classes were about race, gender, and sexuality. These are inherently uncomfortable topics that force students to think critically about their privilege and their place in the hierarchy of this world."
You couldn't pay me enough to take such a course. I have full sympathy with the students who complained about some of the scenes they were expected to watch. What astounds me is the students' (often conflicting) demands to control the content of the class. I didn't take many liberal arts classes in college, so I can't say for sure that it didn't happen then, but I'm almost certain the professors would have responded, "You aren't strong enough to handle my class? Then don't take it." I can only hope this nonsense hasn't infected the physical sciences. (Professor, your statement that 7t x 2 = 14t reminds me of my fourth grade teacher, who used to swat my hand for not knowing the times tables. You need to warn me when you are going to use arithmetic, so I can skip class. And you can't penalize me for not knowing what you taught in my absence.)
A couple of weeks later, graduate students at the University of Kansas demanded that a professor be fired, because they were offended when she uttered the word, "nigger," even in the almost-abjectly humble context that it was hard for her to know how to talk about race relations because, being white, she had not experienced racism herself. "It’s not like I see ‘Nigger’ spray painted on walls…” One complaining student wrote, "I was incredibly shocked that the word was spoken, regardless of the context. ... I turned to the classmate sitting next to me and asked if this was really happening. Before I left the classroom, I was in tears."
She was in tears. She was unbelievably shocked at the mere utterance of a word, in a context of support and attempted understanding. On a college campus where I guarantee other offensive words are flung around frequently, casually, and often with intent to offend. And she is a graduate student, not a second grader. How can one get to the graduate school level and still be so fragile?
Life is hard. For people who have had to deal all their lives with discrimination and racism, with poverty, abuse, illness, handicaps, or other challenges, life is much harder. By what kind of cruel, twisted logic does society encourage someone facing such difficulties to think of herself as weak?
This letter to the Free-Range Kids blog shows a more helpful attitude. (It's probably also not grandchild-safe, depending on the grandchild.) As a child, the man was repeatedly, sexually groped by his barber, and only much later realized what had been going on. In the letter he takes pains not to justify the barber's actions, but neither will he dignify them by assuming they ruined his life. "Try as I may, I cannot summon outrage at the pathetic man who assaulted me. Nor can I conclude that I am any worse for the wear. ... I enjoy a normal life including a healthy-though-unremarkable sex life."
Things happen to us. Good things. Bad things. Sometimes horrible things. They are all part of the material that makes us who we are, and I'm convinced that how we handle them is more important than the events themselves. What can we do to empower those who have been through terrible times to be overcomers rather than perpetual victims?
This is possibly the best use ever of cute pet photos:
When Belgian police asked witnesses not to tweet officers' movements during raids targeting terrorism suspects across the country's capital, the Internet reacted in perhaps the only way it knows how: with cats.
Belgians ... seized the #BrusselsLockdown hashtag to post jovial photos of feline friends on Sunday.
While ostensibly frivolous, the viral meme's effect was threefold. It enforced the Twitter radio silence, buried any tweets that might harm the operations, and eased some of the tension in what has become an anxious city.
The video in the article is short and worth watching.
Lullaby by Steph Shaw
Here's a shoutout to our very talented cousin-in-law. (If there's a word for "son-in-law's cousin" I don't know it.) Steph Shaw is a singer-songwriter and the mother of three adorable girls. "Lullaby" was written with the first, recorded with the second, and released with the third.
Naptime. It's what you make of it.
Enjoy! And don't forget to check out Steph's Facebook page.
Did you ever imagine that a story about a carjacking could make you smile? Especially one where the car was stolen with a child inside? Read this story from Free-Range Kids.
When the thieves realized they had stolen an eight-year-old boy along with the car, they asked him where he wanted to get out, and he answered with the name of his elementary school—which is where his mother had been taking him when she stopped to do a quick errand. The thieves obliged.
My favorite line of the story is Lenore Skenazy's:
So the real moral of the story is this: Kids need better training. When carjacked and asked, “Where would you like to go?” they should be ready to reply, “GameStop,” or perhaps, “McDonald’s.” This unprepared kid was involved in a real life Grand Theft Auto and didn’t even get to even miss first period.
My Dear French Brothers and Sisters,
Fourteen years ago we stood where you stand today. While no two experiences, much less cultures, are alike, I will venture to make a prediction: In the midst of the horror you will experience something wonderful: You will be a united country, with opposing factions coming together in their humanity; you will find yourselves giving and receiving unusual kindnesses; and people from all over the world will express their sympathy and support. Strangers will reach out to strangers, as you have done with #portesouvertes. You will be a little more friendly on the Métro, and more patient on the highways. You will stand a little taller, work a little harder, and be a lot more grateful for the people in your lives. You will be yourselves, only better.
Hang onto that.
If you follow in our footsteps, one day you will realize the glimpse of heaven has gone. You will catch yourself cursing the driver who cuts you off. In your impatience you will scream at your kids. Facing someone who disagrees with you, you will once again see a fool or a devil instead of a human being.
Don't let go of the only good gift the terrorists have left behind.
Make no mistake: You are, indeed, at war. War is being made against you, and you have three choices: You can ignore it, you can shrink into isolationism, or you can stand up to your foes. History has shown that the first two options never work for long. The third is costly on many fronts and doesn't always work, either, but it is where hope and honor reside.
How can we stand against such an enemy?
I admire M. Hollande's determination to act with “all the necessary [lawful] means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies.” Timidity would only strengthen such a foe, to everyone's loss.
That is what the government can do: the military actions, the large-scale policy decisions, the intelligence gathering and analysis. But what is the role of a citizen? What can everyone do to defeat the terrorists? Here's what I think:
- When we continue to live our ordinary lives and do our ordinary work without giving in to our fears, we are fighting terrorism. Fear is the enemy's most powerful and effective weapon.
- When we refuse to let our anger turn us against the innocent, we are fighting terrorism. Injustice, especially toward the powerless and the hopeless, fertilizes the terrorists' recruiting ground.
- When we make an effort to become friends with those of other nations, cultures, and beliefs, we are fighting terrorism. A faceless, dehumanized enemy is so much easier to kill.
- When we acknowledge, study, appreciate, and build up the good that is unique to our own heritage, while recognizing the same in others, we are fighting terrorism. Our enemies would like to see every culture and belief that is not its own erased from history. If we will not honor and protect our own cultures, history, and ancestors, who will?
- When we resist the hatred that rises within our own selves, we are fighting terrorism. If we become like our enemies, we have handed them the victory.
- When we allow our unbearable pain to be the soil from which grow acts of kindness, attention to the needs of others, expressions of love and appreciation, and attitudes of patience and mercy, we are fighting terrorism. Bringing good out of our sorrow removes a potent instrument of torture from the enemy's hands.
- When we can hold on to both the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove, we can fight terrorism. Keeping the balance puts the battle on our terms, not theirs.
Know that as an American I speak as much to my own country as to yours. We have not set the best example in grappling with our common enemy. Work together with us and all who seek justice, freedom, and peace to find the right path.
Vive la France!
I've known the tune of La Marseillaise for as long as I can remember, along with the first two lines.
Not till two days ago did I pay attention to the rest of the French national anthem. Here's the first, most commonly sung verse (from Wikipedia).
|French lyrics||English translation|
|Allons enfants de la Patrie,||Arise, children of the Fatherland,|
|Le jour de gloire est arrivé!||The day of glory has arrived!|
|Contre nous de la tyrannie,||Against us tyranny's|
|L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)||Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)|
|Entendez-vous dans les campagnes||Do you hear, in the countryside,|
|Mugir ces féroces soldats?||The roar of those ferocious soldiers?|
|Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras||They're coming right into your arms|
|Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!||To cut the throats of your sons, your women!|
|Aux armes, citoyens,||To arms, citizens,|
|Formez vos bataillons,||Form your battalions,|
|Marchons, marchons!||Let's march, let's march!|
|Qu'un sang impur||Let an impure blood|
|Abreuve nos sillons! (bis)||Water our furrows! (repeat)|
I'm sure the French don't usually ponder the meaning of the words any more than we think of war instead of fireworks when we sing about "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air." But two days ago, ferocious men—I'd rather not dignify a terrorist with the honorable title of soldier—did come right into their arms to cut the throats of their innocent loved ones.
Who prays for Europe? Europe has it all, right? Europe is the motherland of Western Culture, and, in many ways, of the Church. Europe is First World, wealthy, mostly democratic. We once belonged to a church that sponsored a missionary family in France, but as valuable as was the work they were doing, they still had to endure from others not only jokes but also serious questions about why they were wasting time and money in Western Europe instead of some place more needy. Missionaries, humanitarian aid, and prayers should be focussed on Darkest Africa and Remotest Asia, right?
No place, era, or person is beyond the need of fervent, effectual prayer. Hubris thinks that which stands tall cannot be toppled; complacence is blind to enemies without and decay within; envy forgets the lesson of Richard Cory.
Europe is facing a grave economic crisis in the financial insolvency and insupportable policies of Greece (with other countries not far behind). This is no less of a potential catastrophe than it was before it was swept from the headlines by the waves of desperate refugees flooding Europe from their terrorist-ravaged homes-that-are-no-longer-home in the Middle East.
European leaders, the Church in Europe, and all European citizens need the the wisdom of the serpent as well as the harmlessness of the dove. They need open hearts to welcome, comfort, and support those who have lost so much. They need open eyes to discern those who would use the humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to infect European countries with the ideals and weapons of terrorism. They need wisdom to receive a foreign culture without losing their own unique identities.
In short, they need our prayers.
I'm glad Veterans Day didn't suffer long from the Monday holiday craze and retains the connection with "the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month." History is also worth remembering.
It must often be so...when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King)
Thank you, all veterans and current members of our armed forces.
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, American Episcopal Church, 1979)
I've neglected to keep track of our choir anthems lately, but here are some for the most recent weeks:
A Prayer for Peace (Henry Baker/Karissa Dennis, Shawnee Press, 35030316) With cello.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (Eric Nelson, MorningStar Music Publishers, 50-8970) With cello and oboe.
Holy, Holy, Holy (Robert Clatterbuck, Hope Publishing Company, C 5470). No YouTube video, so the link takes you to the anthem on sheetmusicplus.
Look at the World (John Rutter, Hinshaw Music, NMC1527) Always lovely, always Rutter.
They Shall Soar Like Eagles (Laura Manzo, Fred Brock Music, BG2078)
Kum Ba Yah (John Rutter, Hinshaw Music, HMC2435) (No YouTube; the link takes you to the anthem on J.W. Pepper).
This is simple but not just your father's campfire song (or yours); this is Rutter. According to the notes in our bulletin,
When composer John Rutter heard the news that his close friend Nelson Mandela had died, he couldn't speak and walked to the piano and created the arrangement of Kum Ba Yah.
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson, 2012)
I learned of Bob Goff through reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. To me, the story of how Goff and his family became friends with heads of state from around the world was by far the best part of the book. But I never followed up, never looked further into the man and what he might be doing.
It was Janet who tossed his name back in my direction. She distills the best of Love Does in her post at Blue Ocean Families, so be sure to read it.
I could say that Bob Goff is the anti-me, both good and bad. He epitomizes extroversion and spontaneity. He cares little for details and less for the kind of theology that involves studying. He is a loose cannon—at first I wondered why all those non-profit organizations turned down his offer of the services of his law firm, gratis, but now I think I know why they wanted someone more predictable, if also more expensive and less creative.
However, I am inclined to believe that the Bob Goff who shows up in this book is an exaggeration of his character for dramatic effect: Surely no one can succeed as a lawyer, not to mention as the head of a non-profit organization, without caring more for structure, organization, and planning than the man portrayed here.
Take your ten-year-old daughter on a spur-of-the-moment trip to London, without the least idea of what you're going to do, not even where you're going to stay? Okay, I can see that. They speak English (of a sort) there, he's an experienced traveller, and he has enough money to fund last-minute air fares and hotel stays.
Take your ten-your-old son climbing Half Dome in a blizzard, on purpose? As one with personal connections to the expert and experienced climbers who perished on Mt. Hood in 2006 due to unexpected bad weather, this strikes me as less adventuresome than plain stupid, even if it turned out to be a great experience for them both.
I have to believe that Goff was much more prepared for both adventures than he lets on.
There's no doubt, however, that a good deal of that preparation was provided by a lifetime of sponanteous action. Bob Goff lived the "just do it" slogan long before it became a Nike ad, and his life is a testimony to the incredible things that can arise from that attitude. As Janet's article states, what he has done is so amazing that it's hard to imagine him as a role model for us ordinary mortals. But he certainly can be an inspiration.
To that end, I do not necessarily recommend reading Love Does. At least not first. Instead, go to Goff's website. You'll get a good introduction there, and his informal style works better in a speech or on a blog than in a book.
It was in the fifteenth chapter that I learned why the style of Love Does bothers me so.
Don is a friend of mine. He's written a bunch of books. ... Don actually played a big part in this book. He would review what I wrote and tell me to keep working on it or take it out of the book. Sometimes he'd tell me to start over entirely or tell me what to do to make it better.
That's right; the above-mentioned Don Miller, whose style rubbed me the wrong way in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, was the primary influence on how Goff wrote his book.
Here's an example of his fingernails-on-the-blackboard style, which I acknowledge some will enjoy. Just not me, if it's in a book or other formal publication.
In the Bible there's a guy named Timothy who gets a letter from another guy named Paul.
What also sets my teeth on edge is the number of times I've groaned, "Didn't anybody read this book before publishing it?" I don't blame Goff so much—it's hard to find the errors in one's own writing. But where were the proofreaders and editors here? Where was Don Miller? How, for example, could they publish "laundry mat" instead of "laundromat," "cast" instead of "caste," "track homes" instead of "tract homes," and "chalks" instead of "chocks" (the last from his website)?
I'm nitpicking, you say, and you're right. Neither the style nor the errors negate the value of what Bob Goff has to say. Nevertheless, there's a reason even the most brilliant job-seeker is advised to dress appropriately for his employment interview, and the most innocent (as well as the most guilty) defendant to ditch the nose ring and cover the tats for a court appearance. Even Bill Gates has assistants to keep his personality quirks from reducing his effectiveness.
Okay, I'm done with the complaints. Bob Goff is amazing, and inspiring. I just need to find my own path to being secretly incredible.
I think God's hope and plan for us is pretty simple to figure out. For those who resonate with formulas, here it is: add your whole life, your loves, your passions, and your interests together with what God said He wants us to be about, and that's your answer. If you want to know the answer to the bigger question—what's God's plan for the whole world?—buckle up, it's us.
Being secretly incredible goes against the trend that says to do anything incredible you have to buy furniture and a laptop, start an organization, have a mission statement and labor endlessly over a statement of faith. Secretly incredible people just do things. ... [T]he task would probably be even nobler if we didn't talk about it and just did it instead. It's not about being secretive or mysterious or exclusive. it's about doing capers without any capes.
Sometimes my clients have to be deposed, which means they are the ones asked questions by the other guys' lawyers. It can feel intimidating with a big room full of lawyers all staring at you. So when my clients are being deposed, I tell them all the same thing each time: sit in the chair and answer the questions, but do it with your hands palms up the whole time. I tell them to literally have the backs of their hands on their knees and their palms toward the bottom of the table.
I'm very serious about this. ... When their palms are up, they have an easier time being calm, honest, and accurate. And this is important, because it's harder for them to get defensive. When people get angry or defensive they tend to make mistakes.
If you're like me, I'd ask myself at the end of a book called Love Does—so what do I do? It can be a tough question to answer, honestly, but it can also be an easy one. Let me tell you want I do when I don't know what to do to move my dreams down the road. I usually just try to figure out what the next step is and then do that. ... What's your next step? I don't know for sure, because for everyone it's different, but I bet it involves choosing something that already lights you up. Something you already think is beautiful or lasting and meaningful. Pick something you aren't just able to do; instead, pick something you feel like you were made to do and then do lots of that.
On the face of it, July - September was a slow quarter for my 95 by 65 project. I completely only three goals in the three-month period:
- #57 Finish chronological Bible reading plan
- #37 Share at least 20 meals with others (home or restaurant, but not counting multi-day visits more than once or shared meals already in place)
- #94 Rocket boost photo work (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks)
To complete my goals by age 65, I need to average slightly over three goals per month, not per quarter.
Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm still not worried. Not by the numbers, anyway, because I know I'm making progress on many goals that by their nature take a long time to complete.
I do, however, continue to be ever-cognizant of the preciousness of time. When I look at the imposing quantity of time necessary for some of my projects, and watch the calendar on my phone tick over another day with such relentless frequency, it's hard to shake a minor but persistent panic. I'm keep in mind the following quote from George MacDonald, but have yet to succeed in working it out in my daily life:
He that believes shall not make haste. There is plenty of time. You must not imagine that the result depends on you, or me. The question is, are you having a hand in the work God is doing? It shows no faith in God to make frantic efforts or lamentations. God will do his work in his time in his way. Our responsibility is merely to stand ready and available and to go where he sends us and do what comes our way.
Another problem is that crossing goals off my list doesn't necessarily cross them out of my daily life. Completing my "try new restaurants" goal doesn't mean we stop going out to eat, and finishing one Bible reading plan merely means beginning another. Recently I completed Goal #65 Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points. Yet that completion won't gain me any time, at least I hope not, because I'm finding the DuoLingo lessons both enjoyable and valuable and plan to continue the work. I can't let that suffer the fate of #16 Practice deliberate relaxation twice a day for a month, which did me so much good I intended to keep up the practice after meeting the goal, but.... I do intend to restart it, I do.
I have always disliked the "bucket list" idea. I'm not sure why; perhaps my deep-seated anxiety about time as a limited resource rebels at the name—as yet another, mocking, reminder. The 95 by 65 list serves me well as a way to achieve the concentrated attention of a bucket list with a more immediate and optimistic focus.
That's the Swiss: chill, neutral, and convinced that Americans dress funny every day of the year. Mallard Fillmore from the day before the Swiss celebrate All Saints' Day.
Porter read a review of The Martian that made him want to see it in a theater instead of waiting for it to become available on Netflix.
I believe the previous time we watched a movie in the theater was Christmas of 2013, when we saw part two of The Hobbit with some of our nephews and their friends. The social aspect seems to me about the only reason to go to a theater, and even for that I prefer watching at home, since at the theater you can't pause the movie to discuss it, nor rewind to catch a bit of dialogue you missed.
Another reason is for the sensory experience of the large screen and speakers, and in this case, the 3D effects. These are largely lost on me: I'm just as happy with the picture on our relatively small-screen TV, and I wear earplugs to protect my ears from the booming speakers. I have little experience with 3D movies beyond the kind they have at Disney World—where things jump out at you and are accompanied by puffs of air at your legs and vibrations of your seat. For The Martian the effects were simply visual, with nothing even to make me jump, and I don't think it added anything to the film, certainly not enough to warrant wearing the annoying glasses. Then again, I'm not one to be all that aware of dimensionality in the real world, so your mileage may vary.
The movie itself? It was good. Unusually good. I'm not much of a movie fan, and it takes a lot to get a "good" rating out of me. I'm told that The Martian is unusually true to the book, which was unusually well-researched and true to the science and engineering behind space travel. For people like us, who grew up in the era of manned space exploration, it does ring (mostly) true, not only in the technical aspects but also in the characters, from astronauts to politicians. It's an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a satisfying ending. I'd recommend it heartily were it not for one disturbing problem.
Why, O why do novelists and filmmakers believe they must include gratuitous profanity in their works? The Martian is otherwise SFG (Safe For Grandchildren), and I should be happy enough that this is a popular, mainstream, modern movie with neither sex nor shootouts. Instead there's resourcefulness, loyalty, determination, and celebration of both cooperative work and the lone-ranger nerd. But the bad language added less to the film than the 3D effects—and was more annoying than the special glasses—while taking a valuable, educational, and inspirational experience off the table for some boys I know who would have enjoyed it a lot.
Bad language aside—and there's not that much of it—if you liked Apollo 13, you won't want to miss The Martian.
We're 47th in line at the library for the book.
Rather cool, even if we do all have our mouths open. (Click to enlarge, or follow this link.)
Porter loves bougainvilleas—so do I, though not nearly with the same passion—and years ago planted some out front. He was so disappointed when they seemed to make little progress, and didn't bloom much.
Well, I don't know what happened, but in the last year or so they seemed to be determined to make up for those years all at once. One of the bushes is growing so aggressively that its thorns threatened people attempting to walk to our front door. I did briefly consider leaving it that way as a deterrent to solicitors, but since that would exclude Girl Scout cookies and LBHS Band apples, I gave up the idea. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Instead, Porter built a pergola. He build the basic structure in the garage at first, then moved to the driveway to replace the temporary stubs with the 10.5 foot legs. After he dug the holes, we (yes, just he and I) lifted it, in halves, and put it into place. Then after levelling, and settling, and fastening it back together, he added the rest of the top pieces ...
... and filled in the holes, and introduced the bougainvilleas to their new plaything ...
... and we have a pergola! Isn't it pretty? I particularly like the sculpting he did on the ends.