Jesus Dragged His Feet for Two Days

Martha sent for Jesus. She knew where he was. He dragged his feet for two days before coming (John 11:6) and her brother Lazurus died.

Martha knew it was Jesus‘ ‘fault‘. She said ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

Wouldn’t a more ordinary Martha have said ‘What in God's name took you so long?!’

Instead, she said: “Yet even now I know that whatever you ask God for, God will give you.”

John 11 is the go-to place if you are trying to explain the condition of the dead and the resurrection. I like that you can read a long passage and discuss it as you go; you don’t have to cherrypick here and there. It is always better if you don't have to hop around.

I learn something more each time I read the chapter, and I never noticed this little item about both Martha’s temperament and faith before.


Use it as a Metronome

Q: When my grandmother died, they decided to hold a huge lunch at a restaurant. Same thing when a cousin died. I heard that this is common for JW. Why?

A: Because it makes sense and is considerate. Some people have come from afar. Some are in no shape to cook. I don't think it is unique to Witnesses. I think it is more common than otherwise.

In cases of family, I remember in my youth people lamenting that the only time the whole family got together was for funerals., as though love itself would not suffice, but only an obligation. I finally decided to run with it. It is what it is. Death in this system of things is a natural course of life. Use it as a metronome, to reliably bring everyone together from time to time.

Kill two birds with one stone. Bring everyone together and use the power of family to help the bereaved one heal. Stay the course, and the time will come when there is no death.

  Wittner_metronome


"He Was a Good 'ol Boy, that Tom Harley, But He's Deeeaad Now!"

Leroy Whitehouse passed away the other night. I’ll miss that man. A tall, drawling, deep throated, 80-something-year-old black man from the deep south, I used to jest with him how I hoped he would one day give my funeral talk:


“Yeeeaass, he was a good ‘ol boy, that Tom Harley, but he’d deeeaad now! D_E_A_D!”


LeRoy would uninhibitedly offer comments to the 50/50 congregation about his younger days back home “working for the white man.” Or relate how even long term Bethelites are not perfect, illustrating it with a brother who declared “I don’t give a damn!” Taking the nervous titter in the audience for appreciation, he repackaged the line and ran it through two or three more times: “I don’t give a damn!”


I will miss him plenty. He was a friend.


They Welcomed Back Charlie Rose at CBSThisMoring

They welcomed back Charlie Rose on CBSThisMorning. He’d been off a few weeks for heart surgery. His colleagues made a great fuss over him. Even Trump said ‘Welcome back, Charlie. We missed you.’ Even CBS, who hates Trump, ran the clip. Who doesn’t like it when enemies come together? Image

You know, I switched to CBS mostly because of him, but I liked him better personally when he stuck with PBS. There, he had freedom to interview newsmakers at any length he chose – sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. He’s perceptive in his interviews, and that talent can’t come across on razzle-dazzle network TV. Did he sell out? Yes and no. He didn’t give up PBS. He simply went for more exposure. Goodness knows I go for more exposure. I want to sell my books, which I like.

If anyone sold out, it is Larry King years ago. When I first heard of him in the 70’s, he was interviewing newsmakers for three hours on-air. The first hour was one-on-one. The second and third was moderating questions from the call-in audience. But he sold out to someone, and pretty soon he they had him doing only puff-pieces with celebrities, which aren’t as good.

Nonetheless, who am I to say? A person can do what he/she wants with his/her career. Sometimes people tire of the present and want to move on. Is that so wrong? They wouldn’t be able to (in my eyes) degrade unless they were up there in the first place. I was furious with Mary Tyler Moore for sinking the Dick Van Dyke show by leaving for a solo career. But why should she not? She made shows of her own, which I didn’t like as well. Not that hers were bad, it is just that Dick Van Dyke’s was so good.

But is there not an overall sad component to this? Charlie once stated he has enjoyed a wonderful career because he has been able to know so many newsmakers. Are they really worth knowing? I’ll take brothers and sisters in my circuit any day.

And surely there is also something tragic about hitting maximum exposure just as you know the clock is about to run out. It is why I value the JW faith, for only they explain how that came to be, and how it will be remedied.


Speaking at the Metropolitan Funeral Home

I served 20 years in a city congregation that was two thirds black. There were several sisters with unbelieving mates, and some of those mates had issues. One would spend weeks at home where life would be 24/7 bliss. Then he would disappear into the streets for more weeks. Nobody knew if he would return or not. When he did, his wife always took him back.

His wife asked me to give his funeral talk. Though most avoided assignments like this, I relished them for the challenge of offering comfort amidst horrendous circumstances. I mean, when a guy gets knifed to death on a strange doorstep seeking drugs, how do you put a smilely face on that?

“Jimmy had some hang-ups,” I said, “and it is likely those hang-ups had something to do with his death,” I told mourners at the Metropolitan Funeral Home. “We all know it. We might as well say it. Only then can we begin to offer comfort. Like all of us, Jimmy was a combination of strengths and weaknesses. You never know for sure which will win out and sometimes you say ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

Look, this system is rough and it destroys people. When that happens, you don’t go moralizing over it. These were Bible type people, most of them not ours, so I read a lot of scriptures. But I also went heavy on his good traits, for he did have some. Few in the audience knew that he had graduated at SUNY Brockport and that he was a skilled pianist. I told of the happy times he would play piano at home.

I didn’t know how to conduct myself at the Metropolitan Funeral home. It was not my culture. I gathered that much was expected from the preacher (me) who conducted the funeral. I told the funeral director that I didn’t want to do it, for it would be phony. I would give my talk, sit down, and they could take over and I would do whatever they said. He told me that after his remarks I should lead everybody out the front door.

After his remarks, I led everyone out the front door. When I was almost there, I turned around to find they were way behind me all moving like snails. Of course they were way behind me all moving like snails – they had a casket to carry. I hadn’t thought of that. I doubled back and led them out at a snail’s pace, and felt a little uncomfortable doing so.

My most emotionally rewarding moment? When a Rochester police officer, approached me with tears in his eyes to thank me for speaking well of his brother. Emotional reward is all that counts. Though I have given many funeral talks, I have never charged a dime, as is the way with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I relate the event not to draw attention to myself. It was emotionally fulfilling giving the talk. It is emotionally fulfilling again telling of it. Image

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Playing With Dinosaurs

The kid at work thinks I'm old. He addresses me that way. “Hey, old man!” he says. It's all good-natured fun, or at any rate, I may as well let the little snot think I regard it as good-natured fun. I ask him if he's ever seen Fred Flintstone on TV.

“I knew that guy,” I tell him. “Not real well,” I admit. He was pretty old when I was a kid. He lived down the street, and my folks warned me to stay clear because he would barrel along in that foot-motor car of his...he sort of was a public menace as he got older.” [see Yabbadabba man] I used to play with dinosaurs when I was a kid, too. They were great fun. Downright mean as they got older, but not to you if you'd befriended them when they were small and cuddly. So I always did.

Aging's not so bad, because you can remember a lot of things, and can start to put them all into context. Youngsters don't remember anything different from the here and now. Pop says he did some of his best work at 60, an age I haven't touched yet, though I'm pushing it. (pushing it pretty hard, too) And wasn't it Andy Laguna who said he didn't mind getting older, since with each succeeding year, he found more reasons to be grateful to Jehovah? Hangups that you might have once had sort of resolve themselves as you get older. 'You don't really know anything before age 40,' I tell the kid. 'Oh, you can figure out how to use the toilet, and perhaps change the TV stations,' but real smarts don't kick in till later.

I did some calculating once, and figured that, per the Bible's chronology, a youngster who'd met Adam, when the latter was an old guy, might conceivably, when he himself had grown ancient, speak to the adolescent Noah, long before the latter had attained boat-building fame. It's almost as if one could have know Fred Flintstone back then. It may be two links were actually required between Adam and Noah, but it almost seems that it was just one. Of course, most today think those early biblical lifespans of 800-900 years are but nonsense, but didn't I write here and here how it all sort of hangs together?

If you play with this notion for awhile, you begin to appreciate the coherence that might have developed among human society when one might reasonably speak to, not merely his grandparents, but his great grandparents, and great great grandparents, and great great great grandparents, and so forth for several generations out. You'd get deep roots that way. Whatever prior generations had seen or learned, they almost couldn't help but pass it down.

Today, roots are wafer-thin. We've all seen those studies in which the modern child communicates with a parent a mere minutes per day. And where's the rest of the time spent? It used to be TV, usage of which is still pretty heavy, but is now supplemented by no end of other media options. This might not be so bad if these connected one with something of consequence; one might think the internet could greatly expand people, but you know, and I know, that it connects with pop culture and values entirely from the here and now. You can see it in Wikapedia, a source that Winged Migration Man (where is he, by the way?) looked upon without favor; an item of history runs a few paragraphs, whereas review of a pop TV show runs pages and pages per episode. Is it any wonder that young folks readily accept today's conditions today as normal? They've not been exposed to anything else. There's almost no transference from one generation to the next. Didn't I carry on about it here?

Family mealtime was also once a relaxed setting in which perspectives might flow from one generation to the next. Therefore, some years ago the Watchtower began suggesting that family meals ought not be sacrificed to modern life – families ought to strive to eat at least one together. I was surprised, for I hadn't fully realized the custom had fallen by the wayside. In fact, when I first stuck my toe into “evening witnessing,” I didn't want to start too soon after dinnertime, lest I break up such a family meal. But in time I found that only rarely would that happen, no matter when I started. If it did, I would  apologize and withdraw. Common meals are not really that common, today, even in neighborhoods where you might think they would be. And to think that Torre, from the old country, would not call on folks even during the noon hour, a self-prohibition I thought absurd. But he remembered when even that time was sacred, a time reserved for family and friends.

Times have changed.

Not long ago I was riding with Tom Weedsandwheat. He had to swerve and brake hard so as not to hit some kid who had stepped out right in front of him, headphones on, pants hanging down, skull empty as a beach ball. “There can never be another generation,” he muttered to me. 

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Life on the Lehigh River

The drive down to the Lehigh River is not steep, but it extends seven miles, starting at Summit Point, which for all practical purposes, is the top of the world. I mean, you know you're way, way up there in the Poconos; look all around you, and there are no peaks. And isn't the grid of roads up there mildly convex, as you'd expect on a mountaintop?

A couple of early steep, sharp turns, and your descent is on, unbroken and more-or-less straight. The road enters a gully in its final two miles, imperceptibly at first, nonetheless, embankments on right and left steadily rise. Then....a short string of row houses appear on your left, crammed between road's edge and embankment. Then another string on the right side. Then.....unbroken rows on both sides....they've wedged a town in here!

But if this is a gully, shouldn't there be rushing water? Ah....there it is, cascading down from the left, and a little further from the right, vanishing into a tunnel carved under the row of buildings. It must re-emerge someplace, yet I never discovered where.

The row buildings, right and left, steadily improve in appearance. They become colorful boutiques, artist dens, eateries, and general stores. The final block widens out, enough to allow angled parking, and the row buildings to the left sandwich a grand inn, but all the while this is a one-street sliver of a town. Oh...alright...toward the bottom, they somehow slip in one parallel alleyway, to the right and a bit elevated, but it hasn't even room for its own set of right and left dwellings. On one side fronts a sandstone row of trendy shops; on the other, the backs of buildings from the main drag.

Down here the widened street and it's narrow companion end in tees onto rt 209. Beyond is the train station, the tracks, the Lehigh river, the walkway, and another steep mountain. You're in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. An odd name for a town, don't you think? But when you consider the original name, Mauch Chunk, perhaps you'll think JT an improvement.  Mauch Chunk is the Lenni Lenape word for “sleeping bear;” a native American term that no one except the Lenni Lenape will understand. Jim Thorpe is a native American term that everyone will understand. Descendant of a chief of the Sac and Fox nation, Thorpe attended the nearby Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he mastered any sport he turned his attention to:  basketball, lacrosse, tennis, handball, bowling, swimming, hockey, boxing, and gymnastics. “Show them what an Indian can do,” his father charged him when he went off to represent the United States at the 1912 Stockholm Oympics. There, he won so many metals, in such a variety of events, that Sweden's King Gustov V gushed  “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world!” “Thanks, King,” the unassuming man replied. For years thereafter, he played major league baseball and football, concurrently. ABC's Wide World of Sports, in 2001, named him the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Just behind and well above that aforementioned grand inn, up the steep hill, is the 1860 home built for Asa Packer. It's an ornate, three-story mansion open for tours,Asa Packer manision  so of course, Mrs Sheepandgoats and I took one. Asa Packer came from Connecticutt (on foot) in 1833 and made his fortune, first as a canal boat operator, and then as founder of the LeHigh railroad. The idea was to transport the area's coal to the great cities on the East Coast. It made him the third wealthiest man in the country. From his front porch, peer over the inn to see the courthouse he built, where he served as judge, the church he built where he served as vestryman, and the sandstone buildings where he housed his employees. Today, those sandstone buildings contain eateries, studios, and trendy stores. At one time, nineteen of the country's 26 millionaires maintained seasonal homes in Mauch Chunk. One of the ten coolest small towns in America, declared Budget Travel Magazine in 2007. Asa Packer's words are on display just in front of his house: “There is no distinction to which any young man may not aspire, and with energy, diligence, intelligence, and virtue, obtain.”

 

Mrs Sheepandgoats and I didn't stay in his town during our Poconos trip, however. We stayed 20 miles upstream in Stoddartsville, the town of a would-be industrialist to whom fortune was not so kind. Stoddartsville shows up on the map, but if you go there, you'll find only the foundations of some 200 year old buildings. And simple signs erected by the Stoddartsville Historical Society labeling what once stood on each foundation. And a graveyard whose worn tombstones reveal several Stoddarts are buried there. And a few private residences built on some of those ancient foundations. And a small rustic cabin overlooking the Lehigh....that's where we stayed.

2010 Oct poconos trip 022 

John Stoddart was ambitious, too, just like Asa Packer. He also sought to harness the Lehigh, so as to ship grain downstream to Philadelphia, in order to divert commerce from a neighboring system that sent it to Baltimore.....this was to be a “win-lose,” not a “win-win”. He built a community straddling the Lehigh along the Wilkes-Barre Turnpike (which he controlled) with grist mill, saw mill, boat-building capacity, and so forth. It flourished in the early 1800's, (a bit before Packer's time) but alas, Stoddart was too far upstream. The best he could do with his river was provide one-way traffic, utilizing a series of dams which held back waters until they reached flood stage, and then, releasing them all at once, his barges could ride the crest downstream to the next dam! Boats were constructed in Stoddartsville and dismantled at destination, the timber sold along with the cargo. It wasn't cost-effective enough to compete with later “two-way” systems, and John Stoddart eventually went bankrupt, his town fading in prominence. He spent the final thirty years of his life a clerk in Philadelphia.

There's a third character, a Quaker businessman by the name of Josiah White, who touches on the fortunes of both Packer and Stoddart. To Packer, he brought success, but to Stoddart, ruin. Stoddart might have gone under in any case, but White sealed his fate. White's endeavor was canal-building, and it was canal piloting that enabled Asa Packer to amass capital sufficient to build his railroad. Back in Mauch Chunk, just before the railroad station (which is now a tourist information center) lies a town square named after Josiah White. It was he who founded the town, before Packer ever traipsed in from Connecticut.

Ironically, Josiah White's canal ventures owe a lot to John Stoddart's initial support. In the early days of the Lehigh Navigation Company, White tried in vain to raise money from comfortable, conservative, downstream Philadelphia merchants. They were loathe to part with it. White realized he needed the backing of one man, John Stoddart, who (per White's memiors) “was then a leading man among the Mound characters, being esteemed Luckey [sic] and to never mis'd in his Speculations, carried a strong influence with his actions, he being of an open and accessible habit, gave us frequent opportunities with him, & his large Estates at the head of our Navigation, authorized our beseaging [sic] him, which we did frequently." Sure enough, as soon as word got out that Stoddart had invested $5000.00 (with the stipulation that the navigation system begin in Stoddartsville) everyone jumped on board, and the entire hoped-for sum of $100,000 was raised in 24 hours! White began building two-way locks on the Lehigh, but that summer (1819) was unusually dry, and the river proved too shallow for transport. The following winter, ice damaged the locks to the point that White replaced them with the aforementioned one-way “bear-trap” locks, (the locks in no way resembled bear traps, but White's workmen named them so to dispose of incessant pesky “whatcha building?” passerby) the economics of which ultimately sealed John Stoddart's doom....not to mention, destroying the fishing upon which various Native Americans and missionaries depended.

Roaming the Pennsylvania hills where these long-dead men once maneuvered, it's hard to escape the feeling that if you had switched them...put Stoddart where Packer was, and vice versa....the results would have been the same. Both were subject to time and unforeseen circumstances, which might have easily gone the other way. If the Lehigh had behaved that first year of Stoddart's transport system, or if Packer had been subject to a clobbering winter or two, (he went way out on a limb financially in his railroad building) it might be Stoddart's name that is remembered instead of Packer's. That is....as much as any person is remembered. For, successful as he was, I knew nothing about Packer before stumbling upon his home town....did you? Even though he was the third richest man in the country. Doesn't matter. We all end up in the grave, where memory of us quickly fades.

For whatever reason, I vividly remember Brother Benner, the District Overseer, playing devil's advocate with his own argument - an argument drawn from Ecclesiastes about the brevity of life, and its consequent “futility.” Build as you may, you're not around to reap too much benefit from your work. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reflects upon the “hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard and at which I showed wisdom under the sun.” (2:18-19) This nearly happened in the case of Packer's enormous wealth, after the untimely deaths of his sons. Business associates threatened to squander it all, so Asa's daughter Mary maneuvered to gain control of the family fortune. To that end, she had to marry, since unmarried women back then were never left the estate (even though Mary had nursed both parents through their deaths). She married some obliging business fellow or other, secured the dough, and the marriage ended soon thereafter. Was that the plan from the start? At any rate, as we toured the Packer mansion, the guide pointed to a prominently displayed plaque of St Fabiola, the patron saint of divorced women. (no, I didn't know there was such a saint, either. Must she not need a lot of helpers today, like Santa needs his elves?)

Anyhow, back to Benner, he was discussing the verse 1:11, a recurring theme of Ecclesiastes: “There is no remembrance of people of former times, nor will there be of those also who will come to be later.” We, who were initially created to live forever on earth, are now subject to that sad reality. He spoke of how someone might attempt to counter the verse, for example, pointing to some musician or other: “Yes, so-and-so may have died,” they would say, “but his music lives on and on.” “Give me a break!” Benner responded. “Who was the most famous singer in George Washington's day?” Exactly.

Same thing with Mauch Chunk. Who were the other 18 millionaires who made their home there? Or, for that matter, what about Jim Thorpe, the town's later namesake? What became of him after his athletic days? (alas, for all his fame, he fell upon very hard times) You will remember....imperfectly....a few of the generation before you, and perhaps even a handful of the generation before that, but everyone else is, at best, a name in a stats book, like Packer or Stoddart. Some won. Some lost. But you don't know anything about them.

The brevity or our life is what really defines it. You don't get too many shots. There's a built-in frustration, since every door we open represents several we have closed. Pathways take a while to trod. The more ambitious the pathway, the longer it will take, and the fewer you'll trod. Each pathway we go down represents a multitude we don't go down. And yet, we want to go down them all. Is this what Solomon meant about life being “calamity?” Today's age of specialization makes the calamity even more pronounced. Increase your wisdom or wealth, as Solomon did, and you increase the pathways you can pursue. But, alas, you increase perception of the many more you won't pursue before the clock runs out.

It wasn't meant to be so, and it will not be so one day in the future. Humans, created to live forever but now relegated to a few score of years, are yet to have opportunity for everlasting life. And all these characters of the past....not to mention our own family members...are they to be among the “righteous and the unrighteous” who come out of the memorial tombs, per Acts 24:15, and John 5:28? It's the Bible's hope. It intrigued me from the beginning. It still does, though one must stoke the hope occasionally so that static from this present dismal system of things doesn't drown it out. As Jesus said: “when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:8)

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Alzheimer's Research: So the Cops Shoot the Bad Guys Instead of the Good Guys...

Now that I'm old enough to receive the AARP magazine, I read each issue cover to cover. They're packed with nice articles geared to the aging, and......there's no nice way to say this.....that's what I'm doing. But a recent piece about Alzheimers research in September's Bulletin (Alzheimer's: a new Theory, by Elizabeth Agnvall) left me un-warm and un-fuzzy. I've known people to succumb to Alzheimers. Moreover, I don't have it now, but how do I know it's not lurking around the corner? Some would say it's made certain inroads, already. So...yes...I want medical science to get its act together on this malady. Sure, they have their act together now, the author maintains. But they insisted, with the same fervor, that they had it together just a few years ago. The author points out, however, that today's approach is a 180 degree reversal from yesterday's.

Turns out that for the last 20 years, medical science has proceeded on the theory that “sticky plaques” are the culprit causing Alzheimer's. Drugs have been developed to search and destroy those plaques. Haven't they been peddled on American TV: Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you? Those ads drive Pop into a rage. But now sticky plaques are thought to be not the culprit! Rather, they are the body's defense for attacking the real menace: clumps of amyloid beta protein, called oligomers. Oligomers do the damage, not sticky plaques, so the new thinking goes. Sticky plaques are the body's means to take them out! We've been targeting the wrong enemy! Medically sanctioned “friendly fire”…...the practice for the last twenty years!

Now, being a blogger who believes in God, I have to be so careful writing anything that might be perceived as critical of science, lest some science-worshipping atheist come along and lecture me that science is based on EVIDENCE, whereas religion is based on mere BELIEF, and what do I think is smarter when I'm sick: pray myself better, or go to a science-based doctor, and do I still believe that the earth is flat?! I tell you, it's a risky course to take. So, let me say it upfront: I'm not against science. I know it's a discovery process. I know mistakes are made along the way. Alright, so the cops arrive upon the scene and shoot all the good guys instead of the bad guys! Is that any reason to be down on law enforcement? Of course not! A slight adjustment is all that's needed. So let bygones be bygones and we'll all be happy.

No. I'm not critical on that account. Mistakes happen. God knows there's plenty of people who scour past publications of JWs to find understandings which have changed, and then get all hysterical over it, supposing, I guess, that any modification is like smashing the Ten Commandments tablets. Jehovah's Witnesses tack. We hone in. We get ever closer and sometimes alter course. Why should science not do the same?

What grabs me is this quote: “[Andrew] Dillin, of the Salk Institute, started pursuing the oligomer theory several years ago. Then, the idea was so controversial, Dillin says, that some scientists would walk out of the room when he made his presentation at conferences. Now, he says, many of the top researchers in the field are convinced.”

They walked out of the room? How dogmatic does that sound? How in keeping is that with Plonka's manifesto “prove a scientist wrong and he will thank you for it.” It's rather hard to prove them wrong when they walk out of the room as soon as they hear something they don't like. Now, that's intransigence of the sort they would, in a heartbeat, ascribe to religion.  And yet, just a few years later, these same scientists alter and say “Oh.....you know, that fellow was right all along!”


They're not immune to stubbornness, that's all I'm saying. What steams me is those who claim they are.....that second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types who worship science themselves and ram it down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. For, if this new theory is right, then you were better off declining when your doctor prescribed those Alzheimer's medications. “No, I don't trust it,” and “these guys don't know what they're talking about” are now seen to be perfectly reasonable views to have held. But God help you if you held them while the fat-headed 180 degree ass-backward Alzheimer's approach was in vogue. “Alright, don't take the meds, if you're going to be so pig-headed!” can't you hear some of them say. “Maybe you want to go to a faith healer, or a witch doctor, instead!” But now we see that's exactly what you should have done. They may not have helped, but they wouldn't have hurt, as did the now-outdated science-based approach.

The article soft-pedals this bit of unpleasantness: “And if the [new] theory is correct, then drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years – may not help people who have the disease. They could even make them worse.” A very deferential statement, is it not? If the theory is correct, they certainly make them worse.....one would think, in exact correlation with how they were supposed to have made them better. Even though they were the “most promising” medications. Unless the old meds never did anything in the first place. Perhaps, in that case, you can now claim they do no harm. But when marketers urge us to pester our doctors for the stuff, surely the response they hope to elicit from that learned one is not “don't bother, they don't do anything, you'll just be wasting your money!”

It took me awhile to realize....dikki clued me in, actually....that pharmaceutical companies advertizing on TV is not a worldwide phenomenon. It happens in only two countries, I am told, of which the United States is one. So it will be hard for non-American readers to fathom just how obnoxious these ads are. Decisive, immaculate and impossibly handsome doctors stride purposefully through futuristic laboratories. They glance alternately at teams of researchers peering into microscopes, at banks of computers, at their clipboard, and, of course, at YOU, as they authoritatively report the very latest astounding medical breakthrough. “Such-and-such is not right for everyone,” they acknowledge, “but...damn it, man,” they seem to be saying, “you know it's right for you!” Even as I write, I'm recalling one such “doctor” striding through a lab reminiscent of Batman's lair, touting some new med that unlocks the very “power of the sea,” (fish oil...the stuff you've been able to buy forever at any health foods store) and.....would you believe it?....the donkey actually ends his pitch peering contemplatively into the lab's full-wall aquarium, as if marveling how his outfit has managed to make a buck out of something God provided free.

This formula is not set in concrete. It can vary slightly. Alzheimer's, for example, afflicts our grandparents, and our grandparents are kindly, aren't they? So a brusque futuristic setting will not do. No. The setting here must be warmer, a kindly doctors office, for example, and the doctor himself ought to have gray hair. Antidepressants, too, ought to be touted by a kindly and caring doctor, not some self-centered jerk who's Porsche vanity plates read “PSYCH DR.” For woman's health, we even change the doctor's gender, for isn't any guy specializing in female issues a little suspect? No longer is the doctor an impossibly handsome man. Now it's an impossibly attractive woman, who's also athletic, has piercing eyes and an oddly spelled first name....you know, a Bond girl.

This type of 180 reversal in medical science happens all the time*, so that one ought to be given more credit than they commonly are (namely, none) if they choose to pass on the latest medical, or even scientific, thinking. It's somewhat as they say about the weather here in Rochester (or most anywhere else, I imagine): don't like the weather? Just stick around. It will change. Those who resist the latest advances of science for whatever reasons....perhaps reasons they can't even articulate.....intuitive reasons, if you will, sometimes come out ahead. They certainly do so often enough that there's no reason to criticize them. To acknowledge such is not to deride science, but only to put it into perspective. It's a generally progressive means of discovery, but not so sterling that it trumps every other sort of thinking. If one accepts that the present scientific consensus is tentative, then one does okay, and one can take it in stride when understandings change, being happy about the advance. Even then, however, it's only a (most likely) forward step taken, and not the finished mystery. Alas, there are ever so many who take the latest scientific notion as dogma. God help you if you fail to embrace their conclusions as truth.

It doesn't mean you ought to disparage science, of course, but surely it means you need not respond “how high?” when science says “jump!”

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Picking Flowers for Heaven’s Garden

Every married man my age, bar none, has seen the film Steel Magnolias. Not one wanted to see it. They were all dragged along by their wives. When it was my turn, I wisely went along without fuss, so as not to be accused of insensitivity toward womenhood. It wasn't a bad film, mind you; it had its moments; it's just not the type of film a guy would ever choose, at least, not of his own free will.
 
I mention Steel Magnolias because it's the first example that comes to mind of that stupid "God is picking flowers" analogy. One SM character loses a son, and another- a recent convert - comforts her by suggesting God is picking flowers for his beautiful garden in heaven! He doesn't want wilted stuff, of course, he wants only the best! That's why he chose that woman's son, implying she should feel privileged to lose a son for so great a Cause.

She doesn’t.

Who would ever think such an analogy could be comforting? It's monstrous! No wonder people go atheist! Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have a vacancy, and expect her to be comforted over that? Yet we hear it all the time, and the younger the deceased, the more likely some sappy preacher will use it: God has a garden. He grows pretty flowers, see - absolutely the best. But he needs one more; there's one spot that's just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your flower. He'll pick it. Surely, you'll be happy. What's that? You're not? Tough!
 
The "picking flowers" illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which is exactly opposite from the PF.  It takes place after King David, drooling over Uriah’s knockout wife, takes her as his own. 2 Samuel 12:1-7 tells us:
 
The LORD sent Nathan [a prophet]  to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.


"Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"
            
Now, this analogy is just. The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his wife! So anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the “picking flowers” analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says they should! It’s the preacher who is suggesting what is obscene! The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death!
 
Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do preachers routinely use it? The answer is, just as in Mean Things God Doesn’t Do, Part 1, church preachers have bought into unscriptural, unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners, just as you would from a real corner.
 
The unscriptural doctrine here is that, when we die, we don’t really die. There is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Or are you a cuddly child? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win!
 
Trouble is, people don’t behave as if it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals; they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is unnatural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy, which is what the Bible says. (1 Cor 15:26)
 
Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln who said he wasn't smart enough to lie? Meaning, of course, that once you've told a lie, you never know when you'll have to make up another fiction to uphold that lie – in this case, a fiction like "picking flowers," to uphold the lie that we have immortal souls that survive our deaths. We don't.
 
The Hebrew word from which soul is translated is nephesh. It occurs in the Old Testament 754 times. Only twice in the KJV is soul translated from any other word. Therefore, find the meaning of nephesh, and you've found the meaning of soul.

The first OT instance of nephesh applied to humans (four prior times in Genesis chapter 1 it is applied to animals) is at Genesis 2:7:
 
"And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul. "
 
Now.... a man who comes to be a plumber is a plumber. He doesn't have a plumber. A man who comes to be an architect is an architect. He doesn't have an architect. A man who comes to be an atheist is an atheist. He doesn't have an atheist. And a man who comes to be a soul is a soul. He doesn't have a soul. Soul, therefore, is the individual himself. In some cases, it represents the life an individual enjoys as such. It never stands for some mystical substance that survives our death. That latter notion is common among ancient peoples, but is nowhere found in the Bible. Attempting to infuse those ancient philosophies into the Bible, various theologians seized upon nephesh as the equivalent of that immortal substance, but thorough consideration of the Hebrew word indicates it means something else entirely.
 
The Bible is unique among religious books in that it does not teach an immortal soul.
 
Here the New World Translation does something so intrinsically honest that its translators ought to be lauded for it, rather than accused of slipping in their own doctrinal bias. Every time nephesh occurs in the Hebrew, the NWT translates it soul. Thus, it's rather easy to look at every instance of soul and discern what the word means by its context. Few Bibles do this. They bury the word amidst multiple renderings so you can't tell what it means.
 
For example, the English Revised Version (1881) translates nephesh as soul 472 times, but in the other 282 places renders it by any of forty-four different words or phrases! What determines how these translators render nephesh? Is it not obvious they have a preconceived idea of soul? They translated nephesh as soul when it fits their preconceived idea; they translate it otherwise when it doesn't! To then claim that the Bible teaches immortal soul is dishonest in the extreme. They have doctored their translation to make sure it does so!
 
Genesis 2:7, quoted above, is one verse that usually doesn’t "make the cut" for nephesh being translated soul. Many modern translations like to render nephesh here as living being or creature, such as the New International Version (1978):
 
"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
 
also NASB (1971), NKJV (1982), RSV (1952)
 
It’s a recent development. Older Bibles render this instance of nephesh as soul, just as they do in its other 700 places. For instance:
 
and man became a living soul  (ASV  1901)
and Man became a living soul  (Darby  1890)
and man became a living soul.  (Douay-Rheims 1609)
and man became a living soul.  (KJV  1611)
and the man was a liuing soule  (Geneva Bible 1587)
And so was man made a lyuynge soule (Miles Coverdale Bible 1535)
and man was maad in to a lyuynge soule. (Wycliffe  1395)
 
The innovative modern translators will tell you they’ve chosen being or creature to make their Bibles more readable. Well….maybe. The words surely do no harm to readability. But the inconsistent translating also serves to confound anyone trying to investigate soul (nephesh) as described in the Bible. By rendering nephesh any old way they like, those translators are able to leave the impression that nephesh is the equivalent of the immortal soul beliefs held among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others. One wonders if that isn’t the real reason for the selective translating of nephesh.
 
In his early days, Charles Darwin toyed with becoming a church minister. Such a ministry was then a respectable choice for a man of letters who couldn’t decide what else he wanted to do with his life. Darwin had a daughter named Annie, who was, by all accounts, his favorite child. At age 10, Annie contracted scarlet fever, and died after six weeks of agony. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.”
 
Did those sappy preachers tell him that God was picking flowers? that he needed just one more angel to make his garden perfect? I wouldn’t put it past them. Again, you almost have to do it if you want to uphold the ‘immortal soul’ lie. Devastated, Charles Darwin was later to pen the work that would pull the rug of authority out from under all those clergymen. No longer would they be the guardians of Sacred Truth and Wisdom. Instead they'd become the guardians of Childrens' Stories and Nonsense.

One can only wonder how things might have turned out had Darwin been comforted with the Bible’s actual hope of a resurrection (something not possible if one is still living via their ‘immortal soul’). Death is an enemy, not a friend, the Bible realistically tells us. It was never part of God’s plan, it came about only through rebellion early in human history, and it is to be eliminated once God’s purpose reaches fulfillment:
 
That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—.  (Rom 5:12)
 
Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until [God] has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing   (1 Cor 15:24-26)
 
And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.   (Rev 21:4)

 
False religion leaves a vacuum which is quick to be filled with other reasonings. As discussed here, the pull of evolution is as much emotional as it is scientific. One can only wonder…. how different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties….junk food, if you will…..he and others of inquisitive mind searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Dr. Who, Dr. Jastrow, and Living Forever

When they asked Robert Jastrow the physicist about living forever - would it be a blessing or a curse? - he said… it all depends:

“It would be a blessing to those who have curious minds and an endless appetite for learning. The thought that they have forever to absorb knowledge would be very comforting for them. But for others who feel they have learned all there is to learn and whose minds are closed, it would be a dreadful curse. They’d have no way to fill their time.”

So if your purpose in life is to watch a lot of TV, living forever would probably be a drag. But our appetite for learning can be endless, unless we have closed down shop ourselves. Of course, Dr Jastrow is an egghead - a thinker - and so he focused on learning. But other things are probably boundless, too, like our capacity to create, and to love.

Lately, though, pop culture has been selling death as if it were a benefit. It’s probably those atheists. There’s more and more of them, and buying into their thinking means settling for a final death sentence perhaps not too many years away. Pay attention, and you’ll see the ‘death is beautiful’ notion a lot. For example, it surfaced in a recent Dr Who episode - The Lazarus Experiment. Now, Dr Who is probably the only show that I deliberately work into my routine. A British import, it is science fiction with a quirky protagonist, clever writing, neat  travel in a space ship that looks like a phone booth - it's bigger on the inside than on the outside [!], and endless visits from aliens, most of whom are up to no good. And it just so happens the show fits perfectly into some weekly down time in my schedule. Indeed, I might never have discovered it otherwise. But having done so, I try not to miss it. ‘Yeah, you just watch it on account of that cute blonde,’ accuses a workmate. But it’s not true; the cute blonde has been written out of the script (she got stranded on a parallel universe) yet the show continues to hold it’s appeal.

The episode name itself is a giveaway, since Lazarus is the biblical character whom Jesus resurrected (in a context that makes it clear the dead are not high-fiving in heaven not char-broiling in hell, but are in a state of non-existence...didn't I write about that here?). But this TV Lazarus has invented a machine that makes him young again….he steps in a geezer, and steps out a young man, to the amazement of all the high-brow folk invited to his gala bash. But Dr. Who (was he invited?) smells something amiss. He follows the newly minted youngster, and sure enough, the machine has malfunctioned and dooms Lazurus to transforming back and forth from human to monster  - they’re pretty good at doing monsters on that show. See, in setting back his DNA, the machine has selected ancient mutations long-ago rejected by evolution. (Hmmm…yes…indeed, plausible, nod all the atheists watching the show….whereas if you mentioned anything about God, they’d throw up.)

The time lord doctor also lectures Lazarus on what a curse everlasting life really is, and what a dumb, greedy thing it was for him to want it. For when life drags on forever and ever and ever, you will get so tired of it. You will have been everywhere, done everything. Living will have become an endless, pointless trek to nowhere. You will long for it to end, but….fool that you were for choosing everlasting life….it will not end, but go on and on and on. Oh, the monotony! See, without death, it is impossible to savor life…. and so forth.

Please…. spare me (and Dr. Jastrow). This is atheist tripe. It all depends upon whether you see life as futile or not. If you do, then sure...you would want it to end. But as Jastrow stated, life’s only futile if you’ve made it so. Of course, I’ll readily concede that baked into this system of things are various ingredients to encourage that dismal view - for example, old age and frailty.

Next time you visit Rochester, you may decide to visit the George Eastman house. Why don’t you do that? Mr. Eastman, who brought photography to the masses and who founded Kodak, turned philanthropist once he’d made his fortune and built half the city. His mansion on East Ave showcases his life, his inventions, his contributions to society, and serves as the nucleus for all things photographic right up to the present. But snoop thoroughly and you will discover that he shot himself in the head at age 78. In the throes of old age, his health failing, one by one he saw his chums going senile, bedridden or wheelchair bound. He left behind a note: “To my friends - My work is done. Why wait?”

Q: Why did George Eastman take his life?

 a) His work was done. Why wait?

b) He longed for the blessed release of death to finally end a futile life that had dragged on and on for much too long.

c) His health was failing and he (a lifelong bachelor) dreaded the indignities of old age -with its dependence upon others.

Do you honestly think that, with health and youth, he would not have found more work in which to engross himself? Or would he have longed for life to end? What....are you kidding me?

In this, Mr. Eastman is much like Leonardo DaVinci, the fellow who painted the Mona Lisa - likely the most famous portrait of all time. Leonardo made his mark not only as an artist. He also contributed hugely in areas as diverse as geometry, anatomy, astronomy, architecture, and flight. Some of his sketches have been used as blueprints for devices in use today. He was a renaissance man; in fact, perhaps he originates the term. Yet toward the end of life, he reportedly sought God's forgiveness for "not using all the resources of his spirit and art."

Eastman and DaVinci - two fellows that typify Dr. Jastrow’s statement. And they would be joined by most everyone else, were we not sucked into a morass of drudgery, duty, debt, injustice and hardship. Sure...you might well long for death if you can only envision more of that. Ditto for the frailness that comes with old age. I recently attended a funeral of someone who was happy, content, and productive throughout life. Nonetheless, death was not unwelcome, relatives assured me, since he’d grown “so tired of being sick.”

That’s why the Bible’ promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth is so appealing. It’s Robert Jastrow’s dream come true - unlimited time to grow minus the very real liabilities that eventually cause most of us to tire of life. Perfect health is promised, and an economic system will be in place so that people do not feel they are “toiling for nothing.” Will it incorporate some features of the ancient Jubilee system? Note how Isaiah 65:21-23 describes life under God’s kingdom rule, per the prayer “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven":

And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.    Isa 65:21-23

There’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve done a few of them. But for the most part, I’ve just scratched the surface. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time shoveling aside the dung this system throws at you. No, everlasting life, should I find myself there, will not be a bad thing. Not at all.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash