WBBF in Rochester Bans “They’re Coming to Take Me Away—Ha Haaa!”

The stressor that triggered a mental breakdown in “They’re coming to take me away, ha haa” was a runaway dog, not a girlfriend! The artist included the line, “They'll find you yet and when they do, they'll put you in the ASPCA, you mangy mutt" to defuse the charge that he was making fun of mentally ill persons. “And it worked!” said Jerry Samuels, the songwriter.

It didn’t work for Rochester’s WBBF, the station for kids throughout my childhood. I well remember the 1966 novelty song. It instantly soared to the top of the station’s playlist—and then it disappeared. A most unusual public service announcement (as though from God, from the perspective of a child) then stated that the song had been pulled because it made fun of the mentally ill.

Apparently, WBBF’s action was as unusual as their PSA. Wikipedia (accessed 10/15/2019) makes no mention of the song’s being unwelcome anywhere. And yet it clearly did make fun of the mentally ill—WBBF was right. “And I’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats, and they’re coming to take me awaayyy ha haaa! — to the ‘funny farm,’ where life is beautiful all the time”—you don’t think that’s making fun of the mentally ill? What difference does it make whether the trigger is a runaway girlfriend or a runaway dog?

In fact, I remember that line about the “mangy mutt” and I took it for just bitter words directed at the girlfriend—I’m not sure that I knew what the ASPCA was back then. Had the lyrics been, “Lollypop Farm,” it would have been a different story for anyone in Monroe County, even if meaningless for those anywhere else.

This makes me reflect on the AM radio of my youth, WBBF. Only that station, and the more avant-grade and unpredictable WSAY played the songs popular with my g-g-generation. All the rest played Perry Como. There was no FM radio at the time.

Was WBBF unusually responsible back then—a pillar among young-people stations? I am inclined to assign it that grade retroactively. I certainly know that it could be hilarious. Jack Palvino was the morning host, and he intertwined jokes that still hold up, decades later. I still remember them, and smile whenever I do.

“Friends, do you have bills to pay?” one seeming commercial began. “Well, please give it back. Bill’s head is getting cold.”

Jack ran a lot of spots like that. It must have been some subscription service for jokes—unless he just made them up, which is possible. Even the more raucous ones like the teary, “I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!” and a sympathetic Jack would say, “You poor man! You can tell me—what is it you can’t stand?” to which the answer would be, “YOUR FACE!” still prompts a grin, juvenile though it is.

And don’t get me going about Chickenman, a spoof on Superman! Chickenman offered his services to the city as crimefighter, and they would have just as soon that he dropped dead. A horrible klutz with a secret identity like Superman—he woke the police commissioner’s secretary, Miss Helpinger, out of a sound sleep, disguising his voice (which she instantly saw through) to report that he had been kidnapped. Somehow he managed to set his wings on fire with his utility laser light and as the approaching fire truck sirens could be heard in the background, the exasperated secretary advised him to flap his wings, for this would serve to put out the fire—or perhaps it would serve to spread it, which may have been her real aim.

As young teens, Jack Palvino inspired us to try our hand doing the same. My best chum, a few houses down, was a hobbyist with electronics. He built a radio station. We named it WNOR. It’s antenna stretched from his bedroom window to a weeping-willow tree 100 yards away. WNOR station had a radius of about a mile—we walked around the block to check—and we would spend much time after school spinning our limited number of records during on-air sessions. The “Evil One” in our mind, at the time, was the FCC, which supposedly raided and shut down stations such as ours—this reputedly was the fate of one such pirate station (I loved the term—pirates!) several miles to the south of us.

We copied Jack Palvino’s techniques, inventing the series of short snippets, “Golf tips—-(cue a golf swing by the mike)—with Jack Bogey”—Jack Nicklaus was all the rage back then. A listener would ask Jack if he preferred his woods, and Jack would say that he did not because he lost too many balls there. We were kids, you must remember.

The creative phase even carried through when I later attended Potsdam State and volunteered for the student radio station—I forget what the call letters there were. Another chum and I took the morning slot—just like Jack had done in my childhood. A few minutes after the sports report, read off the AP wire, we wrote alternating “special” sports reports, with mine running down his team (Syracuse) and his running down mine.

Jack Palvino made his life career in radio, though he was only behind the microphone during my youth. From time to time, his name would pop up in local news, as would that of Nick Nickson, another WBBF mainstay. I wonder where they are today—and even if they are yet alive. I will look it up after finishing this post.

And—coming back to the topic of mental illness—if you had a mental breakdown in Rochester, they would take you to the R-wing of Strong Hospital. Throughout my adult life this has been so. It still is. It has never occurred to me to ask, “Where does the R come from?” Nevertheless, I discovered the answer to the question I had never asked during a recent visit to the Jello Museum in nearly Leroy, NY. Heir to the Jello fortune, Helen Rivas gave $2.1 million to the hospital for the purpose of a facility to treat those suffering mental illness, and the R stands for Rivas.

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Bazhenov Goes To Jail - and Gives a Witness on the Way

At trial’s end, in a Russian court, Konstantin Bazhenov’s turn at last came to make his closing statement.

He “hardly talked about the legal aspects of the persecution and emphasized his spiritual side. ‘It is better to suffer for good deeds than for evil ones,’ he quoted the words of Jesus Christ. Then he briefly talked about what Jehovah's Witnesses believe in and how they live, and in the end he read a poem of his own composition.”

Yes. This is exactly what you do. The law is so convoluted that nobody can get their heads around it. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned, but only their organization is? People cannot get their heads around it. President Putin says words of support, yet it makes no difference? People cannot get their heads around it. Forget those things and just give a witness to all present, a witness that embodies Christian qualities of joy even under persecution, and a determination to serve God under any circumstances.

Konstantin starts with wanting “to recall one interesting aphorism, which is quite well-known: ‘While the truth was on my shoes, the lie managed to get around half the world.’ This aphorism emphasizes that sometimes some inaccurate data, false information spread very quickly, and the truth remains somewhere in the backyards,” and he applies it to the misinformation spread about Jehovah's Witnesses. Mark Twain’s version of this saying (or is this a version of his?) is: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.”

Be that as it may, he is very glad that during court hearings “the truth nevertheless sounded,” albeit with “delay,”  but it did. He thanks his God Jehovah “that he trusts [him] to represent His interests in court, that He helped, gave strength, wisdom to understand the legal nuances.”

Represent His interests he does, fully getting the sense of Jesus’ words: People “will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.” (Luke 21:12-13)

He has Revelation 2:10 down pat: Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” He is a fanatic to those who have discarded God, and even to some of those who have not. But he is the very embodiment of Jesus’ words to endure (with joy) under persecution, and he goes on to explain how that can be.

“Everyone who wants to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12) he cites. “This is like the law of physics, so I am not personally surprised that this is happening. Maybe a little upset. But the fact is that persecution is inevitable. They were in the 1st century, and they are now. It convinces me even more that I am on the right track and gives me confidence.”

He uses that confidence to thank participants. He thanks his wife, first of all, but also the judge for “carefully listening to us and trying to understand the essence of the issue.” He thanks the investigator “for permitting visits with his wife, as well as a request for our release from custody. It was a gift for my wife and I.” He thanks his lawyers, co-defendants, friends who came for support, and even the prosecutor “for listening carefully and outlining the main thoughts.” Why throw stones? Be like the early Christians.

“If according to the verdict of the court, I have to go through the punishment of imprisonment, [he does, said the court] then I am sure that this will strengthen my faith.” He has already been there almost a year in pre-trial detention, and has found that “neither high walls, nor bars, nor barbed wire can prevent the Holy Spirit from penetrating and giving support. There are such words in the Bible: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ It may seem at first glance: well, how, in prison is freedom? What kind of freedom is there? But in fact, for example, freedom from fear, freedom from sinful deeds, freedom from bad habits, freedom from foul language, from envy, greed, freedom from remorse, this freedom can be regardless of where we are.”

“For, if you please the will of God, it is better to suffer for good deeds than for evil,” he cites at 1 Peter 3:14-17. “Indeed, I am happy that I do not suffer for crimes, that is, I did not steal, I was not a mortgagee, I did not rape anyone, I did not blackmail, I did not cheat, but they accuse me. I suffer for worshiping God.”

“And it does not surprise me that such events occur, but sometimes it surprises others. For example, when I was in a pre-trial detention center, many prisoners said: ‘We are here for crimes.’ That is, scammers, hijackers, mortgages, counterfeiters - there are many articles with whom I sat. And they said: ‘We really did something. But what are you doing here?’ And they were surprised. Moreover, in my case there are no victims. Indeed, I have a clear conscience before God and before people.”

“If I find myself in a colony, there also live people who need to learn the truth from the Bible about God, about his plan for the earth and people. This is a huge field for activity. If this happens, I will consider that Jehovah found there sincere people whom I should help to learn the biblical message. I see no other reasons. Psalm 50, verse 15 says: ‘I will teach the wicked in your ways, and the wicked will turn to you.’ The psalmist David wanted to help others so that they would not take the slippery slope. So, I also have a desire to help others turn from their lawless deeds, their criminal way of life, so that they turn to God. The fact is that the Word of God, the Bible, has tremendous power to influence people for the better. Thanks to the Bible, people get rid of bad habits and criminal lifestyle. And it benefits both themselves and the state, because, in fact, they become useful members of society. Of course, I do not want to lose my freedom, but if at least one criminal cleansed of the criminal past, it means that I was not in vain hurt.”

He then launches into what can only be described as his “Adam to Armageddon sermon”—his talk touching on basic Witness beliefs regarding the:

  1. theme of God
  2. authority of the Bible
  3. role of Jesus Christ
  4. Kingdom of God
  5. Christ’s ransom
  6. heaven
  7. earth
  8. reason for God’s permission of evil and suffering
  9. what happens at death
  10. how to find happiness as a family
  11. our worship of God
  12. Christian unity
  13. our behavior as Christians
  14. our relationships to others

Well, why not? He does have a captive audience, after all, and they made themselves captive—specifically convening to pass judgment upon him. Trust me on this: nobody said on their drive home, “That fellow doesn’t know his Bible very well.” We live by the Bible —JWs do. We make no apology for it. If we experience adversity, make it clear that it is due to a dislike of what the Bible says.

Commendably, the Russian court participants did not stone him to death, as the Sanhedrin did with Stephen when he pulled such a stunt. They just put him on the prison bus and off to a new assignment. I love his flexibility. I pray that I can match it should my turn come. We can’t necessarily choose what our new assignment will be or what hardships it may entail.

(No Bible citations in this post are taken from the New World Translation. This is because in Russia that book has been declared not a Bible at all—as that country discredits itself before educated persons the world over who know very well that it is. No, that translation is actually an extremist work, the High Court maintains, so it cannot be quoted. Where I, and not Konstantin, have inserted verses, they are from the New American Bible - Revised Edition, the “house” Bible for “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.” That book itself comes in “safe” and “unsafe” versions—identical except the unsafe version quotes occasionally from Watchtower publications, and the safe version does not. The version linked to above is the “safe” version—you can read it without going to the hoosegow, at least, until the entire work is declared extremist, if that hasn’t happened already.

 

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Comment meant for Paul Goble:

I don’t know what it is with a blogspot account, but I cannot comment on the stupid things, even after entering gmail. It just gobbles up the comment (that you spent time on) & it disappears! Fortunately, I have learned not to trust blogspot and I save my comment in the event that it does disappear—which it did.

So I’ll put it here. 

“Not to be an apologist for him, for my primary identity is of a religious group opposed in Russia—-nor to challenge you expertise, which FAR exceeds mine, but he has spoken forcefully about the abuses of Stalin. I see no reason for him to do it unless it is a reflection of how he thinks. The NYT has speculated as to whether he is even in control of the country.

I’ve written of this some, with the view of understanding what is happening with my people. To the extent possible for a Westerner, I have tried to present from a Russian point of view, if only as to not aggravate him. An example is chapter 6:

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/06/statecraft.html

The comments denouncing Stalin are here:

https://www.rt.com/news/408266-putin-stalin-persecution-memorial/

Appreciate your work and expertise.

(This post will be taken down in time, or worked up into a better format)

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Yikes! End of the Line for Bloggers?

When the world at last wakes up to a problem, it wildly overswings. It misses its target, who ducks, and hits square in the teeth the unsuspecting, innocent, and ordinary joe standing just behind.‬ Will this be soon be the case in the world of blogging?

Mr. Admin thinks so. He runs a big site. He will go down at the end of the year, he fears, “as will many, many bloggers and other small ad-supported websites due to onerous and draconian data privacy laws.”

He cites an article:

“The [California Consumer Privacy Act, to go into effect at year end] was supposed to curb the purportedly abusive privacy practices of internet giants (like Google and Facebook) and data brokers. Unfortunately, the law overshot this goal; it reaches most businesses, online or off. Facebook may have been the target, but the local pizzeria will bear the law’s brunt.” Cost of compliance to these new mandates, which carries a $20 fine per incident for any internet hit from California are so onerous that anyone not in the same league as Facebook will simply fold.”

“Well, if you are not in California and have no critical interests there, who cares if you run afoul of their law? What’s the worst that can happen?” I asked him. He continued to fret:

“I doubt development companies like IPS or Wordpress have dedicated anything to this problem. They were probably hoping Google would make it go away....Would you risk life changing fines “per incident” to make even $100 monthly profit? High risk + Low Reward = Find a new hobby for most small time publishers/bloggers/forum owners.”

Hmm. He’s not in California. But he doesn’t want to risk a trip to the mailbox to discover a letter:

Dear Mr Admin:

It’s “Hasta la vista” for you, baby!

Very truly yours

Arnold Schwartsnegger - Governor emeritus of California”

PS — I’ll be back!

Now, I hang out there quite a bit on the forum of Admin. I have written substantial portions of text there latter reorganized to comprise parts of “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,” and “TrueTom vs the Apostates!” I think his fears are overblown and that outfits such as he mentions will come up with some solution that they will use to justify a price increase—hopefully not too huge. Our worst dreams do come true, but they usually come true gradually, not all at once with a swipe of the pen.

There will be a gateway at the entrance of blogs, I predict, where ones who wish to participate will waive away privacy rights. Already I see such things. Or (better yet) there will be developed a firewall to ban anyone from California, and then the outrage of those persons will cause lawmakers to backtrack. They do not want to be like John Jay, who negotiated a treaty with the British so unpopular that he later wrote he could ride the road from Philadelphia to Washington at night, his path lit solely by the burning effigies of himself hanging every 50 yards or so. 

Still, Admin is closer to this than me, and paying more attention. Maybe I underestimate the problem and his forum will indeed go down. If so, I will miss it. But I will also move on. I have used my time well there. Engaging with malcontents, villains, as well as some “avant-garde” brothers has served to hone both my writing and my thinking. In turn, I have used that to write larger collections that stand on their own, even if distribution methods themselves may change. Admin himself rebuked me long ago, and the experience served as a quirky introduction to “TrueTom vs the Apostates.”

It finally dawned upon the troublesome “Foreigner” that Mr. Admin is not a Witness, and he said that now he realized it.

He didn’t know that? Admin has said it often enough. “So here you come charging like a bull,” I told him, “upbraiding for apostasy anyone displaying the slightest deviation from the latest writing of the Witness organization, far in excess of what they would ever insist upon themselves, and you do it all before unbelievers, making Witnesses look ridiculous!”

It is nearly as absurd as (I have seen it) the spectacle presented when brothers tell each other on Facebook that so-and-so is disfellowshipped, and so be careful not to associate with that one. Since you can’t really know what is real and what is rumor, one sister even proposed phoning an elder in the person’s home congregation to ask if so-and-so was in good standing or not. All this before just regular folk who know or care nothing of congregation matters. I responded that if I were that elder, I might comply once or twice, being caught off guard, but after that I would say: “Enough! I have a family, a job, congregation responsibilities, and a life! Now you want me to police the internet? Stay off social media if you have to ask such questions!” The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to behave like one. Do not venture online if you cannot get your head around this.

Another value to me of the forum (and online in general) that may tank—if it does, it does—is the discipline of addressing heavy, even controversial spiritual topics, knowing non-Witnesses might be listening in, and learning how to say heavy things without turning them off. I mean, they may not like the religion itself, and if such is the case, there is nothing to be done about it. But sometimes it is our own inartfulness that is the turn-off, and I have learned (relatively) how to be artful. It is no more that what Paul said:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law....I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)

Most Witnesses are not good at this. When they engage with non-believers, it is strictly mundane, regarding business matters or the weather—OR they go into “witness mode” and tell them of the paradise, petting the animals, and how the Trinity is a crock. They don’t seem to know how to mix the two. I have learned to do that, and I credit sites like Admin’s with providing the needed practice.

It is a good skill to develop, I think. We won’t be described as so “insular” should we ever pull of that trick. But I think we never will pull it off.. “Insularity” is too close to being “no part of the world”—a condition that must be so for Christians, per James 4:4, for example: “Adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God.”

If Admin’s worst fears are realized and his site goes down, other sites will go down for the same reason. That will kick out tons of “apostate” sites, and I have no problem with that. “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it,” is the saying of Voltaire, not me. When it comes to trashing spiritual things, I’d just as soon they not say it. I can live with it should that become the new law.

None of this will affect the official channel, JW.org, that is not into collecting data in the first place, and when they do for the sake of log-in accounts, I think even already they require applicants to yield on such newfound concerns—and you should hear the apostates howl over that!

In fact, I think what Bethel will say with regard to the apostates who hang their hearts on the BITE model [Behavioral, Information, Thought, and Emotional “control”] is: “The idiots! They pressed their ‘victimization’ complaints to such absurd lengths that the asp came around to bite them in their own rear ends, knocking them all offline.” 

As for Admin, he will have to find himself a new hobby. They are offering pickleball lessons down at the Rec Center, I hear—a fine way for duffers to keep in shape. It wouldn’t hurt me were I to sign up myself, and maybe I will see him there. Maybe someday I will even see him at the Kingdom Hall—that is, if he did not get chased away by the hotheads on his own forum.

After that, in search of new things to do, I may even start to tackle more of Mrs. Harley’s to-do list. Say—you don’t suppose that it is she who spoke to California lawmakers, do you?

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At the Grad Party on the Farm

At the grad party on the farm there was a potato gun. It launched those spuds a football field and a half, and there were some kids who ran out there to see it they could catch them—unsuccessfully, since the gun was very hard to aim, and with ears of corn it was even worse. It was powered by compressed air.

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At the grad party on the farm there was a hammer-n-nail game. Toss the hammer into the air, twirling it once, catch it by the handle, and then drive the nail. Great fun for resident and the far more numerous wannabe farmers.

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Get your school bus ice cream at the grad party on the farm. Order at the driver’s window. Pickup at the rear. The farmer had bought it at auction, thinking it might do for group outings, but then discovered that there was more to putting an old bus on the road than he had anticipated.

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At the grad party on the farm you had to pass a farm quiz in order to eat, identifying various seed types and farm implements. This requirement was relaxed so that visitors would not starve. Acquiescing to reality, this farmer had previously given people stalks of wheat, labeling them “pre-donuts.”

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There was also a great swing that could accommodate up to three people at the grad party on the farm.

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At the grad party on the farm, there was, not one, but two, International Scout convertibles. With a V8 under the hood, it was a vehicle with guts, so said the grad’s brother who took it for a spin—more guts than that brothers own high Jeep, who he first got it, I said: “I’d better not see your tire tracks across my hood!” (or was that his buddy I said that to?)

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There was, at the grad party on the farm, a Burmese Mountain dog that threaded through the gathering crowd, its tail wagging all the while, as though a politician. “Careful—it’s a leaner,” someone said. “Pull back quick, and it will fall over.”

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Probably 150 made the party, and the grad is someone I have known since she was 2. She had strawberry red hair back then. There was to be a bonfire that night, but we left before that happened. It may have been rained out, since it was raining hard when we arrived home.

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Skirmish #100519 - A Typical Tussle Around the Line of Scrimmage

Q: “you [JWI] and TTH have been caught with. Anna's smiley face won't change what is already known by some of us, with your actions.”

A: You haven’t been around long enough to discern how it works here:

CMP takes the snap and hands off to JWI. JWI looks for a receiver. TTH is way way out there, but he usually flubs the catch.  JTR is also wide open, but he generally gets distracted in cursing out the coach. Melinda looks open. So is Aruana. JWI throws, hoping for the best. 

Allen, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask so that you don’t know which one he is, intercepts. He charges headlong and bloodies anyone in his path. He gets ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

After a few such plays, JWI punts. Wilma takes the catch and insists that she should have had the ball all along. Sometimes agent Jack takes it instead and calls up to a dozen plays at once. Either of them look for receivers. Matthew 457845 is open. So is Shiwiiiiiii. So is Srecki (hehehe). So is JTR, who technically is on the other team, but 85% of the time it is impossible to tell. 

The thrower hesitates. All of these receivers are known to be distracted by Anna’s smiley face, and whenever that happens, they either miss the catch completely or run headlong into the goalposts. Hoping for the best, he or she throws anyway.

Allen, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask so that you don’t know which one he is, intercepts. He charges headlong and bloodies anyone in his path. He gets ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

After a few rounds of this, the Librarian, that old hen, blows the play dead, and calls for another one. Admin puts his head in his hands and cries. He once supposed that web hosting would be his path to respectability.

Understand now?

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One Infuriating Day in the World of Mundane Technology

The Bluetooth keyboard won’t connect. The printer won’t print. As though in a conspiracy to infuriate me, they both rebel at the same time. So as to thwart them, I will deal with them just one at a time.

The pre-installed batteries that power the keyboard couldn’t possibly be bad. I know this because all the online reviews say that they last four years—essentially, the life of the iPad—and I have only had this thing for 6 months. Besides, when I ask the geek at the store whether it is the batteries, he says “no”—it is the keyboard itself. “You think so?” I ask. “I know so,” he says.

He must know what he is talking about. The online reviews tell me the same—the batteries are supposed to last 4 years, not 6 months. It must be the Slim Folio keyboard. I buy another—the are not too expensive. When I get it home, I discover (so I thought) what was wrong with the first one. There is a Bluetooth key on the upper row. When I hit it, it makes a connection. I didn’t know there was such a key. It must also have been preset. I must have switched it off by mistake.

I take the purchased keyboard back to the Best Buy. Do I have the receipt? No. The clerk with the tattoos hadn’t given me one, and I didn’t say anything because I know that they send receipts by email these days. They searched and couldn’t find it. Why not? Because they had on file the old Juno email account that I haven’t used since Jesus was born, and for whatever reason, can’t get into anymore. I think I changed the once-simple password to something more intricate and then forgot it. As I recall, retrieval proved near impossible due to an archaic interface and a since-replaced laptop that crashed if you looked at it wrong.* At last, the salesperson finds it and the return is made.

Back home, I find that my fix—the Bluetooth key—was just a red herring. Yes, I did get more life out of it for a few minutes, but it presently started to act up as before. It’s going to be embarrassing buying the keyboard again, and I am starting to think that maybe I should try batteries before I spring for a new board after all. They are the little coin-like batteries that I never use, and another reason that I just bought a new keyboard—now returned—is that I figured they probably cost as much as a Prius battery.

Amazon can get me the batteries I need, also the printer ink, but it will take two days. I want them both now. I want the keyboard battery so that I can type on my iPad, not on my laptop as though a caveman. My wife wants the printer to work so that she can print out a letter from an expert saying that another refurbishing job that she paid through the nose for is no good and that she should get her money back.

The Best Buy has those particular coin-type batteries, but only in a package of eight. They are not nearly as pricey as I thought—I found that out via Amazon—but I don’t need a 20 year supply of them. Wasn’t there a Steve Martin movie featuring him being hauled to the police station because, thinking that the world was out to get him, he had torn open either a hot dog package or a hot dog roll package so as to buy only the matching number of each that he wanted? And batteries are more expensive that hot dogs or hot dog rolls!

If Best Buy doesn’t have them, with all of the electronics that they sell, there is no way that Target will have them. But the Target is right next door—it is silly not to at least check. Target does have them, and in just the number (2) that I need. The battery display says $4.60, only a dollar more than Amazon, and I can get them right now, even though I may not need them and have no other use for them should that be the case. The self-service kiosk rings it up for $6.99. I must have picked up the wrong pack, I suppose, and I go fetch another one. No, I did not pick up the wrong pack. It, too, rings up for $6.99. I return to the display. It turns out that the battery is being re-introduced in a new package alongside the old and both are ringing up at the new price that only the new one is supposed to ring up at. I don’t want the new. I want the old, and the old price.

You wouldn’t think that one could get paralyzed over two dollars. But it is not two dollars paralyzing me—it is the thought of being played for a chump. “Forget it!” I mutter after a few trips back and forth to the register kiosk. I can get it through Amazon—why don’t I use them all the time, since aggravations like this so frequently happen?—and in the meantime I can make do with the laptop. I mean, for years and years I typed on the laptop, perfectly content. I can do it again for two days. Upon making this resolution, I leave to pick up some groceries at Aldies. The batteries might not solve the problem anyway—the geek told me they would not solve the problem—so if I am going to chance just throwing money away, it should be as little as possible, not the $6.99 Target wants just because they put them in a fancier package.

After grocery shopping, I return to Target. In the greater overall scheme of life, two dollars is not the end of the world, and it is worth two dollars to use my iPad today and not my laptop because, long ago, I ripped the laptop cord from the laptop one too many times while removing it from my lap, and it will now only stay connected if I firmly tape the cord in place with duct tape. The repair will cost over $200! Forget it. Taping the way I now do is enough to power it, but not enough to keep its battery (another battery!) recharged, so I have acquiesced to the laptop being no more portable than a desktop, because if I even look at the thing wrong, the cord connection breaks even with the duct tape and, having no battery, the machine crashes and I lose anything I have not saved—the only benefit being that I have learned to save after virtually every sentence. So I want to use my iPad, which is portable, and I will pay two extra dollars to do that.

Still, I grumble at the self-service line over the two dollars. “Do you want me to look it up for you?” the attendant who oversees four of these kiosks asks. I tell her no—it is just a price change, that I know this sort of thing happens—it is irritating but it is not her fault—why make trouble for her? Still, she can look it up if she likes, I tell her, mostly just so that she will get out of my hair and let me get on with shelling out the $6.99 that heaven has decreed I must before I change my mind again.

She DOES look it up. She scans my package with her phone. She has software (I think) that permits her to see the display, and she sees the original price. Nah—that can’t be—still, she somehow figures the original price. She changes it for me right there at the kiosk, punching in some codes—using her powers. Finally! A hero in a world of villains! When she is busy doing something else, I double back to tell her that she truly made my day, that she didn’t have to do it at all, that I never expected her to, and that she would never know how much such a gesture of service meant unless I told her, which is why I did.

At home, I put in the new batteries and the old keyboard works good as new. Even though the geek had said he KNEW that batteries were not the problem! Even though the online reviews said it, too, with batteries supposedly lasting the life of the iPad! (To be sure, I use it a lot.)

One problem down—only one more to go: the printer that won’t print. I know it is not out of ink because it has an icon that keeps track of ink, discoverable in several different ways, albeit with effort, and each of those ways returns the same result—there is still 3/8 of a tank left. So I spend three years pouring over online documentation as to how to fix the sullen thing. Cleaning the heads does nothing. The store geek who does not know a dead battery from a keyboard is not going to try his hand at my printer—I refuse to even think of taking it there—even if he will do it for less than a million dollars. As a last ditch attempt before escalation, even though gauges say that there is no way that is it out of ink, I buy some more ink. Of course, I buy the wrong package, a package number that came up when I searched the printer model on Amazon.

Why has not someone taken a stand on the biggest scam of all time—printer ink? Why are there dozens and dozens of printers, each one of which will take only a single specific pricey cartridge out of the dozens and dozens available? It is as though every single can of Campbells soup is unique and you will die if you eat any other than one out of 100. The politician that runs his platform on blowing the lid off this scam wins, as far as I am concerned.

Funny, the printer model itself is not on the cartridge package that Amazon says should work, I note at the Best Buy, though every other model on the planet is. “Ah, well, if it is not the right one, I can always take it back,” I say, and indeed I do take it back the next day. I pop the new cartridge into the machine that insisted it did not need one, and it immediately prints like the New York Times running down Trump.

Total price in money? Twenty six dollars

Total price in time? Twenty six years

Total price in aggravation? Twenty six thousand grey hairs.

Total number of heroes? One—the kiosk monitor at Target.

(Best Buy emerges from this post with a mild black eye, so I should point out that I have nothing against them. Their sales associates are polite, not pushy, and invariably will answer whatever you ask them. The point I am making instead is that tech is complicated and nobody knows everything. It was even a Best Buy sales associate who answered to my satisfaction why Microsoft gives me so much trouble (I have had updates that take hours) whereas Apple does not (I don’t think I have ever had an update lasting more that a minute or three). Microsoft is much more ambitious in the scope of what they offer, she told me, plus they have low price points that Apple does not. That satisfied me. 

It is annoying, though, that when you grouse about Microsoft online, thieves immediately show up insisting that they are them and ask for all sorts of access so that they can help you, and when they follow up with a phone call later, their English is indecipherable. One would think that Microsoft would shut them down, since it tarnishes their reputation. Later, I read that Microsoft did shut them down—it was an operation out of India—but later I saw that they had resurfaced—it is probably next to impossible to eliminate. Some less scrupulous companies have been known to kneecap scoundrels who tarnish their good name, but Microsoft is apparently too ethical to do that.)

—————-

*The old laptop: Modified from my book: “No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash”—the most autobiographical of them all:

 

The stupid thing is always pestering me that is nearly out of disk space. How can that be? It’s new—and I haven’t used it for anything other than writing this book! [Tom Irregardless and Me] The suggested tool to handle the error message launches into a circus into undiscovered galaxies! It’s like that Black Friday netbook I bought last year - another scoundrel! It harangued me forever about loading Windows 10. Finally, I said ‘All right all right’ - load the stupid thing!’ It wheeled and cranked and whirred like Dr. Who’s spaceship, only to declare at last: ‘You don’t have enough disk space!’ and then launched a tool which took me to Alpha Centauri!

***~~~***

“Just puttering along editing my document. Save a tweak and I get the message: ‘A file error has occurred.’ So? There’s no clue what to do about it. Or the consequences. Will a bomb detonate with the next keystroke? Or is just some tiny worthless snippet of software somewhere that feels it has to speak up from time to time so as to justify its existence? Aha! Close the document. Then re-open. I have saved every tweak up to that point, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. But when I reopen it, the changes I have saved have not been saved! No wonder people go mad! Before closing, it says a temporary file will be available! Where? On Jupiter? Open Word from scratch – it’s nowhere to be found! I have to re-treat the whole chapter!

***~~~***

“Okay, it doesn’t exist. That reassuring fix they were cooing about last night? That ‘solve-all’ dialogue box? It doesn’t exist! Or rather, it probably does, but only inside the 3rd module of the 15th lobe of the program designers brain. It’s impossible to find! Sure, I could find it in three days, possibly, but I don’t want to do that! I could have fixed the chapter by now by just writing it again! And I knew that’s what I should have done, I knew it! But, noooo – here’s some fine instructions – let’s follow them! See where it gets me!

***~~~***

“I have one book to write on my new laptop. Just one book! So I didn’t buy the $14,000 model. I bought the basic model, the cheap one. I’m not gaming with it. I’m not putting movies on it, or music, or photos, or even tweets! Just one book! One! And that’s not even on the hard drive, it’s in the cloud, and on thumb drive updates every two seconds, because you can’t trust this ‘Save’ feature as far as you can Spit! So why does it tell me every two seconds my hard drive is getting full? It just wants to make me mad! It didn’t say ‘Sucker Model’ at the store. It didn’t say ‘Gotcha’ Model. I asked the clerk if there were electronics inside the case, and he said there were! ‘Are you sure it’s not just gerbil cage shavings inside?’ I asked. He said he was sure! What a liar!”

 

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At the Toledo Zoo

We told the border officer at the Ambassador Bridge, en route from Windsor to Detroit, that we had planned to go to the Detroit zoo, but we might go to the Toledo one instead because we had heard that it was better. He agreed that it was. He thought that because he was a member himself. The Detroit zoo was okay, he said, but it meant a lot of walking to see not that many animals.

These are not guys that are known for chit-chat. Upon being waved through, we headed straight for Toledo, though the bridge itself empties directly into Detroit.

The hour drive down, along I-75, was not pretty. I thought of some Vietnamese friends, who had yet to master the language, describing a certain picnic at which they had all sat on the ground, as “not beautiful.” This drive was also not beautiful. Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, long-ago dethroned as Emerald City of the automobile. It is a pretty gritty place today, though the downtown itself is vibrant and we will return someday to explore more thoroughly. I-75 itself was under heavy construction. A billboard whizzed by for the Detroit Pistons; only then did it occur to me: Of course! Pistons—what else would you name the team from the motor city?

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You can see Detroit from the Windsor shoreline, a narrow strip of park. It is very pretty and the GM building dominates. Peter Lynch once wrote that the nicest thing that he could say of General Motors was that it was a terrible company—bloated and inefficient, but that was long ago. No doubt it is firing on all cylinders now. Do not say that these stone figures became such when they fled the sinking town and disobediently looked back, as though fleeing Sodom. It is a cheap shot. Don’t go there. No. This is a statue of Canadian people doing something else.

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We had spent the night in Windsor because, from upstate New York heading to Detroit, you are better served crossing into Canada and traveling “atop” Lake Erie.

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Phone service dies, because we don’t have Verizon, and you have to drive those things they have there instead of miles, but the trip is shorter. We stayed at a Best Western—it was once called the Waterfront Hotel. The next morning in the elevator someone commented on how Justin Trudeau had also spent the night there.

Could it be? The Chrysler Theater was right next door—there is even a connecting passageway—and there had been a long line wrapping around the night before. I had gone out to investigate, but I assumed it was for a music concert, as the marquis suggested. Quite a few cops were there, too, but not that many—I mean, Trump would have shut down half the city. A protester there had been shouting that Trudeau was a racist, and though it made no sense then, afterwards I found out that some college photos of him in blackface (“face-darkening make-up,” a friendly news source said) had been discovered and published by those who didn’t like him. It occurred to me that protests are pretty much the same everywhere—just plug in a fresh set of faces and you are good to go in any land.

It turned out that he had not stayed overnight. That was just rumor encouraged by the guest having seen a SWAT team. He had just been there to give a campaign speech—he was in and out. Moreover, the relatively small police presence occasioned remarks afterwards of how nice they are in Canada, how just a few cops will do for a visit from the Chief of State—you really don’t need too many—and how even the terrorists, should they feel obliged to shoot up the place, are invariably polite and apologize for the inconvenience.

My wife and I were on the final leg of our Zoo tour. We had signed up as members to the Cincinnati zoo last year so as to get in at half price; the clincher had been when they told us that we could then get into other zoos at half price. We had planned to see about 20, but life gets in the way, and we only made four: Syracuse, Buffalo, Hershey, and now, Toledo. Even Rochester, closest to where we live, we did not get to.

We did not even need our membership at the Toledo Zoo—it was senior day—“Senior Safari”—and oldsters that we are beginning to resemble were admitted free! They were trucking them in, hauling them around in golf carts, and lining them up for vendors and agencies who would pitch services to them.

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It was all sponsored by the Office for the Aging. The old people didn’t look too healthy, many of them—old age is not kind—and one of them (who did look healthy) keeled over right behind us in line for no reason at all. He suffered no injuries, fortunately, except for pride. It was a splendid day weather-wise—sun, mid-seventies, with low humidity.

They offered seniors a special deal for lunch, just five dollars per head, so of course, my wife and I signed up. I absolutely refuse to wear the “Where’s My Senior Discount?” tee shirt that some nutty friend gave me a while back, but when a bargain falls right into your lap, of course you take it. So did hundreds of others—when I saw how long the line was, I began to regret it. But it moved quickly, and once inside, we were seated at round tables of ten—with tableclothes—and waiters placed identical meals of a hamburger and a few tiny side dishes before each old person.

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And then, lo and behold, the master of ceremonies, standing before the aquarium, introduced the Contours, that Mo-Town band of the 60s! I had seen them entering from the other side of the building and had not known who they were. There may have been close to 1,000 in attendance to hear these guys. Who would have thought it? See them here on-screen, but also in person away to the left in the connecting room. They only sang four or five songs. The topper was: “Do You Love Me?”—a 1962 hit that became a hit all over again from the 1988 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

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They are still the showmen they once were. One of them exclaimed: “There’s a lot of good-looking women here!” What was he smoking? Even local realtor Sam Morreale, extrovert like you’ve never seen an extrovert, who thrives on people-contact and has done several deals for family members—I would recommend him in a heartbeat—told me that he doesn’t go to class reunions anymore because “the women don’t look so good” (as though the men do). There may have been a few good-looking women there in Toledo, but it WAS senior day, after all. One band member introduced another—I wish I could remember the names—and observed that even after all these years—even with his store-bought teeth—even with his store-bought teeth, that he got from K-Mart, he can still “really shake ‘em down.”

I love the scene from “Dreamgirls,” code name for the Supremes, where Eddie Murphy croons some song nice and bland, so as to appeal to the white people, and breaks down mid-song. “I can’t do it,” he cries. He then lets out a shriek and launches into pure funk, at which point the all-black horn section exits the bleachers and parades single file past him, joyously blowing for all they are worth. Let’s face it—modern music doesn’t really get interesting until the black musicians get their hands on it.

The Toledo zoo is rated by the Ranker.com site as the seventh best zoo in the country. Is it just a coincidence that the #2 (Columbus) and # 3 (Cincinnati) zoos are also in Ohio? As good zoos do, it intertwines people pathways with animal quarters. The former get many viewing angles—see how you can look through this aquarium and see folks on the other side?

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The animals have varied terrain and relatively spacious quarters. Probably not as spacious as Detroit, which is still in the first half of the Ranker list—after all, if you have to walk a lot to see not that many animals, it means that the animals have more space. The American Zoo Association mandates 5000 square feet for every two wild animals. When I was a boy, zoos used to be jails for animals—they have come a long way. Still, that is hardly the space that they would have in the wild, and my brother (the one who cheats at Scrabble) doesn’t like zoos for that reason. They represent one segment of humanity protecting animals from another segment that would kill them off in one way or another. I don’t know how the animals might feel about that.

Toledo used to be one of those jails for animals—most zoos were. The former gorilla enclosure literally looks like a jail, but it is now a restaurant where people come to dine behind the bars. It opened in 1993–it is called “Carnivore Cafe.” As I panned my camera, so as not to be obvious that I was honing in on a couple of diners, the woman wasn’t fooled a bit, and she began waving even before I pointed toward her—how can people be so clever? Later, when I sat back there myself, my wife exclaimed that they still do have great apes back there—see what I have to put up with?

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These days the gorillas get some revenge for their forebears being jailed. They can soak visitors if the latter happen to be standing in the wrong spot and the former are quick enough.

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And the translucent mannequin simulating how the body reacts to venoms and stings, who in this case represents just an ordinary joe cleaning his house gutters, dies after disturbing a nest of wasps! I mean, they went out of their way to have him die—ordinarily he wouldn’t have, but this fellow had a specific allergy.

The New York zoos that we went to—Syracuse, Buffalo—and we know Rochester from before—are all down near the bottom of the Ranker list. They are well done—almost all zoos are improving—and reflect people dedicated to their care, but they are smaller. Even ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania—with a name like that we figured it must be spectacular, but it actually meant that it contained, as a refuge zoo, only animals native to North or South America—one would never describe as “bad.” Sometimes less is more, and having defined their more modest goal, they go on to do more with it.

Most zoos undertake the mission to educate as to how to be better stewards of the planet. The aquarium building had photos—they are spotted only as you are close to the exit—of just how damaging human pollution is to marine life. Some birds will feed on small discarded plastic items, filling their stomachs and causing starvation when real food no longer fits, one sign informed. And the next one of the turtles speaks for itself:

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Another exhibit of the Cassowary bird even illustrated a Bible verse for me. The creature defecates thousands of seeds that sprout and serve to repopulate the rain forest in which it resides. That called to mind the derisive title given the apostle Paul by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who wanted to know “what is it this chatterer is trying to say?” (Acts 17:18) Literally the word means “seed-picker” and it denotes a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there—it is not as though they held him in high esteem

Just as some other creature did something so amazing that I was overwhelmed with appreciation for God’s design, some evolutionist behind me exclaimed: “It seems almost a miracle that natural selection has resulted in these ingenious behaviors!” So I spun about and threw him into the lions den behind me, where he was instantly devoured, as the three Hebrew lads had not been. Look—I gave him a chance to prove survival of the fittest—don’t judge me. I admit that it was an overreaction, but I was tired of his type carrying on about how the Chinese steal intellectual property, whereas nobody steals intellectual property today more than scientists themselves. The way jet wings tip up at the extremities, the way they never used to? That comes from watching buzzards, eagles, and storks. It wasn’t the brainchild of any human, but of God. Fortunately for them, it was not patented, and God doesn’t begrudge them for copying it. But they have no right to pass it off as their own brilliant idea and not give credit where credit is due.

 

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There Goes My Study With Santa Claus

“Oh yes, the notorious beard issue!” says a correspondent.

All that I will say on this is that the last meeting was enough to end my study with Santa Claus. He had been making such good progress. I had finally gotten him to stop disrupting meetings with a “HO HO HO!” whenever the speaker made even the lamest of jokes. He had stopped pronouncing the elders “bad” when they asked him and me to take his outbursts to the back room. He had even said he was giving up the extreme sports stunt he pulls every late December, out of regard for appreciating the gift of life.

It wasn’t the full beard the fellow had at the beginning that stumbled him. Nor was it the shaven-off beard that he had at baptism. It was the half-beard that he had at his study, thus indicating progress.

Sigh...and he was a good study. His wife always served the most delicious cookies.

 

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Thoughts Gleaned from the Midweek Meeting of September 23-29, 2019

One young woman at the congregation meeting last night identified with the “missing drachma” parable of Jesus, saying: “When I put my hand in my back pocket and find some money there....Whoa! it is a big deal!” (“Betty Davis style” is how Bob Dylan said it.) I must admit that it inspired me to do the same, slipping a dollar into my back pocket, pulling it out and exclaiming: “Whoa! Look at this!”

It was this illustration at Luke 15 that got her going: “What woman who has ten drachma coins, if she loses one of the drachmas, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma coin that I had lost.’”

There is a not-so-hidden rebuke in Jesus’ words summarizing a similar parable: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”​ Well, they did—have need of repentance that is. Otherwise they would have been out searching for the missing sheep themselves:

“What man among you with 100 sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the 99 behind in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home, he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”​

The context was that of the Pharisees sneering at the common people that they should have been tending to, even employing the pejorative term “amhaarets”—“people of the dirt.” Straying a little off-topic, but still fair game, the conductor of that Bible-study portion explored how you wouldn’t want to come across that way in your own ministry:

Bible principles are good and with them people mess up their lives much less than they would otherwise. Sometimes it works at the other end, and they succeed much more than they would otherwise. It depends upon one’s starting point. At any rate, come across someone in the ministry with a host of problems, and realize it could well be you in the absence of Bible principles—I mean, it is no basis for ever feeling superior, as those Pharisees did without even mastering the godly ways.

Again, not part of this particular study, but certainly in the same vein, was Jesus’ rebuke to those same religious leaders on another occasion: “But when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they began saying to his disciples: “Does he eat with tax collectors* and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.”

Sometimes those who dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses try to paint it that they have a higher proportion of ones mentally ill. I have no idea whether this is true or not, for mental illness defines the times that we live in, but I don’t even kick back at this anymore. Instead, I say that, if true, it is exactly what one would expect. I quote Jesus’ words that he came to call, not on those who do not need a physician, but on those who do. “Spiritually sick” is what he is talking about, but if spiritually sick, then maybe emotionally or mentally sick as well—sickness tends to overflow its banks. The people you have to wonder about, in my view, are not those who experience emotional difficulties in the face of the present world, but those who do not—those who sail past atrocities on every side and remain undisturbed.

The two Bible chapters up for review in that mid-week meeting were Hebrews 12 and 13. Discipline was a theme, in view of 12:7. “You need to endure as part of your discipline,” the verse says. There was a video of a circuit overseer taking counsel from his wife as discipline. He was upset over someone he thought had treated him badly, and his wife said: “Well, that’s because he is a yo-yo. But so are you. Get over it.” [precise words mine, not hers] He told of how he had received a letter from the branch telling how he had botched something or other, and he counted that, too, as discipline. Sometimes we get counseled over various things.

Still, the overall sense of Hebrews 12:7 is that even if no one ever says a word to you about anything, simply to pursue the Christian course in a world that either wants to change that course or have nothing to do with it is a “discipline.” The lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be described as ones of delayed gratification; they go light or even abstain from certain aspects of life that they would otherwise engage in for the sake of laying hold to a greater prize. That takes self-discipline. Delayed gratification is usually seen as a responsible thing, even by Witness opposers, just not in this case.

That just pursuing the Christian course in the face of an indifferent or even hostile world is in itself a form of discipline is plain from surrounding verses, as well as the overall context of the Book of Hebrews itself. Those members of the Jerusalem congregation were tiring of holding the line. They “ought to be teachers in view of the time but they again need someone to teach [them] from the beginning the elementary things.” (5:12) Hopefully, they would be encouraged by the “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding them—not to mention Christ’s own example, so as to “not get tired and give up.” (12:1-3)

“In your struggle against that sin, you have never yet resisted to the point of having your blood shed.  And you have entirely forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, nor give up when you are corrected by him;  for those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact, he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.” You need to endure as part of your discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?  But if you have not all shared in receiving this discipline, you are really illegitimate children, and not sons. Furthermore, our human fathers used to discipline us, and we gave them respect. Should we not more readily submit ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit so that we may partake of his holiness.  True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.” (12:4-12)

Don’t be a lout and don’t miss the point of God’s undeserved kindness [“grace,” many transactions say, but the New World Translation says “undeserved kindness,” since the former term just conveys to the modern man that God is not clumsy and doesn’t topple over things]: “Carefully watch that no one fails to obtain the undeserved kindness of God, so that no poisonous root springs up to cause trouble and many are defiled by it; and watch that among you there is no one who is sexually immoral nor anyone who does not appreciate sacred things, like Eʹsau, who gave up his rights as firstborn in exchange for one meal. (12:15-16)

He is shaking the very heaven and the earth. He is not shaking the congregation directly, but it is sure to feel the aftershocks—hence the heightened need for the discipline of endurance: “Now the expression “yet once more” indicates the removal of the things that are shaken, things that have been made, in order that the things not shaken may remain.  Therefore, seeing that we are to receive a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to receive undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably offer God sacred service with godly fear and awe.  (12:27-28)

(thoughts gleaned from the midweek meeting of September 23-29, 2019)

*Tax collectors were the lowest of the low in popular esteem back then because they were not unknown to shake people down for, not just the required tax, but whatever they could get in addition.

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