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The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport, and the Man to Uncover JFKs Assassination: Part 2

I didn’t want to run the above title and ignore question of interest to most people: Who killed JFK? But now that I have discharged that responsibility with Part 1, I can focus on just what caught my attention in the first place and how it dovetails with some other things I’d come across.

RFK Jr’s words, from that first article:

“The Cuba Station was “angry at my uncle for not sending in air cover during the Bay of Pigs invasion”, he says. “After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, my uncle developed this friendship with Khrushchev, and he shut down all the attacks on Cuba by Alpha 66 and other groups who were harassing Cuba and sinking Russian ships.”

He did? Became friends with Khrushchev? Can you imagine what would happen to any pol today who became friends with a Russian leader? These days such a charge is leveled at pols with the assurance it will be a career ender if it can be made to stick. Apparently, if RFK Jr’s charge is true, it was for JFK, too—literally.

And yet, it fits well with facts I discovered in writing ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why.’ Khrushchev arguably saved the world during the tense days of the Cuban Missile crisis with a frank letter that notably defused tensions. Kennedy, who was modest enough to admit (to advisors), ‘He kicked my butt!’ at their first meeting, doubtless would have looked at the Soviet leader with some appreciation. 

The letter, which I included in the ‘Statesmen’ chapter of ‘Don’t Know Why,’ reads:

Dear Mr. President:

 I have received your letter of October 25. From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and (some) sense of responsibility. I value this.

 . . . Everyone needs peace: both capitalists, if they have not lost their reason, and, still more, Communists….War is our enemy and a calamity for all the peoples. . . . I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.

 . . . Mr. President, do you really seriously think that Cuba can attack the United States and that even we together with Cuba can attack you from the territory of Cuba? Can you really think that way? How is it possible? We do not understand this. . . . You can regard us with distrust, but, in any case, you can be calm in this regard, that we are of sound mind and understand perfectly well that if we attack you, you will respond the same way.

 . . . We, however, want to live and do not at all want to destroy your country. We want something quite different: To compete with your country on a peaceful basis. We quarrel with you, we have differences on ideological questions. But our view of the world consists in this, that ideological questions, as well as economic problems, should be solved not by military means, they must be solved on the basis of peaceful competition,

If there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this. . . . There, Mr. President, are my thoughts, which, if you agreed with them, could put an end to that tense situation which is disturbing all peoples. These thoughts are dictated by a sincere desire to relieve the situation, to remove the threat of war.

The superpowers came close. Was it Khrushchev’s telegram that averted catastrophe? Both sides removed missiles and the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba again. We “lucked out,” wrote The Week magazine, commenting on the telegram. Pundits will squabble till the end of time as to who was the worst villain or the best hero. It is in the eye of the beholder. But I didn't want to write a Russia-bashing book. To do so might have been a temptation, since Russia now visits unhinged persecution on the religious community that I hold dear. "Russia’s religious persecution focuses almost exclusively on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” said Rachel Denber, Deputy Director Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, in a 2020 statement to christianpost.com.

But it's not even their 'fault,' really. It is a result of an anti-cult lunacy that sweeps in from the West, like communism itself did, and finds fertile soil on which to thrive. Thrive it does, but it is an invasive species--from France. There, FECRIS operates for the purpose of harassing 'cults' (virtually anything that deviates from mainstream thinking, especially if it incorporates authority that is not that of the mainstream). Russian national Alexander Dvorkin is the VP of that organization. He was a mastermind of the anti-Witness campaign in Russia under the guise of fighting 'cults.' Of course, we Witnesses, who follow such things barely at all, imagine it is all the machinations of the House Church, the Russian Orthodox. They're happy as pigs in mud, to be sure, but they did not originate the persecution, the case for which is made in 'Don't Know Why.'

So, not wanting to bash Russia unduly, I searched for noble things to write of, and found several. There are arguably three instances of a Russian 'saving the world,' if we count Khrushchev's letter as the first: 

"In 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, in charge of the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system, saw that five missiles had been launched by the United States. The eyes of all his subordinates were upon him. Had he passed the information along to his superiors, it would have triggered an immediate Soviet counterstrike. He judged it was a malfunction and told underlings to forget about it. Of course, investigation later confirmed that he had been correct. Stanislav died during 2017, to relatively scant notice.2 He is one of the Ecclesiastes “princes who went on foot like slaves, while slaves rode on horseback.”

"Another was Vasili Arkhipov. He was the sole person of three senior officers on the nuclear-missile equipped submarine B-59 who refused to authorize their use—authorization had to be unanimous—during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Thomas Blanton, then director of the U.S. National Security Archives, credited him with “saving the world.” Third was Nikita Khrushchev, mentioned in the Statecraft chapter, sending the telegram that arguably defused the Cuban tension and ended the crisis."

And now here is RFK Jr, speaking of a "friendship" that developed between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Two of the three above events occurring on his watch, it's plausible. I'd had no idea, but it's plausible.

Another thing of which I had no idea was that Khrushchev was regarded a reformer in his day, one who worked to mitigate the extremes of Stalin. I remember him as the hothead who pounded the desk with his shoe at the UN and on another occasion boasted 'We will bury you!'--which the media spun in terms of threatening war, whereas he meant economic competition. He's pretty much forgotten today, an embarrassment to be ignored, as is Mikhail Gorbachev. Both accommodated Western values in the Soviet Union/Russia. The current mood is to get as far away from that as possible—ideally, forget that it ever happened.

(See: ‘In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones,’ by Nina Khrushcheva [Khrushchev’s granddaughter] for the current ‘ranking’ of previous Russian leaders.)

To be continued: here.

 

******  The bookstore

 

 

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

1 Thessalonians 5: Verses Amassed on Jehovah’s Day

If you’ve been around for awhile, as I have, you’re on the lookout for something,to make you prick up your ears. Most things don’t. Most things are reminders, reinforcements, applications, etc, of what you already know. So here featured in the WatchtowerStudy is a chapter in 1 Thessalonians in which verse after verse, each one a solid base hit, adds up to a grand slam of illustrations about Jehovah’s day. Had I ever looked at the passage that way?

Now as for the times and the seasons, brothers, you need nothing to be written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape.  But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that the day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness. So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.

“For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation as a helmet  because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us, so that whether we stay awake or are asleep, we should live together with him.  Therefore, keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thessalonians 1-11)

The study was a verse-by-verse commentary. I love those things. The Day comes so quickly as to perhaps surprise even those expecting it, like birth pains, like a thief in the night, not to be slept through, nor drunk into oblivion in an effort to ignore. “When we want to sleep, we turn out the lights—intentionally,” said one brother, as he likened that course to what some do today in the face of plunging world conditions.

The congregation of Thessalonica was founded amidst great persecution, another pointed out. The temptation in similar areas of persection, such as current Russia, is to imagine maybe that Day to come any second now. The temptation in more laid back areas is that it is yet a long ways off. Either view can mess one up.

I kind of liked this side reference from Ephesians on keeping our act together: “For you were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth. Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and stop sharing in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness; rather, expose them for what they are. For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. (Ephesians 4:8-12)

Who knows what devious schemes or deeds or plots are referred to—things shameful even to mention? Good to be far away from where those things are launched.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport, and the First ‘Conspiracy Theory:’ The Assassination of JFK: Part 1

In 1992 was passed a law (The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act) that all documents relating to Kennedy’s 1963 assassination be released in 2017. The year came and went. ‘Only’ 56,604 documents were released.

Is it only me who finds 56,604 documents of anything an absurd overkill? It’s just the tip of the iceberg, apparantly, since 89% of all relevant documents were said to be already fully visible to the public—as of the late 1990s.

The Biden administration ran the quest again in 2022, and still some more were shaken loose. Still, 4000 documents continued to remain secret and are down to this day. All but the children from that time period are dead. Why keep what remains under such tight wraps—unless, it is not individual people, but entire agencies whose secrets must be ‘protected?’

The ubiquitous ‘conspiracy theory’ term was coined just after the Kennedy Assassination. Within months, the Warren Commission, named for the Chief Justice of the United States, and staffed by a panel of Congressional people, plus the then CIA director, concluded Kennedy’s assassin (Lee Harvey Oswald) had acted alone. Also, the man who shot Oswald to death two days later, (Jack Ruby) he too, acted alone. Case closed. Shortly thereafter, anyone questioning that report would be labeled as advancing a ‘conspiracy theory,’ the first appearance of that term.

Today, President Kennedy’s nephew says, “I feel that I’m probably the only one that can unravel” the machinations behind that killing,. It is probably so. Not only was it his uncle that was assassinated, but also his father, Robert F. Kennedy Sr.

With a long history of environmental lawyer, lauded by progressives until he turned upon the vaccine industry, Robert F Kennedy Jr has this year announced his candidacy for president. ‘In normal times I would not do this,’ he says, ‘but these are not normal times.’ No, they are not.

He has the stature, he has the resources, the wherewithal, the ‘chops,’ and Lord knows, the motivation, to uncover just who killed both his father (RFK) and uncle, JFK. These days he is spilling some serious beans:

“The Cuba Station [essentially, a hit division of the CIA] was “angry at my uncle for not sending in air cover during the Bay of Pigs invasion”, he says. “After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, my uncle developed this friendship with Khrushchev, and he shut down all the attacks on Cuba by Alpha 66 and other groups who were harassing Cuba and sinking Russian ships. They were operating flotillas out of South Florida, and doing raids. My uncle (JFK) and father (RFK) sent the Coast Guard to confiscate their ships and weaponry and arrest those that kept doing it.”

Kennedy had inherited the Bay of Pigs invasion plan. It had been earlier proposed by the CIA and approved by President Eisenhower to overthrow the newly installed Communist regime in Cuba. First thing Castro had done was to nationalize American interests. Says Wikipedia: (8/20/23) of the Bay of Pigs invasion:

“As the [April 1961] invasion force lost the strategic initiative, the international community found out about the invasion, and U.S. President John F Kennedy decided to withhold further air support. The plan, devised during Eisenhower's presidency, had required the involvement of U.S. air and naval forces. Without further air support, the invasion was being conducted with fewer forces than the CIA had deemed necessary. The invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.”

For its part, the CIA did not forgive JFK. For JFK’s part, (says RFK Jr) “he came out of his office during the Bay of Pigs and said, ‘I want to shatter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” RFK Jr adds: “The Espionage division [of the CIA] is made up of extraordinary people who are doing an important job of protecting the country. … The Plans Division is the action division. They’re the ones that assassinate people, fix elections, overthrow governments and do all the things that we’re  paying for in our foreign policy – and domestic policy – today. My father was going to separate those two divisions. My uncle was going to do that too.”

It was enough to trigger an assassination, RFK Jr. maintains.

See Part 2:

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Can a Crocodile Play Basketball?

Can a crocodile play basketball?

 

AI’s answer in this age of ChatGPT, 3 different applications:

One: That’s an interesting question. Crocodiles are amazing animals that have been around for millions of years. They are very good at swimming, hunting, and surviving in different habitats. But can they play basketball?

Well, the answer is probably no. Crocodiles are not very good at jumping, running, or handling a ball. They have short legs, heavy bodies, and long tails that make it hard for them to move quickly on land. They also have very strong jaws, but not very flexible hands. They can’t grip a ball or pass it to their teammates. They might even try to eat the ball or the other players!

So, crocodiles are not suited for playing basketball. But they are still fascinating creatures that have many other skills and abilities. IMG_1011

 

Two: No, a crocodile cannot play basketball. Crocodiles are reptiles and do not possess the physical abilities or cognitive skills required to play basketball.  (Photo by Pixabay)

 

Three: Crocodiles are not capable of playing basketball due to their anatomy and lack of abilities required for such activities. They are not built for complex motor skills or coordination needed for sports like basketball.

 

Walter Isaacson wrote in 2005 that the crocodile question stymied AI, which invariably did well with any number-crunching question but not something that involved ‘thinking.’ So said his book ‘The Innovators,’ which traces the development of both computers and the internet. The most significant advance for the former was the microchip, which allowed for computers to shrink to desktop-sized. The most significant advance for the latter was switchable digital packets, allowing computers to communicate with each other over a network.

The first crocodile answer hedges its bets. ‘Probably no,’ it says, and explains why, exploring the crocodile’s anatomy, taking the question quite seriously (rather than giggling it away, as any 4 year old would do).

Answers two and three also don’t realize someone is putting them on, but they are more definitive and give evidence of ‘thinking.’ That is, they draw conclusions from how a crocodile is built in a way that is beyond pure number crunching.

‘The Innovators’ final chapter tells how chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov agreed to a challenge from IBM’s Deep Blue and lost. ‘Yeah, well, it’s just pure number-crunching,’ he comforted himself, not that it made losing to it any better. The machine wasn’t actually thinking. It was just running any given chess board against a gargantuan database it had downloaded, including all grandmaster games, and recalling whether any given move next move had turned out good or bad. Later, he got the idea of working in tandem with AI, letting the machine crunch the numbers whereas the person could focus on the overall deep strategy that was beyond the machine’s capability.

The concept was tested, also in 2005: grandmaster matched against machine against chess amateur paired with computer backup, The grandmasters lost. So did the machines alone. The amateurs with computer-backup were the ones victorious.

So the current crocodile answer isn’t too bad, really. It ‘reasons’ on the reptile’s anatomy to say, ‘No way.’ It doesn’t just search the internet for websites that says if a crocodile can play basketball or not, a method that would return zilch results.

AI prognosticators have christened as the ‘singularity’ the moment AI reaches the point where it doesn’t need people, where it can and does program itself. Will it decide people just get in the way at that point?

Dumping science in our collective lap with no idea as to how to control it is something I have worked into most of my books. From ‘Tom Irregardless and Me:’

“Sam Harris gave yet another TED talk in which he asked: “Can We Build AI Without Losing Control Over It?” The answer is no; you’ll screw it up like you screw up everything, like you drove Albert Einstein to say, “if I had known, I would have become a locksmith.”

From: ‘In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction:’

“Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Andrew Yang, and a panel of other leaders in technology, urged in March 2023 at least a six-month moratorium on AI development, allowing a little time to figure out what its long-term consequences will be. From their open letter of March 2023:

Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.

“… Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?

“Events move quickly. Who would ever have thought a major risk to writing a book like this would be that portions would be obsolete by its date of release? Within days of this AI caution came a “photo” of Pope Francis fleeing a bevy of police closing in upon him from all sides. “I asked Wonder App to paint, Pope running from the police,” the banner advertised You could never tell it wasn’t him—even if you did wonder how His Holiness could hustle so fast.”

 

From ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why:’

“The New York Times writes about an app that makes it “relatively easy to create realistic face swaps and leave few traces of manipulation. . . . It’s not hard to imagine this technology being used to smear politicians, create counterfeit revenge porn, or frame people for crimes. Lawmakers have already begun to worry about how such deepfakes might be used for political sabotage and propaganda.” The anonymous developer cheerfully helps the Times reporter try his own hand at it. “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he [says], “and ultimately I’ve decided I don’t think it’s right to condemn the technology itself.”[i] Of course not! They never do. It’s on to the next advance of science! Let the ethicists figure out what he has just dumped in their laps, something “which can of course be used for many purposes, good and bad.” It’s their problem, not his.

“Already, news sources show an eagerness to rely upon unidentified sources that frequently turn out to be wrong. Will they handle this new advance responsibly? Not only must we anticipate dubious proven by video character assassination to become routine, but the more lasting consequence of this new technological advance may be that even genuine video evidence will be dismissed as fake news. It is as Isaiah envisioned: “Ah! Those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness to light, and light into darkness, who change bitter to sweet, and sweet into bitter!” The guileless one so slandered will explode in moral indignation, and thus appear guilty as hell. The professional liar will shrug it off with the feigned saddened dismay that his enemies could sink so low.”

 

Which will come first: Will humans succeed in harnessing their science so as not to ruin them all? Or will the NBA begin drafting crocodiles?

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Why Do Bad Things Happen? Updated for Skeptics and Atheists.

Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He is credited that way. Read up on him and you will find that he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips? If Hercules didn’t like it—well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an atheist? Wikipedia tells us: “He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods”

Why wasn’t it punished? Why didn’t God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?

It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.

After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery. It treated women abominably. And weren’t Greeks the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Let’s face it, few situations of this world today are win-win. Generally, someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don’t even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so that the latter does not see the link and declares any such talk as but crybaby whining. Don’t think that any political party owns the problem. It is inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that humans were not designed to be independent of God.

Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief though it is, demonstrates God’s original intent. “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it,’” says Genesis 1:28. The very name Eden means “pleasure;” garden of Eden becomes, when translated into Greek, “paradise of pleasure,” and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the start, they balked.

Consider Genesis chapter 3: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.”’

“At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.’ Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the “knowing good and bad” of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. “You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as though trying to stifle the first couple—a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have cascaded down to our day.

After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what the prophet Daniel refers to: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44)

Jesus refers to it, too, in The Lord’s Prayer: “...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Here and there, one can see a glimmer, of course, but to predominate? The time for God’s will to be done is when his kingdom comes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and they are now incensed that Republicans aren’t delivering on their promises! God’s kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think that humans will end injustice?

What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?” God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source.

 

From the book: ‘In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction,’ available in  The bookstore

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Lessons from Leonardo de Vinci: Build Those Tweets into Notebooks

Leonardo da Vinci’s biographer draws lessons from his life, summarized in the final chapter:

“Take notes on paper: five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us, Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire or grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.”

To anyone who has written a few books, as I have, these words go down smooth. Time will tell how much the grandchildren will be wowed but the notion of transforming what is fleeting to what is lasting appeals. It’s good to create things.

The thing is, I have used Leonardo in introductory material for the talk, ‘Can You Live Forever? Will You?’ one of the public’s talks in the JW rotation. There’s probably upwards of 200, including special talks that enter the mix.

IMG_1006I would briefly highlight the fantastic contributions Leonardo made to diverse fields—all way ahead of his time, some of them not duplicated to this day. Yet, drawing on a National Geographic quote, toward the end of his life he supposedly begged God’s forgiveness for not using to the full all his resources and art. The underlying idea is how such ones would not be put off by ‘everlasting life,’ as though it were a sentence to repetitive boredom. Instead, they would embrace it.

Do you think I could track down that quote a couple decades later when I wanted it? Or even the Geographic article? It’s somewhere, but I didn’t want to spend all day searching. Yet, Walter Isaacson, in a final chapter, highlights not those exact words but ones showing the same same sentiment and the same regret. “Did any of it get done?” Leonardo lamented again and again over his many sketches, schemes, and projects that never got off the drawing board—and never did, not because they were no good, but because Leonardo was easily distracted; he’d leave a project undone to tackle what next caught his attention.

This included the Mona Lisa. Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant, commissioned Leonardo to paint his wife, Lisa. Why Leonardo even accepted the commission is a mystery, for he could barely be bothered to pick up a paint brush in those days—he’d moved on to other things—but he did accept it. Thereafter, he fussed with the painting for 16 years, eternally perfecting it one tiny stroke at a time, incorporating the minutest adjustment of how light reflected or how human anatomy displayed itself in the smallest detail.  The painting was in his studio upon his death; del Giocondo never took delivery of it. Of another masterpiece, the Last Supper, this one completed in a blistering five years, Isaacson writes: "Leonardo would sometimes stare at the work for an hour, finally make one small stroke, and then leave."

Isaacson the biographer overall takes this as a plus. He reverses the normal mantra, ‘Don’t let the perfect become an enemy of the good’ into ‘Don’t let the good become the enemy to the perfect.’ Leonardo released nothing that was not perfect and consequently, released little, including major paintings. He’d work on them awhile, set them aside, and work on something else. He liked the process more than the finish, says Isaacson.

Alas, I could use a bit more of this philosophy myself. I release a lot of drivel in my writing, cranked out to meet a self-imposed schedule before adequate development. By the time it hits book stage, it’s much better, but even there I have been known to withdraw entire books for rewrite. Not to worry. Like George Harrison, “with every mistake we must surely be learning.” And that gently weeping guitar in the background that nags we are not? Fugeddabudit!

The tweets come in handy, though. Especially back when there was a 140, then 280. character limit, they served to make the windbags concise, including me. There are numerous passages in my books that began as tweets. Then, feedback can add a conversational quality not to be had in just essay alone.

 

******  The bookstore

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Psalm 59: Dogs? Bring em On!

What to do with this psalm of David?

“Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; Protect me from those rising up against me.” (Ps 59:1)

Again?

“Rescue me from those who act wickedly, And save me from violent men.  Look! They wait to ambush me; Strong men attack me But not because I have revolted or sinned, O Jehovah.” (v 2-3)

Not THIS time. But that time was to come—after than bit of carrying on with Bathsheba and bumping off her husband to cover it up.

Here’s what makes him trouble in particular this time:

“Awake to turn your attention to all the nations. Do not show mercy to any malicious traitors.” (Vs 5)

Traitors. I don’t like em.

“They return each evening; They growl like dogs and prowl around the city.  Look what pours forth from their mouth; Their lips are like swords, For they say: “Who is listening?” (v 6-7)

You know, dog’s don’t get their due in the Bible. ‘Man’s best friend?’ You wouldn’t know it here. What about that fellow who kept a lamb which was like a child to him and the king slaughtered it to feed his guest? A dog—a dog is what comes to be like a child. These days people will keep a dog instead of a child. Speaking of her dog, my need-greater friend said it would never say it hated her, would never say it was doing drugs, and would never tell her it was gay.

“Do not kill them, so that my people may not forget.” (v 11)

Usually the knee-jerk is to finish off traitors.

By your power make them wander about; Cause their downfall, O Jehovah, our shield. (vs 11, cont)

“For the sin of their mouth, the word of their lips, May they be trapped by their pride, Because of the cursing and deception that they speak. Finish them off in your wrath; Finish them off, so that they are no more; Make them know that God is ruling in Jacob and to the ends of the earth.” (v 12-13)

“Let them return in the evening; Let them growl like dogs and prowl around the city.” (v 14)

Again with the dogs! It almost reads as a ‘Bring them on!’ taunt.

Do other translations reflect that tone? A quick check of Biblegateway.com. Some do and some don’t.

The King James does, for example: “And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.”

But others, like the New International Version, just says they come whether you let them or not:

“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.”

Usually it’s the translation with the most detail, if verified by others, that you give the nod to.

“Let them wander about for something to eat; Do not let them be satisfied or find a lodging place. But as for me, I will sing about your strength; In the morning I will joyfully tell about your loyal love.  For you are my secure refuge And a place for me to flee in my time of distress. O my Strength, to you I will sing praises, For God is my secure refuge, the God who shows loyal love to me.” (v 15-17)

 

***  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Sigh—Another Reference to How People Hate to Read

Another observation, this time within the Exercise Patience convention, on how so many hate to read. Such references are frequent. Here, the speaker tries to sell the apparently reluctant brothers on the notion that reading just five minutes a day has a significant positive impact on one’s well-being. 

Is it only me who finds this discouraging, as though proof that one is a ‘stranger in a strange land?’ I feel cheated if I cannot get 3 hours of reading in a day, and can easily do twice that. I mean, sheesh—five minutes?

So I get a little lonely, as though a fish out of water.  And I know that the brotherhood is but a cross section of society, and that society itself is  that way. And I know that in the case of Jehovah’s organization, it results in a people who can set up and dispose of Kingdom Halls pretty much as the greater world sets up and takes down Coleman tents. Let’s face it, we are the exact realization of what Paul said 2000 years ago, a people who “live quietly [usually]  and to mind your own business [we do till we don’t] and work with your hands, just as we ordered you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Well, we haven’t been “ordered” to work with our hands, but it does usually work this way.

IMG_1005Now, if you read 3-6 or more hours a day among a people who must be coaxed to read 5 minutes a day, you begin to think you must be a different kind of animal. Not a better or worse kind of animal; just a different one. It is a gift and, as a gift, you bring it to the altar, rather than start feeling superior over it. Of course if you can bring your ‘gift,’ then it’s a fine thing, but a gift of reading is not necessarily viewed that way, and it’s derivative, writing, is particularly looked at askance. ‘Aren’t there people who are charged to write about God, and those people don’t include you?’ is a prevailing attitude. And just try to sell anyone on the idea that if you read 3-6+ hours a day, you just might know things that the five minute people have not yet come across. Whereas, if I was good at hanging drywall, I’d be highly esteemed. Instead, as a writer on spiritual things, I carry on as though practicing secret sin.

“And I've never gotten used to itI've just learned to turn it offEither I'm too sensitiveOr else I'm gettin' soft.” — Bob Dylan

It’s no wonder I am comfortable on Twitter, where reading and writing is a prerequisite and where there are abundant brothers and sisters who do just that. Three out of ten Americans say they spend virtually all their time online. Those people I like to reach out to.

Ah, just venting. Not to worry. I’m not on the cusp of joining Ahithorolf (who’s been to college!) Striking the shepherd is an unforgivable sin in my eyes. I have found my place and am content.

From my latest: In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction: 

“‘How come you never taught me to do stuff?’ I had queried my handy dad who’d been raised on a farm. The amiable duffer, long past his taciturn days, replied: ‘I did—but you weren’t paying attention that day.’ I think he had bought into the prevailing mantra that if you go to college you can always hire underlings to do the ordinary things that need doing.”

***Says nobody I know: My sons also asked me why I didn't teach them household skills like wiring, roofing, plumbing... I told them that I tried to, but I had to force them to work with me, it was so painful for all of us, that I ended up doing it all myself. 

Yeah. I’m sure I was that way with Pop, too. I do find it’s crippled me all my life though. Not that I can’t make do after a fashion. But I’m no craftman. No serious complaints, though. He was a very good dad overall. He took me sledding in the winter and miniature golfing in the summer.

But I did once hear a talk on exactly that scenario, that of fixing something around the house. The speaker considered just that problem: that you could fix it with you child or you could do it yourself in half the time. He advised re-evaluating just what you were trying to do. Were you fixing an appliance or training a child?

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Wait Till I Tell Bud in the Resurrection What Happened to His Beer: He’ll Never Believe It.

“You know, my wedding best man, a mechanic named Bud, used to love Budweiser beer. He’d say “a glass a day makes Bud wiser.” He died a few years ago. I can’t wait to tell him in the resurrection what happened to his brand and why. He’ll never believe it.” IMG_1003

I just threw that out there on Twitter (now called X?) in a completely secular context. Some loved it. I mean, how could you not? I wouldn’t have believed it either had I not lived through it. It’s just incredible how the beer was boycotted after partnering up with the exact opposite of its customer base. I mean, if Starbucks did it, maybe okay, but macho Budweiser? This partner is a nearly 30 year old man transitioning and conducting himself as a teenaged girl. And to think nobody at Bud would have foreseen the reaction! What in the world were they smoking? What woke employee convinced them this bit of ‘inclusion’ would wow the barroom crowd?

But there were some, secular context that it was, who latched on to the ‘resurrection’ word like a dog shaking a rat. It just drove them bonkers that someone was introducing religion in the form of ‘the resurrection.’

What they don’t know, probably, is that resurrection found resistance in the first century, too: ‘Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  (1 Cor 15:12) Why did resurrection become an early target of those veering from first century purity? Probably because it liberates people from fear of man & makes them harder to manipulate.

It was among the first pretexts of apostasy. Paul writes of these “very [men] have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:18)

It instantly divided an Athenian secular audience of long ago: “Well, when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to mock, while others said: “We will hear you about this even another time.” (Acts 17:32)

Paul used resurrection to get himself out of a spot. Here was a hangman’s meeting convened against him, but “when Paul took note that the one part was of Sadducees but the other of Pharisees, he proceeded to cry out in the Sanhedrin: ‘Men, brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Over the hope of resurrection of the dead I am being judged.’ Because he said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the multitude was split. For Sadducees say there is neither resurrection nor angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees publicly declare them all.”  (Acts 23:6-9) Roughly speaking, the Sadducees were the more secular element among Jews, Pharisees the more fundamentalist.

***“Tom really thinks the reputation of a beer brand is gonna matter in the afterlife,” said one wiseacre. “He does,” I replied. “It will be a tiny footnote showing how absurd things became toward the end of this system of things, but he does.”

“Wow!  What a weird trans-phobic eulogy!” Said another. “I honestly can't wait for you to tell him either.”

Bud died before the term trans-phobic was on anyone’s radar screen. Or any of the multi-genders said to exist today. It wasn’t that long ago. ‘Science’ advances quickly.

Another person was more conciliatory: “‘Drinking this makes Bud wiser’ is a great play on words. Your old friend sounds like he might have been a clever fellow. I’m sure you miss him. These other people sound like assholes.”

He was a good guy. Thanks. I do miss him. He is the same Bud who used to say, “Kill a fly and fifty come to the funeral.’” As for some others, people are people. I had introduced a notion strange to some. Thus far, no one here had rated too highly on the A-scale. Or at least I have seen far worse.

Though after this post was written, they escalated.

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Social Media and the Ministry

 

The internet is not exactly new, but social media in its present form is less than 20 years old. It’s like when some new invention comes along and the young latch right on to it. The oldsters say, “I lived with out is this long—how essential can it be?’

Challenges for the young? Nothing screams ‘Old People!’ more loudly than writing letters. It is hard to imagine a more contact-free form of witnessing, as though fishing with a 5-mile line. The only thing that might scream ‘Old People!’ louder is telephone calls. Young people will text to the cows come home but they don’t do phone calls.

I admit that I did little of either. Now that the pandemic is over, I am relieved of that ‘Crisis of Comfort’ and can revert to more people-friendly forms. Not that it was scaredy-cat for me. One brother said, ‘It’s not that I’m scared to do it. It’s that I’m scared of being ineffective.’

Exactly. When they urge me to ‘step out of my comfort zone,’ I reply that I am not necessarily comfortable even in my comfort zone. Yet here it had nothing to do with comfort zone. It had to do with considering oneself ineffective. I would sit down to write a letter and then it would occur to me that I could write something on the internet and get near-instant feedback. I would next think of phone calls, but be dissuaded by notion that if someone answered, my first thought would be, “What! Are you nuts?” Like many even of my age, and especially the young, you know that scammers will eat you alive if you pick up unidentified calls, and so you don’t do it. That’s not to say no good results were achieved in these ways. I know of several occasions in which they were—and in some strange way I can’t put my finger on, new ones attending the meetings is on the rise, at least where I am. But once again, it and letter-writing represent an ultra-cautious approach—contrary to the very spirit of young people, which is that of boldness.

Get them out door-to-door and get them out door-to-door when people are home. Don’t stuff them in cars for the driving ministry, focusing on calls that are not likely to be home. Alas, this recommendation is not as easy to pursue as before, since many oldsters have grown fond of the Zoom ministry. Nothing wrong with that—don’t think there is. But it does make it hard to guide the young people. ‘Your young men will present themselves like dewdrops,’ say the verse. ‘Welcome, dewdrop! Grab a pen. We’re writing letters today!’ I don’t think so. They don’t even teach cursive in many schools today, so archaic has it become.

And if social media has become their Athens marketplace, where people do nothing but listen to or tell of things new, don’t hold them back from going there if they want (subject to parental approval/supervision and all) out of fear that the apostate bogey man may appear, necessitating the Monty Python, “Run away! Run away!” Teach them how to handle that jerk if he does crash the party. Why should the entire internet be ceded to the Devil?

Social media is not everything, but neither is it nothing. It becomes the elephant in the room as we think about ways of contacting people. It’s not hard to envision why the earthly organization might worry about social media, not just on account of the bogey man, but also on account of when Witnesses do go online, they tend to be not very good at it. They’re prone to sending back and forth memes alternately syrupy and judgmental. No matter. Nobody’s good at things without training. Give them some.

One firebrand on Twitter says he is there to answer Bible questions. A quick look at those he follows reveals, veering little from recommendations, that they are all fellow Witnesses. ‘Um—they’re not likely to ask you Bible questions if they are Witnesses already,’ I tell him. But he’s convinced that somehow it will work out. And maybe it will. Sometimes letter and phone calls work out. But the spirit of young people is bold. They’re not given to hiding. They figure out tech in a heartbeat. I mean, when Elon Musk goes to hiring, he doesn’t say, ‘Check out the resume of that old fart Harley. Whoa! Look at this point. He knows how to insert the UBS code right side up! And he knows it’s hashtags, not crosstags’

It took me a while to know how to behave on social media. Nobody was there to train me. I probably trolled a bit more than was advisable. I even briefly locked horns with Nemo—my nickname for the virulent Witness apostate who later blew up his family by revealing a predilection for the lithe young prostitutes of Asia. I mean, if letter writing screams ‘Old People!’ is does not scream it nearly so loudly as his course screamed 2 Peter 2:19: “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption!” But he managed to blame his twisted tastes on his former religion—he was an expert at blaming others and even many of his former cohorts became fed up with him.

I’ve got that all out of my system now. Now I am ‘social network smart’ — the TrueTom way. Teach the young who want to use it how to use it. Many of them do it anyway—doing it furtively lest they trigger disapproval.  Teach them to do it right—sort of like cart work or like your physical presence in your physical neighborhood. There, you routinely come across people. You don’t witness to them with your every breath as you share whatever common interests you may have. But you establish yourself as an all-around good egg, a Jehovah’s Witness as it turns out, and once in a while you get to put in a good word for God. It’s not everything. But neither is cart work everything, nor informal witnessing, nor phone calls, nor letter writing. 

If you have a body of work, as I do, you link to it, along with a profile picture. If you don’t, you find some spiritual  ‘mission statement’ with which you can identify. Myself—I don’t link to Jw.org on my profile page. I suspect they don’t want that, especially if you’re weird. The point is, you can establish yourself as both a neighbor and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘I decided to be very open about my faith,’ said the teenaged girl featured in the Convention video. ‘In time my classmates began approaching me with their problems.’

I torment the local stockbroker with pictures of Ramblers. It’s become a running joke. He has a classic car collection that he trots out for special events. Ramblers are the cars I grew up with. I envied classmates who tooled around in cars with fins on which you could impale a buffalo whereas I was stuck in a boxy toaster that got good gas mileage. Getting good gas mileage may be a virtue today, but only a wuss cared about it them.

’I dunno, Tom,’ he says, when I trot out a Rambler I came across in the country. image.jpeg

‘It looks in pretty good shape. If you must have a Rambler maybe you should snap this one up.’ I reply that it is indeed a little tempting, but the last thing I need is another hobby. Nor do I have the mechanical ability to keep it shipshape, nor the disposable income to hire it out.

I’ve never even breathed ‘God’ to this busy fellow, nor do I engage with him for that main objective. I exchange tweets with him because he’s an interesting guy. But at some point it is hard to believe he will not have checked out my profile and adjacent tweets in which I do weigh in on God. It’s not everything, but neither is it nothing—and will have made at least as much impression as passing a literature cart.

Others I have directly witnessed to, usually in incremental measure. Someone will say something about ‘what is the purpose’ of life,’ for example, and one can add a remark that is not too light and also not a sledge hammer. I’m not giving any Sermons on the Mount but there are countless people who know or have opportunity to know more of the faith by having come across my path. Periodically I will add new followers, usually those who have liked a prior remark, and delete some whom I follow, usually those who have not interacted. It’s almost like checking out a new territory.

Nobody taught me these things. I figured them out on my own and it took awhile. Sure enough, the bogey man does stop by now and again, but I’ve learned how to chase him off. 

I don’t know that it is something to encourage. I’m just don’t know why it should be so thoroughly discouraged as it is. Ever heard our people have a kind word for social media? Nor have I. It could be all Gehenna would break out were our youths to swarm there. You might have to train them to interact, not especially a slam-dunk because our own adults don’t interact much. Alas, all Gehenna breaks out anyway. Might as well break it our way. Give the dewdrops something to do in accord with their interests and abilities. 

Everything is cool. Counsel is good. Go here. Watch out for that. It all works. But things that are done need not necessarily be done to the nth degree. Sometimes the nth degree works out to be the course of wisdom. Sometimes it backfires on you. 

 

***  The bookstore

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'