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Archive for the ‘Cultural commentary’ Category

I had another few moments of reflective insight upon waking this morning. All kinds of things bubble up when the pressure is only released for a few moments. It works for uncapped sodas and beleaguered minds alike.

Yesterday was an odd day for me. I was questioning my long-term purpose continuing where I am, doing what I am doing. For many years that was not a question as I felt confident as to my whereabouts and ‘whyabouts’. On top of that, my lesson plans were not the most gorgeous pedagogy, rather boring to be frank, and not having the time or creativity to fix it this time around. Add to that the fact that for some reason, for which I had no clue of at the time, I didn’t feel well. In this state of mind and body I experienced what is not an uncommon pair of interactions with two students.

The first interaction happened about noon. This class has informed me that they don’t want me to say “Good morning” when they arrive in class at 11:35 AM, but instead, “Good mid-day.” In the middle of lecture, I stood off to the side preparing to interpret what was on the screen in front of us all. I felt slightly nauseated and when I looked at the screen my eyes were sufficiently blurry to not be able to add memory (1) and read what it said. I took my glasses off to see if they had some outrageous smudges on the lenses and clean them anyway since I can’t really see them. The students were still copying the screen so that there was not an awkward moment. One student nearby looked up at me, having had me a previous semester, had read my facial expressions many times, and said, “Are you OK, Mr. F?” Rubbing my eyes and replacing my glasses I quietly said, “No.” She replied, “Maybe you should sit down.” I was struck by the utter kindness in her words and tone of voice. I was also secretly chuckling at how old a grey-bearded 59 year-old must seem to a 16 year-old. I was able to recover by using my peripheral vision to discern the screen and continue and a few moments later at my instruction the students were working away quietly on a worksheet practicing the concepts that we had just gone over. I went and sat down and the girl came up to my desk and asked if “maybe you need to go see the nurse”, followed by “did you eat breakfast this morning?” (2) There was nothing but concern in her face, demeanor, and words, and I thanked her several times before the period was over.

After lunch, blurriness gone, I entered my last period of the last weekday. Students filed in to and with “Good Afternoons” and other comments about the day. One surly student entered at the last minute, wearing his hood and plopping down demonstrably at the bell. I don’t allow hats and hoods on heads in my classroom and he regularly pushes this rule and grunts when I would say, “It’s not raining in here, ___”. This day I could tell that he was in a particularly bad mood, so I thought to wait and ask privately or let it occur to him from my sideways glances. I know that this expectation is considered deeply old-fashioned and inexplicable to most people, but I think that it is a matter of respect. (3) Once again, upon reflection, I figured out why this student was non-verbally resisting. He had been told, no doubt moments before, of his lunch detention for a fourth tardy to my class yesterday. If this were the only or rare exhibition of disrespect toward me from this student, I could have totally ignored it, but I had also had him another semester, and this was the regular fare he serves up. I try to be patient because he is under significant pressure I believe from parents and siblings and friends to “make something of himself” through success in education. He has a good mind but not an excellent ability, so to succeed he must struggle and work hard. Interpreting what I see, I’d say his bad attitude results from much extrinsic motivation but little intrinsic motivation, daily lessened by the pressure of the extrinsic forms. I am probably among his least favorite teachers because my expectations require either that you prove through testing that you know the material or work and organize hard enough and consistently enough to convince me of your learning. Either one will garner a B, but only both precipitate an A. Therefore, his extrinsic motivations get turned up a notch because he is not willing or able to live up to my expectations, though more effort on his part would solve the problem.

These two deeply contrasting interactions within the span of an hour and a half have triggered my reflection on interaction between people. And in fact, I had intended to comment on this previously (“Review of what we should have learned” #2), and am self-chided for not completing that thought. So, in quick fashion, I intend to say what I believe to be several GLUES (Good Lessons Underpinning Effective Society) of Society. Society here means “a voluntary association of individuals for common ends”, and in particular I refer to that kind which is “an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another”. (4)

These two students teach us what we already know to be two required underpinnings of society: respect and kindness. We will forever battle, literally and verbally, if we do not hold these two expectations of ourselves and our fellow citizens. Respect should be for a minimum of two reasons: 1) All people deserve it because they are made in the image of God (5), and 2) Those in authority: a) government servants including elected officials and police, to name a few, b) those who work for our good such as teachers and preachers, fathers and mothers, and c) elders (6). Without interacting layers of respect a society cannot function with civility.

Kindness and mercy, which includes forgiveness, are the only ways past the juggernaut of hatred and fear that propels us to quarrel and be defensive even when there is no offense real or intended.

Additionally, a society must be characterized by truth in order to long endure. I fear our society will not long endure into the future owing to the fact that we have shed all modicum of truth either as a concept or in practice.

The two areas of the practice of truth that I think are a minimum requirement are the rule of law and integrity. I don’t say justice because human government may not even be capable of that in any real and balanced way. Rule of Law it seems to me is a consistent, that is, not fickle, determination to approximate justice in the black and white and gray areas of human ignorance on what constitutes real justice. (7) Some will argue that if we merely follow God’s Word, justice will always be done. I retort that God’s Word is absolutely true and just but our laws are evidence that He did not illuminate us on every detail of how to carry out His justice, though the principles are all there. It is most certainly due to our blindness and rebellion that we do not carry out His law, but that is where we are nonetheless.

Integrity is a term that seems vague to most people I talk to. They simply say it means honesty, or the more astute say it means honesty when no one is watching. Though true, these two definitions fall short of the deeper meaning that a society needs to function. Integrity involves an internal consistency of thought and action based in worldview that makes honesty the unassailable default mode. To put it simply, a person of integrity can’t lie (8) because his/her worldview comes unglued. As an illustration, a student told me that she was telling the truth. In reply, not really questioning her honesty but questioning her integrity and view of herself, I asked, “Do you ever lie?” She thought a moment and slowly replied, “I have.” I pointed out to her that she must, by in large, be an honest person, therefore, because she admits to the human condition that we all lie. (I John 1:5-9) Without integrity there is no good reputation, so where do I take my car to be worked on and do I ever receive change from a cashier without counting it?

How could I make such a list without love. “God is love.” “Without love I am [we are] nothing.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (9) Love holds together everything: self, family, friends, communities, nations. It stems directly from God’s nature and is the greatest need of mankind.

And there you have it, my ideas about the GLUE of Society: Kindness, respect, rule of law, mercy, truth, integrity, and love.

Now this list could go on and I hope the reader will comment with your candidates and reasonings for including other ideas, but I think these seven GLUES can be reduced down to two found in Proverbs 3:3: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” And these two are not dichotomous in nature, whereby you can’t hold one while entertaining the other. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin, whereby you cannot truly have one without the other. As a fellow citizen, yea human being, I cannot truly be kind to you if I do not tell you the truth. And I cannot really be true if I do not communicate and interact in kindness, because you cannot accept it and real truth is always kind by instructing us for our good. And these two can be further be reduced to just love, because it is an essential attribute of God, but not the only one. And that last little clarification is the the reason I think we need to discuss seven or more GLUES for our life together (10) and stop here.

  1. “add memory”- For those of you with good eyesight that means looking at something blurry but being able to discern from size and general shape what it must read.
  2. I told her that I did not know what was wrong and that I had had a good breakfast. Upon later reflection her prompting caused me to realize a possible cause of the episode. I had eaten eggs, sausage, almond meal pancake spread with almond butter missing one ingredient I usually eat that brought carbs to about zero. I have hypoglycemic tendencies from my father. When I ate lunch at noon the blurriness subsided in minutes.
  3. Few know its real meaning. Even this balanced article only hints at the real reason in ignorance: https://www.thespruce.com/etiquette-of-hats-indoors-1216685 I will likely get push back for communicating the real reason, but here it is: I Corinthians 11.
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/society
  5. Ah! there is a sticking point and reason for decay in our society: lack of respect for and subsequent acknowledgement of Creator God.
  6. I am saying more in the footnotes than in the article, but putting it here hopefully prevents bogging down the main points of the article: Romans 13, I Timothy 5:1,17
  7. Victim’s rights balanced with mercy is something I am seeing more that only God can pull off both because of His omniscience and His omnipotence. (This is getting fun to see how many legit. footnotes I can make.
  8. A person of integrity cannot lie ultimately or consistently and will at some level come back around to admit to any lie stated or acted out.
  9. I John 4:8, I Corinthians 13:2, I Peter 4:8
  10. But since this is not a theological treatise on the character of God, I will leave that for your Scripture reading and systematic theologies.

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In Biology class we are studying cell reproduction. The somatic or body cells reproduce by mitosis, yielding genetically identical daughter cells. The gametes (sex cells: egg and sperm) come about by a “double mitosis” as it were called meiosis, that yields genetically divergent cells that have half as much genetic material. Biologically, when an egg and sperm combine you have all of the potential of the mature person. This single cell is called a zygote. After several mitotic cell divisions the zygote is called a blastula. As the cells continue to multiply, they differentiate into various major body parts and systems in what is now called the gastrula. These early stages with their various names are clumped under the name embryo. From 8 weeks on the differentiation is significant enough to recognize some large body form features and the embryo is called a fetus. Most people recognize the fetus as a baby even before he/she is born. The baby becomes an infant, the infant a toddler, the toddler a child, the child an adolescent, the adolescent a teenager, the teenager a young adult, then middle aged adult then senior adult. From fertilization until death the organism is a live person with all of the potentialities of the original zygote. None of us have reached our full potential, but that in no way makes us less human. Therefore, the zygote all the way through the old goat is a human fully deserving the respect of other humans and full protection of the law. Abortion makes no logical sense.

I had a student the other day want to present to me a position speech she was supposed to give for English class as a way to practice it. Several other students were in attendance in my classroom for this “study hall/remediation” session, so she had a willing audience. Her speech contrasted the conditions, laws, and attitudes about abortion in Missouri and Illinois. Then she ended by giving her opinion as the assignment required. She declared that she is pro-life. She stated along the way that she believed that the baby is a human and should not be aborted except under two circumstances. Her two exceptions were rape and incest. I ask her if the child conceived by rape or incest was also human. She conceded that they are human. “Then,” I asked, “Why shouldn’t he/she be afforded the same protections as any other baby whom you claim should not be aborted?” She replied that their conception was a horrible situation that would be harmful to the mother, the baby’s future, and the wider family. “So,” I continued, “You are saying it is OK to abort this baby based on feeling rather than law.” She replied, “The mother has a right to make her own decision.” “But you just said that she did not have a right to abort a baby not conceived by rape or incest,” I rejoined. I went own to say that we cannot ultimately rule by feelings because the whole society will and is falling apart. We must rule by law consistently and that her perspective about abortion did not make logical, legal, or moral sense.

I would throw this one small bone to the pro-abortionists. At least when they desire and demand abortion at any stage for any reason, they are being logically consistent. They are not being morally or legally consistent, however, because according to their scheme, no one has protection under the law. The fetus, like it or not, baby, is fully human at conception. Therefore, they must be given protection like all other humans, or else no humans are guaranteed protection. And of course, this is true. Euthanasia is an extension of abortion “rights”. An “all-wise” doctor, sanctioned by an “all powerful” government decides when the infirm are no longer human, just as they decided when the fetus began to be called human.

Claiming that I have no right to speak about the subject of abortion because I am a man is just another means of ruling by feeling. Besides, I have worked very hard, and by God’s grace, and raised five children. I pointed out to this young logician in my classroom that the problem of unwanted pregnancies could easily be solved by relaxing the adoption laws so that the many people wanting children could raise happy children conceived in less than ideal circumstances. The circumstances of no human are perfect. We live in a fallen world. Much better to make a child’s circumstances better than end his/her life and destroy the mother emotionally and sometimes physically.

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You know a metaphor to be a word picture, that is, words that bring to mind certain scenes or ideas. I was looking for a word whose definition is a picture that suggests words. Perhaps some of you wizened wordsmiths could help me out here and come up with the word. Unless and until that happens, I’m going to attempt to coin my second(1) word. Pictometaphor(2,3)- a picture or other visible art meant to suggest words. Now, you know we see these all of the time, but I don’t know if anyone has given it a name. And we say a picture is worth a thousand words, to which I say, of course, pictometaphor.

So, I want to try out my new word on you. I am making wedding rehearsal dinner decorations (That was a mouthful.). I am not really creative in this realm, so that the contrivance of my wife and I is a modified copy of things we liked online. It is in some respects simpler, and by me making it, much cheaper. But all that is not the point here, and I can’t give away too much before the dinner, so the pictures are limited. My point is for you to look at the following picture and write down pairs (in this case) of words that immediately come to mind. To see the quality of my pictometaphor, please don’t look at my answers until you have written down several pairs. It is totally fair and desirable to consider that this pictometaphor is in the context of an upcoming wedding. It needs context.

20190805_134150

Before I give my answers, let me further comment on the quality of a pictometaphor. The picture, sewn cloth (in this case), statue, etc, should universally suggest the same words to all people. This might be too much to expect given different cultures, so perhaps, it should at least be universal within a given culture. Or perhaps it becomes a code word (code picture?), a sort of jargon joke for the initiated.

When I look at the picture above in the context of marriage, I immediately think male/female, strength/beauty, utility/luxury, mundane/special (plano/fancy?), daily/special event. How do your pairs fare? Do they align with mine, mean the same thing with different words, contradict at points? Share by commenting.

Now, I like extended metaphors, as long as they don’t verge on the ridiculous. So I have added some possible additional accoutrements to the decoration. (This is somewhat tongue in cheek, and my wife said that was not happening when I suggested it.) Make your list of pairs again and let me know how you did.

20190805_134235

The selection of additional items colors(4) the connotations of the pictometaphor. Because I have selected two items that involve work or chores, the suggestion is not work versus play, but what kind of work. Probably for many of us, they suggest traditional gender roles. I am not going to apologize for that. I have hung up many clothes, particularly as a child, and my wife has helped me by hauling lumber and bags of concrete, but there are differences in our roles as male and female, and those have quite naturally and thankfully expressed themselves in our culture in nurturing and supporting ways. Much that is wrong with our society at present revolves around the abandonment of God ordained, given, and declared gender roles within the family, church, and society. Therefore, the first pair that came to my mind when seeing the nails and clothes pins was male/female. Also, I think home/job.

I could have directed the pictometaphor in a completely different direction by some simple change like replacing either the clothes pins or the nails with a few Lego bricks or a small doll. Then I would be driving the picture toward work/play, responsibility/privilege, chore/leisure, or even childhood/maturity depending on the exact toy I select.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my comments and selecting your word pairs for the pictometaphor. The connotations of the pictometaphor need not be pairs, but the ideas must be ones that are widely understood. That is where culture and history and language come in. Language and art are at least partially an archive for culture and history. We should not revel in language and art changing so fast, because that blurs and eradicates much that can be learned and shared between generations. For instance, Western Culture has a rich language and art based on a biblical understanding. Many pieces of literature and art can not be understood in isolation from an understanding of the Bible. Of course, some want to rush the change, obliterate the references and understanding for the Bible given by language and art, and wholeheartedly reinterpret both, but that is a pictometaphor for another day.

1- The first word I tried to coin is “momentaneously”- circa 1995- used in response to impatient inquiry to mean you are high on my priority list and I will get to you with all speed as circumstances allow. Used in a sentence: “I will answer you momentaneously, but you are interrupting Jane at the moment.” For evidence of my coinage I site numerous classrooms full of students. Please spread the word since this may be my best possibility at fame. And, oh, by the way, don’t take me too seriously.

2- I considered iconometaphor, photometaphor, or imagometaphor, but each of these suggest connotations not in line with my definition, so I settled on pictometaphor.

3- “Hey, George.” What, Frank?” “How about photaphor or imaphor (or imagaphor) or iconaphor.” “Oh, Frank, that last one sounds good, but do you think people will understand what it means?” “George, the sound of a word can help the availability of its meaning, but ultimately, there is nothing like a clear and consistently used definition. ‘Is’ means ‘is’ even if some people say it ‘ain’t’.”

4- I am also partial to puns.

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Early this summer I had a student ask me a question by e-mail: “Do you think it is truly possible for someone to find the correct answer to the Drake Equation? If so, how would they prove it?”

After some research I gave the following reply:

“”The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake, not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations, but as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue…”(1) Therefore, the terms in the equation are considerations of what would have to be known in order to quantify (that is, count) civilizations. It is a thought experiment, and since we cannot go to many of those places (or probably any of them) because the distance is too great for even several lifetimes of travel [“Hey, grandkids, the goal of this mission when we started out 60 years ago was for you to visit two planets around the third star from our home star, Sun, to see if there is anybody living there. We’ll be there 40 years or so after your grandchildren are born.”], the whole scheme is pure speculation. In fact, I would go a step further and say that it is not even useful speculation.

So, to answer your question, no, it can neither be solved nor checked (proven). Based on my belief in the God of the Bible, I believe that it is not even a useful thought experiment. The Scripture says,”in as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28) Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and since “Christ…offered once [died]”, then if any civilizations did exist, they would be without hope because God has not redeemed any of them. Instead, I think that it means they do not exist. And because of the distance we cannot know if they exist. The whole thought experiment becomes fruitless, a deceptive worldview way of avoiding the real truth about how [we got here and how] we “die once” and need that salvation.

A better thought experiment would be to explain how the rocks and ice we see confirm what God said about a worldwide flood in Genesis 6-9. Check out the “Lost Squadron” that landed on Greenland(2). Ask yourself some questions. 1) How deep were the “Lost Squadron” airplanes under the ice? 2) How long did it take for the ice to accumulate? 3) In how long of a time could the whole ice sheet have accumulated at that rate? 4) Has the rate of accumulation always been the same? 5) Is there any evidence for the rate of accumulation changing? 6) Comparing these estimates to the “declared age” of ice cores in Greenland, is there a problem with the present explanation of how the ice sheet got there?”

I think you will realize that the standard explanation for what the layers in the ice sheets means is flawed. Therefore, distractors are thrown up to keep us from seeing the logical fallacies of the ill-conceived conclusions masquerading as a scientific theory. There are many worthy thought experiments to be done. Einstein was particularly good at those, but much of today’s theoretical science is lacking in a creativity that adheres to truth as its basis, instead heralding false agendas and distracting from useful science. Let us be done with having any part of that.

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

2- https://creation.com/the-lost-squadron

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Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

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I have two compulsory periods each year when I must sit still for hours at a time, and a third one was added this year. It is a good time to organize thoughts. Even so, I am surprised at the amount of poetry I have produced in the last year. Though I have not actually counted, there may be more poetry entries than others.

I love to say how God should be glorified in each facet of life and thought. He is a kind and worthy Master. Any value I have comes from Him.

This latest attempt at communicating His worth in poetry was prompted by posters and decorations that are meant to pump people up. Why isn’t it working? Why is depression and suicide at its highest? Here is my take on the subject:

Over fragranced
Over stuffed
Brightly colored
Greatly fluffed

Thus promoted
Self-esteem
So developed
A mere meme

Accomplishment
That is real
Encouragement
The real deal

Truest value
Comes from God
Another view
Fake and odd

In God’s image
We were made
So His brightness
On parade

In the garden
Sin did mar
Need of pardon
Left a scar

Jesus overcame
Sin and death
He took our shame
Gave us breath

These two reasons
Give us hope
Bright new seasons
Help us cope

You have value
Purpose, too
Eternal view
To pursue

Jesus is our
Fragrance sweet
Strength in each hour
Makes complete

Sweetest flowers
Come from this
Shout from towers
Eternal bliss

Brightest colors
Truly blest
End of horrors
Ever rest

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While sitting quietly the other day, I noticed once again a print of an ink stippling on my wall. It was given to me by the artist, Paul S., over 35 years ago. I offer my students the opportunity to interpret its meaning each semester. They have little context for understanding what the picture could mean. As you read the poem by which I tried to interpret it, consider three details: when it was drawn, over 40 years ago; the fact that the wind up key was not in the original drawing (added to soften the message); the driver is a self-portrait of the artist:

Business on parade
Corporate charade
Self-importance stance
Condescending glance

All dressed to impress
Picture of success
Lean and hungry look
Sales castling rook

Off to war we go
Corporate G.I. Joe
Competition war
Watch our profits soar

Take seriously
Capitalist free
Make a better place
Of our world and race

Bosses all are we
We work for a fee
All cogs in the wheel
We stagger and reel

Get on the bus
That’s left even us
Once to camp and play
Now late at work stay

Thus we bid adieu
Commitments renew
Now hard on the track
Taking business flak

business on parade crop

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