Friday, February 11, 2011

News & Notes

Do You Like Snew? (Feb 11)

Perhaps the biggest news event of the past month is that Upham Manor hasn't had any additional snowfall for over 48 hours. In fact, I can almost guarantee that there will be no appreciable snow in the foreseeable future. I know this to be true because I finally got my snow blower working properly. The Manor remains firmly covered in a blanket of better than two feet of snow, with some drifts and piles of snow measuring twice that.

Upham Street itself and the very end of my driveway is encased in a sort of ice-titanium allow that likely won't melt until well into July. I have a theory that ice, once adequately driven over and mingled with dirt, sand, and other roadway particulates, over time, metamorphs itself into a completely different element that is harder than steel, denser than concrete, and has a melting point somewhere in the high 60s. I call it "ticetanium", and it's one of the hardest naturally occurring materials on earth. I spread salt down on it last night and it laughed at me.

Death & Taxes (Feb 11)

While no one I know has come back from the grave recently, I am very pleased to find that we are going to be seeing a large tax return this year. Janet's home day care business was a concern for us. Being self employed, she has had to set aside sufficient money to pay her taxes as well as her social security. She vigilantly put aside money through the course of the year to pay these taxes. Last night, as we sat down with our tax preparer, our concern and hope, respectively, was had we put aside enough and would we perchance be able to keep some of what had been saved? I nigh broke into the "Hallelujah Chorus" when our preparer looked up from his forms and pronounced that we were getting money back. Yes, not only did we get to keep all of what she had saved, we were getting more back as well. God is good.

Later that night, we had a small celebratory supper at The 99 Restaurant and we talked about our financial coup. I expressed some bit of self-reproach that something as shallow as money would give me such a glorious feeling of peace. Something she said made me feel better, in fact, it made me feel even better than getting the money back did. She told me that we'd given to the "right places"; that we'd helped friends and family, and we've been faithful to our church. Why shouldn't we enjoy what blessings God has provided to us? Good advice. Made sense, and aligns very well with the teachings of the Bible too.

Work (Feb 17)

Work has been largely good overall of late. I've often said that in my chosen profession, Information Technology, I've done everything except programming. Well, it looks like that's going to change in at least a small way. I'm signed up to take a class in Visual Basic. VB is a high level development language that is used commonly to manipulate Microsoft Office applications. My hope is to bring to bear the power of this tool for increased performance in MS Excel. Lately that's been my MO around here, making Excel spreadsheets for people. It's been both a blessing and a curse in some ways, but I'm very proud to be able to say that thus far no one has been able to come to me with a request that I've not been able to handle. I'm batting 1.000 and it feels good. What's better is that people know it and they come to me with requests directly. If you've seen the movie Pulp Fiction, you may remember the character Harvey Keitel played called, "The Wolf". He was the guy you called in to fix stuff. If things have really gone to crap, you call The Wolf. Around here, if your data is a mess, I'm your Wolf.

Love & Marriage (Feb 17)

Last weekend, Janet and I attended a marriage conference at our church. The program was created by Family Life Ministries. Friday night and Saturday we watched a video series that featured noted authors; counselors; lots of interviews with married couples who had experienced a range of challenges and problems, as well as victories; and numerous dramatic vignettes. I think Janet and I both expected to get a lot out of the weekend, but neither of us were quite prepared to learn so much about topics with which we were already familiar or to go away feeling so dramatically changed. I need to blog about marriage one of these days. I feel like I've learned quite a lot that might be worth sharing. If nothing else, it might make for good discussion in the comments section.

Change of Mind (Feb 17)

Part of my recent disappearance from this forum can be attributed to my attitude. I think I was battling a bit of despondency. I'm prone to the occasional bout of melancholy. In some strange ways, I almost enjoy those episodes. When they're done, I feel strangely recharged. But this was different. I couldn't seem to recharge. With the drastic changes around the house, my schedule, my interests, my free time, and my spiritual life, I was sucking pretty hard. I couldn't break free. A couple things came together that really changed that for me.

I think the first big crack in the fetters that were holding me came while I was reading (don't laugh) The Chronicles of Narnia. I started reading the series about 40,000 years ago when I was around 13 years old. But, in that period of growing up, I began to see the books as children's books so I put them down after book two. Lately, I thought it might be fun to revisit them. Janet got me a complete volume for Christmas so I've begun to plow through all the books. It's no secret that much of the story is allegorical and symbolic of Jesus Christ. Without going into detail, I started to see things in the character of Aslan that made me realize I had failed to see in my understanding of Jesus. Very quickly, I felt like the scales fell from my eyes. I experienced a refreshing that I desperately needed. The other big breakthrough was at the aforementioned marriage conference. By God's hand, things in my life were fixed that weekend that have brought about significant transformations in my mind and heart.

Furniture (Feb 17)

Janet and I bought a couple pieces of furniture via the Interwebs over the last week. We've been looking for a sectional couch for the parlor and I found a very useful triangularly shaped coffee table that will fit nicely with the sectional in the den. In addition we've been moving some old pieces out to storage and we brought in a desk that FINALLY gives me a place I can call my own. Ah, sweet repose! I now have a place I can sit and relax, and work, and play.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Erosion of Tradition

I've been reading a number of interesting articles from the Cato Institute about the role and evolution of tradition in our society. "Tradition is under assault," it is stated, whether by commercialism, globalization, the media, or liberalism. But true to form, the argument from the postmodern viewpoint is that traditions never were what we thought they were. Our traditions are merely our own personal preferences as we've thrust them upon the world around us. They never were what we thought they were.

A number of commentators chime in on this debate with articles of their own, but it seems that it all comes down to one thought: that the authority of tradition has eroded until it is at last denied to have ever been at all.

And for me, in my little slice of the world, that's been the rub. It isn't that the world around me has conspired to disagree with those views I've carried all my life, it's more to the point that they deny the legitimacy of the authority of those views. Coming at the world as I do from a Christian perspective has, heretofore, always been relatively easy to do. As a very young man, if I was in a debate with others, my position of standing behind the bulwark of scripture or Judeo-Christian ethics may have been disagreeable to my opponent, but it was never assailable. The viewpoint always stood on its own merits because of the innate authority it carried within our society.

This isn't true anymore. So often I feel that when dealing with many people today, you'd get just as far (or further) defending your opinions with a glib, "because I saw it on the Internet" as you will with a dictum from a source such as the Bible.

Let me give you a real life example. About five years ago, I became friendly with a friend of a friend. I and this person, whom we'll call Cheryl (because that's her name), fell into a conversation regarding religion. I explained to her my personal beliefs on God, Jesus Christ, and various matters of history and religion. In turn, Cheryl told me about her beliefs. She believes that there are two cosmic sides of gods who are eternally warring one against the other. These gods meet on a field of battle in another plane of existence. Human beings, it follows, choose which side to be on and, in a normative sense, should be fighting one another. To the death.

As she was staying in my home for a time, and as I was deemed to not be on the same side as she, I inquired as to whether I need be concerned for my safety or that of my family. "No," she assured me. As one who had taken her in and was giving her shelter, it would be dishonorable to slay me.

I kid you not.

I asked her where she ever got this notion; how, after some 5,000 years or so of recorded history she came to this conclusion in spite of there being zero evidence for it.

"I decided it was so."

Where I could point to two thousand years of scholarship, sacred texts that are revered the world over, literally millions of witnesses who could testify of the working of God's power in their lives, she rested her eternal soul (which she admitted to having) on what she thought up herself. Why? Because none of that authority carried any value for her. To her postmodern thinking, one thing is as good as another. Who are you -- who is anyone -- to say what is better? There is no truth. There is only opinion.

Acceptance of the authority of tradition has eroded. I've got more to say on this subject in upcoming posts, but for now, I just wanted to lay a bit of groundwork.