Monday, May 31, 2010

On Memorial Day

There are some that think that Memorial Day is about patriotism and flag waving. Some feel that this is tripe, given the hypocrisies of Presidents, Generals, and corporations in all generations.

It is neither - it's about boys and girls who have lost their lives in horrible conditions, whom we, collectively, sent out to do nasty, brutish work, not about the politics of why they were sent, or whether they should have been. We must, we should, remember our war dead. Shall we forget them? Then shame, shame to us.

Remember our dead, and pray for their souls, and ours.


Happy are men who yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers,
But they are troops who fade, not flowers
For poets’ tearful fooling:
Men, gaps for filling:
Losses, who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers.

And some cease feeling
Even themselves or for themselves.
Dullness best solves
The tease and doubt of shelling,
And Chance’s strange arithmetic
Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
They keep no check on armies’ decimation.

Happy are these who lose imagination:
They have enough to carry with ammunition.
Their spirit drags no pack.
Their old wounds, save with cold, can not more ache.
Having seen all things red,
Their eyes are rid
Of the hurt of the colour of blood forever.
And terror’s first constriction over,
Their hearts remain small-drawn.
Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
Now long since ironed,
Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.

Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
And many sighs are drained.
Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
His days are worth forgetting more than not.
He sings along the march
Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
The long, forlorn, relentless trend
From larger day to huger night.

We wise, who with a thought besmirch
Blood over all our soul,
How should we see our task
But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
Dying, not mortal overmuch;
Nor sad, nor proud,
Nor curious at all.
He cannot tell
Old men’s placidity from his.

But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones;
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever moans in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.

- Wilfred Owen

Friday, May 28, 2010

Moments in Life

Do you find there are watershed moments in life that stand out beyond the others? There are several in my life, for different reasons.

There is that moment when I fell to my wife's knees, weeping, the day I moved the last of my things out of the house, but unable to say the words "I was wrong - forgive me - can we begin again?" and find the long way back, through repentance to some semblance of life. It was the end of a 10 year marriage.

There is was moment, in West Texas, late at night (I had been out drinking with my fellow comrades-in-arms) when I came back to my quarters and happened on tv program of a pastor talking to teens about Jesus' great discourse in Matthew about the Sheep and Goats, and I was terribly convicted, and remained convicted, to this day - though my condemnation is more pronounced since I have done little since then.

There is a moment when the nurse hit the red button on the wall and we did not know whether my new baby boy would live the night and I had to walk down the hall to tell my wife the news [she was trying to get sleep as I went to watch the boy get what was a somewhat routine blood draw], as the crash cart came in and they rushed him to the pediatric ICU.

There is a moment when my first child was born, and lay in the crib, looking at me with dark eyes and holding my finger.


Over the last 24 hours a series of moments have reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that my life is forfeit to my Master, and my plans and stratagems and ideas are but dust. Among several other little things, we have learned that we have but a few months to schedule a series of precarious but necessary surgeries to avoid paralysis and other permanent damage to joints, bones, and spine in my son. My vehicle, at a venerable 132,000 miles, has broken down for the 4th time in as many months, and my tractor sits broken as well, beyond my ability to repair (little enough things, but even on a small farm, truck and tractor are essential since I don't have the animal and equipment for horse-powered work). My self-employment, whilst barely keeping us afloat, is not yet generating enough to keep us going into the winter.

I say these things, not to ask charity, or sympathy or pity. I still live like a great lord compared to most of those on earth and those who have ever lived. I will eat tonight. I have seen the sad faces of the men in the Middle East, forced to build buildings in the blazing sun and waiting, waiting, each day for day labor at slave wages [1-2 dinar/day, no different than in the scripture]. I have seen the orphans in cities in Mexico, and the hungry, the mentally ill, and the destitute on the streets of our own cities. No - it is not that.

But I realize that my plans and ability for a new barn, to plant some certain crops, to get the brush removed from the fencerow, to simply make the mortgage or ever hope to pay for my son's medical bills; even my son's very life and all that I call "my family" and "my household" are forfeit to One and such petty dreams and aspirations may never come to pass and yet I am commanded to die to that and live to Him.

The little things of the past 24 hours make me think of Job and wonder - could I stand it? If the house were knocked down by earthquake; if tomorrow the wrong nerve were pinched and my child were paralyzed permanently, could I stand it? Would faith hold? What sort of faith do I have? Any?

It is exceedingly hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. God help me.

There is much more - more that I wish to put out on a blog; but my realization finally is that I have not put to death the old man every day as I should, and nothing that I have done amounts to much.

I stand hearkening to the whirlwind, but unlike Job, I have no claim to righteousness. My sufferings (such as they are) are well deserved, even if my child's are not.

Adsum Domine

Here I am, Lord

All I have is Yours, and nothing worth. Take my mite, forgive my transgressions, and heal me, if Thou wilt.


I will be taking a break for a while. May you have a memorable Memorial Day, remembering the fallen. You do remember them, don't you?

I think I see a valley,
Covered with bones in blue,

All the brave soldiers,
That cannot get older,
They're asking after you . . .

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

The Christological prayer, "That They May be One," is not fulfilled by jurisdictional regularity.

- Fr. Jonathan

Read the full article here:

Bored with Theosis

Friday, May 21, 2010

In their own words - Synthetic Cells/Synthetic Life

For your consideration, from the BBC

"Potentially the Flu Vaccine you get next year may be developed by these processes."

Thursday, May 20, 2010


retreat |riˈtrēt|
verb [ intrans. ]
(of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat : the French retreated in disarray.
• move back or withdraw, esp. so as to remove oneself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation : it becomes so hot that the lizards retreat into the shade | [as adj. ] ( retreating) the sound of retreating footsteps.
• withdraw to a quiet or secluded place : after the funeral he retreated to the shore.
• (of an expanse of ice or water) become smaller in size or extent : a series of trenches which filled with water when the ice retreated.
• change one's decisions, plans, or attitude, as a result of criticism from others : his proposals were clearly unreasonable and he was soon forced to retreat.
• (of shares of stock) decline in value : [with complement ] shares retreated 32 points to 653 points.
• [ trans. ] Chess move (a piece) back from a forward or threatened position on the board.
1 an act of moving back or withdrawing : a speedy retreat | the army was in retreat.
• an act of changing one's decisions, plans, or attitude, esp. as a result of criticism from others : the unions made a retreat from their earlier position.
• a decline in the value of shares of stock.
2 a signal for a military force to withdraw : the bugle sounded a retreat.
• a military musical ceremony carried out at sunset, originating in the playing of drums and bugles to tell soldiers to return to camp for the night.
3 a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax : their mountain retreat in New Hampshire.
• a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation : the bishop is away on his annual retreat | before his ordination he went on retreat.
beat a retreat see beat .
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French retret (noun), retraiter (verb), from Latin retrahere ‘pull back’ (see retract ).

- Oxford American Dictionary

Today in the news: Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

I have retreated to my retreat - a small 2.5 acre patch of wood lot, garden/orchard, and pasture. But I cannot maintain stewardship over this little demesne but that I continue to engage the world, so far on terms less than satisfactory.

I punch up these words on the machine that will be the death of us all - a slow insidious death. No more the quill pen, grown from a living thing, dipped in inks from plants. No more the mechanical snap of typewriter keys striking crinkly typing bond.

Today I have to help someone who wants to know whether rules allowing signs that say "No visitors" are to be interpreted so literally that signs of the same type and method of posting saying "No solicitors" are, in fact, prohibited. Surely the work of Sharkey's men, such thinking. Sam-wise, I wish to tear down the rules. All my work - review of texts, elucidation of the principles involved, etc., are done in communion with this horrible machine.

E-file this and e-mail that; you cannot now escape it unless you are prepared to wholly disengage from the world. Careful, however, for it will be seen (soon, very soon, I think), as an act of civil disobedience to not be plugged in, cell-phoned, and in constant communication. The Authorities will start looking askance and wondering if you are a Rebel.

The problem with agriculture is you have to be able to own land for a sufficient period of time to improve the qualities of the soils and allow things to grow. The problem with that is you must pay the Sovereign for your tenure and the banker for the inflated value of your building, which must have systems and things in it not seen before 1900 (or later) or else it is "uninhabitable." And that means cash money, my friends. And welcome back. Do you have an e-mail? Cell phone? Please keep us informed of your whereabouts.

So I continue to work, not for work's sake but to pay for my retreat. And that retreat I do not make (or hold) simply for myself. Nay, the tree I am planting now will likely be cut down for firewood by my successor (if they allow fires - the Boss may not hold with fires then) when I have made my final retreat. I hold it to keep a little green corner where you are welcome to come and listen to the wind sighing in the trees, and have respite - if you want. A place where, incongruously enough, I hope that my children and others will be able to unplug, turn off their cell phones, remember God, and not forget.

One day, I hope, Noah-like, to plant a little vineyard and make some wine. Even that seems out of reach now, and maybe it's not in His will for me. If not, it's still good to be here for now.

In the meantime the scientists will continue to unleash God-knows-what into the world. In 1993 a Biology professor of mine opined that we knew much of what we needed to know to manipulate the genes to cause the tobacco plant to push a flower out here, or leaf there (and many other things). He warned then that the problem was we had to have the wisdom (as scientists) to figure out whether we ought to do it. I left the sciences, but 17 years later it is clear that such pious words are to little effect. We will clone humans - we will seek to create life on our own terms. Our new tower to heaven.

I have a little corn to plant sitting in trays out near the garden. I wonder if its owned by Monsanto.

. . . Switching off . . .

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Man's a Man for A' That - Robert Burns