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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Smell of Estrangement

Two phrases with similar function--each stresses the importance of the individual.
  • Individual responsibility (accountability) is essential.
  • It is important for each individual to first and foremost meet his own needs.

The structural implications are decisively different, however.
  • In the first instance paradoxically the end result is highly social in character--a thriving society is founded upon individuals assuming personal responsibility.
  • In the second instance the end result is blatantly anti-social--when every one is out for themselves society fragments and is characterized by estrangement.

As this relates to health and medical issues:

Today Connie will go to Saint Anthony’s for day surgery services in which she will receive anesthesia. The procedures altogether will take four hours.  Because anesthesia can involve some risk, I plan to be on site for the duration.  This I do from a sense of individual responsibility--I know I will feel better about myself for being there should unfortunate complications arise in which staff would need to talk to family members.

Operating under an “every man out for himself” stance toward medical care, I would drop Connie off and head off to the beach for a half-day of diversions in the sun.                                                                                  

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Sheep in Wolf Clothing

Judging Others
Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.


I have always been perplexed by the above passage from Matthew. Jesus seems to be contradicting himself. One minute he is telling us not to judge others and the next he is denouncing other people as dogs and swine who upon hearing the cherished tenets (pearls) of our faith will likely trash them and then turn upon us and shred us to pieces. How can we avoid concluding that at least on some occasions we are encouraged to quickly and urgently judge others and with dispatch engage in camouflage if not outright deceit?

The other day on revisiting this passage I saw it in a whole new light. Let's say I found myself at Trump Tower in pursuit of a business deal to be negotiated with Donald Trump.  He comes into the room full of disarming charm.  Having never met me before, he precedes to engage in character discovery--sizing me up.  I am wondering whether I should share my deepest yearnings for Christian love, brotherhood, and understanding--a world veritably bathing in the lyrics of Kumbaya...... [Quick now, what would be your best advice for me?]


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

It’s Not Personal. It’s Just Business

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6: 21; 24 NIV).  


As of 2016, Trump and his businesses had been involved in more than 3,500 state and federal legal actions. Trump or one of his companies was the plaintiff in 1,900 cases and the defendant in 1,450. As plaintiff, more than half have been against gamblers at his casinos who had failed to pay off their debts…

The … bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).[133][134][135] Trump said, "I've used the laws of this country to pare debt ... We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on The Apprentice. It's not personal. It's just business."(

The heading for this blog is: "It's not personal. It's just business." I've been fortunate to be in the company of war veterans who testified to the fact that war can be a game until you meet your enemy face-to-face and your finger pulls the trigger that wastes the one before you and implants forever in your brain an intimate visage of the dying to haunt you and mock you from that moment on.   Anyone can grandstand and pray for the world's hungry, but without some measure of intimacy and some felt personal pain the public talk never ends in corrective action but merely feeds even more sanctimonious babble.

Like war, business and politics can become a game insulated from reality...from the pain and suffering they can inflict. We have ready terminology available--business "Sharks" and political "Demagogues" who apply the golden rule only to a minuscule circumscribed microcosm of selfless personal interest.

Let us suppose that I grew up in an insular environment.  All my life my immediate family and friends carefully taught me that in traffic I was to go on red and stop on green. One day I left my private neighborhood and headed out into traffic. I blew through several red lights and bystanders yelled after me, charging me for being headstrong--even evil. It was only a matter of time, of course, before I had that collision. I was not hurt but unfortunately the crash resulted in vehicular homicide. At trial the prosecutors would stress strongly that I had free choice and must be held accountable for my actions.  The defense would lamely counter that my best lights drew from a mental databank that was seriously flawed.

So then, we must be careful in finding others evil--whether the person at fault be a street thug or a billionaire thug. We must always remember that privilege as well as poverty can stunt individuals and result in profoundly troubling antisocial behavior.

If we do not count ourselves as thugs but insist that we have good instincts, that too can be a problem. I have never driven my car in icy conditions-- I've lived in Florida all my life. Say I find myself up north and that the roads are suddenly covered with ice. I'm driving along and my car begins to skid on the ice. I’ve been told that following my instincts could be the worst thing I could possibly do.

The saying goes that politics is always retail. That may be true, but let's go beyond that and say (like business) it is inherently personal and intimate. This would suggest requiring offspring of politicians be on the front line of any military conflict and that, likewise, the profit of a business be made contingent upon an evaluation of any and all that were hurt by that business.

Life Itself Can Be a Game

Enterprise When Freed at Last From Personal Pain

During the Nuremberg Trials, Sigmund Mazur, a laboratory assistant at the Danzig Anatomical Institute (modern GdaƄsk), testified that soap had been made from corpse fat at the camp, and claimed that 70 to 80 kg (155–175 lb) of fat collected from 40 bodies could produce more than 25 kg (55 lb) of soap, and that the finished soap was retained by Professor Rudolf Spanner.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Vision/Action Link

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (Statue of Liberty inscription penned by Emma Lazarus)

The Methodist Church has a motto: "Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”  I have been a Methodist for many years so can say with full confidence that this motto represents a serious vision calling each member to cultivate an attitude of openness to others.  Since Methodism is a human organization, I can also say with full confidence that this state of affairs has never been fully realized.  As far as I know, no Methodist congregation has left church entry doors perpetually unlocked nor have loyal Methodist blown away their home front doors for a 24/7 open-house to all comers.  So, then, why set forth such a sweeping slogan in the first place making it drop-dead easy to level in countless ways the most reliable of all indictments against Christians--a shameless brood of vacuous hypocrites?

The reason is simple.  Idealistic goals indicate, reflect, and help energize the deepest motives of the human heart. And energized motives form a relentless, subterranean river that flows in one way or another towards the center core.  Are obstructions encountered? Well of course--daily in human affairs.  One might say that humanity's signal mission is to creatively achieve the unachievable. 

In America the citizenry now faces the issue of immigration.  I would propose that the American vision/action link is critcal and determinant in policy formation.  Open hearts, open minds, open doors as a meter of public intent cannot mean that all US borders should vanish, terrorism be jubilantly welcomed with open arms, or that all objective discernment forthwith be drowned in vats of vapid sentimentalism.  Yet, I have no doubt whatever that a country deeply yearning to follow a course of compassion and generosity will make strikingly different policy decisions than that nation populated by angry zealots bearing frigid hearts and impervious minds.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Designed for Stability

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. (Tenth Amendment)

As with many other Americans I have been favored to enjoy life within the United States. The Preamble of our Constitution speaks of tranquility. I have been fortunate to experience a good measure of stability in terms of material provisions, ample doses of of goodwill, and harmonious fields of values that – crazy as it sounds – gives a population of many millions a sense of family.

Sometimes I think when we get involved in the many demands of life we can forget the essential need for trust to undergird everything. Imagine what it would be like in one's day if everything done from eating a sandwich, to flipping on a light switch, to breathing air afflicted one with fear, anxiety, distrust, and dread.  As a citizen I rely constantly on goodwill and trust.  But I know myself (and others) only too well to fancy that structural disciples and requirements are not necessary to help good people stay honest.

I have friends that can imagine structural assists or requirements having labels pasted on them giving place of origin – federal, state, or local. They don't care much for the "federal" label. Now when I buy a ladder in a store I frankly don't care much about place of origin so much as the ladder's fitness to meet my needs. I hope I am never so weak minded, however, as to fancy a jerryrigged and slipshod stack of boxes is all I need to reach the ceiling.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Race We Are In

Let Us Cherish Those Who Run With Gratitude and Truth

(Personal Note:  The following epitaph is that of my father's --Edgar Thomas Standifer--whose birthday was last Thursday:
Grateful within the family of man, he prayed for individuals' care.

"Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice."

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