Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honest Abe - GEICO Commercial

So often, commericals these days are, how shall I put it, stupid.  Those Sonic commercials come to mind.  Companies that approve commercials like that, to me, are saying their customers are idiots.  What is worse, I think, is that such commercials don't accomplish what they intend, the selling of a particular product. Sorry to be so blunt.  I think the only reason I can fairly say that, is that there is evidence that ad agencies still exist that are capable of being creative and getting their message across at the same time.  One shining example, one that appears too infrequently on TV, is this Geico Abe Lincoln commercial.  It's real, at least for us guys, because we've all been there.  C'mon ladies, you know it's true. 

The only other thing I could add is, that while Abe Lincoln was an honest man, he wasn't a stupid man.


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Branching Out

I'm branching out a little, trying to broaden my horizons.  For several years, I focused my study nearly exclusively on monastic topics.  But, I need a change, and there is no reason to believe that monastic spirituality excludes the entirety of life.  In fact, it should be just the opposite and embrace all of life.

One way I've done this is to begin reading de Toqueville's Democracy in America, which I have never read.  I've seen it quoted many times, and it seems proper to read it now.  Also, my brother-in-law called this week to recommend Stanley Kurtz's new book, Radical in Chief, which examins  Barack Obama's political, and as seems likely, personal philosophy.  I wasn't sure I wanted to read the book, but saw that it was available on Kindle, so I ordered it, more to keep up with family conversation on Thanksgiving if the topic arises than any other reason.

When I first heard about the book, I djd think could be an important one; Obama has not been clear or consistent in defining himself to the American public. 

So, my first impressions of the book?

Kurtz didn't set out to write a smear of Obama, and the book is not of that ilk.  In addition, Kurtz makes the point several times that he initially didn't believe Obama to be a socialist; it was only in researching the president's early years, especially his years in New York, that he came to the conclusion he did. 

Kurtz shows that Obama decided early on that he wanted to be a community organizer and that, under his socialist mentors, one of the key traits of a community organizer is to keep the objective of implementing a socialist system as secret from those being organized.  They profess high ideals that sound close to American ideals, but they mean something entirely different.

It seems to me, that people who take on such tasks end of living a lie.  They calculate to deceive others about who and what they really are.  Not only is that fundamentally dishonest, it must take a great toll on the personhood of the individual.  At some point, the lies must come out.

This is the very opposite of the monastic ideal; Benedict would have us know ourselves, be honest with ourselves and those around us about who and what we are; not always a pretty picture, but in the end, it's the best way to live as a fully human being.

I'm not judging Obama, I don't know what his motives were or are, but his past is more than a little scary.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Danger of a Single Despot


"When the Constitution was thus perfected and established, a new form of government was created, but it was neither speculative nor experimental as to the principles on which it was based. If they were true principles, as they were, the government founded upon them was destined to a life and an influence that would continue while the liberties it was intended to preserve should be valued by the human family. Those liberties had been wrung from reluctant monarchs in many contests, in many countries, and were grouped into creeds and established in ordinances sealed with blood, in many great struggles of the people. They were not new to the people. They were consecrated theories, but no government had been previously established for the great purpose of their preservation and enforcement. That which was experimental in our plan of government was the question whether democratic rule could be so organized and conducted that it would not degenerate into license and result in the tyranny of absolutism, without saving to the people the power so often found necessary of repressing or destroying their enemy, when he was found in the person of a single despot."
Our president recently referred to people who value the ideals on which our government was founded as his "enemies."  I wonder if we might see in him the single despot so feared by the Founders?  Fortunately, they left us the saving power to prevent such things, if only we will be wise enough to use it.

UPDATE

The above quote is from an introduction to Democracy in America, by John T. Morgan in the Kindle edition of the book.  However, readers should be warned that this introduction is a product of, I believe, a 19th century historian, and some of his views on race are unfortunate, at best, at worst, racist.  Still, the truth of some points he makes about deToqueville's understanding of America are still valid.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Washington Monument

Scrolling through my album, I came across this picture from the recent trip to DC.   I have found the Washington Monument to be fascinating, mostly because, when I was very young, perhaps only 6 or 7 years old,  my father took us a trip to Florida.  On the way, we stopped in Washington, and he and I walked up the stairs to the top of the Monument.  I remember him insisting we do this because he had, when he lived in Virginia, had something to do with the actual construction of the Monument, it wasn't something I was anxious to tackle, even at that young age.  I later studied history a bit and found this wasn't possible.  I've been confused about that ever since.

While we were attending the Restoring Honor Rally, however, I heard Glenn Beck make some mention of the fact that, about a third of the way up the Monument, there is a noticeable color change. (See second photo)  He explained it, but I couldn't hear the explanation.  Today, I researched it, and learned that the color change occurs about at the point where the initial phase of construction stopped in the 1850's.  I also learned that the Monument was considered a Masonic symbol; the cornerstone, apparently, was laid by members of the Masonic Order.  That would be one explanation of why my father was so attracted to the structure, he was a second, possibly third, generation Mason.
This second photo, by the way, was taken on Thursday, two days before the Rally when the set up for the big day was still in progress.  This is a "Glenn's" eye view of the Washington Monument and the Capital Building in the background.  Also visible is the WWII Memorial.  It also shows the color change quite clearly. Posted by Picasa 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Miscellaneous Musings, October 13, 2010

The Ice Man Cometh

I don’t know why, but the change of season from summer to fall has become an issue of momentous importance to me this year. It’s coming late; the leaves here in the Springs have hardly begun to turn. Looking out of my office window, the scene is very similar to what it was in July, there are just slight tinges of color here and there. Usually, the leaves are on the ground by now. Last night, there was a frost warning, it never got that cold, there was no frost.

As I said above, I don’t know why I feel so anxious to chronicle the change of season this year. It’s got nothing to do with the upcoming elections, I’m pretty sure of that. Neither has it anything to do with the fact the Broncos are having a lousy season under a coach of unproven talents. Perhaps, more than anything, it’s because I feel I’ve missed the last two or three such transitions. I have tended to be busy, to keep my head down and focus on the task and let the miracle taking place all around me pass me by. That’s something I should try to avoid at all cost.

Thoreau

I read Thoreau’s Walden in high school, possibly voluntarily, more likely because it was assigned. I remember being enthralled with the philosophy presented in that short book by one man who lived in a simple cabin by a pond for “two years and two months.” I thought at the time, and still do, truth be told, that living that way would be an ideal. I forget about the realities of a lack of indoor plumbing, being infested by mosquitoes and other bugs, lack of functioning air conditioning, and a readily accessible Chipotle restaurant to visit on a whim. The ideal is too idyllic.

Yet, although I still have my marked up paperback copy that I used in high school (it’s the only book from that time that I still have), I haven’t even glanced at Walden since then, hardly even thought about it. So, I thought it might be time to download the Kindle version and re read it; it is, after all, reputed to be an excellent sample from the genre known as nature writing. Within the first page or so, however, I come across this:

“Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance—which his growth requires—who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

Many of us live lives that we haven’t chosen, sometimes by happy accident, other times by very unfortunate circumstance. For those more unfortunate, the choice then becomes one of attitude and acceptance. The accidental circumstances of our lives aren’t really the determining factor in how we choose to live those lives, just ask Victor Frankel. Yet, Thoreau can only condemn those who work honestly and generously, as degrading, turning those people into “machines.”

When he does admit that, perhaps, many people cannot live lives of leisure and philosophical speculation, he does it this way:

 
“Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.”

The condescension is palpable. While I’ll continue to read Walden, it’ll be in the back of my mind that I’m reading the work of a prototype of the modern day leftist.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October in Colorado

We seem to be going directly from summer to winter again this year.  It was that way last year too, we experienced very little in the way of fall weather.  So, I've decided to post a couple of pictures of the already fading fall colors, plus one of a more domestic moment in the living room sun.