29 September 2016

Presidential Debate Hype

After watching and listening to the first 2016 presidential debate I took some advice that St. Augustine, the early Christian philosopher, whispered to me in my "inner ear" from the sidelines of recollection:

There are two basic areas where disagreement can arise among the observers and witnesses to a quarrel. The first concerns the veracity of the matters in question and the second concerns the intention of the protagonists to either seek or obscure the truth. It is one thing to inquire into the origin of the truth about a matter and another thing as to the understanding of the words of the speakers and the understanding of the listeners as to whether or not a statement is true. In regard to the actual truth it is always possible for the listeners to believe the speaker and think that he or she is telling the truth even though they are not. There is also the possibility that the listeners have decided beforehand that everything that a person that they have already chosen to believe is true no matter what. Therefore, in judging the veracity of those who are engaged in a quarrel over words it is best to be charitable in extending the benefit of the doubt equally to both parties but then rigorously test all things and hold fast only to that which is good.

In a democracy it is important that a presidential debate coexist with a consensus on a set of basic elements as a precondition to reasonable diversity of opinion. Before we disagree on anything we should first be clear about what we as a people actually agree upon. If not, then the U.S. is nothing more than a set of regional fiefdoms each headed by a corporate warlord and supported by a local oligarchy. The encouragement of internecine resentments by corporate sponsored news media and the exploiting of temperamental differences that perennially divide conservatives, moderates, and radicals from one another in order to obtain greater profit, is unbridled capitalism at its worst and the work of demonic forces.

In America, this "One Nation Under God," we all have freedom to worship God and set our moral compass by His grace through the  Holy Spirit in order end the hostilities that divide us as neighbors and citizens. The demographics of America is like an equilateral triangle divided into three parts. The upper third contains the wealthy, the privileged, the highly intelligent, the good looking, and the otherwise fortunate. The bottom third are suffering from poverty, ignorance, poor health, a lack of opportunity, bad luck, and little hope. The middle third contains a hardworking but confused and disheartened people who see their dreams of a better future evaporating right before their eyes. Within each of these divisions there are sub-divisions based upon race, creed, national origin, sexual identity, chronic disease, mental disorders, broken families, and many other things too numerous to mention here. It is my fervent hope and prayer that during the next two presidential debates instead of a battle of negative wit, the candidates turn to a positive discussion and show the world that through a process of a democratic spirit and an honest search for truth, the wisdom of the God "in whom we trust" will enlighten us in deciding on a leader who will guide us and bring this diverse flock together like a good shepherd should with "with malice toward none, with charity for all." Amen.


26 September 2016

To Thee & Eternity

The essence of the world is in the flowers.
They symbolize birth, death, and rebirth
And they reveal the eternal beauty of God.
The scent of a flower is that heavenly elixir
That comforts both the body and the soul.
No wonder that humans began in a garden!
The flowers were there when we arrived,
And flowers are usually there when we leave.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,
They neither toil nor spin, nor worry about it,
And the rose by any other name is still a rose,
Speaking all languages fluently without words.
I am always at home in a garden of flowers,
And closer, my God, to Thee, and eternity.


22 September 2016

Wake Up the Helmsman!

It wouldn't take much convincing these days to get people to agree that our current political system seems like a mess. If you ask ten different people to explain the difference between a Democrat and a Republican you may not be surprised that you receive as many different answers. When I was in grammar school we were taught that Democrats favored a strong central government and Republicans favored strong states rights in opposition to an overly powerful central government. As it was explained to us innocents (at the time) the result of this was a dynamic tension between the two parties. This, along with the checks and balances of three separate branches of government, helped the ship of state to maintain a steady course. It was like there were some invisible hands on the tiller. That all seemed quite reasonable back then but since that time the ship of state has been zigzagging quite a bit like the helmsman is asleep at the wheel.

Liberty should be connected with order and any political movements that undermine either liberty or order should be challenged at all costs. What set of rules or basic assumptions did the founding fathers use when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? Are we still following those basic assumptions? The basis for these rules is called “ethics” and ethics is based on four natural virtues that philosophers going back to ancient times agree are common to the continuous welfare of human beings. The four cardinal or "natural" virtues that perfect the soul can be found in Plato. They are also found in the biblical book, Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 8, verse 7: “And if a man love righteousness her labors are virtues: for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude: which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life.” The Roman philosopher Cicero popularized the four virtues as such: "Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.”  Let's take a look at these four virtues one by one.

1.) Prudence:
Prudence is the habit of proper decision making. It is the knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid. It is the acceptance of the possibility of uncertainties or things unforeseen and making allowances for them. Prudence is more than animal instinct or habit. It is a continuous effort to see things as they really are and act accordingly. It is a responsibility to seek the truth always and make rational binary decisions rather than simply follow instinct or habit. It is knowing the difference between subjective emotion and objective fact or between inductive conjecture and deductive certainty.

2.) Justice:
Justice is giving each being or entity their due. This includes includes family, friends, community, leaders, nations, and especially our Creator. Offenses against justice include murder, injury, theft, gossip, cursing, vengeance, lies, and cheating. Justice means to be fair in relationships with others and to be grateful to benefactors. Justice requires us to be friendly and generous. If we draw undue attention to ourselves it is an offense against justice because we diminish others by enlarging our own image without justification.

3.) Fortitude:
Fortitude is a virtue that perfects the appetites of our irascible passions including fear and daring (which is an over-extension of our bravery). All acts that do not observe a definite line between being cautious and being foolhardy are contrary to fortitude. A person with the virtue of fortitude is courageous, responsible, and trustworthy and their life is marked by patience and perseverance.

4.) Temperance:
Temperance is the virtue that perfects the concupiscent desires for food, drink, and sex. It involves control over the lust for pleasures involving the five senses. Offenses against temperance are the most disgraceful because they lower us to the level of irrational beasts. These offenses involve such things as gluttony, drunkenness, seduction, rape, adultery, fornication, incest, and sodomy. Temperance includes the avoidance of even thinking about immoral or unnatural sexual relations.

A person who makes good decisions (prudence), gives everyone their due (justice), proves to be courageous(fortitude), and moderates their drive for pleasure (temperance), is a virtuous person. This is the type of person that would be ideal as a candidate for political leadership because their integrity would be beyond approach and the four natural virtues are something that we can use as a guide to see how our particular candidate measures up.

Now, for those politicians who prefer to be identified as Christians there is another set of virtues, three in number, that are the supernatural virtues. They are faith, hope, and charity. They are called "supernatural virtues" because they exceed man's natural capacities. They are also called the theological virtues. In the Catholic Church in which I grew up and in other Christian denominations we learn from the scriptures that they come by way of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. However, these virtues are known to all religions that believe in One God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Christian Faith:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the belief or trust in all the teachings of Christ given to the twelve Apostles. These teachings are summarized in the Apostle's Creed.

Christian Hope:
Hope is an indication of certainty.  “Hope” in Scripture means a strong and confident expectation that our faith is correct and justified. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Christian Charity:
Charity is the virtue of love for God, with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. Charity is sacrificing ourselves for others in the same manner that Christ sacrificed Himself for us. Charity means to humble ourselves and to have the patience to tolerate others.  Jesus said: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. The second is: Love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other command greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)

How many politicians these days follow what we (and they) learned as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Those would all be good qualities to look for in a candidate for any public office, and that brings me to the point of why I wrote this. First of all, I wanted to record my thoughts on how I could best evaluate a candidates character objectively. Then I wanted something that I could give to others who might be helped by following a guideline of suggestions on how they might evaluate a candidate based upon some observed character traits. I looked for the answers in philosophy, theology, and the ethical and moral guidelines with which good citizens in a democracy are brought up from childhood. It may not be a perfect guide but it is a good place to start. Amen.

Steady as she goes Helmsman. Aye, aye, Captain!


16 September 2016

Politics from Hell

Feisty young millennials all in a row
Ready to challenge you blow by blow.
They are sophists all and pundits too,
Who can take either side, or leave it,
Love it, or hate it, or beat it 'til it's blue.
It depends upon what the going rate is.
There is no room for right or wrong
It is whatever it is that it needs to be,
I'll give you a clue, it's all about ratings.
Claws that scratch and eyes that flash
One glance could set the other on fire
And talking points increase the ire,
Spoken in haste and driven by greed,
Woe to the truth and woe to the target,
In any case may both be damned.
Winner take all and loser cast blame
After all, you know it's just a game,
From the very depths of Hell's belly.


02 September 2016

When it's hot you're hot!

It's hotter than hell today.
Let's sell the heat to the Devil.
Hey you Devil you. Listen up!
Hot! Hot! Hot! We got it!
Hey, hey, you, come get it!
Cheap, cheap, cheap, we sell it.
Cash, cash, cash, no credit!
All sales final! Don't bring it back!
Bring your biggest bucket Jack.
Hurry while the offer lasts and
You should have a real blast.
Roll the dice, how 'bout it, Mo.
Boxcars! You lose, you Schmoe. 
Snake eyes, better go to blazes.
Oops! I'm running out of phrases.
Okay Devil, take the hindmost,
And now just get the hell out!


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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.