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Everything posted by Kingfisher

  1. The Fault In Our Stars?

    I didn't mean to suggest that the impulses don't also arise in the brain, just the concept of free will isn't as supreme as we like to think it is. It seems we confuse awareness with conscious control. When we make a decision we're not so much influencing the outcome as becoming aware of the sensory input and neuronal activity whose sum is attracting or repelling us in a certain direction. I can become aware of my coffee consumption, but mostly it just winds up in my belly without having made any choice to drink it at all. Determinism is a horrifying thought, if we assume that there is only a material component to our existence. Our comfortable physical reality only accounts for 4% of the universe. It's possible that what we call spirit is really a sense of, and ethereal connection to, the dark matter/energy which constitutes the rest of it, or it could be something independent of both, but either way it seems to behave according to a different set of laws (or at least a different perspective of the ones we understand.) I think it is that component which lies partially detached from the chain of causality. We don't want to believe that we have no control, so our ego creates an illusion and we behave as if those were the actual operating conditions. As a result, our external world begins to reflect that path more and the original state less. It becomes the new reality, we manifest our own destiny. We're not so much changing the course of the railroad as creating an entirely new set of tracks, and somehow the train jumps from one set to another, like an electron jumping from one shell to another without ever existing at any point between them. So, we are bound by our fate... but fate is also bound by our free will. In one sense we are liberated, and in another we are just hitch-hikers in our own bodies. Not to get too Christian-specific about this, but it reminds me of the Pope's infallibility. What he declares ex cathedra, God will make so. The covenant between us and God means not only that we are all swept up in His plan, but also that we have the power to change the plan (if not completely unencumbered then at least within certain parameters) and He will honor our choices. We have cooperative free will, but we do not have any free will alone. We are co-creators of our own existence. A comforting and awe-inspiring thought, yet frightful in its responsibility. If it is a horror to ponder things that are meant to be, it is more terrifying to ponder what fates might be brought into a realm of infinite possibilities. Is it? When I think of the senses I do not possess, both those of animals and the technology which imitates and/or surpasses them, and when I consider all the things that never touch my awareness, I wonder sometimes if I was ever truly alive. Perhaps my condition of death has merely been disguised by an ego which cannot accept reality. And if I am alive, are the stones any less alive simply because they do not possess the same awareness which I have discovered within myself? Do they then also have spirits and free will which simply eludes my ability to comprehend? What sins lie within my arrogant refusal to acknowledge their rights to exist as they are, as I smash them apart to serve my own ends? Do they, and everything else in the universe, not also deserve the same respect I give to trees and birds and men?
  2. The Fault In Our Stars?

    I think it's that cooperative middle. We're bound by causality, but through the ego we wrap ourselves in cloaks of free will. Modern studies in neuroscience show that what we perceive as conscious activity actually arises after the impulse is generated. You don't choose to pick up a cup of coffee, you pick up the coffee and then your brain claims the credit. Some say fate guides us, some say we are free, but in a way we exist in both realms simultaneously. If you believe in the gods and live is if there were gods, does it matter if there really are gods? We think the universe runs on simple and certain rules, but reality is pretty freaky.
  3. Welfare

    I agree that this is part of the problem. There's isn't any system of government which can't be twisted to suit the desires of those who seek to abuse it. Capitalism enshrines greed and self-interest without placing any ethical checks on power, which is why Adams commented that our system was wholly inadequate for the government of immoral and irreligious people. There are those who witness the decay of society and think our system of government must then be changed, and those who think it should be addressed by restoring the character of the people. I tend to favor the latter approach (though the effort often seems to be impossibly difficult) because in centralized systems with heavy government influence ultimately the means of production are still controlled by the same corrupt aristocracy. Socialism addresses the symptoms of the problem while the disease runs unchecked. It whitewashes the issues a with pretty and noble façade, but the nation still rots from within. Government can't provide welfare for soul, and mandating certain behavior doesn't magically imbue the people with the spirit which would have inspired that behavior spontaneously. You're trying to feed the peasants, I'm trying to tear down the Bastille so that the peasants might feed themselves.
  4. Welfare

    Corporations are people too, my friend. They'll take the easiest road and make use of whatever resources are available. I don't fault anyone (be they people or groups of people) for taking advantage of the system, whatever their reasons may be. It's just human nature to seek the path of least resistance. I merely disagree with some folks about how much assistance that system should provide. I don't really see a difference between corporate and private subsidies, both foster that sense of entitlement and sap motivation to put forth any real effort of our own. It not only hurts those who receive it and don't need it, it hurts those who could be providing it for those who do. Why reach out and care for my neighbors who are truly unable to fend for themselves? That's why I pay taxes. Why get off my tail and support that struggling corporation which is providing what I think society needs? That's why I pay taxes. Here is an article I ran across the other day, and one quote struck me as very relevant to this discussion: "We think it is ugly too but if the leaders don’t ask us to change it, what are we supposed to do?” They're completely paralyzed, even when they know something needs to be changed. This is the kind of thing folks mean when they warn about the dangers of dependence on government. If you think ordering those who don't care to fix the problem for you is the answer, well, this is result you get. If you're waiting for someone else to step up and do what needs to be done, the world is going to remain a stagnant and inefficient mess. The problem isn't that we're not throwing enough money and government programs at the needy, the problem is that nobody gives a damn. If you think you can solve that issue with taxes, feel free to illuminate me. This ministry stuff is a real chore and I'd be happy to take the easy road.
  5. Welfare

    I've seen all types of recipients in every welfare office I've ever been in. All the examples provided are true. What I have also seen is a lot of frustrated social workers who know the difference between those who are really trying hard and need more help and those who are just playing the system, but they can't do anything because their hands have been tied with red tape by ideologues from both sides. The larger a bureaucracy grows the less efficiently it can do the job it was designed to do and the more it becomes about blindly following orders and covering your own tail. I hear a lot of people who say they want to make a difference for the poor, but for most it's easier to vote for a distant politician and pat themselves on the back instead of getting involved locally to address the unique needs and difficulties in their own neighborhoods. There is no one-size-fits all solution, and stereotypes only serve the interests of those whose golden parachutes ensure that they will never have to depend upon the quagmire of impotence they've created.
  6. Welfare

    We're spending over $400,000,000,000 (that's billion) a year in taxes to cover the interest on the national debt. Over the next decade the CBO predicts that figure to double. That's 1/7 of federal revenue which doesn't go to improve infrastructure, or provide for defense, or help the poor. That's over a thousand dollars a year from every man, woman and child which goes straight into the pockets of global banksters who are all too eager to loan us even more to pay for the things we can't afford because we're throwing our hard-earned wealth out the window. In a couple years that expense will be more than the entire (federal, state and local) welfare budget, and is on a rapid track to surpass even our enormous military spending. And we're too busy fighting each other, too wrapped up in the partisan drama to pay attention to the vampires who are bleeding us dry. How can we even begin to discuss which direction to sail this ship until we patch the rift that's dragging us all down to Davy Jones' locker? Thank God for freedom of religion, because at this rate the only thing our grandchildren will be able to afford is a prayer.
  7. Current Mood

    “Moral power is always more dangerous to an oppressor than political force.” ~ Mary Crow Dog
  8. Impact Of Holy Books & Writings

    Yes and no. You can grow a heart-shaped watermelon by confining it to a box, but it's still a watermelon.
  9. I was also one of those "lost boys" and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Perhaps one of the best things you can convey to his mother is that, as difficult as it is (especially for a parent), standing back is exactly the right thing to do and it's what he needs from her most. What may help is finding a co-dependence group to gather support among others who have the hard task of watching those they love self-destruct. My mother tossed my out on my arse and we both suffered a lot from the choices I made on that dark road, but she was steadfast in her love for me. I knew that I wasn't going to be enabled, that there was no shelter or financial support for me as long as I refused to mend my ways, but I also knew that no matter how bad things got there was always someone on my side. There was always someone to call, though I may not always have wanted to hear what she had to say. There was always a beacon shining in the night, guiding me back to shore. It took many years for me to come around and set my feet on a better path, to realize the great gifts I had been given and accept responsibility for the tremendous debt I owed, but we are closer than ever now. There are no guarantees that things will turn out for the best, but I hope my own experience can provide a little hope, strength and comfort in this time of tribulation. "And when finally the bottom fell out I became withdrawn The only thing I knew how to do Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew Tangled up in blue" ~ Bob Dylan
  10. Happy Memorial Day

    We walked among the crosses Where our fallen soldiers lay, And listened to the bugle As TAPS began to play. The Chaplain led a prayer, We stood with heads bowed low, And I thought of fallen comrades I had known so long ago. They came from every city Across this fertile land That we might live in freedom. They lie here 'neath the sand. I felt a little guilty, My sacrifice was small. I only lost a little time But these men lost their all. Now the services are over For this Memorial Day. To the names upon these crosses I just want to say, Thanks for what you've given, No one could ask for more. May you rest with God in heaven From now through evermore. ~ CW Johnson
  11. Young Master Alexander Ethan arrived by C-Section a little after 8am EST this morning, weighing in at 6lb 8oz. Everyone is doing well. May he be a light unto the world! My brother sarcastically joked that he wasn't giving him a great name. I suggested if the joy it has brought our families isn't enough that Egypt may be looking for a new leader...
  12. Willkommen, Mein Neffe!

    With my brother's recent injury I've been roped into extra baby-sitting duty and was reminded of this post. It's hard to believe it's been three years already. Here's the little mountain man on one of our nature walks, he refused to believe that hill was too steep to climb! He just kept trying until it started to rain and we headed back in. I guess he's determined to live up to his name; he's certainly as stubborn as the rest of us. I remember falling off a larger cliff very much like this in Germany...
  13. While working at home today my brother somehow managed to stab himself in the eye with a piece of wire. Apparently it was on a coil under tension and sprang back as he was cutting it, entering under the lens on an upward trajectory. I don't know how bad it is yet but he was losing some vitreous humor and there was some foreign matter embedded in the orb. The local hospital ran him up to Albany Medical Center for emergency surgery to see what they could save. He was in good enough spirits when I saw him, joking about how he had named his son after Alexander the Great and now he had lost an eye, but he was in a lot of pain and understandably freaking out that it was leaking down his face. I don't know if he's out of the OR yet, but we could use whatever prayers and energies y'all can send to him for the healing of his body, and for his mind however this turns out. I never ask you guys for anything and I wish I could take the injury in his place, but I really need your help this time. With HIPAA protection I won't have an update for a while but I'll let y'all know how it goes as soon as I get word. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
  14. Prayer Support

    He went in to a local clinic yesterday, but the doctor refused to even examine him because she's not an ophthalmologist. She called the surgeon and he said my brother needs to come in and see him... if it was that urgent why couldn't he keep his appointments on Friday? If we had been late we would have been charged for his time, so I can't really blame my brother for not dancing for someone who thinks their convenience is more important than his eye. This one did give him the antibiotics he needed, but she wouldn't prescribe the eyedrop form because, again, she wasn't an ophthalmologist. Crikey, was the surgeon's recommendation not enough? There's an optometry group nearby he'll check in with tomorrow. Hopefully we can at least get the right meds and a prognosis, even if it's bad news. Once again I'd like to thank you all. There's a tremendous strength to be gained through prayer and fellowship, even if it doesn't produce instant miracles. Any surgery and severe injury can be challenging, but to have one of your primary senses compromised is one heck of a mountain. Your support is truly a blessing for our family.
  15. Going by the ones I've watched several times already: Apocalypto Into the Wild Letters from Iwo Jima Life of Pi The Departed As for Hobbitses, as a lifelong Tolkien fan I think The Onion gave it the fairest review:
  16. Prayer Support

    So they rushed him by ambulance (not covered by insurance) to Albany and then kept him waiting for 12 hours because the surgeon couldn't be bothered to show up until 3am. He was having panic attacks because he developed a cataract from the fluid leaking into his cornea, it was this huge emergency, and nobody would tell him what's going on. Apparently he was so out of it when he woke up in recovery he assaulted several nurses, and they only called off the police when he started to come around. He waits all morning for the doc to do his rounds, but again he never arrived. They then kept him waiting for a couple hours in the hospital ophthalmology clinic this afternoon, and yet again the doctor doesn't show up, so he checked himself out. They tell him at that time that it was so urgent he be seen that they squeezed him in immediately at the guy's private practice, and when we get him there they tell him it was still going to be another couple hours before he could be seen (assuming a golf game or something didn't postpone that appointment too.) He was at the end of his wits without his anti-anxiety meds, so he insisted we just bring him home and he'll be checking in with his primary physician on Monday. Onward to the Thracian seaboard, so to speak. He said there's no pain since they got the eyelashes/debris out of his eye but he still doesn't even know if they did a lensectomy or not. If they did, the repair also won't be covered and he'll probably have lost most of his sight in that eye. If not, it'll be at least a few months for recovery, and we have no idea how much might return until we can get him examined again. Complete communication breakdown. As he was discussing with his roommate, apparently triage is driven by profit and even the patients themselves aren't important enough to know the details of their treatment these days. The doctors are too busy to follow up, but I guess they're so awesome they don't need to worry about their bedside manner anymore. Physically his future is uncertain, but psychologically it seemed he'd rather risk losing the eye entirely than leave himself in their hands for another minute. Ahh, the joys of government healthcare. I did let him know you guys were praying for him and he expressed his gratitude. It was more support than he got at the hospital. From all of us, thank you. "In regione caecorum rex est luscus." ~ Desiderius Erasmus
  17. Churches And Clergy Pays No Taxes

    While you may or may not agree, perhaps this will help you understand the reasoning behind the law. A Constitutional Analysis of Tax Exemption for Churches and the Secular Coalition of America's Proposed Changes As for fairness, rather than churches being taxed too little, perhaps it's the rest of the citizenry who are being taxed too much. Lately "general welfare" seems to be interpreted as "any purpose we please." Interestingly, paying our debts doesn't seem to be one of those things.
  18. Churches And Clergy Pays No Taxes

    I'm not familiar with PA tax law, but it's my understanding that religious organizations in America still have to abide by the same 501©(3) regulations as other non-profits or they lose their exempt status. Pastors still have to pay personal income taxes, and there are restrictions on their personal property (that is, it has to be directly used in service of their church, you don't get a break just because you're ordained.) In some cases churches don't have to go through the initial approval process, being granted some measure of faith, but the hue and cry that they are exempt without obligation is misconstrued for political reasons. The problems with tax-exempt status, loopholes and corruption aren't limited to religious institutes. I could be wrong about any or all of the above points, this is not to be taken as legal advice. (Note to tech: please remove the "copyright" auto-formatting.)
  19. I went to a Franciscan university and majored in both Biology and Theology. I don't have a problem with a school teaching science and religion simultaneously, as long as the disparate subjects are kept in the appropriate classrooms. If our "grammar" schools also properly teach rhetoric and dialectic the students will be equipped to navigate the stormy seas of discord.
  20. Database Error Issues

    No worries, just thought the time frame might help ya pin down the problem. Thanks for the update, glad it's nothing more serious.
  21. Database Error Issues

    This started for me last week. Couldn't access the forum for a few days, got back through yesterday and was locked out again today. Figured you guys were doing some maintenance but I mention it because it wasn't just today.
  22. Welfare

    I don't pay income tax, but I do spend 25% of my $9,700 annual SSD/SSI income on property taxes (for a 30 year-old trailer on ten acres.) It's still cheaper than renting, but I'm effectively forced to repurchase my home every ten years. My elderly parents are in the same boat, watching their American Dream being taxed away in their golden years, losing everything they busted their tails for all their lives. Retirement? Hah! If you can't continually feed the ever-growing appetite of the machine then you obviously don't deserve to keep what you've made for yourself. They'll just take it and give it to someone who will "work harder" (read: pay more taxes) while convincing you that it's in your best interest. A serf has no real motivation to improve their condition because they know the fruits of their labor will be consumed by someone else. When one cannot be content with their own condition and/or take responsibility for their own growth, then Mammon becomes their god. It's why thugs and banksters (if that's not splitting a semantic hair) are frequently idolized, and why asset taxes on "the 1%" are becoming a more popular idea. Nobody cares how you get your money, if you can flash that swag then you must be an important person who is worthy of special treatment. It doesn't matter if you think the rich or poor are the good guys or the bad guys, if money is your measure of a person it's utterly dehumanizing. There is a great need for charity in the world. The problem isn't that welfare is a bad concept, the problem is that it doesn't work. In theory, it's a compassionate system that serves the needs of the poor. In practice, it's just a book of regulations that serves the bottom line of plutocrats.
  23. I'm sorry, I didn't think you needed me to hold your hand. This category is prayers and good wishes, not explain why I thought Elvis is a perfect example of the problem you don't have. But since you asked (in your own peculiar ego-prodding way), his isolation in the midst of abundance is why I chose that song of despair and hope. I think it's fair to say his obesity wasn't what killed him.