Joseph and the One Percent

You should know that jealousy and envy disguised as “fairness” and “equality” play important roles in a liberal’s political drama.

 Remember the Bible story of Joseph and the coat.  Joseph’s eleven brothers, assuming that Joseph was their father’s favorite son, became extremely jealous when Joseph received a beautiful coat as a gift from his father.  So jealous were they in fact that they plotted to kill Joseph.  But after much hand wringing and intervention by the oldest brother they sold Joseph into slavery.  This was deemed a more humane solution.

 The brothers in order to deflect their guilt gave their father a bloodied garment as proof of their ‘sincere’ lie that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.  The brothers then considered their “problem” to be out of sight and out of mind.  What mattered most to them was to maintain status quo – everybody was to remain equal.

 From a mature point of view the brothers should not have been jealous. Joseph’s father Jacob had every right to give the coat to whomever he wanted.  But the brothers grumbled and cried foul amongst themselves as do liberals today whenever there is a perceived breach of societal equity.

 Today’s popular psychology helps feed the popular jealousy by reverse thinking.  Instead of providing a positive unselfish viewpoint Freudian based psychology points the finger back at dad the authority figure:  “you feel that you didn’t get your fair share of love from your father.” “Your father treated your brother with more love and affection. “Your father should have given you more.  He should have been fair with you so let’s help you figure out how to get your fair share.” This nonsense is played out day after day in the liberal media and by president Obama with “fair share” rhetoric. 

 These liberal folks will tell you as they have been counseled that life has not given you your fair share so you must demand fairness: “Look at your life.  Do you have what he has?  No?” “Then demand it.” “Demand your right to healthcare. Demand your right to force the 1% to pay higher taxes. Demand your right to live off another person’s property.” This type of debilitating psychology streams from media outlets day and night promoting jealousy, envy and unrest in the people who hear it.

 Co-opted, high-sounding and sanctimonious words hide the real motivation behind the left’s policies:  jealousy and envy hiding in the wings waiting for the chance to ‘correct’ the unfairness.

 Consider this assessment of the Left’s use of innocuous language to achieve their ‘righteous’ ends. Here is Thomas Sowell, economist :

 “The left has a whole vocabulary devoted to depicting people who do not meet the standards as people who have been denied “access.” Whether it is academic standards, job qualifications or credit requirements, those who do not measure up are said to have been deprived of “opportunity,” “rights” or “social justice.”

 The word games of the left – from the mantra of “diversity” to the pieties of “compassion” – are not just games.  They are ways of imposing power by evading issues of substance through the use of seductive rhetoric.

 “Rights,” for example have become an all purpose term used for evading both facts and logic by saying that people have a “right” to whatever the left wants to give them by taking from others.

 For centuries, rights were exemptions from government power, as in the Bill of Rights.  Now the left has redefined rights as things that can demanded from the taxpayers, or from private employers or others, on behalf of people who accept no mutual obligations, even for common decency.”

 Joseph was one of twelve brothers.  He was 1/12th or 8.333 % of the whole.  8.333% had something the 91.667 % didn’t have.  Rounding off, the 92% were envious of the 8% so the 92% decided to bring the 8% down to zero, thus making things fair in their eyes. Removing Joseph from the picture also meant that their inheritance was now larger, divided only eleven ways instead of twelve.  Because of envy and jealousy the 92% proceeded to sell the 8% into slavery and bondage, though murder was considered.  Think about that before you vote for Obama and the Democrats. Think about that when you hear them demanding that the 1% should dish out their shovel ready wealth for your benefit.

 Being your brother’s keeper is so much more than keeping him around and keeping him in his place by only giving him his “fair share.”  It is dealing justly with him by giving him what is due him.  So if a man has been given a gift or has a talent bless him and do not curse him.  If a man receives more than you be thankful to God for what you do have and for his gain. But,  if you by jealousy and envy, in order to make yourself feel better about yourself, your situation and the world at large, confiscate another man’s property,  if you subjugate his person and sell him into slavery or if, when envy has matured into its final state you seek to murder the man better off than you then know that his blood will cry out for justice. Know that God will avenge those treated unjustly.

The Tree of Life Envisioned

Recently I viewed Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life. It would be difficult for me to adequately describe the effect this movie had on me, the emotion and reflection evoked from me as a Christian parent who has lost a child.  This movie operates, more than any I have ever seen, on an intimate meaning-of-life level while the breadth of its vision enables us to direct our eyes away from ourselves and out into the vast cosmos. And in doing so, synchronicity with creation is summoned.

 Life’s deepest and most pressing questions, the universal “whys” behind all of life are posed using the simple narrative of the lives of the O’Brien family of five. Underlying the film’s basic premises of wonder and questioning is the ancient wisdom book of Job, for me the touchstone of the film.  I believe that each viewer’s prior contemplation of life’s deepest questions would certainly individualize the film’s impression on the viewer.  Without individuation, though, the movie is just an amalgam of exceptional pictures and music – a mood piece. I see The Tree of Life as being a spiritual movie and not a religious documentary and therefore I believe it will affect each viewer differently.

 Without going into too much of the narrative detail, detail which may deprive you of the movie’s impact, here is my initial impression of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life:

 Though I was ready for the usual exceptional visual imagery – Stanley Kubrick’s movies come to mind – that is part and parcel of Malick’s cinematic talent (see also his Days of Heaven) I was blown away by the large scope of the movie:  creation, the meaning of life, the existence of suffering, nature and grace and the Creator. 

One of the visual and emotional pleasures of this movie is that the images are offered to us in prolonged time frames – there are no frenetic montages matched to every blink of the eye. The absence of the modern movie restlessness allows us to contemplate the force of those images. We are then able to react with deeply held authentic feelings and at the same time not feel the need to immediately dispose of those feelings so as to be ready for the next emotional roller coaster ride of images. In this way the movie parallels life:  creation and real life takes place over time.  I believe the movie honors the fact that God takes time to accomplish His purposes – in the universe and in the saga of our lives. And, as the movie depicts, we do not understand God’s ways but, as I have seen, God, who is outside of time, uses time to reveal His Nature and His Grace to us.

 Malick rolls out before us a grand sweeping chromatic scroll of the universe. The visual imagery, often shown in natural lighting is enhanced with beautifully evocative musical selections including works by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Smetana’s The Moldau River, Preisner’s Lacrimosa, Cassidy’s The Funeral March and Górecki’s Sorrowful Songs Symphony. Such music invokes us to come present to the spiritual within our souls.

 The awe-inspiring and overwhelming dynamic universe centers around and is grounded by a tree in the backyard of a family’s home in Waco Texas, circa 1950s. Using a minimalist script this family of five provides creation’s human narrative: father (emblematic of nature), mother (emblematic of grace) and their three young sons.  The father, the mother and Jack O’brien, the eldest son and main character give us our viewpoints. Later on in the movie Jack’s character is played as an adult by Sean Penn. The adult Jack becomes an architect who creates buildings derivative of his own hard-edged “nature”.

 Within this family life narrative we see birth, growth, maturation, anger, relational distance, death, sorrow, loss, envy, survival, strife and sin. Along the way the ever pressing questions of life are whispered to our ears using voiceovers.

 As I mentioned the display of the immensity and dynamism of the created universe provides the backdrop for these most important issues of life, questions that this family of five and certainly any sane person on earth ponders at some point in their life:  Where is God?; Does God see what is happening?; Does God care? Are we left on our own? What about evil? What about the loss of a child? Why is there suffering?

 After the death of her son Mrs. O’Brien asks, “He was in God’s hands the whole time, wasn’t he?” “If God is good and cares about us, why does he make us suffer?”  Throughout the movie we are engaged to ponder these hard questions and to once again look through a glass darkly for the answers.

 Watching this film I was also reminded of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and the philosophical lessons Smerdyakov learned from Ivan, regarding the impossibility of evil in a world without a God.

 In depicting some of the range of God’s creation we see vast spatial distances which hold myriad galaxies and we also see, looking through other end of the telescope, intricate microcosmic details.  We are reminded that the Creator God is ever beyond our finite comprehension. For this reason I am thankful that Malick chose to countenance theism and not a Woody Allen-type nihilism that turns its back on God and mocks Him every time.

 The movie begins by referencing the oldest piece of wisdom literature in the world, the book of Job. The stage is set with God responding to Job who had cursed the day he was born after being overwhelmed with trouble, suffering and loss.  From Job 38:4, 7:

 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

 Throughout the movie there are other paraphrased Scripture references including Job 13:15, “I will be true to you whatever comes.”

 I believe I also heard a paraphrased reference to Paul’s letter to the Roman church during a scene where Jack is praying: “I know what I want to do but I can’t do it.”  Also, there is an oblique reference to Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church regarding the character of love:

  “There are two ways through life:  the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.” Mrs. O’Brien, The Tree of Life

 Beyond the infusions of Scripture, I saw revealed man’s unconscious need to bump up against someone bigger and stronger than life itself. And though we are infinitesimally small compared to the enormous universe we matter to God.  In another wisdom book of the Bible, the Psalms, the shepherd boy David speaks in awe of God’s intimate knowledge of His creatures,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

  The film doesn’t seek to answer the questions of life but only poses them offering up grace as the consummate reconciler. As a believer in Jesus Christ I am transformed daily by God’s grace.  Just as important, I am forgiven and reconciled with God because Jesus Christ was nailed to another tree – the cross. His resurrection now provides me access to the Tree of Eternal Life. I know the One Who is the Answer.

A tree of life was planted in the garden long ago…

  “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”…

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 

While we ask God “Where are You in all of this?”, God is asking us “Where are you?”

Where Do You Start?

A Tale of Two Foot Races

Race Number One:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height and weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men enter the race knowing that there will only be one winner.  It was for this outcome that they had prepared themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years.

Months prior to the track meet the eight men are told of the rules:  A runner must run in qualifying heats. If the runner is successful in those heats the runner will then be allowed to compete in the final race with the other qualifying runners;  a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will be disqualified as having a “false start”;  the commands “Ready”, “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly;  each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified;  runners will be timed and the first runner to cross the finish line will be the winner of the race.

The runners all agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race, after running in the heats, the eight qualifying runners come to the starting line.  They know that they must run straight ahead in their own lane to reach the one-hundred meter line. They know that if they jump the gun twice they will be disqualified from running. They know that they must sprint as hard as they can to cross the finish line first. They are knowingly competing for first place. The race before them has now become the culmination of years of exhausting training and dedication to finishing the race and receiving first prize.

When the race is announced the runners shed their sweats and come to the starting line. They will then position their legs into the starting blocks and place their hands stretched just hugging the starting line.  Seeing the runners in place behind the line the track official then says, “Ready”.  Then after a moment he says “Set”.  The runners then come up to a set position waiting for the starting pistol to go off.  When it does the eight men jolt from their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their feet will carry them.

At the finish line the winner is the one who breaks the tape. There is also a second, a third and fourth place finisher. The runners-up congratulate the winner for his speed and, implicitly, for his fidelity to the rules and his commitment to the sport of racing.

The first three finishers receive medals, adulation and wreaths of honor from the thousands who have come to watch a fair race between those who have so vigorously prepared themselves. The experience of the race has bolstered each runner’s self-esteem. The cheering crowd is also moved by each runner’s self-sacrifice, dedication and self-discipline. This spectacle has confirmed the crowd’s understanding of playing by the rules and aspiring to excel within those rules. Everyone who witnessed the race that day is stirred to motion – a motion to go home and try harder.

All eight men later return home.  They are now more dedicated than ever to prepare for another day of racing and to receiving the crown of victory.

Race Number Two:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height, weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men entered the race knowing that everyone will be a winner.  It was for this outcome that they saw no need to prepare themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years. They just had to show up.

Months prior to the race the eight men are told the rules.  They are told the rules are subject to change at the time of the race based on the current ad hoc articulated reasoning of one superior intellectual with unquestionable virtue.  A runner must run in qualifying heats but this will not be a constraint. Whether or not a runner is successful in those heats he will also be allowed to compete in the final race with other qualifying runners; a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will not be disqualified from running. Instead he will be given another chance; the commands “Ready” and “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly, though any sincere attempt to cooperate with the official will be accepted; each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified unless, of course, their background is such that they have never stayed within the lines; runners will not be timed because such keeping of minutes would be discrimination against slower runners.  The first runner to cross the finish line will wait at the finish line so that everyone will be considered a winner of the race. This must be done at any personal cost to the first one crossing the finish line.

The runners agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race all of the runners come to the starting line.  They know that they should sincerely try running down to the finish line. There will be prizes and the appreciation of well-wishers to look forward to. They are knowingly going to try for this reason. This race is now the culmination of years of knowing that the battle is just showing up.

When all the runners are in their starting blocks and their hands are behind the starting line the track official then says, “Ready”.  After a long moment of reasoned judgment the official says “Set”.  The runners come up to set position.  When the race official shoots the starting gun the eight men come out of their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their preparation has trained them.

At the finish line everyone becomes a finisher, even those who left the race due to being out of breath. There are congratulations all around for having showed up to such an event.

At the awards ceremony all the runners receive medals and kudos from the thousands who have come to watch a race between people who have showed up for a race where the outcome was predetermined to be fair – fair as defined by a few judges of superior intellect and of unquestioned virtue.

Later, all the runners returned home and rested from another day of showing up.

*****

A Tale of Two Foot Races:  Equal Opportunities vs. Equal Outcomes by Sally Paradise © Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Life Lessons I Will Pass On to My Kids

Don’t hold grudges. I’ve known several people, mostly women, who’ve held a grudge against someone for years. They never relinquish their anger, they never forgive, they never reconcile. They just hold on to their anger because it feels safe and powerful to be angry. But, if you have ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer then you are asking to be forgiven in the same way that you have forgiven (or not forgiven) others. Don’t hold grudges because grudges hold you hostage and they keep others out of your ever shrinking world.

Learn to say, “I’m sorry.” Admit you were wrong. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I was wrong.” Don’t ever apologize with a blaming apology: “I’m sorry but I did it because you…” I don’t know how many times someone has done this to me. I realize that it is not a true apology but the person’s pride which is speaking. A true apology requires humility. Don’t blame others in your apology. Make your apology by stating what you did wrong. Ask for forgiveness and then shut up.

Face your fears. What’s bugging you? What’s gnawing at your insides causing you to bite your fingernails, drink excessively, spend compulsively and complain incessantly? What are you afraid of? Spell it out on paper. Tell yourself the worst that could happen and prepare for that. Then, get on with your life knowing that the worst that can happen will be dealt with at that time. Keeping your fears alive might make you feel alive but your body, your wife and your friends will bear the brunt of your worry. Face your fears and decide what you will do proactively to address them.

Learn to adapt. Life is hard. Life will throw curve balls at you. Find ways to adapt to change. Expect change and see it as a challenge given to you by God to grow thereby. Sometimes you need new soil to make growth happen. Don’t be afraid. Get on with your life, welcome the opportunity and grow. Change makes goals and desires all the more defined and dearer. I’ve learned, duh, that God knows the beginning from the end. He is already where I am going. He knows my desires. He knows what I want without saying a word. He’s making things happen for my benefit.

Be open-minded. The fact that you are only human should be enough notice to you that you don’t have all the facts. You are not omniscient. Be ready to receive new information, ask questions and listen to others. This will help you discern whether you believe in only half-truths. You want the whole truth. You should be seeking the whole truth in every situation and not something which only fits your politic. Be teachable.  Jesus said The meek shall inherit the earth.

Don’t complain. I know someone who has worked for a company for over twenty years. This guy complains about his boss and how his boss handles things. This guy believes that he knows better than his boss how to run things. Every night he comes home to his wife angry and spiteful. He complains to her and to every one he’s in a relationship with. He’s miserable and he wants every one to feel his misery. My guess is that everyone around him is sick and tired of his whining. They wish that he would quit that job and do something with his life other than complain. But, he likes to recycle his misery. It gives him some measure of pleasure. So, his complaining continues. Don’t complain – just shut up.

Be thankful. You don’t deserve anything except to be physically and emotionally safe from harm. Be grateful and not full of grating discontent.

Be courteous.  These days more and more people are becoming uncaring, thoughtless and just plain rude.  The “rights” revolution is the effect of people becoming  more self-absorbed.  It has given people a sense that they can do whatever they want whenever they want.  Don’t be like them.  Be responsible and kind. Be aware of people around you.  Turn off the cell phone and the loud music.  Be polite and gracious.  Be a light in the darkened wasteland of self.

Choose good friends. I don’t have to tell you that bad friends will bring you down. Good friends will be there when things change for the worse or for the better. You don’t need Job’s friends so it might be better to be alone than to have bad friends. I am a lone and waiting for good friends. Mark Twain said, “Be good and you will be lonesome.” Sad, but often true!

Get married when you are young.  Marriage is good.  For a woman, having children and being a wife and a homemaker is much more fulfilling than having a career. Don’t waste your time trying to become something in the business world.  This kind of nonsense is just rotten leftovers from the feminist movement.  Many people including parents have bought into this notion. This movement thought that if you were equal with men in the workplace and careers you would be complete as a woman and be a success  Well, your body, your heart and your soul know differently. If you have a high school sweetheart and you are both in love and committed to having sex only after marriage I say then,  marry right after high school.  If you wait and marry someone at, say, 28 or 30 by then habits, mainly bad ones from living a single lifestyle, are already ingrained and are very, very difficult to work with. Marry early and grow together. Each of you will change over time and become different people.  This is a fact of life. But this won’t matter if you choose love and commitment over self-interest, if you choose adaption and not abortion of your love.

Love is learned.  Love doesn’t just happen. Love takes a lot of trial and error and lot’s of hard work.  Love is kind, gentle and patient. The hottest fires of passion happen when you have acted in love toward your wife or husband.  Love offers itself without asking for anything in return. Love does what is best for the other person.  It is not selfish. It doesn’t seek its own way. This is the opposite of what the world tells you.  Be aware of this.

Sex is good. Sexual relations between a man and a woman in a committed relationship is wonderful. Outside of this boundary sex becomes an animal reflex and diminishes your sense of self, your humanity. It becomes a cheap thrill.

Give.  Give freely.  Don’t hold back.  This pleases your Father in heaven.

God is not going to do what you can do already. You can ask God for wisdom but if God has given you wisdom already then don’t ask again hoping to get a different answer. You can ask for courage to do what you know. God will bring you through circumstances that will either produce courage/character in our lives or it will produce a stubborn rebellion. It’s your choice. Just know that God has given you liberty to decide what response you will have. Be ready to accept the consequences of your bad response.

Life is short, choose wisdom. Your body, your bank account and your buddies will be thankful you did.

We are family, blood, and we take care of each other. ‘nuf said.

Ask dad. In any situation, when you don’t know which way to go, ask your father. He’s come a long way and he knows the territory.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” (often attributed to Mark Twain)

“It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him.” Mark Twain

Trust God with all your heart. He knew you before you were born.

Pray. Let your every breath and every heartbeat become a prayer.