Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Our Life and Current Affairs CommentaryThe following thoughts bounce back and forth between our life and current affairs. A bit of hybrid reflection today. Memorial Day weekend has become a type of gay weekend. As a family we had a busy weekend. We spent much of our time in the city of Honolulu. While Honolulu isn't a particularly large city, it's still a city. It has a gay community and attracts tourists of every stripe. I had read a few articles online how the Memorial Day weekend was turning into a gay pride and get-together weekend. Sure enough, we witnessed many couples over the long weekend. I am curious why homosexuals chose to associate themselves with Memorial Day weekend. I don't know the answer but suspect it's just a great time to get away for a vacation and perhaps there is some push for the military to accept the gays.
Most of my life I have been in the majority. I am white male. Catholic. Blondish hair, green-blue eyes. Tall. Nothing special. I have blended very well in the US and in Italy. I stuck out a little bit while living in Mexico and quite a bit while living in China. So, to say the least, I have had very little experience being a minority. I can understand how minorities enjoy being with others like themselves. Expatriates typically enjoy hanging out with other expatriates. They can relate. They have a lot in common: language, nostalgia for the motherland, experiences, antipathy and discrimination, etc. Such behavior is evident among most minorities throughout the world. Many governments take it upon themselves to do away with such undesired segregation. This self-imposed segregation is universal and natural. People enjoy being with others who are similar to themselves. We can't help it! That's why in many old cities, there is the Italian section, the German section, the Jewish section, the gay section, the black section, etc. Minority groups, and just groups in general, tend to come together. I opine that demanding society to mix is abhorrent to nature. Combating discrimination is one thing; forcing society to live in fixed ratios, in the private and public sphere, is a waste of time and, ultimately, counterproductive.
Since the homosexual community is a minority group, I can understand their desire of togetherness. I still don't understand homosexuals' use of pride and celebration. Pride is defined as "a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority." Celebration can be defined as "a joyful diversion" or as "the performance of rituals" or as "a display." I suppose one can celebrate their cultural heritage. Irish Pride (St. Patrick's Day) or German Pride (Oktoberfest) are ways to celebrate one's roots. Yet, in today's multicultural America, it's hard to celebrate anything because it appears to infringe upon and offend everyone else. In a world of cultural relativism (multiculturalism), where cultures coexist merely on the horizontal plane and not the vertical, it's a sin for any one culture to trump over another. (I don't espouse such multiculturalism. I am arguing here only as the devil's advocate.) So, there are definitely ethnic/national pride and celebrations. There is reason to display such a culture to appreciate history, provided one attaches importance to history. In a sense, then, cultural celebrations are historical celebrations. Such celebrations commemorate important historical moments: national independence, births and deaths of famous individuals, economic landmarks, war and peace. These are meaningful events to remember, events that shape society around us. Celebrations and commemorative days have become as superfluous as the rubber, multicolored awareness bracelets. There are too many to be aware of! When I stop to think about it I realize that it's possible to celebrate everything and anything. Where does one stop? Someone ought to draw the line and have good reasons for the decision. I don't believe that we should be celebrating the achievements of minority groups without presenting the opposite side of the coin, the majority group. It might seem blase, but I feel that the majority can very easily become the down-trodden segment of society. As it is, our legal system and political system champion minority groups and rarely grant standing to majority causes. As a male, I feel sidelined by radical feminist celebrations. As a Caucasian, I feel sidelined by other cultural and national celebrations. As a heterosexual, I feel sidelined by homosexual celebrations. Should I feel pride in being a male? Should I feel pride in being white? Should I feel pride in being heterosexual? I am proud of my achievements. I am proud of who I have become through my work. It's hard for me to feel pride in simply being something by default.
I hope that this post poses this just question: What should we celebrate? What should we be proud of? Criticize a majority and join the mainstream of self-righteous. Criticize a minority and get ready to appropriate a slew of labels to describe your pathos. Is that right?
We live in a hyper-sensitive world where anyone can be offended by anyone or anything. Your offense is validated, however, only if you are in the minority. A majority victim: what's that? I doubt you will find that concept in a dictionary or in the world around us. I suppose I will have to validate myself and hope that God does so, too.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- [W]hoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.
Christ meant what he said and understood the difficulty of asking such service of us. This a tough proviso. Service equals greatness, humility is leadership. We don't hear this type of message much outside the Gospels. Part of me wants to say: Well, Lord, I don't really want greatness that much. I am not so ambitious as to desire a first spot among your followers. Yet, this is not a worldly, materialistic greatness. Christ is referring to a spiritual greatness to which we are all called. Christ calls everyone of us to a life of service, to the life of slave. The Lord's own example strengthens his mandate. He calls us to serve only once he has used his own life as a paradigm of service to others.
Monday, May 28, 2007
We're off to the beach for a swim in Waikiki. Start your engines...surfboards, that is!
Today we pray for those brave men and women serving our country and for the souls of the courageous soldiers who have left this earthly life:
Please God love our soldiers and guide them to do good. Protect them from all harm and be with them in weak moments. Love them so they are strong and follow Your will. Please watch over them and embrace them in your goodness. Eternal rest please grant unto those, O Lord, who have gone to meet you. Amen.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Holy Spirit! Lord of light! From your clear celestial height, your pure, beaming radiance give:
Come, You Father of the poor!
Come, with treasures which endure!
Come, You light of all that live!
You, of all consolers best,
Visiting the troubled breast,
[Do] refreshing peace bestow:
You in toil are comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
Light immortal! light divine!
Visit You these hearts of your,
And our inmost being fill.
If You take your grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.
Heal our wounds -- our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend stubborn heart and will;
Melt frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
You on those who evermore
you confess and you adore,
In your sevenfold gifts descend.
Give them comfort when they die;
Give them life with you on high;
Give them joys which never end. Amen.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Yesterday we had a fun-filled afternoon. We travelled to downtown Honolulu with a list of destinations in mind. Our first stop was the Cathedral of our Lady Queen of Peace, the hub of the diocese of Honolulu. The Catholic community in Hawaii is different. The bishop of the diocese reports to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The religious calendar follows that the of the Pacific Islands Diocese. A bit confusing. Anyhow, we visited the Cathedral and attended noon Mass. In the heart of the business district, the Cathedral attracts many professionals during their lunch breaks. After Mass, we went across the street to the Daughters of St. Paul bookshop. Holy cards are Maddy's new favorite toy. (Of course, we get the plastic-coded cards, and, only the good saints...just kidding.) We picked up a couple new holy cards for our little collector. There is a small chapel in most of the St. Paul bookstores, so we went in for a family visits. Maddy fell asleep. Mom and dad took their cue to pray a bit more and then catch a quiet picnic together. We passed the Iolani palace, where the Hawaii royalty resided. Finally, we visited the main Hawaii State library. In the historic section of the city, the building is gorgeous and the library had a host of good books. Hurrah.
Current Affairs Commentary
An interesting NYTimes article titled The Catholic Boom illustrates the changes occurring in mainstream American Catholics. I believe that David Brooks characterizes mainstream American Catholicism properly in calling its adherents quasi-religious. We live in a day and age where supermarket religions coexist. We subscribe to some tenets of the faith but reject others in the same breath. It makes one wonder what a Catholic needs to believe to still be a Catholic. That's a question for another day, however. Mr Brooks seems to enjoy this religious evolution among American Catholics. Their growth in tolerance and convergence with many Protestant ideals fits the bill of mainstream change in the US. From an outside perspective, these changes are wonderful. Coming from a Catholic perspective, it's unfortunate to see the religious slowly and within a single generation morphing into quasi-religious individuals.
The article claims that the best way to supercharge the nation, I believe economically at least, is to fill the country with people who attend church regularly and question everything they hear there. On the one hand I am glad to see that he draws a correlation between the practice of religion and economic excellence. Similarly, I am also glad that he recognizes that Catholicism encourages its adherents to think for themselves and use their critical analysis of the world around them and even their faith. Philosophers and theologians have always encouraged the cooperation of faith and reason among Catholic adherents. On the other hand, however, Mr Brooks believes that this critical analysis should lead individuals to have their own private set of beliefs. This is where I must disagree. A critical eye is a good thing in any faith--in fact, this is precisely where many religions fall short. Misinterpretation, corruption, abuse, and laziness will sprout in any human institution. The Church as the body of Christ is perfect. The Church insofar as it is composed of imperfect human beings makes mistakes. It's a paradox I, myself, don't totally understand. Yet, I do know that critical reason, guided by faith and a healthy desire for the truth, will lead all searchers to the Truth. There is some room for pluralism within the Catholic community. Many have confused their own personal agendas with the truth and their pride now disallows them from full participation in the Church and the Truth. Let's pray for Catholics in the US and around the world that they may regularly attend the sacraments and use their God-given reason and critical ability to arrive at the Truth in its fullness.
Readings Today -- What concern is it of yours?
Peter typifies the average Joe. Christ is in the middle of telling him what his future will be like when Peter interrupts him to ask him about somebody else. Typical. I think that the attitude is present in all of us: we spend more time worrying and theorizing about others than we do about ourselves. Christ admonishes Peter to keep his nose out of other's business and mind his own beeswax. It's a good spiritual prescription for us too. The good shepherd and doctor wants us to introspect our own lives, to worry about our spiritual planks that are blocking our vision, to carry our own cross. It's so much easier to introspect the lives of our coworkers, to worry about our in-law's spec in the eye, and to carry the cross of our neighbor. It's more interesting, more poetic, more depersonalized. I don't mean to advocate myopic individualism, however, rather to illustrate Christ's point of worrying about ourselves first. Spiritual intervention should come as a result of personal introspection: it shouldn't replace it.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Children books. I enjoy children's books, for the most part. Many authors are ingenious in their use of color, rhyme, and story. I have marvelled at the simplicity of thought, vocabulary, and character development. I would estimate, however, that for as many books as I marvel and appreciate there are just as many that I detest. Some people have the goods. Other people don't. Any bloke can write a book for children. Look, Madonna, did it. It's not that these mediocre kids' books are horrible. Most of them have mediocre illustrations and some simple story. Yet, there is a talented corps of children's literature authors who are excellent at what they do. Why should parents and their tikes settle for anything less than the best? Classics and stupendous books abound. I wonder sometimes why we end up with the dregs? Sheesh. Mary and I try to go to the local library every week to check out some children's books. It's really an exercise of hit and miss. We usually grab a couple classics and a couple unfamiliar books. These unfamiliar books tend to be the pits. However, every now and then we come across a gem. With such a beautiful genre, I wonder why publishers humor the mediocre and bad. Hopefully, I will have better luck in my future book selections.
Current Affairs Commentary
Continuing thoughts on immigration. According to recent CBS/NY Times poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans approve of the present immigration bill. The present bill, which enjoys the blessing of the President and the US Senate, stipulates amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in the US prior to January 1, 2007. By passing through some legal and financial hoops, illegal immigrants in the US have a venue to become legal.
Some of the positive elements of the bill:
- it recognizes the presence of illegal immigrants;
- it does something to rectify the situation;
- illegal immigrants are getting the chance of a lifetime;
- the US economy can continue as usual, employing illegal immigrant labor.
- it rewards individuals who have broken US domestic and international law
- it sets a bad precedent on border protection and amnesty in the US and at large
- in rewarding those guilty of breaking the law, it punishes those who entered the country legally
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Three times does Jesus Christ asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter responds in the affirmative. Three times does Christ respond by inspiring Peter to act upon his love. If you love, feed my lambs, feed my sheep. (I never really understood why Christ varied the lamb and sheep section of his mandate, but that's outside of what I want to reflect upon today. If you have any insights, please let me know.) Christ appears to be telling Peter that he can prove his love for God through acts of service to humanity at large, more particularly, the Christian community. In the Catholic tradition, holiness is found among both the contemplative-in-seclusion mystics and the out-there-in-the-world apostles. God calls each person to a different type of holiness. There may be a temptation for us, based on our personality, to slide to one end of the spectrum. Some extroverts may find it easy to be active in the faith amidst the community and yet find personal prayer difficult. Introverts may experience the opposite. A healthy balance may be the best way to go. Christ moves us to action in his mandate to Peter. To love Christ, we have to know him first. If we love him, we have to serve him. How do we serve him? By serving those around us.
While waiting for the laundry to dry and stiffen on the line, I went and grabbed a couple of noni fruits from one of our two trees. They still need to ripen, but I have two to extract juice from when they are ready. I was recently reading more about noni health benefits, whicn include: antioxidants, immune system health booster, and wonderful source of help for skin repair. From what I read, the noni fruit was found in the Polynesian Islands about two thousand years ago. There, the juice was regularly used to help cure such things as scorpian fish stings and abrasions to the skin. I was speaking to my Mom and was telling her more about the noni when she told me that she had seen the juice at Costco. It is such a big hit on the health market, and so many professional athletes are drinking it like water because of its awesome health benefits when consumed regularly and over a period of time. What is pretty amazing about the noni (what is pictured below) is that it yields fruit three hundred sixty-five days a year!
After hanging laundry and picking noni fruits, Maddy and I sorted laundry. It is no nice to have a sorter--laundry-tossing--playpal all in one little girl. Maddy and I also had a dance session is the livingroom, and she
absolutely loves being spun around and that of facing outwards so that she can flail her arms and legs. What fun times we have together, and when Dad comes home. When he arrives, we know that we will be leaving shortly for a family jog, and Maddy loves to hang out with Caleb while he stretches and works out a bit before we leave. She gets a big kick out of her Madge and Dad time.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Weather in Hawaii. Mary and I have lived in Hawaii off and on now for almost two years. It has taken us some time to get used to the weather. For all those who don't live in Hawaii, here is the story. Hawaii has two major seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The wet season is characterized by a lot of rain and lasts from approximately October to April. The dry season doesn't get as much rain and lasts from June to September. The rain tends to come from the windward side of the island, or the eastern side, and sweeps to the west. Since we live in Manoa Valley, a borough of Honolulu, the rain comes down the mountains behind our house and heads out to sea. Hawaii is the wettest place on earth. The island of Kauai receives the most rainfall in the world. We took a family vacation in Kauai in December of 2006. It's a beautiful island. (Fortunately, we had good weather while we were there.) Due to the rain intensity, it's not uncommon to see different rain patches throughout the valley. One can identify three different precipitation patterns occurring simultaneously in various sections of the valley. I remember taking a run from our house to Waikiki. In a relatively short distance, I passed through two wet and two dry regions. Flooding is a concern for the islands.
The trade winds present another interesting facet. Trade winds flow from the northeast and typically correspond with the wet period. The cool gusts of wind keep the islands a bit cooler during the winter period. Nothing too cold. Mainly 60s or 70s. Always pleasant. The strong wind has one major downside: it's hard to talk on cellphones outside. I enjoy talking to my family and friends when I am walking from one place to another. The gusts make it tough to be understood.
One last cool tidbit. Hawaii is known as the rainbow state. Rainbows emblazon the state's licence plates. With the frequent sun and rain, we have witnessed some spectacular rainbows in the valley. Sometimes, I have seen 2 or 3 rainbows arching over one another. It's a gorgeous sight that I doubt I will ever experience again in my lifetime. The University of Hawaii female athletes are called the Rainbows. Vicious, huh? Watch out. Supposedly the men went by the same name till they recently switched to the Warriors. I guess that's a bit more aggressive-sounding.
Current Affairs Commentary
The Catholic Church and Immigration in the United States. The recent immigration bill in the US, like any immigration policy, is very polarizing. While partisan politics expresses some unison in the illegal immigration debate, there seems to be little consensus within major political parties.
I think that the media does a fine job of skewing the Catholic Church's position on many issues, immigration being one of them. The Church has been so wise, in my opinion, to steer clear of endorsing specific political or economic systems, policies, and politicians. I don't say that because I believe the Church shouldn't involve itself in the public sphere. Rather, the Church shows its wisdom by adhering to sound principles that should underlie just systems, policies, and platforms. Systems, policies, and platforms naturally evolve over time. The short history of the US illustrates how our two parties have switched platforms a couple of times. Capitalism and socialism come in so many shades. Policies and laws depend on judicial interpretation and implementation to be successful. For that reason, the media takes it upon itself to apply the principles of the Church to specific situations. It is the role of the individual believer, with the help of the magisterium, to apply these principles. It is not the role of the media.
Anyhow, back to illegal immigration. What is the Church's stand? This is new field for me. I am familiar with basic Church teachings on the dignity of the human person, but I am not familiar with specific Church immigration documents. Quoting from a Migration Information article, "In Strangers No Longer, the church states that people have the right not to migrate; that is, they should be able to live freely in their countries of birth. However, when this is impossible, whether due to extreme poverty or persecution, the church says they have a right to migrate, and nations have a duty to receive them." As such, nations should receive immigrants from countries riddled with extreme poverty and persecution. However, the Catholic Church does NOT support open borders, illegal immigration, or an "amnesty" that would confer a legal status on illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, the Church believes that all humans, despite their country of origin, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, CA, recently emphasized this point by instructing his diocese to still provide humanitarian and religious services for illegal immigrants in the United States. It is not the position of the Church to establish US legal immigration quota, just like it's not the position of the Church to request the legal status of the people it serves.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- [T]hat they may be one, as we are one, I in them, and you in me.
"We believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church" (emphasis mine). God wants us to be one body, one Church in him. He wants us to be united to him, as branches to a vine. For, connected to Christ, we are connected to the trinity and the God head. The ecumenical movement strives to bring all believers into the one body of Christ. It's hard to understand and grasp. Hundreds of years of religious enmities and religious wars, coupled with violence even today, checkers interreligous dialogue and debate. Within the Christian religion alone, new denominations are springing up like mushrooms. It appears rather difficult to bring all believers into a single body. Yet, Christ is calling us to unity. Many Catholics and members of other faiths are skeptical of ecumenism. They have some reason to be since ecumenism is easily confused with religious relativism. Nevertheless, following the example of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, we should challenge ourselves to engage in ecumenism in our own small way. How many friends do we have of other faiths? How often have we reached out to them to understand them and dispel their misunderstandings of our faith? I doubt that we will achieve the ideals set out in ecumenism during our lifetime, but we can still do our part to continue Christ's mission on earth.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Last night as Mary and I were praying together and putting Maddy to sleep, I noticed that our little girl was sleepcrawling. Ah, yes: sleepcrawling. I have heard of people sleepwalking and have personally observed it on a couple of occasions. This was my first time to observe the unique phenomenon of sleepcrawling. Maddy is asleep between Mary and me. She stirs from time to time. Suddenly, unexpectedly, she sits up and begins rocking her head. Her eyes are closed. No symptoms of a conscious person. She then begins to crawl across the bed. Her eyes are still closed. Her mind is in another dimension. Mary and I are both quietly busting in laughter. After Maddy has crawled a couple of feet, I quietly laid her back down on the bed. She continues her journey off in la-la land. The things babies do while they are asleep! I still marvel at the fact that they can eat and sleep at the same time. I don't remember ever doing that, though I guess I must have done that as a baby.
Current Affairs Commentary
Education versus indoctrination: there's a very fine line dividing the two. Malcolm Forbes stated that "[e]ducation's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one." Unfortunately, I believe that many educators and policymakers think that education's purpose is to replace emptiness with with certain facts. Education versus indoctrination. True education shouldn't merely replace the void with junk piles of information. True education should provide a framework, promoting critical thought and wonder, that can order and store information and opinions for the rest of one's life. Education provides an important tool: openness. All too frequently, education provides an official, one-sided version of reality. Indoctrination is nothing but that. Indoctrination creates close-minded individuals that are not open to discussion, dialogue or change. Indoctrinated individuals throw about accepted, prominent ideas without having questioned them or made them their own. Instead of debating content with an ideological opponent, they call the opponent names to discredit this close-minded and shallow individual. Ad hominem attacks are often easier than arguments to discover the truth. Education has such an important role in society and particularly among the youth. Any searcher for the truth must recognize the validity of multiple view-points and allow students the use of their reason and will to arrive at the truth in their own time. The imposition of beliefs is never appropriate, despite the purported common sense and absolute nature of the belief.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- I have been glorified in [those you have given me].
It's a mystery that God is glorified through his creatures. Obviously God doesn't need us to give himself importance, love, service, or glory. He was and would be completely satisfied and complete without creation. Nevertheless, after creation, he has been glorified by all of creation living out its purpose. God is glorified in plants and animals as they fulfill their role. God is particularly glorified in those who can use their reason and will to freely and consciously choose to serve him. A bird glorifies God by being a bird. Yet, a bird has no reason or will to do otherwise. God has given humans the option to reject or love him. How much our choice to love him must glorify him. He is aware of the temptations we face on a daily basis. He knows the cost and difficulties associated with loving him. For those who choose to serve him and love him, the reward itself is known that he is glorified through their belief and actions. May God be glorified today through us, our thoughts, our words, our actions.
A few months ago a friend of mine sent me an e-mail giving me a heads-up about a magazine, Wondertime, that she had ordered for me as a gift after Maddy was born. She had already told me that it was on its way. This time her e-mail was to tell me that within the magazine were ads for contraception. It kind of made little sense why there would be ads for stalwarting the possibility of life when this magazine promotes wonder, beauty, mystery: three elements that surround the gift of new life. Anyway, my friend was enouraging me and herself to write a letter to the editors, and so we did. This episode was brought to mind after I recently received an e-mail from one of my sisters, who also just wrote a letter to a company after seeing some very disturbing ads on tv in Australia. She wrote a letter questioning the reasoning behind the ad and stating the offense taken by them. It is sometimes so easy to think that we have very little say when the majority seems to be staring straight back at us, in droves. But, it takes just a little faith with action to move mountains. Even if one person looks at the letters we have sent, that is one person led to truth that may have never know something about "the other side" before. Sometimes it may seem like a daunting task to sit down and jot a few ideas out on paper; ideas that would otherwise take over our minds, frustrate us, and make us short-fused. Put the ideas on paper or in an e-mail and send them out. You can do so much with words. Pass them out when you need to encourage or congratulate and use them to change. We would want someone to do the same for us if we needed redirection, right?
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Isn't it ironic that adults ask babies questions, but then look to the parents for the answers? I imagine that all parents can relate to this daily occurrence. Story: Mary and I walk into a store. It's nice to get outside to run some errands. Peace for parents. Distractions for Maddy. A well-intentioned lady either initiates contact with Maddy or responds to her flirtations. She begins to ask Maddy a series of polite questions. Are you a little boy or little girl? What's your name? How old are you? The lady awaits a response. Expecting a ten-month old to articulate answers to these questions is absurd. Of course, she gives some slight attention to the parents now. Mary and I feel obliged to enter the interaction. She's a girl. Her name is Madeleine, and she is ten-months old now. The entire time Maddy is eyeing the stranger with curiosity and suspicion. She continues to flirt, but the overt coquetry lessens. She is playing a game where the aim is not to engage with people but to simply get their attention. Once she has gained one person's attention, it's onto the next person. She is probably thinking by now, Hah, Dad. Now you have to talk to some random stranger. Gotcha! Have fun while I bat my eyelashes and lasso in another stranger! Meanwhile, Mary and I are talking to the lady now about her grandkids who live out-of-state. With an afternoon slated with things to do, I begin to think up an escape clause. I suppose women are more chatty than men and enjoy the interaction. Men enjoy interaction, but within certain parameters. Oh, well: one more day with a baby that loves to flirt with strangers. Maddy is my little "mischievous miscreant." I just find it funny that adults love asking babies questions and looking to parents for answers.
Current Affairs Commentary
Is it the role of the government and censoring groups to make decisions for individuals or to educate individuals to make their own decisions? I argue that providing the proper information and education should be the role of the government and censoring groups. What is free will for if we can't make our decisions in the end? Various news outlets (CNN, Foxnews) are reporting that activist groups are pressuring the Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA), the movie industry association that provides ratings for films, to factor not only underage smoking but all smoking into movie ratings. Underage smoking has been a rating factor for some time already. Other factors such as language, sex, alcohol and drug use are already part of the rating formula. Fifty years ago, smoking was in vogue. That cigarettes were addictive and noxious to human health were either unknown or undisclosed facts. Nowadays, at least in the United States, it's impossible to be unaware of these facts. The tobacco industry rightfully advertises the fact their products are addictive and harmful to consumers' health. Despite the information that consumers have at their fingertips, may consumers continue to indulge in smoking. Activist groups find that disconcerting and wrong. (I am not sure how they find it wrong, because there seems to be no common moral ground upon which one can base universal arguments.) I do not smoke myself. I don't condone it, but I don't believe that the government or activist groups should do anything more on the issue. Educate and inform: then, let people make their own decisions. If someone wants to enjoy cigarettes and take responsibility for the associated risks, it's his or her prerogative. Seeing the anti-smoking groups enter the fray of movie ratings upsets me because, in my opinion, there are more important moral issues that the MPAA should address instead of smoking. I believe that what we watch influences us and our behavior. However, I believe an animated film insinuating sexual intercourse (for instance, Dreamwork's The Road to El Dorado) deserves to be rated PG-13 before a film with smoking. Just my thoughts.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- I have told you this in figures of speech.
Without descending to the deep bowels of the philosophy of language or theoretical linguistics, it is interesting to note how God always speaks to us on our level. When God came to earth, he chose to come in a form intelligible to us and speak in a language intelligible to us. He chose to bind himself in human form, in some mysterious way, despite the imperfections present in the human body and the human language. Christ speaks to us through the Gospels in figures of speech because that is the only way to encapsulate the infinite into the finite a semi-meaningful way. He leaves the scriptures open to interpretation and nuance. What would the scripture be otherwise? By using our language, by using figures of speech, by using parables, Christ speaks to each of us in a unique way. Our experience of Christ both in prayer and the reading of scripture becomes, then, an intimate and personal form of communication. No two people will understand God's message in exactly the same fashion. Christ reveals himself to us. He reveals himself to us through our imperfect language in order to enable us to share in the infinite Truth. The frequency and degree to which we share in this Truth are elements left to our personal choice.
Today during the homily of Saturday Mass, the priest spoke of Mary's love, particularly at the foot of the Cross. There she stood with "fortitude and tenderness," he said. I agree with the priest in that I too cannot imagine watching my child tortured, ridiculed, spat upon, hated by His very own. While I sat and listened to the words of the homily, I was taken back to thoughts I had yesterday. There are times when Maddy gets hurt as she tries out her new skills of standing and trying to walk. She has fallen, and there are times when it hurts so much to see her suffer, and yet I know that that is part of growth. If there was never any pain, there would never be any progress. To go through life without a struggle, without a disappointment, without some sort of pain is impossible. I need to give her comfort as her mom to show her that everything is all right. I am here. Being there is a double-edged sword. I want to love, but it hurts to watch. If I were to walk away, that would not be love but selfishness, because I would be caring more about my own feelings than her bumped head and sensitive emotions. A mother's love goes beyond feelings. It means swallowing one's own hurt to be brave for one's child. It is taking a deep breath instead of bursting into tears when all that a baby needs is a great big, secure, and confident hug and tender kiss. I am learning. I am growing. I am trying to understand what it means to love as a mom and to have fortitude and tenderness as Christ's Mom did beneath the cross. She must have wanted so badly to bandage His bruises, wipe His bloody brow, kiss His swollen cheeks. Her presence and strength accomplished that, for in her being there, her act of love said: I am here. I love you. You are my child and I will be with you until the end.
Friday, May 18, 2007
"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."~Mother Teresa
Sunday mornings usually consist of a little human alarm clock sitting up in bed and watching her two half-sleeping parents lie next to her and awake completely to see her staring lovingly and playfully at their sleepy faces. This usually takes place when we sleep in past 5:45am, Sunday mornings. There is nothing better than waking up to see Maddy so happy, fully-awake and ready to go. She reminds me to take full advantage of the day and of life itself. I have been thinking of how often we as adults make excuses ("An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded."--JPII) for not taking better advantage of our time with family, with friends, in doing simple family things or challenging ourselves in little and big ways. I always have to laugh when people comment on how busy they are--myself included-- but how nice another person's life is, because they don't have it as hard. Hmm. Comments like that make me wonder. Is that person's life as hard as they say it is? Do they wish they had another's life? Is there jealousy for not making certain decisions in the day-to-day activities, so instead of taking responsibility for one's own actions, they make another feel guilty for enjoying family time or for creating "down time"? I believe that no matter what is going on in one's life or how many kids one has, fun times can be made if they are truly desired. Life will always be a juggling act, but while getting ready for the day-to-day circus, it's fun trying to walk the tightrope of life itself. One of my uncles once said (and I completely agree): "While planning for life, life happens." Why not try to enjoy it while it unfolds? Maddy and Caleb seem to be doing just that, as shown above.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Or rather, mongooses. These crafty critters litter the Hawaiian islands. Unless you have been to Hawaii or places endemic to mongooses, it's unlikely you have seen these little guys. They're a sort of hybrid creature. Mongooses were introduced in the Hawaiian islands in 1893 to kill the increasing rat populations. Unfortunately, the diurnal mongooses rarely encountered the nocturnal rats. Thanks to this ingenious species introduction, Hawaii regards both rats and mongooses as invasive species: they threaten wildlife, vegetation, and crops. Despite their unwelcome presence, I get a thrill to see them slinking around our house. The other day we were having a cup of the morning brew on our porch and Mary spotted a mongoose just a few feet away from us in the backyard. Sleek and brown, the mongoose crept among the rocks before sliding between the wiring of the fence. I wanted Maddy to see the mongoose to appreciate the interesting species. Unfortunately, she was more interested in the ant crawling across the porch. Oh, well. I will tell her later on that she saw them. My favorite mongoose experience occurred in the fall of 2006. I was going for a jog along the Diamond Head coast, just east of Waikiki. It's one of my favorite runs. The coast is populated with multi-million dollar castles. At the top of the hill, there are some superb look-out points. The sunrise over the eastern horizon is breathtaking. Anyhow, while resting at one of the look-outs, I spied a family of mongooses. The two parents had three baby mongooses. Since they are fast and secretive animals, it was neat to observe them interacting in their environment. After watching these animals in the wild, I get a kick out of the commercialized image of the ferocious and daring mongrel that Mongoose bikes depict.
Current Affairs Commentary
Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic States suggested this week that the worst form of terrorism at present is Islamophobia. In the article the foreign ministers define Islamophobia as "a deliberate defamation of Islam and discrimination and intolerance against Muslims." First, I have to say that I am glad we are actually seeing definitions of a purported "phobia". We hear of Islamophobia, homophobia, and other phobia's on a daily basis and yet I see few self-contained definitions. Second, maybe the problem is syntactical at its foundation, but I thought that all phobia's were fears, not defamation, discrimination, or intolerance. Third, their definition is not self-contained: terms such as discrimination and intolerance are just as ambiguous as the phobia's themselves. It's curious that googling Islamophobia yields over a million sites while googling Catholic-phobia yields less than a hundred. Is it that more people hate or fear Islam than Catholicism? I think not. Yet, somehow, since Catholicism is sufficiently mainstream, there isn't a coined ism or phobia to express the defamation, discrimination or intolerance against Catholics. Or, perhaps this reality receives less attention because the MSM frowns on Islamophobia but not on Catholic phobia. A common definition of defamation is "false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another." It's easier to label a contrarian as an Islamophobe than it is to prove the injury unjustified. Thought crimes have already become a reality in many countries in both the developed and developing world. I wonder how long freedom of speech will protect those who wish to think and express unpopular ideas. I don't condone defamation, discrimination, or intolerance. However, I do promote healthy debate and a robust critical analysis of everything. Why not? When dogmatism and political correctness squashes debate and critical analysis, we have reason to fear. Here is a thought-provoking site on Islam and the inter religious "debate".
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices
Christ is continually inviting us to be in the world but not of the world. Our mission is to make the best of what talents God has given us to become saints ourselves, and, to help others achieve this same goal. Space and time are contextual imperatives that are a necessary part of who we are. There is no way to escape these imperatives unless we live in a secluded setting, such as a monastery. We are called to use this context as a tool to achieve our mission. There is a problem when we use tool improperly and when the means becomes an end in and of itself. Life in the mainstream is not the calling of a Christian. To follow Christ means to go against the flow, to counter many aspects of the popular culture, to keep our sights focused on the Eternal. Christ ascended from this earth, leaving us. He has left us himself in the Church through the sacraments he instituted. Nevertheless, our hearts will never be complete until we rest in God. We will weep and mourn because we are left unsatisfied, groping for the infinite in a finite world.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
There is an uncanny and special innocence in children. I was noticing that in little Maddy yesterday as I was watching her laugh. There is no guile in her, that's for sure. As adults we are always trying to read between the lines. During conversations with friends and strangers alike, we are frequently asking ourselves about subliminal messages, context, body language, etc. It's impossible not too. I suppose that is a part of the human condition: the ability to communicate (and confuse) through the many tools at our disposal. Paraphrasing Bertrand Russell, we use language to hide our true meaning. His words ring true. Through our gift of reason, we are able to provide interpretation to any context. Yet, with babies who haven't reached a certain level of rational development, there is no need or room for interpretation. Babies act and react the only way they know how. Unfortunately, our adult complexity can inhibit us from enjoying their sheer simplicity. I had this thought as I was marvelling at Maddy's laugh yesterday. Mary and I were having lunch outside in a little Japanese garden. Maddy was seated in her stroller. She began to let out these deep-bellied chortles. She would perform one type of laugh, and then another, and then another. Each time she would laugh with the same intensity and love. She put her all into each of those laughs. Laughter for an adult can portray thousands of emotional shades. Adults use laughter to express joy, confusion, embarrassment, shame, love, humility, ignorance, intelligence, pain, insecurity, obsequiousness, superiority, inferiority, scorn, appreciation. The list can go to include almost every emotion. Philosophers tended to refer to the human species as rational creatures (creatures with a reason) or willing creatures (creatures with will). Some philosophers described the human species as risible creatures--creatures who are able to laugh. I am sure some anthropologist or animal lover will contest that they have seen animals or pets laugh. I am not ruling it out entirely, but laughter is a powerful, perhaps defining, trait. Yet Maddy's laughter was full of truth, full of life. There was no guile or room for subtle interpretation behind her laugh. She wanted to express to Mary and me her joy of being alive. She wanted our attention. She wanted us to share in her joy. That was why she continued to laugh. Babies can't fake it as adults so frequently do. I know that I can learn simplicity from her straightforward ways. Gosh: sometimes, life can be that simple.
Current Affairs Commentary
Standards control. Standards wield incredible power. Standards and thresholds shape reality around us. Whether we realize it or not, every product that we use, every morsel that enters our mouths, every piece of clothing we are wearing, has been regulated by tens of thousands of standards. Some of these standards are based on science, some on perception, some on cultural mores, some simply out of convenience. Tainted pet food recently shocked the US pet community. It seems that the pet food in question came from China. It was specious due to high levels of melamine. The NY Times states that "[t]he F.D.A. and other government agencies have since concluded that the melamine is unlikely to be harmful to humans, and that consuming meat from an animal that has ingested melamine does not pose a significant danger." Furthermore, "[w]hile melamine is not believed to be toxic, scientists now say that when mixed with another related chemical called cyanuric acid it can create a toxic substance." Scientists believe that 4,000 cats and dogs have died in connection to this tainted pet food. I think that standards are great and necessary for advanced societies, for well-functioning institutions, for trade and globalization. Harmonization and uniformity can enhance productivity and efficiency. I do want to highlight, however, that most standards ebb and flow in relation to the information available. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with a host of other US government agencies and international bodies, issue millions of new standards each year. Yet, these standards are constantly being revised. It's important not to focus exclusively on the standards themselves but to analyze the source and rationale for the particular standard. If melamine is harmful (which it may well be), how is it harmful, what levels make it harmful, etc. Political processes and the pressure exerted by powerful industry lobbies have resulted in skewed standards that don't necessarily reflect science or truth. An interesting example can be found in The Fluoride Deception, one of my recent reads. While not getting hung up on conspiracy theories that abound, reality is complex: challenging reality and common perception is a credit to ourselves and to the truth at large.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
I don't know about you, but I have always desired some sort of direct revelation or direct connection with God. I would love to hear his voice. I would love to hear him speak to me, to tell me something personal and intimate, to shatter my world and my perceptions. Yet, do we really want that? Do we really want that level of intimacy and connection with God? Are we prepared for the ramifications? God has much to tell us, much to reveal. The mysteries of the Kingdom, the secrets of happiness, the ways of Truth. He is already speaking with us. The issue isn't whether he is speaking but whether we are listening. The first thing to listening to God is wanting it through strong and personal volition. The second step is being ready to have one's personal world entirely rocked. I doubt that I am ready to listen to all that God has to tell me. I am afraid to listen. I am afraid of what he will ask of me. I am afraid of what changes and repercussion his message will have on my life. True union and, subsequently, holiness is only possible through profound contact and communication with the Divine. He'll do the talking if only we will listen.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Mary and I have been discussing the prospects of homeschooling Maddy (and our future kids, if God blesses us with more). The techie Mary was immersed in the blogosphere a couple of weeks ago and became interested in Charlotte Mason. After looking through some of her ideas, I was sold on her educational philosophy. I am still learning more, but it looks cool. She provides an interesting framework for creating a curriculum. The thought of devising our own curriculum originally daunted me. However, Mary and I have all the resources and more to create a stellar curriculum. We have decided to embrace the challenge. We have ordered some books on Charlotte Mason and her philosophy. Hopefully we can begin soon to lay down the foundations for our own family system. Resources are plentiful. Finding the right recipe and balance can be challenging. I am sure that we will get a fare share of flack from family, friends and acquaintances for our decision. I look forward, however, to those future conversations...provided that they are conversations, and not one-sided, close-minded diatribes. I was talking to my mom this morning about our decision. Of course she was supportive and provided me with some helpful advice. One thing that she said surprised me. She stated that generally the better educated take the most umbrage with homeschooling. They are offended because they are distinctly aware of the benefits that homeschooling provides. They feel threatened because they haven't made the same choice. They know that the public school system is crappy or lacking. Yet, if the ship is sinking, everyone should be on it together. Homeschooling increases parental responsibility for the behavior and outcome of their children. Embracing that responsibility can be scary. It's often easier to shirk that responsibility and simply make the state and civic society accountable. The fewer decisions we have to make, the less responsibility we share. I believe that, as human individuals, we should strive to flex our reason and will at every possible opportunity in order to take maximum responsibility for our lives and decisions. Come what may, I prefer to be wrong and culpable instead of right and irresponsible. I am sure that Mary and I will post a lot more in the future about homeschooling, and responsibility.
Current Affairs Commentary
A recent article from the New York Times was titled "The Pope Denounces Capitalism and Marxism." The authors stated "[the pope] also raged with equal fire against Marxism and capitalism." It is true that Benedict XVI did rage against Marxism and capitalism in his recent speech at Aparecida, Brazil. (Code: ZE07051320) The Catholic Church has always sought social justice and preached a preferential option for the poor. The Church has adhered to these principles throughout time and continues to act on these principles via its multiple charities and apostolates throughout the world. Yet, Benedict and the Church don't engage Marxism (read: socialism) and capitalism with "equal fire." The dignity of human person is at stake at the heart of any just political or economic system. The Church disagrees with Marxism/socialism for its very foundations. The Church disagrees with capitalism for its excesses. The disagreement is upon two different levels. Socialism and Marxism fundamentally undermine the nature of the human person and ignore his intrinsic dignity. If the foundations are sullied, of course all of the practices and ramifications of Marxism will be tainted. Capitalism, on the other hand, respects the dignity and nature of human person. Unbridled, however, its excesses can lead to disastrous results. The Church is justified in attacking unjust systems. The pope was right to attack both capitalism and Marxism. It's important to remember, however, that the Church attacks them for different reasons: to debunk one and to purify another.
Quick Thoughts on Today's Gospel
Readings Today -- Where are you going?
Pessimists and traditionalists can look at the world today and seem to remember a better time. I sometimes wonder whether the world has changed that much in the past fifty years, century or millennium. Human nature is still the same. Our offenses are still rank. Our thirst for God is unchanged. We tend to get tangled in the minutiae of our daily lives. What do I have to accomplish today? Where is my tie? What are we having for dinner? What are the kids doing right now? The list goes on. It's important to take charge of our lives and to live our lives. However, we are not called as Christians to remain in the horizontal level. Psychologically and spiritually, we must direct our sights on what is truly important. The apostles asked Christ where he was going. Were they to know, they could follow. Where did Christ go? How can I get there? It's good for us to ask these questions. The danger is to stop asking ourselves these questions. If we are not moving towards our final goal, our ultimate peace and resting place, then we are most likely moving away from it. Where am I going?
Monday, May 14, 2007
May 15, 2007, Death Anniversary of Gram Dolan, whom we miss so very much.
As I sit here and write, with Maddy in her wrap, I cannot believe that one year ago today, I was walking the halls of our Beijing hotel, and I was 7 months pregnant. On May 15, 2006 Gram Dolan passed away. She had just turned 85 on April 16. When I got the news that she was gone from this earth, I returned to the elevator to head back up to our room. For a moment, I paused and asked Gram: "Are you happy?" And all I heard back was one, simple, peace-filled word: "Very." I knew Gram was in Christ's arms. With loving hearts, brimming with laughter and fond memories of all the wonderful times we shared with Gram, I leave today's Gospel below and a song that I love. Gram loved music, and I have a feeling she would love this song and must understand it so much more now in heaven, where she worships Christ.
Today's Reading: John 16:5-11
Jesus said to his disciples: "But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ´Where are you going?´ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
Words and Music By: Nystrom, Martin J.
So my soul longeth after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship you.
You alone are my strength, my shield.
To you alone will my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship you.
You're my friend, and You are my brother
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything.
For our wedding, Gram was going to have me wear hair pins that belonged to her Mom,but when I called her from the salon, the morning of the wedding, she could not find them but was going to look more. At the church, she walked up to me and held her beautiful wedding ring before me. That was what she let me wear. It meant so much to me, and I wore it on my right ring finger throughout our wedding Mass. Thank you for that remembrance, Gram. I love you.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
On Friday afternoon when Maddy and I went to bring lunch to Caleb and eat together, he handed me a plan for the weekend. Starting at 5:45am with rising , there was something on for the whole day, and Caleb planned to cook all of the meals over the course of the weekend. It looked very nice, but looks are deceiving. In reality, it was incredible. I was pampered all weekend with wonderful family time. That is all that I wanted: just to be together. Saturday was beautiful with Mass in the morning, followed by a wonderful breakfast, and a late-morning stroll around the Valley to pick various sweet-smelling and gorgeous flowers, which we would sew together for a crown for the Blessed Mother's May crowning and for 2 leis for her center spot in the kitchen. It was so much fun tromping around, plucking bright colored flowers from the trees and bushes on the university's campus. When we arrived home we had a bag full of flowers. It was so therapeutic creating a tiny crown for Our Lady and threading the flowers onto a double-stranded thread. What a relaxing day it was... and it was only beginning. In the afternoon Caleb made a delicious strawberry cheesecake for Sunday's dinner dessert, and with the leftover cheesecake filling, he made a smaller cheesecake and topped that with a homemade chocolate-peanut butter covering; we got to eat it Saturday night. Yum. Everything was so enjoyable and I am so thankful for such an incredibly loving and giving husband, and a very sweet baby girl: my two reasons for being pampered, for celebrating this beautiful moment.
Sunday was super too. I woke up to Caleb taking Maddy from bed, changing her diaper and bringing her into the kitchen while he made some surprise breakfast: Pipin' Peaches French Toast. He told me to stay in bed, and so I laid there for about 10-15 minutes longer. I could not help be drawn from bed my the bold aroma of freshly coffee. As I came down the hall, Caleb told me to wait there for 5 minutes. Then, he led me into the kitchen. There on the counter was a large white, dry-erase board that I had talked about getting so as to keep lists, ideas, schedules better organized. He had also gotten a rainbow assortment of markers, since I love color. I was happy to see this surpise, but wondered where my reason for celebrating Mother's Day was. The front door was ajar, so I stepped out and there on a pinic blanket and upright in her exersaucer was little Maddy waiting to surprise me. Caleb had set up a nice little lounge area where Maddy and I would chill, enjoy coffee (for just me!), and watch the sun rise over the mountains. Breakfast was delicious, and Caleb was very pleased with his pipin' peaches; they were delicious. At 10am we went to Mass, and the gift of being alive and being a mom hit me all the more when the priest said, "If you cannot think of anything to say to your moms, at the very least you can say: 'Thank you for not aborting me.'" (The gift of life can be taken for granted so easily, since we are the ones who actually made it to this life and get to enjoy making decisions and contemplating various choices. Thanks to God, we are here.) That afternoon we went for a coffee and a run through the Valley. In the evening Caleb made a delightful Asian chicken salad, and that was quite the salad. Following dinner he served homemade cheesecake: Bennigan's strawberry cheesecake. By night, I was relaxing on the couch while Caleb was putting the little lady to bed. What a beautiful day spent with our little family: a sweet baby girl and a lving and faithful husband.
Friday, May 11, 2007
With a need to always keep organized and on our toes for our next move and adventure, I thought that I would dabble in a couple of different ways of decorating, a pastime I love and would thoroughly enjoy improving over time. Recently I was flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine and came across a way to take simple jars and turn them into nice little stylish storage cubbies. In order to make them stylish, all that are needed are the following: scissors, material-of-your-choice, jars with lids, spray adhesive, and a circular measuring tool. You will find more information here. I used the colors of my bathroom towels: beige, cream, and (in the prospects of getting) seamist blue, to coordinate the material. They are fun and inexpensive ways to put a twist on little accents in a small place.
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