Archive for ‘Ways of Life’

September 6, 2011

Labor

by WIZ

Infographic found here. A history of Labor Day below:

In 1884, when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making Labor Day a national holiday on the first Monday in September, he and its sponsors intended it not as a celebration of leisure but as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.

August 28, 2011

The Fear of Multiculturalism

by WIZ

This reader of the Dish echoes my grandmother’s fears and anxieties (she is from England but lives in America):

I loved your essay on your return to Britain after so long an absence. But I found it wistfully influenced by American optimism. I have had a different experience going back to England. I should admit up front that I am American but lived there for a decade and am married to a Brit. What I think that you got completely wrong was the sense of settled, accepted multiculturalism. Sure, in London you encounter many cultures mixing like you get in other great melting pot cities like New York. However, outside of London there is paranoia and resentment over that multiculturalism.

My husband’s family are almost all in Devon and Cornwall. We visited them last year, and we also visited friends in London and in the North of England. We found that outside of London our family, our friends, the locals at the pub, or the random person you have a conversation with at the grocery store are all under the impression that England is losing its identity as a result of massive numbers of immigrants. In Devon and Cornwall, I did not see a single non-white, non-English looking person the entire two weeks we were there. This is not hyperbole. Outside of London in general, I almost never saw anyone who wasn’t white, yet they have the panicked impression that they are being taken over from within.

There were many conversations among the people we encountered about the immigrant problem the country is having. It gets brought up unprompted and seems to be weighing heavily on their minds. They felt that they were all coming to England because they are “softer” than most other countries in the world and give out the most generous benefits. All immigrants were coming there to sponge off their generosity and they were taking over (despite none living anywhere near them). I pointed out that in America, immigration is what keeps the country a vibrant, innovative nation and the immigrants on the whole come there to build a better life so they are hard working and actually improve our economy. Countries with aging populations who don’t have good immigration have looming economic problems as a result of not being more inclusive.

They would have none of this American nonsense. Financial benefits (which they didn’t believe anyway) would be secondary to the cultural crisis being caused by immigrants who refuse to give up their old culture and become British. They believe they refuse to fit in and that they brought crime to the areas they live in. So, if they don’t ever actually see any immigrants down in Devon and Cornwall, where do they get these very strong, unbending opinions about them? My only conclusion is from the tabloid newspapers

Then we spent time in London and reveled in the diversity and the sense that no matter where you were from, you could be a Londoner. London was far more diverse than Los Angeles (where I now live) and all the more vibrant and interesting for it.

I’m glad you really enjoyed your visit and I agree that the North/South divide seems to have softened and to some extent the class divide has as well. Accents aren’t used against you quite as much (although an American accent will still get you down-graded in standing). I love so many of the same things that you do about the gentleness and world-weary wisdom of the place. Now that you can go back whenever you like, perhaps the rose-tinted glasses will come off a little more or subsequent trips, although that would be a shame.

August 25, 2011

Stop Motion Within a Stop Motion

by WIZ

From Israel:

July 30, 2011

National Sport of the Day

by WIZ

The photo caption says it all:

Horsemen take part in a Kok-boru, or goat dragging, competition as they attend a festival of Kyrgyz folklore and popular traditions near the Son-Kul lake, on July 21, 2011. Considered Kyrgyzstan’s national sport, Kok-boru is a traditional Central Asian game where players grab a goat carcass from the ground while riding their horses and try to score by placing it in their opponent’s goal.(Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov)

More awesome, interesting, beautiful, and desktop wallpaper photos here.

July 11, 2011

Slamming the Family Leader Pledge

by WIZ

Gary Johnson does just that:

“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue,'” reads a statement from Johnson’s office, which is accompained by a video: 

July 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

by WIZ

“Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. The freedoms that our forefathers fought for in this country are sacred and must be preserved. The Republican Party cannot be sidetracked into discussing these morally judgmental issues — such a discussion is simply wrongheaded. We need to maintain our position as the party of efficient government management and the watchdogs of the “public’s pocket book”.

“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue’.

Republican candidate for president Gary Johnson.

June 29, 2011

Chris Christie’s Gubernatorial Smackdown

by WIZ

I just love this guys comments.

June 12, 2011

Our Subjective God

by WIZ

Paula Kirby went from being a devout Christian to an Atheist. She makes some interesting conclusions on God and how the masses have viewed the divine over the ages.

One of the things that had struck me during my Christian years was just how many different Christianities there are.  Not just the vast number of different sects and denominations (over 38,000 by one reckoning), but the huge amount of difference between individual Christians of the same sect or denomination, too.  The beliefs and attitudes of an evangelical, biblical, literalist Christian compared with a liberal Christian are so wildly different that we might almost be dealing with two completely different religions.

No matter what religion you believe in, you have to view God in a subjective lens:

Like every other Christian I have ever known, I had clear ideas about the kind of God I believed in and, on the basis of those ideas, I accepted certain bits of Christian dogma while utterly rejecting others.  Again, let me stress: this is par for the course.  In practice faith is always a pick-and-mix affair: believers emphasise those bits that sit comfortably with them, whilst mostly ignoring those bits that do not, or concocting elaborate interpretations to allow them to pretend they do not mean what they actually say.  So this was the question I faced up to in 2003: What was there to suggest that the version of Christianity I believed in was actually real? Was there any better evidence for the version I accepted than there was for the versions I did not?

The Bible could not help me. Both kinds of Christian – the ultra-conservative and the ultra-liberal – find abundant support for their views in the Bible provided they cherry-pick enough (and, of course, they do just that, filing the bits that don’t suit their case under the convenient headings of “Metaphor” or “Mystery”).

I myself tend to stray away from overemphasizing sin, heaven, and the like when I talk about God, my religious beliefs, and even when I am reading the Bible. Sure, the daily lectionary has me reading portions of the Bible that mention sin and heaven. I try to read up on the Greek and Hebrew, which usually have their original translation as vastness instead of heaven.

This has fostered some inner-thoughts as I have had several discussions with friends lately on the topic of same-sex marriage / homosexuality and how those two are seen or should be treated by the Bible and government. Plethora of verses are mentioned to denounce the two and I have up to this point said that they talk about pederastery, not what we know today as homosexuality. Re-reading these texts has me constantly asking questions. I try to focus on the context of the letters and laws in the Bible and keep them under the umbrellas of love, compassion, and justice. One other important topic that has played into that discussion is defining the role of marriage. Is it meant for pro-creation (child bearing) or as a covenant between two individuals? Attending a wedding can answer that question very clearly. Weddings usually mention nothing about sex or bearing children but forming a lasting relationship with your partner. If these marriage ceremonies are merely man-made, why then are they not changing in form and substance towards emphasizing “what the Bible says” about marriage?

I finish my reflection with this quote from Kirby:

This is why subjective experience cannot tell us anything about God.  Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all.

Kirby is partially correct. Our experiences of God can tell some but not all of who God is. Looking back over time, we can see the many views of God and the roles the divine has played in people’s lives. They, just like ours, are merely reflections from a mirror, not the full picture.

June 7, 2011

Picture of the Day

by WIZ

Pictured: An anti-government protester, center, wearing a red scarf, looks up while praying with other women during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

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June 5, 2011

America is Exceptional and Hypocritical

by WIZ

The first point is a horse beaten to death. Get your fill in the “sermon” by Tim Pawlenty above.

As for the second point, this deals not with politics but with agricultural work. I read this article in a different lens after working on the farm the past week. I have grown up working hard with my dad (who has been a landscaper for 30 years), with my Boy Scout troop creating 13+ feet high campfires and completing maintenance tasks, and now pulling out malta flora rose bushes that are entangled with vines overgrown for the past 10 years.

I take back my part about politics being out of this topic. It is at the center of it. Barack Obama is taking action by requiring all ag workers to be cleared as U.S. citizens before they can work. This sounds pragmatic, but troubling for a few sectors. 80% of the labor force in the ag field is made up of illegal immigrants.  An easy response to that glaring labor need is to hire Americans. The ironic point in all of this is that for as exceptional and great America is, how far advanced, smug, and pompous we are, we (to some large degree) refuse to do this kind of available work:

“We are headed toward a train wreck,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat whose district includes agriculture-rich areas. “The stepped up (workplace) enforcement has brought this to a head.”

Lofgren said farmers are worried that their work force is about to disappear. They say they want to hire legal workers and U.S. citizens, but that it’s nearly impossible, given the relatively low wages and back-breaking work.

“Few citizens express interest, in large part because this is hard, tough work,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said this past week. “Our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers to do the right thing.”

Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers, said migrant farm workers are exposed to blistering heat with little or no shade and few water breaks. It’s skilled work, he said, requiring produce pickers to be exact and quick. While the best mushroom pickers can earn about $35,000 to $40,000 a year for piece work, there’s little chance for a good living and American workers don’t seem interested in farm jobs.

“It is extremely difficult, hard, dangerous work,” Rodriguez said.

Last year Rodriguez’s group started the “Take Our Jobs” campaign to entice American workers to take the fields. He said of about 86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs.

“That really was thought up by farm workers trying to figure out what is it we needed to do to show that we are not trying to take away anyone’s job,” Rodriguez said.

Several times in those sections Americans are hinted to be unwilling to take some of these available jobs. If such a glaring gap in inquiry and taking a job (86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs) is present, can anyone then blame the President and the crummy economy and not their own unemployed self?

Straying away from open jobs has pushed our country to strongly desire comfy, cozy work and benefits that are unsustainable in the long term.Yes, this may be a larger problem in the educational sector than many other jobs, but much of our IT work has too been outsourced.

America the great. America the exceptional. Figure this out (along with our huge prison issue) or continue to sound hypocritical.

May 31, 2011

America’s Fittest Cities

by WIZ

Surprisingly are 1) mostly in cold regions of the country and unsurprisingly 2) correlated with income, wealth, and innovation. Richard Florida explains:

The fittest metro in America is Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to the annualAmerican Fitness Index™ (AFI), just released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The Twin Cities finished third last year; this year they pushed perennial winner Washington, DC into second place. Their winning rank reflects the cities’ relatively low (and rapidly-diminishing) smoking rate, their above-average percentage of regular exercisers, moderate-to-low rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic concerns, and rising share of farmers’ markets (indicative of a trend towards healthier dining). Boston takes the bronze, with Portland, Oregon fourth and Denver in fifth place. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Oklahoma City ranks as America’s least fit metro, followed by Louisville, Memphis, Birmingham, and Detroit.

Many people think fitness is better in warmer locations. Not so much. Each of the top five metros is pretty chilly, and the top ranked Twin Cities are among the coldest locations in the United States–certainly compared to warm and sunny LA, which languishes in 41st place. Our analysis found no correlation between fitness and January temp and a negative correlation between fitness and July temperature (-.49).

Money quote:

From The Biggest Loser to Oprah’s documented struggles with her weight, fitness is a signal obsession of American popular culture. We suffer from no dearth of health, fitness, and nutritional experts; celebrities, politicians, and even first ladies exhort us to eat better, exercise more, and get fit. But we need to face up to the fact that healthy or unhealthy lifestyles are not simply the result of good or bad individual decisions. They are inextricably tied up with the nature and structure of our culture and society. America’s increasingly uneven geography of fitness is perhaps the most visible symbol of its fundamental economic and class divide.

May 24, 2011

Belief

by WIZ

When we believe, we can run into some of this and that. Money quotes:

In my experience “I believe X” suggests that the speaker has chosen to affiliate with X, feeling loyal to it and making it part of his or her identity. The speaker is unlikely to offer much evidence for X, or to respond to criticism of X, and such criticism will likely be seen as a personal attack.

In his post Robin argued that people often convince themselves that they truly reconsider their strongly held beliefs, but what they do is false reconsideration with the real purpose of reassuring themselves and strengthening the belief. Before it was just a strong belief, but after false reconsideration it’s a strong belief that they’ve really, definitely, seriously reconsidered. But if you can’t  imagine yourself going through the day holding another set of competing beliefs than you never actually reconsidered it.

As mentioned in one of the reads, it may be better to say ‘I feel’ than ‘I believe’. They mention this because it makes clear the personal attachment. I would add that feel instead of believe takes away the broad brush-ness of, say, religious statements that in reality are subjective (then by default not objective) and are highly unlikely to have been shared with their religious forefathers thousands of years ago. Here is a decent thought to close on:

Conservatives, could you imagine becoming someone believes that higher taxes and unemployment insurance don’t hurt economic growth or employment? Liberals can you imagine becoming someone who believes that that minimum wages decrease employment and fiscal stimulus doesn’t work? If the answer is no, you should think about whether it’s because holding such a belief would conflict with your identity or affiliations.

May 18, 2011

35 Years In Reverse

by WIZ

Sam Klemke has been recording year-end video diaries for the past 35 years. This year he decided to stitch together, in reverse chronological order, clips from all 35 reflections.

Watch Sam go “from a paunchy middle aged white bearded self deprecating schluby old fart, to a svelt, full haired, clean shaven, self-important, inspired but clueless 20 year old.” It’s quite a sight to see.

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May 12, 2011

A Christian Proposal for the American Debt Crisis

by WIZ

Interesting:

  • We must cut federal spending. That will include corporate and agricultural subsidies, the defense budget and salary increases of federal employees. But it does not mean cutting effective programs that empower poor Americans or contribute internationally to economic development or the advancement of health. Neither does it mean neglecting appropriate investments in things like education and infrastructure.
  • We must control healthcare expenses. This is a most difficult problem and it cannot be ignored. We must find a way simultaneously to respect individual choice, ensure quality health care for everyone, and stop spending an ever-higher percent of our GDP on medical costs. Everyone must be willing to sacrifice.
  • We must make Social Security sustainable. We can slowly increase the retirement age, modestly reduce benefits for more wealthy seniors, and increase the amount of income taxed to pay for Social Security.
  • We must reform the tax code. We should remove many special exemptions, end many special subsidies, and keep the tax code progressive.
April 21, 2011

“We have much bigger problems to worry about than same-sex marriage”

by WIZ

So says…wait for it…the New Hampshire Tea Party:

February 14, 2011

Quote of the Day II

by WIZ

“Do not listen to gossip at your neighbor’s expense. Do not spend time talking with those who love to find fault in others. Otherwise, you will fall away from the love of God. You will find yourself alienated from eternal life.”
St. Maximus the Confessor

February 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

by WIZ

“Keep giving Jesus to your people, not by words, but by your example, by your being in love with Jesus, by radiating holiness and spreading his fragrance of love everywhere you go. Just keep the joy of Jesus as your strength. Be happy and at peace.”
Mother Teresa

February 14, 2011

‘Quiet Listener Heard God Whisper’

by WIZ

BZ takes the time to notice the ephemeral heart in the snow:

When I looked at my life, I wanted to see farther, yet what I was sure I knew had me weary and worried. And I couldn’t truly see what was right in front of me because I wasn’t truly looking.  Who but the One who placed it there knew how much this lovely, lowly reminder of his love was needed by my own dark heart, gritty with daily life and stained with salt wash.  The next swerving car or sure footed hoof print would have smudged and erased this unmistakable love note.  It was just for me, just now, here.  And I almost missed it.

“You’re loved, child.  See I put this here just for you, then I whispered your name, and called you here.  You almost didn’t hear, didn’t come, didn’t see, distracted as you were by the ceaseless noise of the immediate.  I’m so glad you came.  I’m especially fond of you.”

I have been thankful for the days when I can go about different tasks of mine and have a clear mind, so much so that I can enjoy and be present in the moment(s). Last week, that was the case when I was doing plyo. Simply being in the moment allowed me to enjoy the range of life around me. I wish to live more like that.

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February 9, 2011

This is Life

by WIZ

Word.

(thanks JDoc!)

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February 7, 2011

Reading Mother Teresa’s Work…

by WIZ

…definitely changes me. I checked out her little compilation book In the heart of the world. It truly is elegant in its brevity. Each of the chapters are no more than four pages and breath life into my life. Her stories of first hand experiences are remarkable. Another book that I am reading that is serving extremely well as a complimentary book is A tremor of bliss. Both books put me into a different world, one that hears the remarkable stories of our saints and live for a moment in one of their extraordinary lives.

Back to reading Mother Teresa’s work, the last chapter I read of hers was on the distressing disguise of suffering. She told the story of one of her sisters who was working at the home of the dying destitute in Calcutta. Her job was to take in those hurting and care for them. One final caveat from Teresa to her sister was to care for them with “Jesus being there in distressing disguise” in mind.

Later on, this sister emphatically reported back that she had been “touching the body of Christ for three hours(!)” and had been caring for a man who had fallen into a drain and had been covered with dirt and maggots.

This all connects to my life far, far away from Calcutta. I was sitting in the quiet reading section of the Martin Library today, passing my time after an appointment and before I started my shift volunteering at the library. A man sat down next to me and asked what time it was. I marveled at this question because in this beautifully wooden paneled room there were no clocks on the walls. I told him the time (4:04pm) and went on unloading my thoughts to him on there being no clocks in the room. He cut me off by saying that he had to be down to the mission to get dinner at 5pm. Him telling me this completely changed my train of thought from one of quasi-philosophy to the simplicity of eating a meal.

A conversation was then struck up with ‘Banks’ and I truly enjoyed listening to him. I then asked if I could drive him to the mission. He said yes and invited me to join him (I couldn’t; I start volunteering at 5pm and dinner is served at the same time). I drove him over and got to hear more of how he came to York (he too is from Philly). I was amazed by how far of a walk he would have trekked (in Timberland boots, mind you) just for a hot meal. I dropped him off, told him to stop by the library on any given Monday and hoped to see him again. He told me which church he attends and I hope to stop in sometime.

I have Mother Teresa to thank for changing my heart with just a few pages each day. Her stories inspire me to live with others and have stories to cherish.