Wednesday, August 29, 2012

He Who Has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

I had the good fortune to find, whilst trolling the great Interweb for content worth sharing, a very special video on YouTube. It is a very short, simple video of a woman sitting in a chair holding a device to her head, while a technician slightly off-camera fiddles with a computer and gives softly spoken directions. The woman in the chair slowly begins to smile as the video plays, then suddenly breaks down in tears, an uncontrollable emotional reaction to what she has just experienced. Her next line is telling.

"I don't want to hear myself cry."

This woman was 29 years old and had been deaf from birth up until the moment that she sat down in that chair with the technician. It was the first time she had ever heard anything, and the first sound for her to hear had been the sound of her own voice. It was uniquely heartrending to watch.

I have read all four Gospels many times and have often wondered what it must have been like to witness a miracle performed by Christ for the people of Galilee. Many who were blind, deaf, and paralyzed from birth are reported by the Gospel writers to have been completely cured by Jesus. Those writers say things like "amazement seized all who saw it" and other such descriptive commentary on the reactions of people who witnessed the cure and the people who had been cured. Being healed of a lifelong illness in an instant, being "made whole" as the Gospel writers are fond of saying, was one of the most dynamic aspects of Christ for drawing people to Him.

This woman had been given the gift of hearing through a scientifically developed medical implant device in her ear, but I somehow think the reaction is similar to the instant gift of healing from God. The power of that experience is evident as you watch her hear not only herself for the first time, but also her husband speaking too. Her face and her actions bespeak volumes in both gratitude and amazement as the world around her is suddenly brought to a new kind of life.

I followed the YouTube link to her blog and liked what I saw, so Mrs. Sarah Churman's site is now a resident link on my Relevant Sites sidebar. I would encourage you to check it out, as well as watch the video below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Parenting: Don't Take It Too Much To Heart!

I tell you, you will learn more about life and love in one year of parenting than you will learn in fifty years of living the single life.

There is no sufficient way to describe the feeling of having your beauty rest interrupted by a screaming child, nor are there words for the joy of having your three-year-old son throw himself against your leg and declare that he loves his "daddy." My wife just redecorated the walls and floor of our bathroom with morning-sickness vomit and I had to clean it up, but she also dragged two feisty boys to our rental agency to pay the bill because I was too busy to do it myself. My children draw with chalk on the sidewalk, then decide it will be cute to walk through it with bare feet. But my older son figured out on his own how to draw a stick figure.

As I write this, both of my sons are sleeping peacefully in the room behind me, looking so adorable that it hurts.

As I said, I can't really express in words just how much I have learnt about life and love through parenting. And of course, I shall be cliche and say that there is always more to learn and that four years as a parent is comparatively small. But I must share with you all a little something that I learned over the past three months, about being a parent but also about being a child. I found it surprising and maybe even a little harsh, but true nonetheless.

My observation is this: of course there are parents who neglect their children and deadbeat dads and some deadbeat mothers. But of the parents who actually give a crap about what happens to their children, I have noticed that many of them take their role way too seriously.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it seems the more I obsess about my children's future and consciously instilling certain values and habits in my children, the less effect it seems to have. It seems like I have the most effect as a parent when I just sit down on the floor and give a damn about them enough to play with them. Children, I realize more and more, are simply sponges that soak up love as fast as it is squirted at them. And like a sponge, when they are squeezed (and tickled) they tend to leak it back out again.

The real reason I say to not take parenting too seriously, though, is because I now can say I know how it feels to be hated by my child, at least temporarily. I have been hit by both my sons before because they didn't agree with whatever I was doing for them as a parent. They have both yelled at me. And I have done my share of losing my temper back at them. But I found that when I let their temporary hatred roll off my back and let the child cool down, then something special happens. That something is an understanding of sorts, that they don't really hate you, and that you are not really as angry as you thought you were.

Maybe this post is rambling a bit, but I have been suffering from a severe lack of sleep, an overdose of my job, and the looming prospect of an unborn child who was due yesterday. I hope this is an encouragement to those parents out there who give a care about their kids and yet lose sleep over those same kids' development and future. I am beginning to understand both those concerns.

Don't sweat it, you are all probably better parents than you think you are. However, it never hurts to try even harder. The next time it's a choice between washing dishes and playing with the kids, play with the kids. Those moments are when you are building up emotional capital to draw on when the time to discipline comes. You'll probably both be grateful for it later.

Be Aware, and have fun.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chicken or Egg?

I've had a question on my mind for some time now and it has been irritating me to the point that I feel the need to ask it of you, my audience, and see if we might come up with an answer. The question is a bit more complex than it seems at first blush, so bear with my explanation. My query comes as a two-part problem. It makes an assumption first, then asks an either/or question.

The assumption is (and there may be some disagreement here, so if you do please speak up) that multimedia in general (e.g. TV, movies, books, music, news, Internet) are as a whole moving in a downhill direction in regards to morally upright content. Acceptance of perverse moral ideas appears to be an ever-widening phenomenon in multimedia, as is the normalizing of aberrant behavior. That is my assumption. The question, then, is this: Is "the media" the cause of this downward slide in morality and decency, or is the media merely the cultural expression of already extant moral degradation and change? In effect, does the media simply report on the change?

I will offer my humble opinion that this is not only a perfectly valid, reasonable question to ask, but also an entirely necessary one. Where does this world of multimedia fit into our lives or is there no place for it? Does the media shape the culture, or is it the other way around? Or, put differently, is the media we ingest daily the soul of our culture or its body, the animating principle of our society or simply its proper expression? This whole issue is so fiendishly tangled together and I would like to have some fun untangling it.

As a good example, I would like to throw out there three TV shows that illustrate my point. One is an already-popular and critically-recognized show called Modern Family, the second is a show to be released this fall I think, called New Normal, and the third is an FBI crime show called White Collar. The first two are comedies that prominently feature gay couples attempting to raise children, surrounded by mostly understanding parents and relatives who may raise an eyebrow once in a while at the homosexuality at play in their midst, but who otherwise could care less. The third show involves a secondary character who is engaged to her lesbian lover. Now I believe homosexuality to be a grave moral problem, but regardless of your beliefs concerning homosexuality, it is hard not to see a connection here between the content of these shows and the current vigorous lobbying by homosexual groups nationwide for legal and societal acceptance of their particular orientation. These groups seek, in effect, to normalize the status of homosexuals in America. So do these shows then simply reflect this particular change in American public thinking, or are they the actual driver?

It is tough to say.

The news networks are famously known for being, at least historically, major drivers of public opinion. So if the presentation of the news can change opinions about differing subjects, then why not TV shows and movies? Do they not shape us in subtle ways and guide part of our decisions and actions?

But then, on the other hand, the major networks and studios are driven by a bottom line goal. Their goal is to make money, and lots of it. To make lots of money, one needs to be in tune with what the public wants to see and hear and then provide it en masse. So these companies must simply be responding to perceived public demand for this sort of content, living dangerously on the "cutting edge of societal evolution," to steal a line from Rush Limbaugh. Right?

Or, do these two things go hand in hand? Was the proverbial chicken first or the egg?

Feel free to leave your thoughts below!

Image by LGPER, via Wikipedia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Savin' Me

If you haven't seen this music video yet, you should. One of the best I've seen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gun Violence

It seems like every time I thought about sitting down to my computer to write something about the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado theater, another shooting would pop up on the news. There have been no less than four nationally publicized shooting incidents in the past two months: Aurora in Colorado, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Texas A&M, and the Family Research Council in D.C. It's more than enough to make one sick.

And enough to raise major questions.

There was the usual fight between the "mainstream media" and the conservative talk-o-sphere, on the one side crying out for tighter gun control legislation and on the other side retorting that guns don't kill people, people do. The one position is impossible to maintain, the other is over-simplified and cliched.

To briefly address the first position, I might mention that there is some evidence that exists for low crime rates in cities and counties where guns are easily available. But even if you are unwilling to accept that evidence because of disagreement over the methodology of studying a law's effectiveness, you are basically forced to concede that, as the New York Times put it, "criminals are the people least likely to obey gun control laws, meaning that the laws probably have a disproportionate impact on law-abiding individuals." I might also mention countries like Switzerland that have enough armed citizens to make an anti-gun American cringe, and yet their "gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept."

To address the other position, I have to characterize the conservative attitude as I see it before I really tackle it in order to make some sense. It seems to me that conservatives make these shooters out to be a couple of bad apples in a normally fine apple pie. The insistence is always that these shooters "acted alone", that they are "animals" ( a favorite expression of talk-show host Andy Dean), and that their actions reflect on them and them alone. The implication is that our consciences may remain unruffled by such mindless killing, because heck, we weren't the ones that did it, they were. Right?

I find this conservative position an awkward one to defend for several reasons.

The first is the assertion that these were only a couple of "bad apples." With the increasing number of these high-profile, increasingly creative, and wildly violent shooting sprees, I would say we have had something of a growing problem for several years. Add in the number of shootings involving the military in some way over the past three years and you begin to get the point. One shooting is an isolated incident, two is a coincidence, but three or more is a trend.

The second reason is that not only are these people not "animals" ( I find rationalization by denigration particularly offensive, Mr. Andy Dean), but many of them are relatively intelligent people who acted in a very methodical way.

The third reason is connected to the first: these individuals may have acted out these shootings by themselves with no accomplices, but as I mentioned before we seem to have a bit of a trend going. Culture and society have a huge influence over the actions of a human being, and to see so many of these shootings occur in such a short amount of time makes me think there might be a connection. Mightn't more than just the shooters have to carry some small share of the blame?

To illustrate the last point, I would point to America of the 1940's and 1950's. In those decades some of the favorite games for young boys were playing soldier, fighting mock battles with wood sword and fake guns, and pretending to be gun-slinging cowboys. Good guys would win, bad guys would die. Boys were taught to shoot and hunt with very little incident. Up until about 1966 with the mass killings committed by Charles Whitman from a bell tower in Texas, the kind of public massacre of the sort in the Colorado theater was virtually unheard of in the U.S. Now it seems there is a fresh shooting every couple months. Why?

I submit my humble opinion that our culture changed. Drastically.

Now, I am not a starry-eyed nostalgic who thinks that any time in America before 1960 was beautiful, good, and wholesome. There was plenty of wretchedness before 1960, as there has been plenty afterwards. But not this kind of psychotic violence. This is the sort of violence that holds the preciousness of life in reckless disregard, approaching other human beings with a cold calculating eye. Charles Whitman is a great example of this; he killed both his mother and his wife in the same 24 hours, systematically snuffing out their lives and then writing his thoughts about it. His murders and massacres were all methodical, studied, deliberate.

Perhaps this change came about partly in response to the Vietnam War, where more and more Americans became disillusioned with the bloody conflict and viewed it as a massive waste of human and material resources. Soldiers returning from the war certainly would have carried its mental scars. Perhaps the change occurred because of the cheapening of human life intertwined with the use of "the Pill." Man's own self became the center of existence, an attitude aided by the frustration of the sexual act and precipitating the sexual revolution. Pleasure would be sought at all costs, and consequence be damned.

The changing attitudes inaugurated in the 1960's I believe is the true culprit for these shootings. Shared heroin needles, multiple sexual partners, demented music, and complete moral relativism combined to form a toxic societal cocktail that would cripple or destroy the family lives of countless Americans. We still feel the effects of this lethal combination in the form of high abortion rates, countless teen pregnancies, general cultural ennui, and yes, these shooting massacres. Now it seems the only way to have one's five minutes of fame and importance is to do something shocking like killing people.

Yes,  these killers are the ones doing the killing. They have only happened to settle on the gun as the instrument of massacre and the blame does not lie with the availability of the gun. But the blame also does not lie solely with the shooter. As I said before, boys have been playing with mock swords and guns for ages. Since the advent of adventure books and movies and television, good guys have been killing bad guys with guns, and vice-versa. But somehow John Wayne riding in and cleaning up town with a six-shooter was not what it would eventually take to incite young men (and some women) to kill their fellow citizens with firearms. It would be Dirty Harry, The Last House on the Left, and Straw Dogs with their morally ambiguous depictions of characters that would create the heroes of the new generation. Suddenly the good guy was no longer so good, and the bad guy was sorta cool. And this trend has never really stopped. Think The Italian Job and the Oceans heist films. Those are relatively new films, and all are morally aimless. Revenge is the new justice, and the criminals are the good guys.

Once there was a sense of communal responsibility for protection of life and property in this nation. The young generation that volunteered to fight World War II was eager to defend, to serve, to go and maybe never come back. The Vietnam War-era generation was the opposite. And with this loss of eagerness to serve and defend comes a confusion about the role guns play in our lives. When we no longer have a robust sense of responsibility for our own safety because of our willingness to rely solely on government protection, then the firearm becomes a novelty item. When the gun loses its proper purpose at the same time that we lose our moral way as human beings, that is when it becomes truly dangerous.

Restore the concepts of duty, honor, and moral uprightness to the culture and the questions about gun control fade away. Besides the moral problems of our culture, America does have a certain fetish for guns presently speaking, probably because many Americans who own them see them more as fun items to own, shoot, and flaunt rather than as practical tools with a martial background. Almost all the male citizenry of Switzerland carry firearms and own firearms, but not because of machismo. They carry them because the citizenry is the military. I could almost guarantee that the average Swiss male between the ages of 18 and 45 could take on the typical YouTube gun-toting American in a shooting match and come out on top. The difference is in the reason for the gun. The American showing off his guns on YouTube owns those firearms in many cases just because they are cool. The Swiss male owns his because his life and his countrymen's lives depend on it.

Culture is a river that man is immersed in every second of every day. Clean the pollution from that river. Change society, not the legitimate tools that society uses. And pray for all the victims of all shootings, publicized or not. Those families are hurting more than they can ever express, and neither calling for gun control nor" blaming the person and not his weapon" gives them any extra ounce of comfort.

Photo by Sam Lisker, via Wikipedia.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Maybe, Just Maybe

This is one of the most concise summaries of last year's and this year's presidential election shenanigans. Be forewarned, there is a bit of crude content about two-thirds of the way through, but I think the overall message is worth it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Busy Month

I haven't forgotten about you all!

I do have an explanation for my absence; I am attempting to start a video production business on the side, along with my fifty million other jobs and tasks. Needless to say, it has taken up a huge portion of my time. The current video project had a very hard set deadline, because the client I was working with died in the middle of the project and I had to create a video for his funeral. It was a most intriguing month and I will probably write about it soon since it got me to thinking on many different tangents.

So, this is to show that I am still around and plan on releasing a bunch of different articles this week and next week about everything from distributism to the massacres in Colorado and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned and Be Aware!