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Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Change in Pace

Below are the winners of the Men's and Women's US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California Sunday July 28, 2013. On the left is Alejo Muniz from Brazil and on the right is Carrissa Moore who is, as a result of today's win, ranked in the lead for the Women's World Champion of Surfing for 2013 with two more surfing events to go.  She won the World Championship of Surfing in 2011 for the first time at age 18.  Carrissa lives in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, in Honolulu.  She is really a sweet kid and very humble about her surfing ability, giving due credit to all the other girls she faces in competition.  She is inspired by the courage of her friend and fellow surfer from Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark while surfing but still competes in surfing meets.  She once gave her winnings, in a meet in New Zealand, to a surfing club of young girls training to be surfers, just to help them out.  I'm proud of her as a good and friendly person and I am very pleased to count her as my grandniece.

Friday, July 26, 2013

How Children Succeed

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough - a review

In posts published so far I have talked about topics which elucidate social and economic problems all over the world. My thesis is that all these problem areas can be traced historically to a philosophy or philosophies which promise a better world if only we follow the tenants of these philosophies.

In the book “How Children Succeed” by Paul tough he gives a good overview in Chapter 5, A Better Path, of the history of trends which promise reform in economics, education, the work place, welfare and poverty that have been going on in American society for decades, but in spite of Herculean efforts to eradicate severe problems in our culture, they none-the-less persist and even worsen.

Mr. Tough, while lamenting his dropping out of Columbia University in his freshman year, with many researchers concluding dropping out of school, either high school or college, is due to low determination, low perseverance and bad planning skills, Tough agrees to some extent; but he also came to realize that dropping out leads to something more positive. Whatever reasons there may be for dropping out, it provides a way of dealing with failure by overcoming adversity which in turn develops character, involving toughness, perseverance and planning. 

Dealing with failure becomes in this overview the major character developing tool Tough describes. The author describes the many failures of Steve Jobs who invented the Apple Computer; each failure became an opportunity for Jobs to grow stronger as a person and as a genius in computer technology.

At this point the author starts thinking about his son and how he could help his son to succeed.  He came to believe that modern scientific research of the brain required that his child be given a wholesome environment of nurturing to ensure that his child not endure undue trauma and stress. Flash cards  and music videos were not needed to develop traits necessary for success, Science revealed to him that his child would simply in his younger years develop these traits on his own.

When his son had a tantrum he needed to to calm himself and calm the child, thereby teaching the child to deal correctly with a dramatic situation. Hugging, talking, reassuring were needed in the early years to help his son deal with a world of scary things. As his son grew older, hugging and reassurance had to be replaced with rules and discipline, handled in a loving way. But he realized also that providing everything for his child and protecting him from everything would not allow the child to learn to deal with new circumstances and learn from them through failures and successes. 

Applying these ideas to others, Tough found that many students completing their schooling with high academic achievement, were lost in the world outside because they had not been given the opportunity to learn from a recognition of their weaknesses and their failures. Their character had not been formed sufficiently or at all.

Graduates going back into areas of poverty lacking these character skills might end up engaging in criminal activities.  Society and government are seen to have responsibility to see that this does not happen. National polls(1) show that people believe it’s the government’s responsibility. “The government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep”. “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves”. “Our society should do what is necessary to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed”.

Tough sees that the national conversation on eliminating poverty has diminished in recent years. Even though we have a president who was elected on the promise of solving the poverty issue, this has not happened. For example, there are more in poverty now than in 1966 where the poverty stood at 17% while now the figure is 22%. The war on poverty of the 60s accomplished little.

The author realizes the poverty debate has merged with the education debate.  There were those who, through the use of the bell curve, believed one could predict that students who were successful in high school and college would be successful in life and this seemed to be borne out. The passage of the No Child left behind law in 2001 forced statistics to be gathered on all groups of students so that corrections could be made within the educational system to limit gaps between rich and poor. But these gaps became even worse. Other kinds of schools were able to raise the educational scores of low income students through targeted education. It was eventually thought that better education would provide a means of eliminating poverty. This led to a belief that quality teachers were needed to accomplish this. But trying to incentivize teachers with extra pay and eliminating poor teachers through firing did not sit well with the educational unions.

But educational reforms have not been able to accomplish much with the truly poverty-stricken and disadvantaged students; all manners of agencies and departments of the government are not adequately staffed with personnel who can handle all the difficult problems. Many reformers nonetheless feel that these problems can be resolved within the school while critics point out that economics and other factors outside of the school make it impossible for the problem of poverty to be resolved within the school alone. Mothers on welfare trying to raise a family of several children have extraordinary difficulties which so far have not been adequately addressed. Communities of these severely disadvantaged people have need of an agency that provides a relationship of caring about the problems they face.

The science of the disadvantaged shows the reality that character strengths are not innate. They are somehow implanted in the person in some external way. There are some who nonetheless think that money can somehow solve the problem by improving the external environment. However, young people who have made it into the world outside successfully have done so because someone helped them in taking the first step.

In this overview of government being the sole agent of reform, major societal problems persist.  Something has been lost.  The history of that loss will be the subject of my next post: Modernism.

(1) Tough Chapter 5 A better Path, Section 3 A Different Challenge, p185 of 197 Pew Research Center, Survey of Attitudes

Friday, July 19, 2013

Where is God?

Where is God?

God is in me. He is around me. No matter where I go he is there. He is with me in my sufferings. He is even there amidst my sins. He does not abandon me. Even if I abandoned him, he will not abandon me. He loves me for all eternity. Even if I do not love him, he loves me. I am his child. He is a father who loves his child unconditionally, in all times, in all events. He suffered and died for me on a cross so that I might always be with him and in him for all eternity.

This not to say that God is part of me as if God were like my heart which is part of me.  God is a supernatural being who has an existence apart from me.  But God reveals himself to human beings who are his creations.  Humans cannot on their own come to a knowledge of God.  But God can reveal himself to a human being in some mysterious way and that human being through a God-given gift of Faith can come to a realization of God's existence; and even his presence in the spiritual soul of that human if the human desires God's presence in order to receive God's guidance in leading a good life.

All humanity is capable of knowing and loving God. All God desires of us is our love. He waits patiently through all our trials and sufferings and errant ways for us to love him; he waits for us, he waits for our acknowledgment of his love for us, of his willingness to shower us with his loving mercy. He has suffered and died for every single human being who has ever existed or will exist. There is no formula or method or trial required for us to possess God in our soul, in our minds, in our very being except to say “my God, I love you”.  This is true because the love and mercy of God for each human being is without bounds.

In Scripture God says we must become as little children who have no guile in them, no false desires, only innocence.   God desires us to follow him as his disciples; but in following him he wants us to let go of the desires we have for things of this world which he assures us will profit us nothing. This is the sacrifice required of us. The things of this world, of this life can only be troublesome and cause great sorrow and pain unless we first seek the love and grace of God who always is open to helping us through the vicissitudes of this life. 

God wants us to be his champions, loving him, desiring to be in him and have him in us as his temple so that everything we do is measured out in love for others; for our family, for our neighbors, and yes, even for our enemies. When we love God with no reservations, with no strings attached; when our love for him is pure, is sincere and is in depth, then this is our faith while our actions are our God filled love for others.

It is not simply following a set of rules that God desires of us; he wants our pure love for him and pure faith and trust in him which will then engender in us the desire to do God’s will; his will through us is to pour out our love, which is then God’s love, to all human beings we care for, associate with and are responsible for.  When we freely choose to do this, how wonderful each day of our life can be engrossed in God’s love, even amidst sorrow, pain, suffering of loss and even deprivation,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Not Guilty or Innocent?

George Zimmerman has been found “not guilty” of second degree murder by a jury of 6 women in a Florida court. Now we hear from Jasmine Rand, the attorney for the mother and father of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by Zimmerman, that the decision by the jury of “not guilty” is not the same as saying George Zimmerman is “innocent”.  Ms Rand surely must know that in American jurisprudence a person accused of a crime is assumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury; therefore George Zimmerman was assumed innocent of the charge of second-degree murder at the beginning of the trial and remains innocent since the jury found him not guilty.

Ms. Rand does not accept this basic tenant of trial by jury because, as she stated in an interview on television, she believes in social engineering.   Social engineering in this situation means that the feelings of people who deem themselves of having been long treated as inferior to those in the mainstream should receive some recognition of their victimhood in a jury trial. Since Trayvon Martin was a member of a race long held to be in need of governmental care, the verdict should have found Zimmerman responsible for some sort of compensation (even jail time) for the loss of Martin’s life.

Now we are faced with violence in the streets of Oakland and Los Angeles demanding “justice” for Trayvon Martin; they call for “social” justice which really means that preference be given the so-called downtrodden in a jury trial. Then who decides which group should be given preference? It will always be the powerful in government, such as the Democratic party currently, which agrees with those who believe that the verdict of “not guilty” in the Zimmerman case is “socially illogical”.

Are we about to see that violence will be used to destroy the fabric of American justice where one is innocent until proven guilty; to be replaced by “social justice” were justice is not determined by law  stemming from a belief in an Eternal Lawgiver but by men who determine what is just and what is not just, based on their belief in personal power?

Monday, July 8, 2013

What is Meant by Judging Others?

In Scripture, Christ warns us not to judge others because if we do, God will judge us is like manner. What does He mean?  And in particular what does judging another mean in the context of Christ's warning.  Many Christians tell me that there is nothing wrong in judging others; in fact, they say, we do it all the time and it is necessary so that we avoid entanglements with evil people.  Well then, what does Christ mean by saying we should not judge others?

Suppose we see a person who looks like the type of person we would not wish to associate with for one or more varieties of reasons (of a different race, looks like a street person, looks Jewish, dressed like a rich person and we are poor, etc, etc).  The person is walking alone a street in a neighborhood in which a crime has just been committed.  We immediately call the police and report the person as possibly/definitely guilty of the crime.

If the call was made primarily because of some prejudice we have against the person, which prejudice has no basis in fact because we do not even know the person, then we have judged the person as a criminal type, without any real reason;  this type of judgement of others is very common.  Simply consider the race problems we are currently having in America . White against Black just because they are Black; Black against White just because they are White.

If a woman has an abortion, is she guilty of murder?  Many will say "yes!" automatically, without considering circumstances which might mitigate the woman's guilt.  If the woman  is very young; has been fed lies, through our education system, about sex, intercourse, pregnancy; has been told abortion just removes some tissue, not a baby; has been told her parents need not know; has been assured abortion is safe and legal;  is she guilty of murder?  I think not.

Just think of the times we condemn others simply because they annoy us and do things to us we think we would not do to them.  Ever been guilty of road rage and cursed and fought others because of it?  It is difficult not to fall into the many traps of judging others.  I have heard sorts of Christians who yell publicly on streets, to those who do not accept their religiosity, that they are condemned to hell; I have heard non-reigious people condemn Christians and others of Faith in the same manner.

But certainly we may correct others who are doing things that are detrimental to their welfare and that of others including ourselves;  this kind of judging done with love is actually a part of scripture where Christ gives us the recipe for doing it correctly through witnesses, courts and the Church.  We engage ourselves in brotherly correction as Christ directs us but at the same time he warns us that we must be sure to "remove the log from our own eye to see better the speck in our brother's eye"  Unless we do this we become guilty of judging our brother out of false pride instead of correcting him.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Is a woman who has an abortion guilty of murder?

To be guilty of murder certain conditions must be met.  As a Catholic I have been taught that for a person to be culpable for an action taken, such as abortion, three conditions must be met:  

First, the action taken must be very serious; the Catholic Church is unequivocal in professing that the abortion of a fetus or child within the womb from conception to natural birth is the termination of the life of a human being, and thus is a serious violation of the right to life of that human being.  

Second the woman having the abortion must be cognizant of the seriousness of the act of abortion to the extent of acknowledging that abortion is the termination of a human life.

Third, the woman having the abortion must give full consent to the abortion, knowing that she is killing a human being.

However, for most women, the only condition that may be met, to some extent, is the seriousness of the situation without understanding that the seriousness involves the killing of a human being;  this is so because of the cleverness and success of the propaganda of the abortion industry which has for nearly a century enticed those in the media, in education and in government to believe that eugenics and abortion are necessary to control overpopulation.

Some parents have been indoctrinated by this propaganda, through their education and media they are exposed to, and believe the propaganda that abortion is “safe and legal”; as a result, they may unfortunately subject their daughters to the necessity of having an abortion, should they become pregnant, while still in their parental care at home.

Unmarried women,  becoming pregnant, may be induced, and even forced,  to abort by family, friends, teachers, and the community at large unless they are able to find support from members of the community who care about such women getting good and correct information about the realistic consequences of having an abortion.

God has instilled in women a natural desire to take care of their baby when they become pregnant, whether in marriage or not, and the evidence of this is that statistics show a growing number of single mothers.  Not all women abort if the become “accidentally” pregnant; they may fight their parents, friends and others to give life to their babies.  There are many heroes here.

Many other women who, having believed the lies about a fetus being just a mass of tissue and there is nothing wrong in removing this unformed tissue, have had an abortion and later have learned the truth that they have unwittingly killed their child; none-the less they become the heroes who help other women to keep their baby by telling them the truth about abortion. Many of these women who have had an abortion grow to believe in a loving and merciful God who aids them to realize that they are forgiven and dearly loved.

There may be some women who fit all three conditions, mentioned above, and are culpable in killing their child, but I believe they are few and far between.  The great majority of women who have had abortions have been duped by the masters of deceit in the abortion industry.

The guilt is great for those who, in the abortion industry, know the truth of what an abortion involves, but knowingly lie to women who come to them for an abortion;  here one finds the murderers.