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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Battle of Our Time

Are there many worlds like ours in the universe?

In the early 20th century a physicist by the name of Enrico Fermi stated that there are in the universe many planets revolving around a star like our Sun that are able to support life as we know it. And yet, assuming that this is so, why are we unable to receive signals of communication from such planets; presumably, each of these other worlds would have reached a state where rational creatures would have reached a point like our civilization where we can now send signals out into space revealing to other worlds our presence. One possible reason given is that when such civilizations reach the point we have, they end up destroying themselves with nuclear weapons. We have reached such a point that our different cultures and governments might end life on earth due to their inability to deal with all the conflicts that arise because of our imperfect nature.

In this scenario certain assumptions have been made which need examination. The first assumption is that creatures on any one of these supposedly similar worlds have a nature similar to our own, which is a fallen human nature; that is, we are prone to both evil and good. No matter how we look at our nature we have to come to the realization that our human nature was meant to be perfect but that something happened in the beginning that brought us to an imperfect state. Many of our ancient civilizations wrestled with this problem; many of the Greek philosophers of 2500 years ago have much to say about this. But it is our Judeo-Christian tradition which gives the most plausible explanation for the origin of our imperfection as the sin of our original parents.

Another assumption is that in these many worlds God has created many humanlike natures which must have been subject to a fall of some kind resulting in their nature being imperfect, thus giving their nature an imperfection such as our own; one would then be forced to assume that, as in our own case, God’s son would have sacrificed himself in the same way as in our own history. This matter of God creating many rational peoples subject to the same history as our own seems quite implausible.

The only really plausible answer is that our world is unique in the universe. It seems to me that a more plausible scenario is that God created the universe, including our planet Earth, making it, in a sense, the center of our universe. Our world is so far from any closest similar planet to Earth, in space and time, as to make it absolutely impossible for us to ever reach such a planet; even if we were to supposedly receive a signal from such a planet, the nature of time and the enormity of the distance of separation involved would take such a signal an unbelievable amount of time to reach us. It is more likely that God made the universe for our speculation on the mightiness and goodness of God who created such a thing. God has created a universe which cannot be penetrated, it is so vast, but it can be inspected and speculated upon.

Should we come to this belief and understanding, then all of the theology of our Judeo-Christian tradition coupled with the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, will bring us to an understanding that there will be a time when our world comes to an end, not necessarily due to our own doing with the creations of war, but with the implementation God’s plan for all humanity involving the creation of a new world, or a new universe, where there will be perfection in our humanity, were there will be peace, where there will be freedom, genuine pure love of God which will be reciprocated by him to us in a paradise never to end. Along with this eternal paradise will also be an eternal place of darkness and pain for those who have rejected God’s plan for them.

If we can accept this plan of God for all of humanity then what we are seeing today with so much conflict and death, a war to the end between the forces of good who have accepted God’s plan, and the forces of evil who have rejected it. We can see the battle in the rejection of God taken to the point of wanting to destroy Israel and Christianity all over the world and replace it with a world government of people who believe only in their erroneously conceived ability to control the world and all its people in a man-made peace. We have to take sides in this battle and hopefully most of us choose the side of good and the plan that God has made for us. We either side with Christ or with those who become the Antichrist, not necessarily a single person, but certainly a group who are against Christ and God’s plan for all of us.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Self Evaluation - Military Years

On my 21st birthday I gave myself a present of joining the Army for three years with the an assignment in the Army Security Agency. A friend of mine had assured me that this would be better service than just being in the infantry and he was correct in more ways than one; being at a juncture where I was not sure of what I wanted to do, joining up in a branch of the service that would afford me the best learning experience seemed a good thing to do.
After finishing my basic training learning to handle the M1 rifle, dodging bullets overhead and learning how to properly handle hand grenades, Next to Fort Devens Massachusetts to find out what the Army security agency had to offer. Learning a foreign language! This intrigued me. After taking a sort of Esperanto exam I scored high enough to be included among those who were given choices of languages to take. At that time they offered Polish, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian and Russian; all these languages but Russian were one-year courses in Monterey, California at the Army Language School. So Russian was out as a choice for me; they called out names in some sort of order which gave me an opportunity to see what others were choosing 1st. I would’ve liked to take Polish but that was a favorite for everybody; 2nd was Czechoslovakian, so that left me Hungarian to make as a 1st choice. I got my 1st choice and thinking that Hungarian would be somewhat like German since I knew about the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Boy, was I wrong! Hungarian is not related to any of the other languages in Europe (except experts think there is perhaps some connection with finish or Estonian).

We shipped out to Monterey looking forward to my 1st class in Hungarian. The technique used in teaching this language was full immersion.  The teacher would point at an object and say: Mi ez; then he would say: pohar.   He repeated this formula for a number of objects around the room. There were a dozen of us and it took us a full hour to figure out he was asking a question: What is this?  Coming back to the first object with response: pohar − we learned this meant meant: This is a glass.  Notice Hungarian uses fewer words.

We finally got the idea that the grammatical structure of Hungarian is quite different from English.  I learned the grammar with ease but found that speaking the language was difficult.  It was a challenge to be sure for the rest of the year.  During the weekends a friend of mine and I went to my home in S.F. and learned from a plumber how to replace all the old plumbing with copper − that turned out to be a useful talent later.  At an early point in Monterey I received sad news that a woman committed suicide by jumping out of an Aeronca I had bought after I soloed and sold before basic training. 

We all did well enough to pass the course and found ourselves eventually shipped to Germany the following year.  Before being shipped to Germany, however, an event occurred during the Fall of that first year in Monterey which was to completely change the course of my life − The 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet domination!  After the Soviets crushed the rebellion more than 100,000 Hungarian refugees came to the United States; many came to San Francisco.  Through connections with the Hungarian teachers at Monterey I was introduced to a number of refugees whom I now tried to teach English. Some of them became friends with whom I was able to communicate for a number of years, even after I was discharged from the Army.

At the end of the Hungarian course at Monterey, we students were sent to Frankfurt am Main in Germany.  We were housed in a former German barracks, or Kaserne, in the center of the city. We were given the duty of translating intercepted telexes between Communist Hungary and Germany.  Our duty station was a huge building taken over from the I.G. Farben Company which, during the war, produced poison gases used to exterminate the Jews, Christians and other “useless eaters” in the Nazi death camps.

Traveling to many countries in Europe was possible which were not behind the Iron Curtain.  In France I was shocked when communicating in German in the flea-market of Paris was easier than English.  In Italy I visited Venice (where I remember listening to a World Series game between New York and Minnesota?) and Rome with many beautiful and interesting sites. I even got an opportunity to visit West Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain, when I was given the task of carrying military documents as an armed military messenger. I remember exchanging glances with Soviet soldiers behind the damaged Reichstag which was a bit scary. 

Visiting England and Scotland was the most enjoyable visiting relatives of my father,  Going to Mass back in Frankfurt one Sunday  I was shocked to hear the priest condemn American soldiers who, being far from home, engaged in debauchery they would never do at home; I kept thinking that he would’ve done great service to us soldiers by giving positive encouragement to do things that did not dishonor themselves and others. Instead he said he would rather be back home in a nice parish where people didn’t do such things. I wish I had gone to him to try to advise him to be helpful for those of us who were in trouble but I didn’t.  I never missed Sunday Mass while stationed in Europe and I wanted to encourage him to advise all of us soldiers never to miss mass and to give encouragement to always do the right thing.

On my return home to the States, the experience of crossing the North Atlantic in a troopship during a raging storm was an experience I will never forget; just think of huge mountains surrounding you as those mountains wax and wane in size and shape as if ready to swallow the ship at any moment.  A few days after being discharged in New York I met my brother and we went cross country stopping at the Grand Canyon to hike down to the Colorado River and back up and recuperate at the top for 3 days, such was the tiredness that we felt. When we got back to San Francisco I started the spring semester of my sophomore year at the University of San Francisco. This marked the ending of my military days in January of 1959.

I had learned a lot. German and Hungarian languages. Travel experiences. An opportunity to read a lot. Finding out that not practicing mathematics during this time put me in a position where I had forgotten so much that my brother had to help me with math whereas before I’d always helped him. No regrets though, it didn’t take too long to get my math abilities back. Most of all being able to retain my faith in God against many odds presented to a soldier far away from home was to me the most important gain in my life.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Self Evaluation − First Stage

There are many times in our lives in which we sit down with ourselves and ruminate about how our lives have progressed up to that point. Most of us start to form a base on which we can plot our course through life in a manner that brings about the most degree of happiness. My mother, having put my brother and myself into a Catholic school starting in first grade, was instrumental in the formulation of a Christian basis for our lives. We became Catholics at the end of our grammar school years.
Born on the first day of the year in which James Braddock defeated Max Baer to become world boxing champion; in the city of St. Francis; in the 49er state, my playground was the Palace of Fine Arts kept intact from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition; we fed the ducks and swans and learned to climb to the top of every small tree by the pond. My transportation was my English bike, and the streetcars and cable cars which took me everywhere before they ripped up the rails and replaced them with buses.  

Attending high school meant traveling a longer distance so by this time we managed to have our own jalopies; they were not new and mine was a red Ford which had been burned out on the inside by a lighted cigarette falling on fabric, so a friend of mine and I had to replace enough of the insides to get the car running. It was a frightening experience for a number of dates I had when they discovered there were no indoor handles to open the door; you had to pull a bar.  I loved baseball and I wanted to be a pitcher but when I joined the baseball team I sat on the bench for most of the season until I realized I couldn’t pitch; so I took up tennis with a bit more measure of success. 

College took me to Notre Dame University in Indiana where I learned that a year had four seasons: Autumn with it’s beautiful greens turning into red, orange, yellow and brown mixtures before turning into bare trees of Winter with snow and ice and drab grey and black.  When ice formed on the sidewalks after a storm, my classmates could tell I was from California when I could not help slipping and when they asked me from what city, they declared I was from San Francisco from my accent!  Spring was a delightful contrast to Winter as I watched with eagerness each new bud and leaf turn into such luscious green as one can only experience then, before Summer appears with its heat and it’s time to go home.

Home to San Rafael airport north of S.F. where my friend, fellow interior car designer, and I were going to learn to fly.  The plane was an Aeronca, a high wing, single engine, two seater with one behind the other,  It had two main forward wheels with a small tail wheel.  It was small with a 65 H.P. engine.  $7.50/hr for instruction; it took me 11 and a half hours before my instructor got out from the back seat and told me to take it up!  Solo!  With mounting fear I taxied along the 800 foot runway, got onto the end of the runway having cleared myself for takeoff. I thought of just taxiing back but I knew I wouldn’t be able to face others if I did that much less myself. So I pushed the throttle forward and felt the plane lift off the ground and made my right turn so I wouldn’t hit the power lines and was just thinking of making a little trip over San Francisco but then I remembered the hardest part of flying is LANDING! So I quickly turned right again and entered the rectangular pattern for landing and brought the plane down just off the ground, pulled the stick to make it stall and there I was on the ground, safe and sound. I taxied to the end of the runway, pulled up to the office and cut the engine. “Aren’t you going up again” asked my instructor. I was so nervous and shaking I had to relax inside the office. 

A gentleman in the office who had been watching my landing dared me to take it up again and see if I could land it as perfectly as I did the 1st time. The congratulations of my having made a perfect three-point landing encouraged me to go up again. He was right!  My 2nd landing was sloppy, but I went around the pattern and landed a total of 7 times with another 14 times just touch and go because I was not in a good position to land. 7 near perfect landings out of 21 and I was still alive made me feel great! 

My friend soloed after me after only 8 ½ hours of instruction but unfortunately on his last attempt he nosed over and his solo attempt was a failure. He flew with me on many many occasions afterwards and I had him fly and land the plane; he did perfectly but he would not go up by himself, so great was the trauma he experienced.

Aeronautical engineering was my major at Notre Dame but having felt rather homesick I decided to stay in California and went to Santa Clara, registering in their engineering department. A friend of mine, Duncan, at Santa Clara was an actor who asked me if I would like to go to an audition at a girls high school nearby; It seemed an interesting idea and I was sure that any part I got would be only minor; but my failed solo friend and I had played around with accents and I love to play the accent of a Chinese man. Using that accent at the audition gained me the 2nd to the star role played by my new friend Duncan. I was so frightened of getting on stage and not being able to remember my lines that I not only thoroughly memorized my lines but also Duncan's lines so that I could not possibly miss a cue; it’s good that I did because Duncan memorized the essence of his lines but not word for word. But I could pick up the cues anyway. Well I won great applause for my acting the role of Chang in Lost Horizons but my grades went down the tubes. I not only flunked most of my courses but when called in by a professor of engineering whose exam I had taken, I was told that never had he ever experienced anyone getting a flat 0 in any of his exams. I felt very little chagrin because success at something like acting on the stage was just like soloing in an airplane; such events are unique in a person’s life.

During the next semester I went to the University of San Francisco and majored in history because I like history; but disaster again looked me straight in the eye and I quit that semester and went into the Army because I realized that new experiences were what I needed to outgrow our a shyness and a self absorption that I needed to correct in order to accomplish what I felt God wanted me to. Relating this military experience will be for another time as the post is long enough already. Suffice it to say, during this period before I joined the Army I had experienced events that would change the course of my life and more was to come. I never forgot that it was my trust and Faith in God that had put me through these new experiences to bring me to a better place of getting outside of myself and being challenged with difficult tasks and, with his help, succeeding!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Saving Faith

Searching for films by genre on Netflix has lead me to some great movies.  Movies with a moral and spiritual content I like the most.  Such a film is Saving Faith, Cast: Spencer Scott, J.R. Cruz, Nikki Love, Mark Ridley, E'Mari Creech, Joey Holland, Ethan Drake, Stephanie Mathis, Liliana Montenegro, Lauren Lina; produced 2010.

The film begins with the audio of a discussion between father and daughter. The daughter, Rochelle, tells her father, Malcolm, that she is almost finished with her picture that she wants to give her mother, Gloria. Malcolm promises he will not till his wife about the picture. Suddenly there is the sound of a car crash after Rochelle tells her daddy “look out!”.

Six months later it becomes clear that Malcolm is greatly disturbed about losing his daughter in the car crash; things are not going well at a construction site where he is in charge of a team of 5 or 6 workers.   His boss Bob, with whom he has worked a number of years on many projects, tells Malcolm that he is behind schedule and the job will not be completed in time unless he shapes up.  Bob becomes aware Malcolm is not able to focus on his job because of his inability to let go of the loss of his daughter.

Malcolm has become separated from his wife Gloria because of his inability to properly function as a husband for the same reason, his loss of his daughter Rochelle. Their Pastor tries to help and finally suggests attending a group of people who have had similar losses; when he encourages Malcolm to go he gives Malcolm the picture Gloria said was from Rochelle. Malcolm and Gloria both go to the meeting and Malcolm speaks up revealing that he believes he could’ve unbuckled the seatbelt of his daughter so that she would live even if it meant he were to die; instead, with a real struggle releasing his seatbelt, he saves himself instead.

He thus believes he has murdered his daughter and that God would never forgive him for that. He believes this in spite of being told that rescuers received second degree burns just helping him out of the car and to reach his daughter was impossible.  

In anger he fires 2 of his workers for fighting but is told by Bob, his boss, to rehire them. One of the workers Jose is a member of a gang. The gang had brutalized a former member who wanted to quit; Jose wants to quit the gang because he has a family he wants to take care of but the remaining members of the gang convince Jose to beat up Malcolm who fired him. 

During the beating of Malcolm, Jose is told by Malcolm he is to be rehired; Jose puts an end to the beating and Malcolm, who has been receiving mysterious images that indicate God is helping him, seeks out Gloria with whom he promises to renew their life together because he senses God’s forgiveness. 

If one were to relate this to the story of Job, we could fashion God’s answer to Malcolm as: “Do you think, Malcolm, you are greater than God, who can forgive any sin, any wrong doing, and indeed has already forgiven all your sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross?”  Just like Job, Malcolm had not lost his faith in God but we human beings are so frail that sometimes it may take even a beating to remind us that the key to living life well, even when we have to suffer such losses, is to love and to forgive; that is the way that God treats us.

And something I forgot: When Malcomb finds his grandfather's bible, stored away and hidden for many years by his uncle, he finds a copy of Rochelle's picture!  Another sign of God's caring.