The Daily ReTORt

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Why Bother Believing?

The question of belief in anything presupposes a degree of uncertain reliance on some external intangible. By definition, that reliance requires continual effort.

It’s simply easier NOT to believe in something that’s unseen or has any degree of uncertainty.

That’s mainly because the pain, loss and suffering of the observable, material world are so unrelentingly in your face.

So much so, that Nobel Laureate and philosopher Albert Camus [see photo insert] is famously quoted as saying that the only real philosophical question for humanity is suicide – because in his view, when he made that quote, the futility of life was so meaningless that ending the pain might provide meaning.

I strongly disagree with that position even though the Bible states in the book of Ecclesiastics that life is merely “…vanity, vanity…all is vanity.” In my view, the solution for that vanity and pain is precisely a belief in the unseen.

Here’s a passage I read this morning from the book Reaching for the Invisible God by author Philip Yancey that clearly articulates the tension between believing and simply not – noting that tension exists in most of us from time to time:

Yancey's final sentence here is profoundly true for me, and ironically it seems to have been true in some degree at sometime for Camus who said – in stark contrast to his previous statement cited above, I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is.”
“I must exercise faith simply to believe that God exists, a basic requirement for any relationship. And yet when I wish to explore how faith (belief) works, I usually sneak in by the back door of doubt, for I best learn my own need for faith during its absence. God’s invisibility guarantees I will experience times of doubt.
            Everyone dangles on a pendulum that swings from belief to unbelief, back to belief, and ends – where? Some never find faith.
            I feel kinship with those who find it impossible to believe or find it impossible to keep on believing in the face of apparent betrayal. I have been in a similar place at times, and I marvel that God bestowed on me an unexpected gift of faith. Examining my own periods of faithlessness, I see in them all manner of unbelief.
            Sometimes I shy away for lack of evidence, sometimes I slink away in hurt or disillusionment, and sometimes I turn aside in willful disobedience. Something, though, keeps drawing me back to God. What? I ask myself.
            ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ said Jesus’ disciples in words that resonate in every doubter. Jesus’ listeners found themselves simultaneously attracted and repelled, like a compass needle brought close to a magnet. As his words sank in, one by one the crowd of onlookers and followers slouched away, leaving only the twelve. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked them in a tone somewhere between plaintiveness and resignation. As usual, Simon Peter spoke up: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
            That, for me, is the bottom-line answer to why I stick around. To my shame, I admit that one of the strongest reasons I stay in the fold is the lack of good alternatives, many of which I have tried. Lord, to whom shall I go? The only thing more difficult than having a relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Churches Offering Gas for Guns Exchange

For the past several years, municipalities and faith-based groups across the country have been offering various types of gun buy-back programs intended to remove illegal weapons from urban streets.

However, some Louisiana-located churches are throwing gasoline on the FIREpower – literally.

Four Baton Rouge churches are partnering with the city administration, law enforcement and Circle K gas stations to offer $40,000 worth of free gas cards in exchange for weapons with no questions asked or IDs required.  Click below for the full story.


"If it saves one life, or if it saves one injury or if it saves one tragic accident from occurring, it will be worth it," said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore. "We don't want to give cash in the hands of some possible bad person and they could go buy another gun or drugs."

The amount of the gas card distributed will be determined by the type of gun turned in, for example automatic assault rifles get the most buck, $200, for the respective bang.

This is a novel, disarming solution to a loaded and potentially deadly issue. The need to hit the target with such innovative accuracy relies on creativity, and unfortunately the youth in our nation seem to be bleeding creativity - and that’s a separate issue I blogged about yesterday.  Click below if you missed it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Creativity of U.S. Kids in Decline

As a parent of two kids with active imaginations, ages 8 and 6 respectively, I was stunned by a story in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine that heralded a steady decline of creativity amongst American children since 1990. Here's the link:

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

The article defines creativity as the production of something useful and original that intially requires divergent thinking that's subsequently combined with thought patterns that then unify the diverse thoughts together. According to the research cited in the story, the greatest decline in creativity occurred among kids between ages 5 and 11 years - (yikes, that's the age range of my two girls!)

The primary culprits behind this creative collapse of kids are the usual suspects - too much TV and video games coupled with too little brain-stimulating activities. While we've long heard those were the lathergic causes of epidemic levels of chilhood obesity, I had not extended those lax-inducing effects to creativity and cognition but my wife and I will going forward.

It's something every parent now needs to keep in mind as we strive to positively protect and develop the minds of our kids. This country needs creative problem solving now and in the future if we hope to continue to thrive.

Our collective kids are the key to that future.

Just as good parents need to ensure healthy choices that feed our kids' bodies, we need to offer healthful options that feed their minds and creativity as well - Halo and Grand Theft Auto be damned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Science is Great, but It Only Goes So Far.....

I love science! For the past 13 years, I've worked at a technology company, an eye health business and I currently work at a biotech firm. Each of those organizations have had at their respective cores a heavy reliance on science as well as reseach and development in general.
Again, I love science but it only goes so far. The point being that science is excellent at deconstructing complex observable systems to measure and identify how they work. But it's not so great at explaining the intangible aspects of life or things that can't be observed or neatly quantified.

I came across a great poem that I attribute to contemporary artist Tom Graffagnino, which eloquently brings this disconnect to bear and suggests the existence of something greater than what we can merely observe with our senses and count on our fingers.

As an aside, Graffagnino has wonderful artwork you can admire (and buy) at his web site http://www.tomgraffagnino.com/ . 

Here's his poem titled "As Luck Would Have It."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't Go It Alone!

I’m not sure about you, but fall is my favorite time of year. The air seems cleaner and crisper; leaves start to turn brilliant shades; skies appear a clearer blue while every cloud-enhanced sunset is breathtaking.

It’s also the time of year that animals take such cues from nature and begin migrations to warmer climes, including geese flying in their distinctive “V” formation (see photo inser}.

Aside from its visual splendor and role as harbinger of autumn, the unique flying “V” has an important function – without that aerodynamic structure, virtually NONE of the geese would be able to make the grueling trip alone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back on Track With Weight Loss

I attended the weekly WeightWatchers weigh-in during lunch today, and I'm happy to report that I was down -3.0 lbs for the week. That means I've lost a total of -28.0 lbs. since starting this program back on April 7th, 2010.

One of the greatest insights I've gained through this journey is that while the weight went on in a virtual straight line manner, my reduction efforts have followed a more erratic trajectory that's been pocked by weeks of no progress.

During those neutral stretches, I'm forced to look backwards and repeat the things I did during the weeks when I lost a lot of weight to help jump start the progression forward. That's been the trick that has worked for me.

I review my food journal entries, the steps logged via my pedometer and my daily exercise regimens to see what worked. The thing is that I know what I need to do, but it's amazingly easy to drift from the mark.

Despite that, it was a good week that I hope to duplicate.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eliot Spitzer – a CNN Ratings Stunt or Hubris Run Amok?

Tomorrow is the debut of CNN’s latest attempt to resuscitate its flat-line ratings. This most recent programming attempt is heralded as a public-affairs style show that will feature the fallen former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, discussing issues of the day with Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker.
In a recent interview with Parade magazine Spitzer described the new show as, “…an opportunity to create persuasive arguments about the direction we should move in as a society.”
Huh? Persuasive arguments from him about the direction we should move in as a society…really?  As a refresher, Spitzer resigned from office after it became public that this former public prosecutor was paying high-price prostitutes for sex.

Despite that, I want help him out with some possible topics for his new show.
Here’s a suggestion for Spitzer to consider regarding one societal issue that should be addressed. Since two-thirds of marriages end in divorce, how about supporting the concept of families, marriage and honoring your own marriage vows?  That seems to be a pretty good direction for society in general.
Or how about, upholding anti-prostitution laws that still exist in most of the states in this country? That might be a good societal goal.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here's Another Thing to Blame on Parents!

New research suggests that selfish tendencies are genetic. The full story can be accessed from Science Daily by clicking on the link below.

Whether or not you believe we're merely a wet bag of bones and chemical responses - it's an interesting article!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100905164034.htm