Monday, February 29, 2016

Addiction to Violence

There is a sickness in the American culture—we are in love with violence.  It is not just a casual indulgence it is an obsession.  We love violence in any form (be it in the pursuit of the bad or the good).  We love it in our movies, TVs, video games and even in our music—most notably in rap.  We can see it in our love of sports—the more violent the better and football tops all.  A subtler lure to violence is an increasing interest in extreme sports that thrive on the desire to ‘push the envelope’ ever farther.

 Among so many Americans there is an open love affair with guns and any attempt to set reasonable controls meets with angry resistance.  Mass shootings have become so commonplace as to be part of today’s norm. 

The political process of our nation has become a circus of verbal violence with shouts and insults and foul language and bold lies.  It goes on because the public responds not with criticism of it but with eager attention to it.  It is an embarrassment before the world that the highest office in our land is negotiated in such a manner.

I seem to be saying, “the grass is green”—yes, everyone knows of these things, but do we treat the love of violence as a serious problem that needs attention?  It doesn’t ‘just happen’ we choose it!  We respond eagerly at its display whether it is in the films we watch or the sports events upon which we spend billions of dollars.  As a nation we refuse to face the gun issue in a rational way.  As a society we refuse to look in the mirror at ourselves and see the self-damage we inflict . . . like the drug addict and alcoholic we maintain there is no problem—refusing to acknowledge the evidence.

If we are striving to be leaders of the free world, we have an obligation to set a precedence of choosing attitudes and behaviors that enhance rather than diminish, to do that we must face our addiction to violence.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Today is Ash Wednesday in traditional Christian religions.  People attend church services to receive a smudge of ashes on their forehead as a reminder of our human mortality—we will die one day and return to ashes.  This day marks the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting and sacrifice.  It is to remind us of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and preparing for his ministry.

I attended the 6:30 AM Mass, scheduled especially for those who have jobs to go to.  The church was moderately full, much as it is at the early Sunday Mass.  It put me in the thoughtful mood of considering how brief is our mortal existence and thinking too of what people have accomplished in all the years of those uncountable brief existences.

History looks back at time measured in decades, centuries and millenniums while physics and astronomy looks further back to the billions of years it took to form the universe.  In such terms, the less than 100 years allotted the average human pales to insignificance, less than a blip on the time scale—seemingly inconsequential.  Yet, here I am writing, and there you are reading this reflection.

We are given life, consciousness, and free will; the rest is up to us.  In our brief experience of existence we have the opportunity to shape a bit of life, be it just for ourselves, or our family or our workplace . . . or for some, to shape a bit of the future.  Humans are the only creatures with the ability to do that, all others must live with what is given, knowing only what is in front of them—they have no history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy or art.  But humans have changed the face of the earth with boats, bridges and roads; with machines to carry us places—even into the sky!  We’ve discovered how to combine elements and formulate medicines to fight disease.  We transport food from far away places to have for our use what is ‘not is season’.  We’ve built houses and stadiums and theaters and cathedrals to enhance existence.  Our communication systems and devices now reach round the world in an instant.  We have books and TVs and DVDs to bring, at will, everything to our own little piece of the world.  Life is one ever unspooling thread that continually builds today upon what was discovered, developed, devised and invented yesterday and the evolution will continue from today into tomorrow and the future.

We don’t like to think too much about our mortality, but doing so can awaken us to appreciate what we so often take for granted.  Individually we have short lives but look what the human species has collectively brought forth from our creative ingenuity—the Bible says we are “created in the image of God”.  Everything beyond the earth we stand upon with the fruits it yields is the product of cooperative human effort directed toward a goal.  May we find the wisdom to choose worthy goals.