Archives For Culture

Alright everybody, gather round. Something monumental has come to my attention – and I can’t wait to share – but I thought I’d take a few moments to address some of your concerns and frustrations. I’m seeing a lot of long faces.

First. Yes, there are some unbelievable jackasses out there and they are indeed monopolizing the news. Who are these lugnuts who think that their miserable behavior is no problemo. Were they raised by pre-Neanderthal apes? No “pass the potatoes please” at their family gatherings – it was grab the scrawny monkey and violently pull it apart like a wishbone.

Second. Yes, we are all sinners but there are gradations of sin. I have at times been lost in a dark wood but I didn’t get too far off the beaten path – thankfully, mercifully. But the aforementioned jerks (producers, actors, directors, politicians, businessmen, teachers, insert favorite occupation) somehow left county lines and beelined to Dante’s ninth circle all the while dipping their toes in the other eight ones.

Third. Civil discourse has somehow decided to hang out with Big Foot and Yeti. Good luck finding it anywhere. So we find ourselves in a very sad place of not being able to discuss problems and solutions without shouting and condescension. In today’s world, that is not good.

So. Where have all the heroes gone to show us the Way?

Let me answer by sharing a life moment. I was talking with a dear friend about my upcoming surgery – nothing ominous – and she suggested that I send a prayer request to her favorite religious Sisters for a safe and successful surgery (see link below for the Norbertine Sisters).

Key point number one. I’ve never done that in my life, ever. There are great Catholics out there like my friend that do that kind of thing (as well as regularly attend Mass, fast, confess, etc.), but I’m not one of them. I hope to do better, it’s a constant battle.

Now key point number two. I love God, I talk to Him every day, and it might take me twenty years to figure out all this Catholic stuff (I converted in 2001 from atheism). So, writing the Sisters wasn’t a terrible idea – just a bit outside of my comfort zone however. But I decided to soldier on and emailed Mother Mary Augustine.

I will say that my surgery prayer was only a small part of my email. I requested what I would characterize as team effort “shoot for the moon” prayer for two people I love and since this was all new to me, I did not know what to expect in reply, if anything. To my surprise, in a matter of a few short days Mother responded. And her response was magnificent on so many levels.

Mother’s email was of course prayerful, but also warm, thoughtful, personal, humble, and edifying. But her comment that prayer is the heart of their life as Norbertine canonesses and they intercede for the needs of the world helped me understand why God loves us. The Sisters exemplify humanity at its best – loving, selfless, communal, serving, tireless, industrious. Combine that with a life dedicated to God’s honor and glory and the saving of souls and you have the Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph. Saints-in-training would not be a hyperbolic declaration.

It’s disconcerting that headlines of immorality, pettiness, and selfishness bombard our senses. We almost don’t know which way is up. That is the nature of so much of the world. But knowing the Sisters are out there in the hills of Tehachapi doing what they do fills me with peace, gratitude and hope. I’m rebalanced.

Maybe you should reach out to them. Zero downside by the way – infinite upside.

Lastly, the Sisters have a gift shop (perfect for Christmas) as well as a building fund for their future chapel. They would love your support. Please click on http://norbertinesisters.org.

A non Christian asked me unabashedly about Christianity in this way: “What’s in it for me?” In effect he said, how will my world get materially better? Or from a cost benefit analysis, exactly what benefits can I expect? Or how much am I going to lose because it may not be worth it.

Considering the state of our world where selfishness ruthlessly competes for star billing and where the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are relegated to minor roles, his question was reasonable. Doesn’t society teach us that to understand someone we must first discern their agenda? Their self-interest? In the business world, that certainly was an objective of mine when negotiating with someone. And such a mindset is practical, astute, responsible and unfortunately, light years from altruism, the unselfish regard for the welfare of others.

Can you therefore fault someone who’s looking out for himself? His life’s journey might be scarred by countless examples of people putting his interests last. Nonetheless, what we all have to be mindful of is the cynicism that may result from always getting the short straw, (“You can’t be serious. Again!?”), or even occasionally getting a raw deal.

Life isn’t fair! The decision to pivot to the dark side and always subordinate the interests of others to our desires is a devastatingly bad move.

Self interest unchecked is a diabolical false god that turns people away from a relationship with the Holy Trinity. One’s focus becomes inward and away from the Source of all that is. Selfishness, greed, egocentrism and superficiality become the bastard children of this romance with self.

So, the question. “What’s in it for me?”

I wrote a fable titled The Mountaintop – Suffering, Seeking and Finding God. My experience inspired it. And I believe it encapsulates the essence of a Christian life and the rewards for following Christ. It’s my latest contribution to Catholic Stand. It’s here. For those of you who may have been reading my blog in October of last year, you may recognize it. However, I wanted to share it with new readers.

The Heroes Among Us

February 6, 2013 — 2 Comments

reedThursday.

Great Mexican food, three darling little girls crawling over me like I was their favorite uncle, Chuck’s beautiful wife pulling out the stops to make me feel welcome–the unexpected benefits of being the new guy in the squadron. It was a memorable family night and I loved being included. I also wondered whether I would ever be so fortunate to find such happiness.

Chuck was Capt. Charles G. Reed and he and I were going to take two Harriers on a cross-country trip over the weekend. Standard fare, we’d log some instrument time, maybe play a bit over the desert–aerial combat maneuvering–and since we didn’t have to pay for gas, there was absolutely no downside.

Friday.

Chuck and I left Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, mid-afternoon. Destination? Miramar Naval Air Station Officer’s Club—the best Happy Hour on the planet. Beautiful San Diego. My request, by the way. Tom Cruise would eventually memorialize a typical Friday night in Top Gun. He got it mostly right but I never remember singing anything—too busy whispering ridiculous nothings to the famously abundant ladies. It was a target rich environment in the vernacular of fighter pilots.

Since we were going to depart Saturday morning for Las Vegas and then Seattle, we respectfully declined to drink to excess and just enjoyed ourselves as Marine pilots always do among a sea of star-struck Navy jocks.

Saturday.

We stopped at Nellis AFB in Nevada for gas and then headed for the environs of Seattle. Chuck had been a football player at the University of Washington and wanted to attend some big game. I had other designs. I had met a girl on an earlier trip and well, I was a heterosexual in my prime and my Cro-Magnon self had not yet succumbed to the mercy and love of our Lord.

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We’re fairly close to Oscars time (February 24) and once again the culture takes center stage. After the latest horrendous killing of 26 precious beings, is it fair to ask if Hollywood is complicit in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings?

The OscarsI wouldn’t make that specific connection but clearly, violence in our culture is having a negative impact on the impressionable and unstable.

I have some experience with the entertainment industry. I spent a couple of years learning the craft of screenwriting and practicing the art but unfortunately, I never made a dime.

I gave up eventually and headed back to the financial thunderdome. But I never stopped writing screenplays. Let me explain.

I’ve sent my script The End of Man to a few intermediaries who’ve said they’d do their best to get it on the desks of entertainment executives. I have a feeling that no one has read it. Perhaps worse, they’ve all read it and hate it. No, I doubt that. I know it has potential. But it appears that the new tuxedo I was going to wear for this year’s Oscars will have to continue to collect dust. I was certain that someone would have invited me as an up and coming talent. So what if I’m old. Oh well, not to be. Shame.

If only I had a chance to rock the world with an acceptance speech. What would I say? Well, culture has certainly been on my mind…

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The Walk for Life is this weekend in San Francisco. In thinking about the holocaust of babies, I came across a picture of four doctors posing together at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival; Doctors LeRoy Carhart, Warren Hern, Susan Robinson and Shelley Sella.

unbornThree out of the four seem to be having a nice time. They were the subjects of the documentary After Tiller. (Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider, was murdered in 2009.) The doctors were most likely standing on a red carpet, a place of honor. Dubious distinction I would suggest.

They are the only four physicians in the U.S. who perform third-trimester abortions.

Please take a moment and look at the faces in the picture. If you’re like me, a flood of thoughts and emotions will pour over mind and body. Clearly, they are dedicated. They know the personal risks. Is care or even love for their pregnant patient their overriding concern? Or something else? I don’t know these people but I would like to—so that we could talk. Individually would be best. I would listen with as much compassion as I could muster then I’d pray that the Holy Spirit guide me. So that I could convince them to stop.

Dr. Robinson, who worked with Dr. Tiller, said, “We learned at his knee. Kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect are the hallmarks of a good doctor-patient relationship.”

The irony of that statement doesn’t need my amplification.

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At the outset, foryourmarriage.org is an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The website discusses dating, marriage, parenting and much more. The dating information, in particular, reminds me of how misguided my romantic modus operandi used to be. Need evidence? Think of the following as a Public Service Announcement on the folly of superficial romance.

DatingValentine’s Day will be here in a few weeks so I should probably start planning my annual no-date. It will take six seconds. Since I’m not taking myself to dinner or giving myself expensive gifts or writing myself a poem to be memorialized in the Cupidic hall of fame, not much to do.

You see, at the present time I’m flying solo. Apparently, I’ve been given some cooling off time in the romantic fridge. It also seems that I’m living in a figurative desert. Since I’m not being rained upon by romantic possibilities, an umbrella is the last thing I need. God, is all this your doing? Was I really that bad at love? Can I assume this respite won’t last forty years?

Where do I begin?

I’ve loved six women in my life (fortunately, it wasn’t at the same time). Ultimately, I was not the man they wanted me to be so we quietly parted ways. My life was privileged having known them but I was too stupid to know it.

Any one of them would have been a great wife and mother (although I will say that religion was rarely part of the conversation since I was an atheist). They were smart, giving, beautiful and fun. Some of the relationships lasted a short time but one lasted for more than a decade. Nevertheless, when the time came to commit, I couldn’t do it.

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What If

January 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

I did a bit of verbal riffing today?

ponderingGetting closer to God is one of my preoccupations––building a relationship wherein I’m strengthened by Him to meet the myriad trials of the day.

Of course, embracing all aspects of love is preeminent to closeness because without love in one’s life, we distance ourselves from God. It’s tantamount to watching a flower drift away with the ebb tide.

When it comes to friendship with God, something else besides love comes to mind. He has given us the gift of creation––most properly, man and woman lovingly united in marriage becoming one flesh to create new life––so that we are grafted to Him and joyfully participate in His plan and the world.

However, there is another facet of creation that I find fascinating. The creative process. As a writer, it’s plain fun to ponder the deep questions of man as well as the trivial. You never know where the exploration will take you. Moreover, the great rewards are those moments when thinking is interrupted––when inspiration takes control and you write something better than good. And you know those special words aren’t yours but that they came from somewhere else. The Gospel writers could shed some spectacular insight on this very subject.

So where am I going with today’s post? Today I feel like thinking. Let’s wander through the cracks and crevasses of my brain and see what’s written on the walls.

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Or, 50 Ways To Kill Your Baby – The Sequel. The following screenshot from this morning deserves a comment or two. It’s a very important issue.

Embryonic stem cell headlines

I decided to read a few of these links, and others, to see how this news was reported. My comments are in red.

From CNN – “The field of embryonic stem cell research has been highly controversial, because in most cases, the research process involves destroying the embryo, typically four or five days old, after removing stem cells. These cells are blank and can become any cell in the body. Because of the destruction of embryos, most opponents believe this is a moral issue. Supporters of the research point to the potential for saving lives.” [Seems reasonable. We can save lives and the destroyed embryos are only four or five days old. How can this be a moral issue? Just a microscopic mini-hunk of tissue at risk. Right? Maybe not.]

From NBC – “Embryonic stem cells have been the focus of fierce debate since the mid-1990s. Many scientists see them as a watershed in the treatment of serious ailments because they have the potential to grow into any of the body’s cell types, promising the eventual generation of replacement nerve lines and vital organs, including the brain and the heart.

“But anti-abortion activists vigorously oppose the research because the cells come from human embryos and days-old human fetuses, which they contend [my emphasis] are fully human. Many of them want to limit research to stem cells derived from adult tissue, which most researchers contend have less potential to transform into other types of cells.” [Contending that these cells are fully human is a bold statement from the anti-abortion activists. And contending that adult stem cells have less potential? I would have expected the reporter to dig into these two points a bit. If we get this wrong, aren’t we talking about the murder of humans?––not potential humans but humans with potential.]

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