Monthly Archives: December 2019

Christmas Thoughts

This blog is written from the perspective of a Christian, with no intended slight to my friends and readers of other faiths.

It’s highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, we have no evidence as to what His birthday might be. Early Christians were not historians and shared their thoughts to convey the theological message rather than to chronicle events as journalists. Many, if not most, early Christians expected Jesus to return during their lifetime, so they saw little reason to record an accurate history.

It’s only fair that we don’t know Jesus exact birthday. Those who came before His birth didn’t know when He would come, so it puts all of us in the same boat.

Did Christians co-opt a midwinter pagan festival? Probably. I think it was an early form of ecumenism. The word gospel means “Good News,” and shutting down peoples’ holidays would not be perceived as good news. Instead, additional content was added to the existing event.

So in that same spirit, enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday you can find between now and New Years.

Oh, and here’s another interesting fact about Christmas. Many people take offense at it being referred to as Xmas and see it as removing Christ from Christmas. Actually the X is not an X. It is the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos–Christ.

Christos

Christos

 

The Quirky Brain

Courtesy US Army

The human brain is a wonderful creation, able to provide understanding, to critically evaluate ideas in order to separate fact from fiction, and even convey emotions. It does, however, have its flaws.

Our brains try to make order out of  chaos, but in the process often make chaos into–well–other chaos. A few examples:

  • People complain about how a lost item is always in the last place they look. Naturally this is true; when one finds what they were looking for, they stop looking.
  • When an overwhelming tragedy occurs, we try to find a reason. If we cannot find one, we make one up. It makes no sense that President John F. Kennedy was killed by one wacko acting alone. There MUST be a better reason–a conspiracy that is being covered up. This is a more satisfying answer, even if not necessarily true.
  • We prefer to hear people propose simple answers to every problem, even incredibly complex ones. If the solution begins with, “All you have to do is just . . . .” it must be a good solution.

 

When in Doubt–History

I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:

  1. History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
  2. Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!

So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently,  as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.

The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.

  • Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
  • The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
  • There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.

Politics As Usual

I actually do try not to pick sides as the brouhaha in Washington, DC continues.

Remember that very old riddle?

Q: How can you tell when politicians are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.

I’m old enough to have watched (and, believe it or not, still remember) the Watergate hearings. That was when Earl Landgrebe (R, Indiana) said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”

Try to imagine the members of Congress as scientists debating a mathematical theorem.

“2 + 2 = 5, and don’t try to convince me otherwise!”

“No, it’s 6 and your mother wears combat boots!”*

Never mind, it takes more imagination than I can muster.

 

* Actually, not at all unusual these days–Ladies, thank you for your service.

Real-Life Rey

With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.

We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.

What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .

There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.

However, thank God, we have at least one.

Greta Thunberg on Twitter: "“Now I Am Speaking to the ...

 

Christmas Parade

Parades are fun.

There are parades for many reasons–patriotic, historical, or, just for the hell of it. In New Orleans, if there is nothing special about a particular day, that alone is a reason for a parade, party, and—well, you know.

Cheyenne, Wyoming has four parades during the week of “Frontier Days”. The parade route zig zags through its downtown. With horse-drawn wagons, horse drawn floats, and horses with riders, the zigs and zags are on purpose; when a horse gets spooked, it tends to run in the direction it’s facing without turning. The zigs and zags are to provide a place for horses to go without anyone getting in the way and being hurt.

Christmas, of course, is a great time for parades. Every city, town, and village seems to have its own take how parades should be conducted. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Santa’s sleigh was drawn by eight giant (not tiny) crawfish–not crayfish, not crawdads, but crawfish (and them’s good eatin’).

Where I live now, the Christmas parade is an event, and the tradition is for people to stake out their preferred locations. To most people, this means showing up early and grabbing your spot. Here, however, people set up their chairs (often complete with stuffed teddy bears)—not on the day before the parade. Some claim their spots a week before the parade. The hard core stake their claim two weeks before the parade, complete with bent coat hangers to anchor the chairs and zip ties to keep the stuffed toys in place.

The best part is that everyone loves it. No one takes offense.

It’s kind of magic.

I like that.

 

Social Media

I apologize for not responding to friend requests for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I like sharing ideas, but the blog is a forum I can (somewhat, allegedly) control. If someone leaves a comment, I do not sell or share anyone’s information with anyone else.

Other social media platforms? Not so much.

So why do I not reply?

Okay. Let me explain. (I tried to do this as a knock-knock joke, but failed).

Q: “What’s the difference between a colonoscopy and Facebook?”

A: “Both involve more information than you would ever share, but your colonoscopy is protected by HIPAA privacy protection; Facebook will share anything with anybody,” n’est-ce pas?

Life Support

Generally, I try to blog about things that are interesting and–as far as I can tell–either based on facts OR obviously fictitious for entertainment value. This does not mean that I attempt to remain ignorant about other issues such as race, sex, politics, etc. I just try to keep my nonfactual opinions on such issues to myself.

I read a great deal, although less than I would like due to time constraints. I enjoy some science fiction, which is really philosophy with space ships and aliens. I enjoy biographies of important historical people because it gives me hope when I see that great men and women were imperfect yet achieved great things.*

I read a lot of technical material because no one rises in righteous indignation to protest Ohms law. Electricity performs in a given way—change one of the variables and the result changes predictably. I like facts. Opinions and commentary, spin and gas-lighting are not facts, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Recently, I read a post by Erik Lind on Quora.com that posited, “The Internet is like life support for propaganda. . . ”

It made me think.

 

*Stan Lee used this model in 1962 when he wrote the story of nerdy, neurotic, unpopular Peter Parker being transformed into Spiderman. Peter’s first use of his new power was to attempt to make money, which inadvertently resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben.