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Archive for the ‘hedonism’ Category

“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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Cigarette, gambling and alcohol stocks up in down market
 
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS   
Published: August 22, 2010

BOSTON — So much for virtue.   Sin is in.

That’s according to a mutual fund manager who’s finding investment opportunities in companies profiting from vices like smoking, drinking and gambling. Jeff Middleswart’s aptly named Vice Fund is beating the house in a down market.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down 1.9 percent this year. Yet stocks of cigarette makers are up an average 12 percent…
….Defense contractors — another fund mainstay — are up an average 12 percent. Alcoholic beverages? Up 6 percent.

As discussed in this space a few days ago, a friend from high school updated his Facebook status for religious beliefs to list hedonism.     This has had me thinking on the topic at many levels for the past few days and the issues accompany such a life choice.

Hedonism is defined as the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good, a devotion to pleasure as a way of life: The later Roman emperors were notorious for their hedonism.   Synonyms: sensualism, libertinism, debauchery, dissipation, carousal.   

Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us: It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  

The fleeting pleasures.    That’s just it.    No argument that the world and even sin is alluring.   Just ask Eve about that piece of fruit.   The depth of the canyon draws us in.     But it’s fleeting: there is no lasting “high” that does not need to be replicated.    This life is not the ultimate and complete experience.    We all live, and we all die, but the end is not goodbye.    

Solomon had a lot to say about this topic following his later years of life and pursuing his passions, pleasures, and riches and power unknown to people like us.

Ecclesiastes 2   (The Futility of Pleasure)

 1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

 4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

 9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

M*A*S*H is an American television series adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH about three army doctors. The series is a medical drama/black comedy that follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. M*A*S*H’s title sequence featured an instrumental version of the song “Suicide Is Painless”.  (wiki)

As I was mulling over this post a few days ago, an episode of M*A*S*H came on TV.   I’d not seen it in years.     There on the screen was Hawkeye Pierce, and principal character, hero, funny guy, and all around hedonist.    No one character probably better lives out the hedonistic persona in my mind than this one.     Caught in the midst of a horrible time and trying circumstances, Hawkeye seeks to avoid pain and seek pleasure in any way possible.    Guilt is not in his vocabulary.   Supporting characters follow some moral tones throughout the seasons of the show, each influencing Hawkeye is some small way, but each being influenced by his lifestyle as well.

In the end, the pain is still there.    Life is still short.   And suicide is not painless.    To quote Hawkeye:  “in war, there are two rules.   Rule number 1: young men die.   Rule number 2: doctors can’t change rule number 1.”

But hope does not disappoint us.  Romans 5:3-6

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

M*A*S*H can be an entertaining show.    Just realize that the characters are not “saints in surgical garb”, and that there’s more to life than pleasure.

There’s also more to life than the “American Way”.     More to follow…

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Tourist Grand Canyon Fall Near Mather Point
Published: Aug 7, 2010

While taking photos of the Grand Canyon, a tourist slips and survives a 75-foot fall.

Tourist Grand Canyon fall news update. A tourist visiting the Grand Canyon slips and survives a 75 foot fall near Mather Point. The Grand Canyon is a large place, but the tourist is very lucky to survive such a fall.

It was a French teen who was taking pictures at the Grand Canyon. The 18-year-old tourist was injured Thursday when he slipped and fell 75 feet below the south rim around scenic Mather Point. Park rangers spotted the conscious man and rescued him.

The unidentified tourist was airlifted out of the canyon and transported to Flagstaff Medical Center. He’s being treated for a variety of non-life threatening injuries. A park service spokesman says the incident is a good reminder for tourists to stay on paved trails while visiting the area.

Grand Canyon Park officials say the man is stabilized. Information about the French teen has not been released. However, he was treated for wrist, ankle and neck injuries.   (web-based published report)

If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, you realize what an amazing sight and experience it can be.    At first, your first reaction is “no way”.    How is anything that deep, wide, and amazing?     Upon staring into it further over time, you begin to be taken in.  The air is still, and there is an indescribable silence in the space before you.  The sensation is as if you are staring into a larger than life full color mural.    It can’t really be that deep.   At two different particularly deep spots, my son Alec wanted to throw large rocks over the side and hear the sound of them hit the bottom and echo against the sides of the canyon.   In the first area he threw into, we got a sound and an echo after about 10 to 15 seconds.     In the second area, there was no audible sound for us of the rock hitting the bottom.    On more than one occasion, while being absorbed in the moment, I actually found myself getting uncomfortably close to the edge, and that’s how people get hurt. 

Heroes fall when carelessly skirting the canyon ledge.

So where’s the application for us?   For me?   Maintain your focus.   Don’t be fooled by false horizons.     Keep your head up and looking toward God.    The depth of the canyon is awesome, and you wonder intently what it is like at the bottom.    What richness of color and mystery it presents.   Beware, the slope is slippery near the edge, and the abyss is deep.     Very few survive to recover from their falls into such depths.

Heroes fall when carelessly skirting the canyon ledge.    On more than one occasion, while being absorbed in the moment, I actually found myself getting uncomfortably close to the edge, and that’s how people get hurt.     I’m not talking about the Grand Canyon, in this instance.    I’m talking about life, fascination with the world and all it has to draw us close and captivate our minds and hearts.     God calls it sin, and it comes with a cost: spiritual, mental, emotional, and social “wrist, ankle, and neck injuries”, even potentially more severe life altering injuries, and ultimately, death.

In prior writings in this arena, I’ve briefly touched on vices.    I don’t believe I have many behaviors that would be called “vices”, per se.    That’s not to say I don’t have plenty of struggles, temptations, hurts, etc in life, but not patterns of risky or potentially damaging behavior; things that even the world brands as “sin”.         

I have had an attraction for years, probably 25 or so, to the TV show “Saturday Night Live”.    I don’t watch it often.     Sometimes funny, often times not, and always irreverent; on occasion, however, it crosses a strong line and my immediate urge is to turn it off quickly.    Slip, fall, bruise; or is the mental/spiritual injury worse?    I’ve seen some things on the show I would categorize as abhorrent that have been burned into my memory, likely never to fade away.    Some I found funny, many I did not.  My wife’s urge to turn it off usually is 30 seconds before it ever starts, basically when she sees me turn the TV to NBC at 10:28 Saturday night.   Smart woman.

Some will believe I am overstating the issue here and the potential damage from “walking close to the edge” and the related slips and falls.    Maybe I am, maybe I am not.     My point, however, is that where our mind goes often could take us farther down the path, deeper into the canyon of love for the world.      Even if you don’t fall hard off the edge of the canyon rim and hurt yourself, a slow methodical progression down into the canyon can be equally dangerous and damaging.     Fatigue, dehydration, blisters, turned ankles, snake bites, lack of food.     Ultimately, if you choose to turn around and go back up, you have a significant amount of work ahead of you: an uphill climb, facing some of the same challenges and risks, or more, that you encountered on the way down.

Some might choose to stay deep within the canyon, forever probing its depth and apparent beauty.    In the blogging and social media world, people share at different levels, each making a statement of some weight and each sharing varying levels of depth in their life.     I had a friend from high school that sought me out via Facebook a year or so ago, and I occasionally see updates from this person, although they are few and far between.    Very recently, this person’s status on the “news feed” said they had changed their religious view.     Interested, I immediately went to their wall to see the difference, excited by the potential.      The religious view listed was “hedonism”; living a life of pleasure.      Solomon pursued such a path for a portion of his life, and ultimately had much to say about it.      This topic is worthy of its own separate future discussion, now that it’s been introduced.

Back to the analogy of this post:  physically, canyons are stark, barren, and unforgiving places.      Exposure to harsh elements, predators, absence from food and water, absence from shelter and the security of being around others.    Spiritual canyons can be the same: exposure to harsh elements, predators, etc, …and absence from and a great distance back to, God, who was and is and is to come.     He is the creator of the beauty we see in the Grand Canyon, the painter of the mural, if you will.    He also created all that surrounds the canvas of our life; the colors we paint with and the mediums we choose to work in.    But we are free moral agents, just like Adam and Eve, and sometimes our decisions hurt us, even injuring to the point of death.

So, closing with the hero analogy.    Let’s all be heroes to those around us.    Let’s enjoy the beauty, mystery, and majesty life has to offer.    But let’s be leaders, to our friends, our family, and others.     Let’s stay a safe distance from the canyon ledge, avoiding some places altogether, and keep those we are leading safely out of harm’s way.    Let’s be heroes; heroes who prevail without a great fall.

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