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Archive for the ‘Morals’ Category

What if these walls could talk…

Oh miss Elphaba, the things one hears these days. Dreadful things!
 I’ve heard of an ox a professor from Crox no longer permitted to teach who has lost all powers of speech.
And an owl in Munchkin loch a vicar with a thriving flock forbidden to preach how he only can screech.
Only rumours but still enough to get pause from anyone with paws something bad is happening is oz
Something bad happening in Oz
Under the surface, behind the scenes something bad…

…Nothing all that bad
 Nothing truly bad;… It couldn’t happen here in Oz…

The dialogue above is from the musical Wicked, and I could not help but recall these lyrics as I walked the streets of Vienna earlier today.

You see, the area in the city where our student facility is located is the former Jewish section of town.   The bronze memorial plates shown above are in the pavement on the sidewalk just a few feet from the front of our student’s building.  In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, an estimated 65,000 Jews were deported from Vienna to concentrations camps around Europe.   Only 2,000 survived.   Another 800 managed to hide out in the city and were spared from torture or death.   Our students visit a concentration camp site with the program each year, and it is always a sobering experience, but even moreso this year.   Not only will our students have stood in the actual rooms used as gas chambers, as I experienced over 20 years ago as a student, but they currently call home the same streets and even likely the same building as did many Jewish citizens of Austria.   What if you were taken from your home and separated from your family?

Moreso, what would you do if you were a non Jewish citizen of Vienna at the time?   What would you do if you were a non Jewish citizen of Dachau in Germany, or Mauthausen in Austria, or Auschwitz in Poland?   Some protested or helped, at great personal risk or cost, but many turned a blind eye.

As Bernhard reminded me on the plane the other night, it is easier to be a good man when times are good, but hard to not be a bad man when times are bad.   What would you have done?   What would I have done?    What should I be doing now to not promote, or ignore, things that just should not be?   We live in a time of increasing greed, jealousy, and intolerance for human beings.   Maybe it is just part of the cycle of life and society, and a continuation of the hatred spawned by Cain toward his brother Able and the confusion of different tongues spawned at the Tower of Babel.

Regardless, as I sit here tonight, in this building on Gruentorgasse, I can almost hear the ghosts of that time calling out.   It’s something we should not forget.   The residents of this neighborhood in Vienna are doing their best not to, as well.   There is a memorial under glass in the sidewalk about two blocks from this location, and it contains keys taken from residents and shop owners as they were arrested and deported, and the names of their former owners.    Each of these is a stark reminder of the power of hate, and the duty of love.

And may we never sit silent and assume that all is well, when…

Something bad happening in Oz
Under the surface, behind the scenes something bad…

…Nothing all that bad
 Nothing truly bad;… It couldn’t happen here in Oz…

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Veggie Tales used to be a staple in the video cabinet in 1999 and the few years following.      Stacks of VHS tapes, lots of rewinding, and hours of laughter from the kids with no fear from the parents about “what they might hear”.    The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything was a personal favorite of mine.     Mr Lunt’s famous objection: “Hey!   We are supposed to sing about Piratey things” will always be a favorite line.

OK.   Here goes:

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
‘we gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
I’m east bound just watch ol’Bandit run

Keep your foot hard on the peddle…son, never mind them brakes
let it all hang out cause we’ve got a run to make….

 There’s no movie quite as “piratey” as Smokey and the Bandit, that classic CB Radio/Truck Driver/55 miles per hour is bunk tale from the late 1970’s.   

Fastforward to 2011.       Two of the remaining three same kids from 1999 turned 14 this week.    As 80% of the familial unit sat down to watch a movie last night, we noticed that the aforementioned 70’s genre tale was now available as a “new release” on Netflix, and we gave it a shot.

It wasn’t quite as entertaining at the age of 44 and counting as it was at 12 or 13, I must admit.      We didn’t have Netflix via the Wii, DVD players, or even VHS back in 19noneofyourbusiness, but we did have the ABC Saturday Night Movie, which was a staple all its own in the era of 3 or 4 VHF channels, and 1 or 2 UHF channels, if you had that little round antenna.     If you are so young that none of that makes any sense to you, buy me a $4 cup of coffee sometime soon and I’ll explain it to you more fully.    What I can’t do, today, is explain to myself how to program my own plasma TV, but I digress.    Maybe we can meet sometime and trade some intergenerational information?

One of the biggest disappointments of the night was all the “cussin’ “.    It seems that our friends at the ABC Television Network of old, ala the late 70’s and early 80’s, had the good sense to do some censorship of the dialogue.    Truth be told, a lot of censorship.      Maybe that’s why it was so much more entertaining back in the day : every other word wasn’t $%*&^.

So, is there a life analogy to all of this Saturday morning frivolity?    A few worth sharing, actually:

1) Watch yer’ mouth,

2) Watch yer’ speed, and

3) every once in a while, you need to have a little Pirate spirit to get where you need to be…

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
‘we gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
I’m east bound just watch ol’Bandit run

Keep your foot hard on the peddle…son, never mind them brakes
let it all hang out cause we’ve got a run to make….

10-4, Good Buddy?

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Jack Sparrow, Captain Jack Sparrow, was an enigma: enemy, friend, pirate, hero, hedonist. He had no moral compass, and the magical compass he did carry was broken; or was it? The compass was unusual, in that it did not point due north, but rather pointed to the thing the holder wanted most at that moment.

The scene in the third “Pirates” movie of Jack in Davy Jones’ locker, which I interpret as a twisted take on the mythical purgatory, is telling of his character. He sees his life in several frames, simultaneously, mostly as deck hands, midshipmen, trying to perform their duties and appease their crazed, selfish, misguided captain. Jack was a terrible midshipman, and unworthy to bear the title reserved for hard working, God fearing, and dedicated men of the sea.

Where does our compass point toward? Is it broken, or pointing randomly toward those things our heart desires the most? What is the thing our heart truly desires? Buried treasure? Mythical islands? Perhaps the “fountain of youth” (eternal life).

What is our “treasure” here on earth? Health? Wealth? Somewhat mythical “quality time” spent on our own personal hobbies and pursuits?
 
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. (Matt. 6:19-20)

As reflected in the last picture, I have a myriad of “treasure trinkets” scattered around my office at the university. As mentioned earlier in this space, a co-worker calls me a “collector”. Touché. Many of the things in my office are from days gone by. Trinkets from my younger years, and many items from my departed grandparents, one of whom I never really knew. Books, photos, furniture; they all take a progressively growing share of my office, and of my mind.

So, are these my treasures? I hope not. Or, do they simply represent memories of my treasure? Good times past, family, friends, experiences, and places. And yet, the world has “pirated” much of this away from me. Moth, rust, vacillating stock markets, passage of time, aging, deteriorating health, disease, death: these are the things taking their toll.

So what is the true treasure I seek? The thing my compass should always point toward? If it is people, many of them already gone to their eternal reward, then my treasure does lie in Heaven. However, these brave souls were simply fellow midshipman with me, struggling and serving each day for a great and glorious captain.

Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Ahoy, then. Let us trim our sails and follow our true compass north. No pirate’s life for me.

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