Sunday the 3rd: Prodigal

Posted on September 22, 2014. Filed under: Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

That is a word with a straight-forward meaningextravagant, wasteful, wayward, off course, and a whole bunch of similar descriptors.  The word itself can be viewed as a clinical description of the very human tendency to relax when things are going one’s way; its consequences are loss of adherence to guiding principles, inattention to asset conservation, even the failure to plan for the future.

Except for a single story in the Christian Bible…   more accurately, except for the editors’ use of the word in its titling of that story…   the word “prodigal” would probably be little used in Western languages.  Thanks to the wide exposure of Westerners to biblical teachings, “prodigal” became synonymous with sinful, degenerate wastrel.

It is a parable attributed to the Christ* which relates an incident in the life of a father and his two sons.  The father had property, which — eventually — would be divided between those two sons.  One son, younger and living in his older brother’s shadow, was impatient to enjoy the goodness of life without having to actually work toward it.  Brashly, he asked his father to give him his inheritance NOW — happy hour was calling his name, and he didn’t want to be late.  The father, reluctantly, gave in.

The father gave, the son received, and the treasure-laden party boy said “adios…”  or, something such.

Freed from the drudgery inherent in making a living, the son had all the time he craved to enjoy life’s little pleasures.  When it came to showing concern over funds availability, he opted for Alfred E. Newman’s**  motto:  “What?  Me worry?”  Facing the obvious was way too much work in itself; denial became his daily mantra.  Though the sun shines brightly today, it will eventually set and leave the world in darkness.  (That was just a lame metaphor for “the kid eventually ran out of money and got booted out of the saloon.)

Experiencing today’s equivalent of the drunk tank or a city gutter, our party boy woke up in a pig sty and found himself (bummer) living off the land.  He once again realized he was not cut out for menial labor…   you know, the mechanics of feeding oneself.   He thought of his former life at home with Dad and family, and longed for the relative ease of just being a hired hand.  In retrospect, he had actually had a pretty good existence back then, and it would be good to get a little of that back — but, it’s hard to re-cross a bridge you burned so thoroughly.  Besides, if he did go home, he would have to crawl back in the deepest of humiliation…

But…   what the heck…   humiliation was his new life-style anyway.  Maybe the family would be happy to see a long-gone sibling and welcome him back — or, at least — allow him back.  Anything would be better than this sad existence.

The point of this story is not the hit-bottom-enlightenment of a degenerate wastrel, but, rather, the love a father has for his children in spite of the very questionable life choices they may make.  Thus, the hung-over party boy looking for a free pass to his father’s stable got more than he ever thought he would get:  instead of a barrage of I-told-you-so and years of black-sheep-of-the-family references, he was welcomed with outstretched arms, kisses, a feast, and restoration into his father’s home.  Well…   yeah…   his stay-at-home and dutiful brother thought it was a bit much and sulked that the ingrate bro was being treated like he never did what he did; but, Dad quashed that sort of talk.  The kid was back, like it or not!

The not so hidden meaning is that God, the Father, has a soft spot for all of his children and is well aware of the tedium, pain and futility inherent in maintaining human existence.  So great is His love that he not only forgives and forgets human ingratitude, no matter how flagrant, but, will also restore the penitent one to the heavenly throng.

By way of an editor’s annotation, sinful, aimless, degenerate wastrel has become the default meaning of prodigal.  Truth is, you do not have to be a moral degenerate to be prodigal.

“Wayward” and “extravagant” may be closer to the essence of its meaning — extravagant, not only by expenditure, but, also through neglect and inattention; wayward, not by adopting a counter life-style, but by yielding imperceptibly to the exigencies of Life that demand our attention daily.  In our modern societies, all work and no play also fits that prodigal slipper.

Unnoticed, much that we hold dear slips away.  Bit by bit things become obscured or made inaccessible by the veil of Time.  Events, faces, voices, and names that begin to elude us are not always  just slips of memory; in reality, they may be little pieces of who we are, or, at least, who we were.

Time, in spite of our resistance, WILL take from us — that is the price of existing.  Often, though, we ourselves give Time a helping hand simply by being too busy to look up from our work and appreciate the blessings that Life has given us.  Our losses, if enough time has passed, will include those persons instrumental in laying the foundations of our life philosophies.  Belated assessment of one’s life often reveals the irretrievable loss of mentors and friends who were key to our personal development.

“Irretrievable” means gone forever.  One who does not maintain the fellowship of kindred spirits — for whatever reasons — will bear the weight of life’s mortality when finally taking the time to look around.

 

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*the Christ = The Anointed (Christian faith)

** Alfred E. Newman = idiotic-looking icon of the vintage publication Mad Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday the 1st: Whither thou goest…

Posted on August 10, 2014. Filed under: Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As a teen in the Christian church of my Mother, I learned many scriptures.  Then, and still today, I find much of the King James’ Version of the Holy Bible difficult to read or even to understand.  There is much seeming redundancy in the writings and, after so many centuries, different meanings to words used.  I could refer you to my postings on the word “passion” for illustration.  In that environment, I memorized many passages on my own that, to me, where so eloquent they literally sang to my deepest soul.

Many of those KJV passages have an impact unmatched in other sources.  I have always been more attracted to the human saga recounted in its various books than the historical and political accounts.  The former speak to the soul in shades of sorrow, love, commitment, hope and of the staggering wonder of the Universe.  Two that come quickly to my mind are:

  • Psalms 139 (the whole thing)  “Oh Lord, thou hast searched me and known me…”
  • First Corinthians 13 (the whole thing)  “Love is longsuffering, kind…”

On the stage of human drama, there is far and away only one account that, though simply a collection of words, flows like liquid music from the page, and settles like the gentlest of breezes over the heart and soul of the reader or listener.  Even as a teen, reading it choked me up.  To me, this is the most beautiful passage about the human condition in the entire Bible, but only in the King James’ Version:

Leaving a land of misfortune and personal disaster, a young woman chased after her equally distraught mother-in-law, who had urged her to return to her native home, and begged to be allowed to stay with her:

  • Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee:  for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge:  thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:  where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried:  the Lord do to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.  (KJV, The Book of Ruth)

I still get choked up reading that.

 

 

 

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Arrogance: A Very Human Trait

Posted on February 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, language, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • arrogance = knowledge of one’s superior status
  • expert = a recognized or self-proclaimed know-it-all in a given field (but you may need to ask, “Which field?”
  • god = a being transcendent beyond humanity (a.k.a., expert)
  • AJ = Average Joe;  Average Jane

Just in case you didn’t notice, I sorta dabbled with those definitions.  Please, do not send hate mail to Wikipedia.

We, humanity in all its past incarnations, created language.  I noted somewhere in these articles  that information sharing (the venerable IT Dept) was the greatest of human* inventions.  Knowing how to make fire and passing that knowledge to others was a far greater achievement than just luckily starting a single friendly fire and using it as a one-time marshmallow toaster.  A spoken language was key to that achievement.

Each human is a mirror of humanity’s achievements.  In today’s societies, certain individuals rise above the general population in specific areas:  mathematicians, musicians, political leaders, legalists, investigators, athletes, teachers, medical practitioners, psychologists, astronomers, cosmologists, physicists…   this list could go on and on and still leave out some area of specialization.

Maybe “starter kit” is more apt than “mirror.”  All of these specialists rise from the general population by simply growing into a specialty according to their personal interests or by imposition of circumstance.  In order for that specialist to be recognized as superior in performance, the general population must also have the capacity to grasp that individual’s achievement, and — if so inclined — emulate that overachiever.  Ergo, there is healer, teacher, mathematician, priest, a beggar, a leader, a competitor ad infinitum in each and every one of us.  Because of that innate human capacity, superior achievements of other individuals are recognized and, often, revered.

There are social hazards associated with the ability — or simply the good fortune — to excel, exemplified by proverbs such as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” ** and terms such as smug, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, god complex, condescending, arrogant…   another list that could go on and on.  This is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, there is the risk of alienating the general populace, that group providing back-light for your stage performances, and of provoking jealously from other overachievers who want to crowd you out of the limelight.  And, yet, a third group that feeds like buzzards on celebrity status, picking at perceived hot spots to enhance its own standing as self-appointed judge…   and, blabber-mouth.  (Hmmmmm!  Now that is very annoying.  Pardon me while I slip out and preen my feathers.)

On the other hand, the euphoric appeal of such elevated states is what drives individuals to exceed their previous bests, often enhancing humanity’s understanding of self and nature.  Those human traits that cause achievers to turn a deaf ear to criticism and their backs to their humble roots may chaff uncomfortably on some individuals (the jealous and the left behind) while simultaneously advancing the human condition.  If there is one thing we know about Nature, it is that individual comfort takes a back seat to the survival of the group.  Yet, paradoxically, it is that quest for personal comfort that propels the group forward.

KISS.**  Cutting through the rhetoric, societies consist of two parts:  experts and laymen.  (Okay!  A third group, also:  critics.  But, they walk the fence between the other two and could land in either camp.)  Many ignore that the two groups are but two manifestations of a single fluid in flux.  The tendency is to view the ambient social status quo as a firmament defining immutable human interaction, so that the extant hierarchy is the once and future way of things.  In Galileo’s time, the experts to be revered were the ruling religionists;  in the time of the Industrial Revolution, innovators were the revered;  in our time, it is the scientists who rule the expert roost.  Each time the fluid stirs, society is panged by fear of change, loss of roots, confusion, and loss of direction.  The individual, truth be known, prefers the comfort of known truths to that of new, untried truths (the devil we know versus the one we don’t…   blah, blah…)

Experts.  Holier than thou.  Smarter than you.  Superior to you.  Entitled to more than you.  Totally disdainful of AJ and AJ.

Aye.  There’s the rub.

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*human.  Actually, this should be hominin.  Humans inherited, then refined all of the achievements made by near-humans.  Had to throw that in for the Science Department.

**The Bible (KJV) Proverbs 16:18

***KISS.  Has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.  Keep It Short and Simple.

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Next up:  Manipulators, puppet masters, trick knees

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Muse to the Rescue

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: General Interest, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Greek mythology.  If you went to high school, you know about all those ancient Greeks and their gods and goddesses.  They had one for everything.  Should something new come up that they had no god/goddess for, just get a couple of them together in a procreative way and, BOOM, you got tailor-made divinity (the Mount Olympus kind, not the candy).

Case in point:  Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory.  Some of the arts needed a little regal backup, so out pops — not one, not two, but — NINE little misses…  uh, muses.  Here, count ’em for yourself:  Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania.  For your own safety, just count them, don’t try to pronounce them.  In order of appearance, their specialties are:  epic poetry, history, love poetry, lyric poetry, tragedy, sacred song, dance, comedy, and astronomy.  Hmmm.  Star gazing is one of the arts?  Maybe Urania was the one disappointment in the litter.  Hey, it can happen in any family.

Quit looking around on those navigation charts, and pay attention here.  You were warned about my lack of navigation skills and a tendency to digress in my first two posts not more than a month ago.  You’ve already booked passage, so suck it up, me bucko!

Situation here is I’ve run aground just short of Inspiration Point, and, I thought maybe one of those divine chicks might put a big boot in my, uh, CPU and get me on course.  Three of those girls are into poetry, one is a dancer, and yet another is a gospel singer;  I’m just not feeling it.  Since I’m stuck in NOW, the history major won’t work, either.  Tragedy?  Now, there you got your big downer, and I’m already at a low point.  Comedy is a frame of mind, and we previously established that I don’t have that…   the frame part.  Star gazing involves all those charts, and, we don’t really want to go there, do we?  0 for 9.  Now what?  A lot more work for SID (i.e., Ship’s Inane Digressor)?

Next:  We will get through this.

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