08 February 2017

Absolom and the Art of the Deal

Politics wasn't much different 3000 years ago during the reign of King David of Israel when he and his son Absolom were quarreling and Absalom needed a political base from which to practice the "Art of the Deal."

Here is a excerpt from what is called "Absolom's Conspiracy, the first six verses of 2 Samuel Chapter 15 that might seem vaguely familiar:

1 "In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him.
2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.”
3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.”
4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”
5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him.
6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel."

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04 February 2017

Your Perspective, Mountain or Molehill?

It is said by the ancient Jewish Rabbis that in the age to come (Athid Labho) God would bring out the "Evil Impulse" (Yetser Hara), and slaughter it before the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous, the Evil One would appear like a great mountain, but to the wicked, the Evil One would look like a small hill. Both would weep. The righteous would weep for joy, that they had been able to subdue so great a mountain and enter Paradise and the wicked would weep for sorrow, that they had not even been able to conquer such a small hill and must enter Hades.

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03 February 2017

Eirenicon

What we need right now is a political "Eirenicon".

Eirenicon - form of the Greek word, "eirēnikós" (from the root "eirḗnē" meaning “peace”).

An Eirenicon is a proposal to resolve disputes and reconcile differences in order to advance peace, strengthen or establish unity, or foster solidarity, usually in a modus vivendi, "a way of living," especially a working arrangement to allow for peaceful coexistence between two parties in spite of differences or unresolved disputes.

This is a great word. Now that I found it, how can I bring it into common usage? Perhaps I could suggest it to congress or form the Eirene Party
(Pronounced ay-REE-nee).

In Greek mythology Eirene is the personification of peace. She was depicted in art as a beautiful young woman carrying a cornucopia, sceptre, and a torch. Her Roman equivalent is Pax.

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31 January 2017

A Sermon for the News

What would Jesus say if He turned on the news today? Probably He would repeat what He has already said to those who have ears to hear at the "Sermon on the Mount". The subject matter of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6) is neither righteousness under the law, or under a new covenant. It is about people belonging to the Kingdom of God and united with their Creator in Spirit. It is about people being children of God in addition to being mere creatures of God. It contains no detailed systematic doctrine, nor any teaching of rituals or forms of outward observances. Christ came to found a Heavenly Kingdom, not a school of thought or a political party. He came to institute a fellowship of love and camaraderie and not to propound a system of government. By grace we are saved through faith and not by our level of education, skin color, gender, ancestry, point of origin, or point of view. Through faith and the inclusion of all human beings we learn humility, tolerance, and the sacrifice of charity that is "brotherly love". Through our faith we receive God's forgiveness and mercy and we become forgiving and merciful. Jesus Christ stands between our present and our future and He opens the Kingdom of Heaven to all sincere believers in God who can be identified not only by what they say but what they do. The Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount are the New Testament counterpart to the Ten Commandments. They represent not the laws written on stone tablets but the realization of the laws as they are written by the Holy Spirit on the human heart. This is the basis of morality and the altruism which is at the heart of all religions.

09 January 2017

A Tidbit for the Political Pot

"Ya gotta be for the people.
If you aren't for the people,
you can't buy the people!"
(Big Boy Caprice - "Dick Tracy", the movie)

"And Virtue, who from Politics
Has learned a thousand cunning tricks,
Was by their happy influence,
Made friends with Vice,
And ever since, the worst of all the multitude
Did something for the common good."
(The Fable of the Bees - Bernard Mandeville)

When an ostrich buries its head in the sand as danger approaches, it very likely takes the happiest course. It hides the danger, and then calmly says there is no danger; and, if it feels perfectly sure there is none, why should it raise its head to see? (Charles S. Pierce)

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30 December 2016

Here we go again!

Every year about this time I choose a theme for a New Year's resolution that I can put a one word label on and just concentrate on that one thing for a whole year until it becomes an ingrained habit. I am pleased to report that this system has worked for me very well. Here is a partial list from years past:

2011 "Ideate" ("to form an idea of", "think of", "imagine", "conceive of","envision", "visualize")

2012 "Update" ("improve", "correct", "renew", "revise", "upgrade", "amend", "overhaul", "modernize", "contemporize")

2013 "Motivate" ("prompt", "drive", "move", "inspire", "stimulate", "influence", "activate", "impel", "push", "propel"

2014 "Ataraxia" ("Tranquility", a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety)

2015 "Contemplate" (Know Thyself, "examine", "inspect", "observe", "survey", "study", "scrutinize")

2016 "Intentionality" ("Intentionality" is the connection between our conscious mind and the object we are thinking about. It is the quality of our thoughts and beliefs that consists in their being directed toward some object or state of affairs. In other words a clear and conscious focus.)

My theme for 2017 is "Altruism", the belief in or practice of selfless concern for the well being of others. It is the charitable and humble giving of oneself to other people in many different ways. Jesus Christ humbling Himself to die on the Cross of Salvation is the ultimate role model.

It is God's will that people who only indulge in selfish pleasure can never truly be happy. There are two reasons:
1.) If you have what you want you no longer have the "want" and as desire fades with the familiarity of possession so does contentment.
2.) A selfish desire not only leads to the satisfaction of the person with the desire but also the dissatisfaction of others.

Egoism is negative, unfulfilling, and ultimately hopeless. We need to find a way to change ourselves into altruists.

When we correct ourselves by discarding egoism and adopting altruism, everything else will be corrected, i.e., ecology, war, famine, and society at large.

We always compare ourselves to others and when we see that they have more than we do, the will to receive increases our desire and we want to be above them. That is why we take pleasure in the deficiencies of others and downgrade or berate them behind their backs.

"Rich" and "Poor" is nothing more than an idle comparison. The "poverty line" is defined as "a level of personal or family income below which a person is classified as poor by local or national standards." If everyone around me is "poor" but we have enough to eat and a place to sleep we really don't suffer from being poor until we see how the wealthy live and then we really begin to suffer from being poor. It also can work both ways as in the saying that goes: "I felt poor because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet."

Beyond our basic needs for life we only feel a lack of something through our five senses when we sense that others have more than we do. As a result we are filled with envy and so the more that they have, the more that we want too until between us we devour the whole world.

At some point, some of us, the lucky ones, discover that it is the nature of God and "goodness" to give and not to receive and that the desire to give returns to us a pleasure that never ends, and thus our egoism is finally satisfied through altruism.

Why do we not see the face of God? Why is He concealed? Because if He revealed Himself there would be no altruism. People would desire Him like they desire a new house or a new car or a ticket to see a rock star in concert. Who wouldn't? He is concealed because in order for there to be free will, people must choose to seek Him out...or not. Those who value most the material world and the fulfillment of their material desires have no desire to seek Him. However, those who understand that it is better to give than to receive will choose goodness (altruism) and God over egoism and self interest every time. Think of "Doctors Without Borders", Pope Francis, Mother Theresa, and others like them. They know the secret. I want to know the secret too! Don't you?

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08 December 2016

Hanukkah and Christmas Together in 2016

For all of my friends out there who may happen to be Jewish I wish you a Happy and Blessed Hanukkah season and to all of my friends who aren't Jewish here are some things that you should know about Hanukkah:

Hanukkah occurs on 25th day of Kislev, the Jewish month which is based upon the lunar calendar and begins on a different date every year. The Feast of Hanukkah (or Chanukkah), sometimes called the "Feast of Lights", lasts for eight days. This year Hanukkah coincides exactly with the Christmas holidays. It starts at sundown, Saturday, December 24th, and ends at sundown on Sunday, January 1 2017. It celebrates the victory of a group of Jews called the Maccabees, over a much larger force of Greeks led by King Antiochus over 2000 years ago. The word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday marks how a small amount of oil lasted eight days during the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the Greeks. The Jewish people celebrate the holiday by lighting candles in a Hanukkah "menorah" for each of eight nights and eating foods fried in oil. Traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts). Kids often play a game involving a dreidel (a spinning top) and chocolate gelt (money). The menorah used for Hanukkah is called a Chanukiah and is supposed to represent the menorah that stood in the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago. The Chanukiah has nine branches, with eight candles and a helper candle used to light the other candles. The more traditional menorah has seven branches.

In Mexico Hanukkah is written "Januca,". The Jewish Hanukkah customs are very similar to those of Jews elsewhere except that the food may be a little different. Instead of latkes and sufganiot which are common among the Ashkenazic Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe the Sephardic Jews of Mexico tend to favor things like "buñuelos" which are fried fritters drenched in sugar syrup and also balls of corn dough with marmalade inside. Like their Jewish counterparts around the world they play the game of "dreidel" which they call "toma todo" and they call the dreidel top a "pirinola". To make their holiday really special and authentically Mexican the add a Mexican "piñata" in the shape of the dreidel top to the festivities.

There have been Jews in Mexico dating back to as early as 1521, when Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs, accompanied by several Jews who had temporarily "Christianized" in order to avoid the Spanish Inquisition. Many other Jews also eventually fled Spain and settled in Mexico in order to escape the Inquisition. Some of these Spanish or "Sephardic" Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism and were called "Converso" Jews, while other maintained their Jewish religious practices in secret to avoid being persecuted and they are known as "Crypto" Jews.

Few Jews migrated to Mexico after the conquest was complete and Spanish Inquisition became firmly entrenched and rigidly enforced in what was then called New Spain. Then, in the late 1800s, a number of German Jews settled in Mexico as a result of invitations from Maximilian I of Mexico, followed by a huge wave of Ashkenazic Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. A second large wave of immigration occurred as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, leading many Sephardic Jews from Turkey, Morocco, and parts of France to flee. Finally, a wave of immigrants fled the increasing Nazi persecutions in Europe during World War II.

Today, there are about 50,000 Jews living freely in Mexico and openly practicing their ancient religion. I hope they all enjoy their Hanukkah festival. Happy Hanukkah to everyone!!!


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28 November 2016

Like a Flower

Man who is born of woman
How few and harsh are his days
Like a flower he blooms and withers
The fate sinners is the rebel's reward.
Like a shadow they fade in the dark.
Remember, life is a breath.
Like a cloud fading in the sky,
Man dissolves into death.
He leaves the whole world behind him
And never comes home again.
The righteous blossom in the sunlight
And the garden is full of their seeds.
These are the wildflowers of Almighty God.
They are not the Devil's weeds.
If they are pulled up from the earth,
It doesn't stifle their mirth.
They rejoice wherever they're sent,
And praise the Lord wherever they go,
And bloom in the desert if need be.
God never betrays their innocence.
He gathers them all to His bosom.
He fills their hearts with laughter.
Cries of joy burst from their lips.
What will be the fate of their enemies?
They go down in shame to fiery flames,
And the wind blows away their memory.

04 November 2016

Tamales del Rancho

Yesterday I received a wonderful gift from my friend Luis Vera. His brother lives on a ranch and every year at the beginning of November around "El Día de Los Muertos" (The Day of the Dead) he makes a bunch of "Tamales del Rancho" and brings them to town to share with his relatives. Luis was kind enough to share some of his with me. Normally tamales are steamed but these are baked in a special oven made of stones and they are fantastically delicious. I realize that they don't look very appealing in the photo but when you heat them up and remove the corn husk they are "to die for." In the winter the farm workers would throw a couple of these into their "morral" (shoulder bag worn by farmers and shepherds to carry food or clothes). Just one of these puppies will keep you going like the energizer bunny. Needless to say, I am a happy camper.


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03 November 2016

Who is and Who Ain't?

During this current presidential nomination and election cycle I am appalled by the stark political differences among people who claim to be “religious” and yet are at times almost at each others throats in dissension and disagreement even within members of the same sect or congregation. Some of this dissension, no doubt, has to do with differences in religious dogma and I must be careful not to “fall into the well of dogma” and drown in the complexity of the trivial. I also don't want to pick and choose denominations but of the three major religions that are related to the belief in one God, who are held in the bosom of Abraham, and who believe in the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, I will confine my remarks to Christianity, the sect of which I am most familiar.

While thinking about this conundrum I was trying to separate faith from dogma and I received some help from some old friends, St. Augustine, St Eusebius, St. Polycarp, and St, Irenaeus. All of these men were excellent scholars and teachers and contributed to the basic doctrine of early Christianity. Here is my attempt to explain what separates faith from dogmatic division among people. Christianity (and all spirituality) starts with a seed of faith. The seed of faith is sown in an animal body and it rises in a spiritual body. Animal bodies that partake of life are lost when they succumb to death. Through faith and the Holy Spirit of God the animal bodies of men become spiritual bodies and thus possess a perpetual life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive through our faith render us spiritual and separate us from carnal men and women.

By hearing the truth of the Gospel, and through God's grace believing it, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in the conviction of our inheritance which is eternal life. This conviction, which is true Christianity, renders us spiritual even now while we are still living. Because of our faith, we receive a portion of the Holy Spirit which draws us like a magnet towards the honor and joy of uniting in spirit with our Creator through Jesus Christ. Subsequently, through practicing the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, our mortality is gradually swallowed up by our immortality.

Those people who possess the conviction of the Holy Spirit and who are no longer enslaved by the lusts of the flesh and who in all things walk according to the light of reason are "spiritual" because the Spirit of God dwells in them. Those who reject God's grace and His Holy Spirit and are slaves to carnal lust and lead lives contrary to reason and virtue, and who, preferring to worship their own ego without regard for the truth, are subject to the same death as any irrational animal.

There are three entities out of which the complete human being is constituted; the flesh, the soul, and the spirit. The soul is the link that unites the flesh to the spirit. When the soul identifies more with the spirit it is raised up and becomes free of the desires of the flesh. On the other hand, when the soul identifies more with the flesh it is drawn downward and becomes a slave to the flesh. These slaves to the flesh are people whom the Lord was referring to in Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60; "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead." They have lost their connection to the spirit and might as well be considered dead while they are yet still living. Christ died on the cross not only as a scapegoat for our sins but also to set us free from the bonds of the flesh that hold us back from a spiritual and eternal life. The blood that He shed is the bond of union between the soul and the body.

How about you, Christian, or Jew, or Muslim? All of you are people of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses),  and you are all children of Father Abraham. Is your soul free and alive in spirit, or are you already dead but still walking? It's not too late to find out. The Spirit of the Almighty One is waiting to hear from you. If you haven't already done so it would be prudent to reach out to Him. It's like voting. A clean conscience demands that you must participate. I call on all Americans to put this election in the hands of the God in Whom we trust enough to declare it on our money.  As for Christianity, my chosen faith, Jesus says in John 13:35; “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Let every person of sincere faith come together this election season and beyond for the greater glory of God, that He may crown our good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.