Friday Change of Pace

Let’s talk about something completely different this Friday. There’s plenty of bad news out there, but it’s Friday, and I’m not in the mood.  Cheryl Magness wrote an article for The Federalist the other day, that tickled my fancy. Let’s have a look…

Robert Herrick, in his classic carpe diem poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” called upon youth to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” because “having lost but once your prime / You may forever tarry.” With all due respect to the poet, I am not convinced “That age is best which is the first.” In fact, I have argued one’s fifties may well be the best, bringing with it an increase of wisdom, time, respect, and self-awareness that can lead to great contentment.

I realize I am painting with a broad brush and there are certainly exceptions. No age is immune to life’s crud. There is also undoubtedly at mid-life a certain sense of urgency, of time running short, that can lead to that phenomenon known as a “mid-life crisis.” It is often stereotypically depicted as the normally staid, dignified businessman who suddenly shows up on a motorcycle, freshly tattooed, with a much younger woman on his arm. But real mid-life crises, as opposed to those of the cartoon variety, are way more complicated.

Not a Mid-Life Crisis But a Mid-Life Launch

Looking at the many 50-somethings (and beyond) I know, I am not seeing mid-life crises as much as mid-to-late-life launches, manifested in renewed levels of personal energy, interest, and excitement. I know multiple people my age who are moving across the country, buying their dream homes, taking on new jobs, and immersing themselves in fresh (or long-delayed) interests, passions, and goals.

That’s not to say there aren’t struggles, some of them devastating and life-altering. But amid the struggles, there is a level of carpe diem I can’t say I’ve seen in my peers since my twenties. It is thrilling, and I love it.

Strikes me that there is a lot of truth in that. If I look back at my own 50s, that was when I started to not worry so much about the future but to again have outside interests. I must say though, it has accelerated in my 60s. I have my projects, that need doing on schedule, I have the blog, and have several things going on, but increasingly, if I don’t enjoy doing it, I don’t do it.

With exceptions, of course. I’m a better cook than I ever was, but mostly I grill a piece of meat – why? Because I can’t be bothered for one person. Things that must get done, get done, but there is also time to visit, and increasingly work (such as I choose to do) more resembles design and.or consulting. Part of it is the old eyes, that don’t see well in a box a foot off the floor, but more of it is a disinclination to do it.

It’s also fun that finally, I can buy some of the things I lusted after as a kid, not so much the Lotus, I could barely get in one when I was in college, no chance now, I’ve outgrown it. But I have scrounged around and put together an engineering drawing set that would have cost multiple thousands, in the 60s, and that I drooled over then in catalogs – now I have it, and yes, I enjoy drawing. Even if, as an artist, I’m a good engineer. But it is fun to draw with the drawing machine, especially with the engineering pens (yes, they are a bit of a pain as well). More fun, I think, than on the computer, although I enjoy both, I think better on paper.

There are other things I want to do, I’d like to travel some, especially to historic sites, and yet, I’m not very fond of travelling alone, so we’ll see. I’ve always wanted to live well out on a ranch or farm, increasingly I think neighbors should be kept a proper distance away, preferably at least couple of miles (Get off my lawn!) 🙂 I’m working on that, don’t know if it’ll happen, but keeps me occupied.

So, I think Cheryl is right. From the fifties on it just gets better. We no longer have to prove anything to anyone, more than ever before (since we were kids, anyway) we can follow our interests without thought of how they’ll affect our career, we’ve been there and done that, and bought the suits to prove it, jeans and t-shirts are more comfortable, aren’t they? And the suits are in the closet for when they are appropriate.

Don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to be in my 60s, can’t think of anything that would even tempt me to be in my 20s or 30s again, it’s better now than it’s ever been.

Have a good day!

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Vegas

That’s from the White House moment of silence for the victims in Las Vegas. You can find a video of it if you want. It’s moving and appropriate. The video has a close-up near the end where Melania looks like she is about to cry, where the President looks sad and determined. Both are appropriate. Far more so than most of the reactions around the country or the world. As usual, I was watching British news yesterday morning, and the instant, insistent, and arrogant drumbeat for gun control angered me nearly as much as the massacre itself. It will be a long time before (if ever) I tune in again. From what I read the American media, and a good many politicians weren’t any better. It’s a time to mourn the dead, succour the wounded, and attempt to comfort the bereaved, then it will be time to see if we can figure out what happened, and what, if anything, we can do to prevent a  repeat.

I know essentially nothing. To me, it sounded too mechanical to be semi-automatic fire and too slow to be fully automatic fire. (Actually, it sounded like an old BAR). There are reports that he modified an AR 15 and/or an AK version to bump fire, or with a trigger device. Sounds about right to me. But there are reports out there supporting anything you want it to be. Nobody knows, but everybody is riding their hobbyhorses for all they’re worth. In sum, it is simply disgusting on all sides. Funny that of all of us, Donald Trump is nearly the only one to get it right.

I have little to add to that. In time we will know more, and perhaps there is a way we can make a repeat less likely. But it is also possible that, as Bill O’Reilly said yesterday, this is one of the prices we pay for freedom. Today, and as it was almost 250 years ago if so, it is worth it.

Eventually, the police will have more information for us,   as will the Federal agencies. The cause isn’t helped because they squandered their reputations one and all over the last few years, but that is where we are. God help us all.

God bless the victims, their family and friends, Las Vegas, and us all.

Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Requiem for an Engineer

Well, you all know I missed much of the last week. It was not a restful break. I was back east, in Philadelphia, to bury my last brother-in -law. He had a good life, and I suspect he was ready to go. But you know, none of us is generous enough to easily believe that. We are selfish and want our heroes in our world, not the next, no matter how much better it will be.

Because of an unusual family structure, my sisters were about twenty years older than me, so in some ways, he was also almost my second father. To be sure I admired and respected him more than any person other than my own father, whom I respected more than any man living or dead. And I still think, at a remove of thirty years since his death, deservedly so. But Dan was much the same man.

By profession, he was a civil engineer, his early career with the Pennsylvania Railroad, through the sad period when money for maintenance was hard to find, as government interference of many kinds nearly killed the railroads, and after that with a railroad contractor, where I understand when the owner became ill, he simply took over and ran the business without fuss or muss. In fact, his family didn’t know that until last weekend. No doubt he would have said, it needed doing.

He was a published author as well, his memoir of the PRR being published in The Keystone, the main publication of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. It is a remarkable document, his memory for people, places, and things, reaching back into the 1950s was exact and as on point as if they had happened last week. And so was the PRR, itself. Essentially a mountain railroad that could haul goods on that great trade route, New York to Chicago, for the same price per ton-mile, and at the same speed, as the New York Central whose route was almost devoid of grades. It was done by ruthlessly good engineering in all departments.

He served in the Corps of Engineers during the Korean Conflict, although he almost never referred to it, perhaps because he was assigned to Paris. Not too shabby a duty station in my mind. But perhaps the army also thought well of him, his honor guard last week was commanded by a full colonel of cavalry.

He also at some point held almost every leadership position in his church, serving as treasurer for many years, and very rarely missing a service.

After a rather whirlwind romance ( a bit over six months!) he was married to my oldest sister for about 60 years until her death a few years ago. They were well matched; she’s still the only person I ever heard of who asked for extra homework – in math!

And so goes my last contact with what was. I had somewhere around 40-50 first cousins, now we are perhaps a half dozen, if that. In the time honored American tradition, we scattered to the corners of the country and lost contact amongst ourselves. I can remember family reunions with more than a hundred people, but that was almost 60 years ago, and I doubt we will ever see their like again. I surely won’t.

Like most of us who reach a certain age, I look back wistfully at what was, but mostly what I see is a collection of village graveyards. They are all gone, to be seen again only at the resurrection, but you know, they are here as well. We, in all we are and do, are their legacy, and it is a challenge to live up to them. It was Dan’s wife who first coined the saying about the men in our family, all engineering types: “If it’s not absolutely right, it’s completely wrong”. It’s how my dad lived his life, as did both of my brothers-in-law and me as well. Doesn’t make us the easiest people to live with, or so said mom, my sisters, and my ex-wife, but it is necessary in jobs dealing with forces that can kill you quick.

And so we go on, as before, but I will admit, I do so with a heavy heart, the best parts of my life on this earth are gone. It appears to be a very gray future, and I too am slowing down, and finding it not a bad thing to do so. There are still things I would like to do, but am pretty sure I won’t, both professionally and personally. The ambition to see projects through just doesn’t seem to be there anymore, and there is really no one left to impress, the last of those, living and dead, gone into the shade of death, or having found better things to do than spend time with the old man. And having taken much of his ability to trust people with them. But you know, Kipling still speaks for us.

THE Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !

So it has always been, is now, and shall always be, as long as this is our world.

Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

How sad is that? Almost makes you cry, doesn’t it? We all like the fact that reports say the Millenials are the most conservative generation since the ‘Greatest Generation’, but there is nothing to celebrate in an American generation being risk averse. Ben Domenech wrote about it in The Federalist, and it’s worth commenting on.

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

OK, a break, I simply can’t resist…

We have an abundance of evidence on this front. Millennials are extremely reluctant to invest or risk their capital. UBS found that in the wake of the financial crisis, millennials appear more risk-averse than any generation since the Great Depression. Brookings has analyzed the sense of displacement driven by technology, seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her” as a prediction of the world as it will be when millennial values drive society. And Megan McArdle has written eloquently about the fear of failure of any sort, even in the smallest ways, that animates young Americans. […]

Once there was a country born without an inheritance. It was a civilization carved by the rejected refuse of the old world, by the religious freaks, criminals, bastards, and orphans. They were the type of men and women willing to risk all to cross the wine-dark sea in search of their fortune. They came from all the corners of the world, and in this land they worked the good earth and made their way. In time they built marketplaces and cities and governments, and threw off the shackles of their far-off, old-world rulers to make their own law. Where other revolutions had been crushed, they prevailed. They risked it all, and won.

Still, some were restless. So the risk-takers pulled up stakes and moved further west, finding the edge of civilization and making their homes there, and bringing their language and their law with them. They were called to the promise of the golden light of the horizon, so they journeyed west and further west, from sea to shining sea.

But the risk-takers never stopped. Their families had come from nations where inheritance was all—where blood was royal or serf, and the class of those who sired you charted your future, not the ability of your mind or the strength of your will. This truth they denied, and out of this audacity was birthed a society that, slowly but surely, through march and blood and slaughter, embraced the equality of all under law. […]

This is an American inheritance, but it is not a birthright. It must be claimed. And it is an open question whether the children of the children of those who rescued the old world will claim it. […]

There is comfort in the safety gained. But, slowly and surely, there is something lost, too—an idea that once lived here, in this new world. It was a belief that we are not prisoners of our destiny, that the world we pass on can exceed the one we were born into. This is not a uniquely American belief, but a human one, although not all cultures acknowledge or honor it. It was here in America where this belief was uniquely understood from our inception in our creed. We are born with an equal claim to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of what lies beyond that far horizon. To deny this is to break faith with our own humanity, rejecting what is best in ourselves.

I don’t have a lot to add except that if you care about America, or especially the idea of America, you need to read Ben’s article and apply it to yourself, and especially encourage those coming after us to take the longhorn by his horns, and risk it all. That is what won America. My life hasn’t been what I dreamed of as a boy – I didn’t get rich, nor did I marry Ann Margeret. But I have had a hell of a good time, and while I never worried overmuch about tomorrow, I made due allowances and did what I perceived to be my duty. No man can do more, nor should he ever wish to do less, to paraphrase Robert E. Lee.

I’m reminded of an American girl from Brooklyn, about 150 years ago, or so. It seemed she had it all, a doting daddy, a reasonable education, and more money than she knew what to do with. As it happened she went to England, and rumor had it had an affair with the Prince of Wales, and married the son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had a son, who became perhaps the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the very dark days after Dunkirk, he quoted a poem, which pretty well summarizes the American experience.

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright

It still is, if we make it so.

Not “Would You Die for That?” but “Would You Live for It?”

Much has been written this week about the Miracle at Dunkirk, where the fate of the British Expeditionary Force was placed in the hands of the civilian boatmen of mostly southeastern England, back in 1940 after the debacle of the Battle of France. In not much of a spoiler, with heroic support from Royal Navy light forces, and the Royal Air Force, they saved 300,000 + men to fight another day. As most will know, many of the soldiers and many of the rescuers died, heroically, their face to the enemy. They stood for something, in the face of death, and that is why we celebrate them. My Scandinavian forebearers, who knew a bit about small boats in the open ocean would have called them Sagamen, men who were worth immortalizing, as an example of what we want to be. And so they were.

But for so many of us, this movie is so worth celebrating because it marks a return to what we grew up with, not completely, perhaps. [I haven’t seen it, just can’t convince myself to drive 300 miles one way to see a movie, but I will see it.] But it is again about those men, and in this case, they were men, and white British men at that, dying heroically for something beyond themselves. We don’t celebrate that enough anymore. After millennia as the foundation of our civilization, living for something, let alone dying for it, beyond our individual wants has become passé, or so our elites say.

As he often does, our own Fr Robert, in comments on the other day’s article about Sweden, asked this.

Just more material about the whole moral and spiritual loss in Europe, and now in unlikely places! Sad, very sad! Once again the word Apostasy comes to mind! Just where is the moral and spiritual force of European and historical, biblical Christianity?

I didn’t then, and don’t now, have the answer for him. But I wish I did. Anna Mussmann writing in The Federalist begins to define the problem.

Dutch politicians are considering changing euthanasia laws so that healthy people can die whenever they want. In an interview, the leader of the political party that introduced the bill said, “You didn’t ask to be brought into the world,” and explained that his party’s goal is to make euthanasia freely available to all.

The idea that death is a human right is gaining traction in the U.S., too. In fact, arguments that we should kill terminally ill infants are respectable enough for the New York Times. […]

Sadly enough, it is true. That leaves me with the question, “If you die for little or no reason, does that mean your life as well was of little import?” I fear the answer for many is, “Yes.”

After speaking of Scott and Amundsen’s race for the pole in 1911, she asks why we lionized Scott, who failed, and died, even beyond Amundsen, who succeeded.

After all, generations of British and American schoolchildren were reared on stories of the Spartans at Thermopylae, Joan of Arc, Nathaniel Hale, and, later, Martin Luther King Jr. Children were expected to learn virtue by seeing that courage transcends death, and that material prosperity is a poor fig in comparison to patriotism, faith, and self-sacrifice.

Yes, those educators of the nineteenth and early twentiety centuries sometimes demonstrated a weakness for sappy moralism. [And often rather purple prose!] At the same time, however, they understood that the way we view death shapes the way we view life. […]

The moral imperative to guide our own fate means that, most of all, we must never continue to experience suffering we cannot control. Ultimately, life is worthwhile only within the narrow parameters of our own happiness and success. This sad way to look at the world is also an opportunity.

We can talk to our neighbors about the differences between taking life and giving it up. Admiration of suicide and murder is unnatural. It isn’t entirely new—plenty of decadent cultures in the past also developed cultures of death—but it is still an aberration against natural law. In contrast, the sacrifice of martyrdom is something that tends to speak to even the most hardened soul. Even the bloodthirsty mobs of ancient Rome found their views of Christianity influenced by the sight of Christian martyrs in the arena.

The thing is, a willingness to give up life in all its sweetness is about far more than death. It is a witness that life is defined by something much bigger than ourselves or our circumstances. It is a witness to hope in eternal life. It is something our neighbors need to hear about.

Here’s a truth for you.

Some things are assuredly worth dying for: Faith, some of our countries, our families, there are some that you may believe that are different than those I do. They are also worth living for, even if your life is not optimal. But no rational creature, ever, anywhere, thought that because he thought somewhat differently about sex than his neighbors, he should kill himself. If anything that is a natural working out of Darwin’s Law, and the culling of the weak. Not that it isn’t real as Hell, itself. Back in the day, I had a few rounds of depression, and if I hadn’t had some really good friends…well, only God knows. But I didn’t really care, either way.

Strikes me that we’ve hit right into the midst of what used to be clichés, and for a reason. Starting with, If you are willing to die for something, are you also willing to live for it? And continuing on through to the one that I repeat so often –

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.

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