A thought on the object of life…

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, 121-180 A.D.

From an editorial by Tony Blankley in the August 2nd “Washington Times” on the nature of world opinion and the propaganda wars of our time.

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I wonder what I did with my copy of…

An interesting link to “end times” speculators through the ages.

Since the Middle East is in the news again I suspect the usual suspects will be cranking out the prophecies and a little background may be in order.

I wonder what I did with the copy of “89 Reasons why the Rapture will happen in 1989” someone (anonymously) sent me when I was a Baptist Pastor in Milwaukee.

More thoughts on the Middle East…

It’s been like living inside a blender these past days when it comes to news from the Middle East.

Everyone has learned to spin. Everyone has compelling video. Everyone has easy answers. How different things would be if munitions were as in short supply as truth in the Middle East.

And it all matters to people for whom I care, souls entrusted to me who are everywhere on the spectrum in these matters.”But Father…” they say, “You have to understand…” Little by little I am.

I know that the divide between the white hats and the black hats is not as clear as thier apologists want me to think. Yes, Hezbollah builds hospitals but they have a lot more missiles than your average HMO. And even if they fired the first shot, as it were, of this latest round Israel has had a knack for violating the borders of countries for thier own purposes that can’t be excused just by waving a picture of Dachau in the world’s face.

I know enough to take every bit of official press with a healthy tablespoon of salt. Hezbollah has pictures of dead babies, sometimes the same baby passed from person to person and presented to the cameras. Israel has pictures of Hezbollah vehicles in the back yards of homes manned by soldiers without uniforms. They say cameras never lie but everyone knows photographers can and do and will. While the battles on the ground rage the battles in cyberspace and inthe press proceed apace. I only know that people are in pain, that death is happening, and pointing fingers at one side or the other means little if you’re the one hit by a bomb or mangled by a rocket.

I know that this place, this Middle East, has been a place of war and struggle for millenia. If not Palestinian and Israeli, then Ottoman and British, or Crusader and Muslim, or Hebrew and Philistine, the list is as old as recorded time and I suspect a thousand years from now little will have changed because the people will remain the same.

I know there are people and nations who have no business sticking thier noses in other people’s lives playing a larger and more deadly game through these miserable little conflicts. Deranged people, people with agendas, people with grudges so old they can even remember how they started, people with delusions of empire, and people who get off on death and dismemberment like junkies do heroin. A pox on them all.

And a part of me wishes that all these people so keen to kill, so desirous of remembering every last insult, could be sent to an island far away and allowed to do thier dark work with each other, winner take all, blood up to the stirrups, and gorge hell with the corpses. But that isn’t how this is done because war and misery love company and so bystanders and people with no part in a matter still suffer and die.

So where am I in all of this?

The older I get the less I am enamored of the human desire to kill each other. It makes us less than the animals who at least kill to eat, it solves little, and has never brought lasting peace. End it in one place and war emerges in another; different faces, different causes, same spirit. I am weary of war, thiers, ours, and everywhere. I also grow weary of the part inside of me, a seed planted by power, to hate and make war. At times it burns within me and its very ugly to look at, even demonic. Eventually it must die, drowned in a sea of prayer or nailed to a cross.

So I hope for something different, a better way of life, a different kingdom, and choose the risk of being called a utopian. I choose to give for the care of the wounded whoever they are. I choose to work and pray for something better even if that vision is never realized in this life. And when people wish to take me under the swirl of thier own sea of mad passions I must choose to reach for the hand of the Master and find a way to walk on the waves and safely to shore.

And always I pray…

A little grave shopping…

This Saturday my wife and I will be going grave shopping.

No, nothing’s up, at least not that I know of.

It’s just time, what with all the potential moves we may make and having no children, to take care of these things. Once it’s handled it’s handled and then we can just get on with life.

We’re going to be buried, some day, outside of a little town called Vilard in western Minnesota. Vilard is a few miles from Osakis, Minnesota, where my wife’s family is from and by coincidence one of her friend’s family has a smal cemetery on a hill by a lake out in the country. The plots are inexpensive, a bonus these days, and the pictures of the site are, well, picturesque.

So off we go this Saturday on a road trip through the prairie to see our new and simultaneously last earthly home. It’ll be a whole day thing, seeing the site, seeing the sights, driving past my wife’s family farm, and then, perhaps a treat at the Tip Top Dairy Bar in Osakis, one of the last places around these parts to still serve a chocolate and vanilla swirl cone.

Now we never somehow got around to having a family plot. We were busy, and distant, and never that close to each other to ever get together and decide where to be at life’s end. So we’re on our own for these things. Mom and Dad will be one place, brothers and sister somewhere else, and probably some stranger with a lawn mower to look out after things in the years to come.

In a way that sounds kind of lonely and I think about that sometimes. There is a romantic in me that would wish to have someone come and drop by every once in a while and plant some flowers or say a prayer or light a candle (after all I am Orthodox and we go for that candle thing). That probably won’t happen and my guess is that people coming to see thier loved ones will look at our plots and wonder what kind of strangers would pick that place, a town where no one knows thier name, to rest. So I’ll probably just sink into the ground with my gravestone following after me and one day the letters will be worn off by the prairie wind and the world will have completely passed me by.

That would be a kind of hell if I didn’t believe. But I do and even those moments of reflection where I understand that all things pass, myself included, are somehow changed. I will be apart from friends and family when my time comes and yet I do believe in the communion of saints and the resurrection of the dead and so I also presume some sort of togetherness in that life which is to come and know that wherever I finally rest will be, in eternal terms, just a moment.

So its on to Vilard in just a few days to be with family and friends and buy a pair of graves. Life is full and very busy and I imagine that someday I’ll need the rest. And what better place to let the rest of the world go by then out on the Minnesota prairie, on a hill, by a lake, waiting beyond time for an angelic call.