Friday, October 22, 2021

Frost!

We had our first frost of the year last night, about two weeks later than normal—and it was a hard frost. I didn't cover anything because it was so late. The daytime temperatures aren't going to stay warm enough for any meaningful growth for tomatoes, peppers, or squash.

It was a good, if dry, summer for gardens. The strawberries were small and few because of the heat and dryness, even though I watered them. But other than that, the rest of the garden has done well. I have three 50-gallon rain barrels, and I emptied them twice because of the drought. I even had to augment that with city water by filling one of the barrels twice. And when it did rain, it was sometimes too much—one week we received seven inches of rain in five days! Because I have raised beds, they were able to absorb it, but it sure made a mess elsewhere.

I haven't posted much on activities this summer, either because of laziness or being too busy doing other things. The truth is, blogging isn't the attraction to me it once was. Part of that is the community that blogging used to represent has moved to social media. That happened about eight to ten years ago, but I resisted. And part of it is that other things take up the time that I used to spend blogging.

Being a contract employee has its benefits, such as flexible hours. But it also has the downside of seeing too much of life as billable hours. Work tends to creep into every corner. After almost ten years of doing this, I'm still learning (or maybe not learning) to balance that. And the amount of time I don't spend reading nonbillable stuff or blogging is a direct reflection of that.

That being said, this summer did contain a couple of trips to see my parents. The first trip, Ryan (our son) and I intended to take my 89-year-old dad on a canoe ride down the Red Cedar River. I had called the outfitter a couple of weeks before, but the water was too low, but it had rained that week and the water level looked good. But once we got there, they had closed because the water was too high! So, instead, we talked and visited—and rescheduled.

The second trip, we managed to get the canoe ride in, going from Riverside Park in Menomonie to Downsville, but the water was definitely low. I had to get out a few times for a push-over, and Ryan had to get out once, but dad was able to stay in the whole time. And because the water was so low, we scraped more times than I would like to admit as an experienced canoeist. When we got to the end, the outfitter said that the water had dropped six inches since we had put in two and a half hours earlier. We wouldn't have been able to do it if we had delayed a day. But we had a grand time. The weather was beautiful and dad enjoyed it, as did Ryan and I!

Ryan and I had decided to turn the rest of the weekend into a bike trip, so from there we headed over to Eau Claire to ride the Chippewa Valley Trail down to Durand, stay the night, and then ride back up the Red Cedar Trail to Menomonie on Sunday. My parents would then shuttle us to where we left our cars (neither of us have a bike rack, or a car big enough for two bikes, a bike trailer, and gear).

That worked like a charm. The campground in Durand is very nice—and cheap! Only $5.00/night for a tent with no electrical hookup. It's right on the Chippewa Valley Trail. We had an issue with our gas stoves, but they worked enough to make supper. The next day, a surprise was to find that some friends of Ryan's were staying there, too, attending a wedding. They generously cooked our oatmeal for us. We had a good visit with them and then rode back to Menomonie and then home again.

Below are a few pictures.

Ready to go.
On the water
The campsite
Ready to go on Sunday. Note the trailer vs. panniers.

These are from the garden


Theodore the toad amidst the squash
The marigolds did great this year!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Prayer, the essence of spiritual living

Prayer is the essence of spiritual living. Its spell is present in every spiritual experience. Its drive enables us to delve into what is beneath our beliefs and desires, and to emerge with a renewed taste for the endless simplicity of the good. On the globe of the microcosm the flow of prayer is like the Gulf Stream, imparting warmth to all that is cold, melting all that is hard in our life. For even loyalties may freeze to indifference if detached from the stream which carries the strength to be loyal. How often does justice lapse into cruelty and righteousness into hypocrisy. Prayer revives and keeps alive the rare greatness of some past experience in which things glowed with meaning and blessing. It remains important, even when we ignore it for a while, like a candlestick set aside for the day. Night will come, and we shall again gather round its tiny flame. Our affection for the trifles of living will be mixed with longing for the comfort of all men.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 343

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Looking beyond the self

Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God. Prayer is a way to master what is inferior in us, to discern between the signal and the trivial, between the vital and the futile, by taking counsel with what we know about the will of God, by seeing our fate in proportion to God. Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self—purification, a quarantine for the soul. It gives us the opportunity to be honest, to say what we believe, and to stand for what we say. For the accord of assertion and conviction, of thought and conscience, is the basis of all prayer.

Prayer teaches us what to aspire for. So often we do not know what to cling to. Prayer implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish. Salvation, purity of mind and tongue, or willingness to help may hover as ideas before our mind, but the idea becomes a concern, something to long for, a goal to be reached, when we pray: “Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile; and in the face of those who curse me, let my soul be silent.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 343

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

We need this ladder!

Prayer is our attachment to the utmost. Without God in sight, we are like the scattered rungs of a broken ladder. To pray is to become a ladder on which thoughts mount to God to join the movement toward Him which surges unnoticed throughout the entire universe. We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel. In prayer we shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. God is the center toward which all forces tend. He is the source, and we are the flowing of His force, the ebb and How of His tides.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342–43

Monday, October 18, 2021

Nope, not even a guru or saint will do

As a tree torn from the soil, as a river separated from its source, the human soul wanes when detached from what is greater than itself. Without the ideal, the real turns chaotic; without the universal, the individual becomes accidental. It is the pattern of the impeccable which makes the average possible. It is the attachment to what is spiritually superior: loyalty to a sacred person or idea, devotion to a noble friend or teacher, love for a people or for mankind, which holds our inner life together. But any ideal, human, social, or artistic, if it forms a roof over all of life, shuts us off from the light. Even the palm of one hand may bar the light of the entire sun. Indeed, we must be open to the remote in order to perceive the near. Unless we aspire to the utmost, we shrink to inferiority.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342

Monday, October 11, 2021

Thoughts triggered by a review essay

The following thoughts were triggered by a review essay of Along Came Google.

I’m an idealist, somewhat tempered with age, but I suspect that with our society’s fixation on dollar-value, we will never, ever value knowledge at its true worth simply because we can’t monetize it.

We have billions, nay trillions of dollars to blow up the world, but we can’t spare a few million for education. We have endowments in the billions at universities, but university presses go hungry for funding and fold. Granted, not everything published is worth the paper it is printed on, but that is partially the result of the rewards system: publish or perish, which results in what they call baloney slicing the results: get as many articles out of an research project as you can. That, in turn, discourages synthesis, which we desperately need.

Eli Goldratt, back in 1990, published a book entitled The Haystack Syndrome, which argued we are drowning in data, but seriously short of knowledge. He offered some tools—very useful ones (systemically oriented) in a business setting—for extracting knowledge. The situation has only gotten worse. And very few people are fighting for a systemic look at things; that seems to be a business fad that died back in the early 2000s, sadly. Deming, with Total Quality Management, the Toyota Production System, Constraints Management (Goldratt), all fell before the push for the almighty penny of profit. Toyota pivoted from wanting to be the best car manufacturer to being the biggest; quality fell, but they are the biggest. Granted, their cars are still better than most, but that is probably just residual and the quality will continue to fall—tell me how you will reward me, and I’ll show you how I will perform. Reward profit, everything becomes subservient to it.

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, October 08, 2021

The way of escape

We often lack the strength to be grateful, the courage to answer, the ability to pray. To escape from the mean and penurious, from calculating and scheming, is at times the parching desire of man. Tired of discord, he longs to escape from his own mind—and for the peace of prayer. How good it is to wrap oneself in prayer, spinning a deep softness of gratitude to God around all thoughts, enveloping oneself in the silk of a song! But how can man draw songs out of his heart if his consciousness is a woeful turmoil of fear and ambition? He has nothing to offer but disgust, and the weariness of wasting the soul. Accustomed to winding strands of thoughts, to twisting phrases in order to reap praise, he is incapable of finding simple, straight words. His language abounds in traps and decoys, in shams and tricks, in gibes and sneers. In the teeth of such powerful distractions he has to focus all the powers of his mind on one concern. In the midst of universal agitation how can there be tranquillity?

Trembling in the realization that we are a blend of modesty and insolence, of self-denial and bias, we beseech God for rescue, for help in the control of our thoughts, words, and deeds. We lay all our forces before Him. Prayer is arrival at the border. “The dominion is Thine. Take away from me all that may not enter Thy realm.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Gratefulness and the soul

To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amid the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers—wiser than all alphabets—clouds that die constantly for the sake of beauty, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit greatness in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 341–42

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Wasting our souls

Is not listening to the pulse of wonder worth silence and abstinence from self-assertion? Why do we not set apart an hour of living for devotion to God by surrendering to stillness? We dwell on the edge of mystery and ignore it, wasting our souls, risking our stake in God. We constantly pour our inner light away from Him, setting up the thick screen of self between Him and us, adding more shadows to the darkness that already hovers between Him and our wayward reason. Accepting surmises as dogmas and prejudices as solutions, we ridicule the evidence of life for what is more than life. Our mind has ceased to be sensitive to the wonder. Deprived of the power of devotion to what is more important than our individual fate, steeped in passionate anxiety to survive, we lose sight of what fate is, of what living is. Rushing through the ecstasies of ambition, we awake only when plunged into dread or grief. In darkness, then, we grope for solace, for meaning, for prayer.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 341

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Weighing friendship—and faith

Actually, trust is the core of human relationships, of gregariousness among men. Friendship, a puzzle to the syllogistic and critical mentality, is not based on experiments or tests of another person’s qualities but on trust. It is not critical knowledge but a risk of the heart which initiates affection and preserves loyalty to our fellow men.

Faith does not spring out of nothing. It comes with the discovery of the holy dimension of our existence. Suddenly we become aware that our lips touch the veil that hangs before the Holy of Holies. Our face is lit up for a time with the light from behind the Veil. Faith opens our hearts for the entrance of the holy. It is almost as though God were thinking for us.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 339

Monday, October 04, 2021

All-encompassing

Faith is not an act of thinking logically and consecutively. Its ripe fruit is not a cold judgment, valid and correct when estimated from any point of view. There may be a great deal of vagueness in faith, lacking both distinctness and precision. Its body is too fine to be retained in the logician’s sieve when sifted for formulas. Rational terms in which faith is expressed as a creed remain a varnish and do not render its essence.

The perceivable and temporal we grasp with our reason, the sacred and everlasting we approach through faith. It belongs to the genius of man to believe, to look up to what transcends his faculty to know, to perceive the things in their relation to the ultimate, to the eternally valid. However, since there is no borderline that keeps apart the temporal from the everlasting, the scope of faith can hardly be circumscribed. 337

Friday, October 01, 2021

More than logic

The force that inspires the heart to believe is not identical with the impulse that stimulates the mind to reason. The thoughts that breed beauty in the songs of faith may fashion shackles around the reckless wrists of scholars. The purity of which we never cease to dream, the untold things we so insatiably love, the vision of the good for which we either die or perish alive—no reason can hold. It is faith from which we draw the sweetness of life, the taste of the sacred, the joy of the imperishably clear. It is faith that offers us a share in eternity. It is faith in which the great things occur.

We rarely manage to cross the gulf between heart’s believing and minds plain knowing. There is no common basis for comparing religion and science. It is impossible to render the visions of faith in terms of speculation, and its truth cannot be proved by logical arguments. Its certainty is intuitive, not speculative. Its apparent demonstration has often resulted in its frustration. Unlike knowledge, which is a quiet possession of the intellect, faith is an overwhelming force that enables man to perceive the reality of the transcendent. It is not only the assent to a proposition but the staking of the whole life on the truth of an invisible reality.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 336

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thought for today

8 The Lord’s word came to Zechariah:
9 The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims:

Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! 10 Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! 11 But they refused to pay attention. They turned a cold shoulder and stopped listening.

12 They steeled their hearts against hearing the Instruction and the words that the Lord of heavenly forces sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. As a result, the Lord of heavenly forces became enraged.

13 So just as he called and they didn’t listen, when they called, I didn’t listen, says the Lord of heavenly forces. 14 I scattered them throughout the nations whom they didn’t know. The land was devastated behind them, with no one leaving or returning. They turned a delightful land into a wasteland. Zech 7:8–14 (CEB)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A different fast

Some men go wIthout knowing on a hunger strike in the prison of the mind, starving for God. There is joy, ancient and sudden, in this starving. There is reward, grasp of the intangible, in the flaming reverie breaking through the latticework of notions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Faith as humility

Faith is an act of spirit. The spirit can afford to acknowledge the superiority of the divine: it has the fortitude to realize the greatness of the transcendent, to love its superiority. The man of faith is not enticed by the ostensible. He abstains from intellectual arrogance and spurns the triumph of the merely obvious. He knows that possession of truth is devotion to it. He rejoices more in giving than in acquiring, more in believing than in perceiving. He can afford to disregard the deficiencies of reason. This is the secret of the spirit which is not disclosed to reason: the adaptation of the mind to the sacred. The spirit surrenders to the mystery of the spirit, not in resignation or despair, but with honor and in love. Exposing its destiny to the Ultimate, it enters into an intimate relation with God. Faith is intellectual humility, devotion of the mind, a true offering, the finest feat the heart can perform.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Monday, September 27, 2021

More than meets the brain!

The realm toward which faith is directed can be approached, but not penetrated; approximated, but not entered; aspired to, but not grasped; sensed, but not understood. For to believe is to abide rationally outside, while spiritually within the mystery.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Thought for the day

εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ. Luke 12:15

Friday, September 24, 2021

Remembrance

Faith is not a stagnant pool. It is, rather, a fountain that rises with the influx of personal experience. Personal faith flows out of an experience and 3 pledge. For faith is not a thing that comes into being out Of nothlng. It originates in an event. In the spiritual vacancy of life something may suddenly occur that is like lifting the veil at the horizon of knowledge. A simple episode may open a sight of the eternal. A shift of conceptions, boisterous like a tempest or soft as a breeze, may swerve the mind for an instant or forever. For God is not wholly silent and man is not always deaf. God’s willingness to call men to His service and man’s responsiveness to the divine indications in things and events are for faith what sun and soil are for the plant.

That experience survives as a recollection of how we have once been blessed by the manifestation of divine presence in our life. The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the pledge given at that moment are the forces that sustain us in our faith. For the riches of a soul are stored up in its memory. This is the test of character, not whether a man follows the daily fashion, but whether the past is alive in his present. If we want to understand ourselves, to find out what is most precious in our lives, we should search into our memory.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Faith? Yes, but

Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable. He whose heart is given to faith is mindful of the obstructive and awry, of the sinister and pernicious. It is God's strange dominion over both good and evil on which he relies. But even this reliance is not an indefeasible bridge across ravines and precipices, a viaduct over the valley of death. To rely only on our faith would be idol worship. We have only the right to rely on God, on His love and mercy. Faith is not a mechanical insurance but a dynamic, personal act, flowing between the heart of man and the love of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

But it requires vigilance…

Faith is always exposed to failure. We often submit to the forces that draw us down to where a small desire seems to outweigh the noblest aspiration. There is the network of the false into which we easily slip. There is the enjoyment of the vile that vitiates the taste for the true. We must not cease to be vigilant, careful and anxious to keep our inner ear open to the holy.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The nature of faith

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless pilgrimage of hearts. Audacious longing, calling, calling, burning songs, daring thoughts, an impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping the mind—it is all a stalwart driving to the precious serving of Him who rings our hearts like a bell, wishing to enter our empty perishing life. What others call readiness to suffer, willingness to relinquish, is felt here as bestowal of joy, as granting of greatness. Is it a surrender to confide? Is it a sacrifice to believe? True, beliefs are not secured by demonstration nor impregnable to objection. But does goodness mean serving only as long as rewarding lasts? Towers are more apt to be shaken than graves. Insistent doubt, contest, and frustration may stultify the trustworthy mind, may turn temples into shambles. But those of faith who plant sacred thoughts in the uplands of time, the secret gardeners of the Lord in mankind’s desolate hopes, may slacken and tarry but rarely betray their vocation.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Friday, September 17, 2021

You can't miss it … if you are looking for it, that is

Forgoing beauty for goodness, power for love, grief for gratitude, entreating the Lord for help to understand our hopes, for strength to resist our fears, we shall receive a gentle sense for the holiness that permeates the air like a strangeness that cannot be removed. Crying out of the pitfall of our selfishness for purity of devotion will usher in the dawn of faith in the mist of honest tears. For those who are open to the wonder will not miss it. Faith is found in solicitude for faith, in an inner care for the wonder that is everywhere.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 331

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Open yours eyes that you might see!

He who chooses a life of utmost striving for the utmost stake, the vital, matchless stake of God, feels as though the spirit of God comes to rest upon his lids—so close to his eyes and yet never seen. He who has ever been confronted with the ultimate and has realized that sun and stars and souls do not ramble in a vacuum will keep his heart in readiness for the hour when the world is entranced, and awaits a soul to breathe in the mystery that all things exhale in their craving for salvation. For things are not mute. The stillness is full of demands. Out of the world comes a behest to instill into the air a rapturous song for God, to incarnate in the stones a message of humble beauty, and to instill a prayer for goodness in the hearts of all children.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 329–30

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Impressions

We are impressed by the towering buildings of New York City. Yet not the rock of Manhattan nor the steel of Pittsburgh but the law that came from Sinai is their ultimate foundation. The true foundation upon which our cities stand is a handful of spiritual ideas. All of our life hangs by a thread—the faithfulness of man to the will of God.

The course in which human life moves is, like the orbit of heavenly bodies, an ellipse, not a circle. We are attached to two centers: to the focus of our self and to the focus of what is beyond our self. Even the intelligence is driven by two forces—by a force that comes as an instinct from within and by a force that comes with ideals from without. The inner force generates the impulse to acquire, to enjoy, to possess; the outer force arouses an urge to respond, to yield, to give.

It seems as though we have arrived at a point in history, closest to instincts and remotest from ideals, where the self stands like a wall between God and man. It is the period of a divine eclipse. We sail the seas, we count the stars, we split the atom, but never ask: Is there nothing but a dead universe and our reckless curiosity?

Primitive man's humble ear was alert to the inwardness of the world, while the modern man is presumptuous enough to claim that he has the sole monopoly over soul and spirit, that he is the only thing alive in the universe. A little crust of bread holds so much of goodness, of secret harmony, of tacit submission to purpose. Why should our minds be crowded by so much deceit, folly, and supercilious vanity?—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 328–29

Monday, September 13, 2021

But do we learn?

One of the greatest shocks that we experience in our childhood comes with the discovery that our deeds and desires are not always approved by our fellow men, that the world is not mere food for our delight. The resistance we encounter, the refusals we meet with, open our eyes to the existence of a world outside ourselves. But, growing older and stronger, we gradually recover from that shock, forget its dolorous lesson, and apply most of our ingenuity to enforcing our will on nature and men. No recollection of our past experience is capable of upsetting the arrogance that guides the traffic in our mind. Dazzled by the brilliant achievements of the intellect in science and technique, we have been deluded into believing that we are the masters of the earth and our will the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong. However, the universe is not a waif and life is not a derelict. Man is neither the lord of the universe nor even the master of his own destiny. Our life is not our own property but a possession of God. And it is this divine ownership that makes life a sacred thing.

The world that we have long considered to be ours has exploded in our hands, and a stream of guilt and misery has been unloosed, which leaves no conscience unblemished. Will this flood of wretchedness sweep away our monstrous conceit? Will we comprehend that the sense for the sacred is as vital to us as the light of the sun? The enjoyment of beauty, possession, and safety in civilized society depends on man's sense for the sacredness of life, on his reverence for this spark of light in the darkness of selfishness. Permit this spark to be quenched and the darkness falls upon us like thunder.

<idle musing>
This was written in 1944. How much greater is its relevance now, with the world either burning in drought or drowning in hurricanes and floods—all because of the arrogance of humanity&or perhaps it would be better to say the arrogance of man, because in this case it usually is men. But be that as it may, we are most decidedly not the masters of our destiny. We play at being gods, but the wind that we have sown becomes a whirlwind that we are reaping now.

And it's not just in climate, either. We are reaping the whirlwind of the wind that we have sown in the political realm, in the social realm, and in the medical realm. All our utopias have been shown to be dystopias. And yet we resist turning to the source of life—God.

After all, acknowledging God might mean that we aren't gods and we aren't masters of our destiny. And he might require us to do something we don't want to do! As if we've done such a good job of things on our own!

But what if God isn't the ogre that you think he is? What if he is a forgiving parent? What if, instead of a rod, he has a banquet? What if...
</idle musing>

Friday, September 10, 2021

Animals?

Man is an animal at heart, carnal, covetous, selfish, and vain; yet spiritual in his destiny: a vision beheld by God in the darkness of flesh and blood. Only eyes vigilant and fortified against the glaring and superficial can still perceive God’s vision in the soul’s horror—stricken night of falsehood, hatred, and malice.

We are prone to be impressed by the ostentatious, the obvious. The strident caterwaul of the animal fills the air, while the still, small voice of the spirit is heard only in the rare hours of prayer and devotion. From the streetcar window we may see the hunt for wealth and pleasure, the onslaught upon the weak, faces expressing suspicion or contempt. On the other hand, the holy lives only in the depths. What is noble retires from sight when exposed to light, humility is extinguished in the awareness of it, and the willingness for martyrdom rests in the secrecy of the things to be. Walking upon clay, we live in nature, surrendering to impulse and passion, to vanity and arrogance, while our eyes reach out to the lasting light of truth. We are subject to terrestrial gravitation, yet we are faced by God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 323

Thursday, September 09, 2021

The very being of humanity

Man does not possess religion; he exists in religion. This religious existence precedes his religious experience. Creed and aspiration are the adjustments of consciousness to the holy dimension. Religion is not an election; it is the destiny of man.

Man can know God only because God knows him. Our love of God is a scant reflection of God’s love for us. For every soul is a wave in the endless stream that flows out of the heart of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 322 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

I have news for you: It's not about you!

The desire of a pious man is not to acquire knowledge of God but to abide by him, to dedicate to him the entire life. How does he conceive the possibility of such devotion? How can man be near to God?

Religion in itself, the state which exists between God and man, is neither produced by man nor dependent upon his belief; it is neither a display of human spirit nor the outgrowth of his conscience. Religion exists even if it is in this moment not realized, perceived, or acknowledged by anybody, and those who reject or betray it do not diminish its validity. Religion is more than a creed or a doctrine, more than faith or piety; it is an everlasting fact in the universe, something that exists outside knowledge and experience, an order of being, the holy dimension of existence. It does not emanate from the affections and moods, aspirations and visions of the soul. It is not a divine force in us, a mere possibility, left to the initiative of man, something that may or may not take place, but an actuality, the inner constitution of the universe, the system of divine values involved in every being and exposed to the activity of man, the ultimate in our reality. As an absolute implication of being, as an ontological entity, not as an adorning veneer for a psychical wish or for a material want, religion cannot be totally described in psychological or sociological terms.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 322 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

It's all around you!

To restrict religion to the realm of human endeavor or consciousness would imply that a person who refuses to take notice of God could isolate himself from the Omnipresent. But there is no neutrality before God; to ignore means to defy him. Even the emptiness of indifference breeds a concern, and the bitterness of blasphemy is a perversion of a regard for God. There is no vacuum of religion. Religion is neither the outgrowth of imagination nor the product of will. It is not an inner process, a feeling, or a thought, and should not be looked upon as a bundle of episodes in the life of man. To assume that religion is limited to specific acts of man, that man is religious for the duration of an experience, meditation, or performance of a ritual is absurd. Religion is not a cursory activity. What is going on between God and man is for the duration of life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 320

Monday, September 06, 2021

Hold it lightly

Thus the pious man realizes, also, that whatever he may have at his disposal has been bestowed upon him as a gift. And there is a difference between a possession and a gift. Possession is loneliness. The very word excludes others from the use of the possessed object without the consent of the possessor, and those who insist on possession ultimately perish in self-excommunication and loneliness. On the contrary, in receiving a gift, the recipient obtains, besides the present, the love of the giver. A gift is thus the vessel that contains the affection, which is destroyed as soon as one begins to look on it as a possession. The pious man avers that he has a perpetual gift from God, for in all that comes to him he feels the love of God. In all the thousand and one experiences that make up a day, he is conscious of that love intervening in his life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 315

Friday, September 03, 2021

A sense of wonder

In reality man has not unlimited powers over the earth, as he has not over stars or winds. He has not even complete power over himself. In the absolute sense, neither the world nor his own life belongs to him. And of the things he does more-or less control, he controls not the essence but only the appearance, as is evident to anyone who has ever looked with unclouded vision in the face even of a flower or a stone. The question then is, Who is the lord? Who owns all that exists? The universe is not a waif, nor is life a derelict, abandoned and unclaimed. All things belong to God. So the pious man regards the forces of nature, the thoughts of his own mind, life, and destiny as the property of God. This governs his attitude toward all things. He does not grumble when calamities befall him, or lapse into despair, for he knows that all in life is a concern of the divine because all is in the divine possession.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 314–15

<idle musing>
I just read the end of Job this morning. Heschel could be channeling God's speech from it here. I'm also reminded of Psalm 8:4:

what are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings that you pay attention to them? (CEB)
or Psalm 19:
Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
2 One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another
what needs to be known.
3 Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
4 but their soundk extends
throughout the world;
their words reach the ends
of the earth. (CEB)
Or. . . you get the idea. YHWH is truly marvelous and his ways beyond understanding. When we think of that, we can't help but stand—or kneel—in awe!
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Responsibility

Responsibility implies freedom, and man, who is in bondage to environment, to social ties, to inner disposition, may yet enjoy freedom before God. Only before God is man truly independent and truly free. But freedom in its turn implies responsibility, and man is responsible for the way in which he utilizes nature. It is amazing how thoughtless modern man is of his responsibility in relation to his world. He finds before him a world crammed to overflowing with wonderful materials and forces, and without hesitation or scruple he grasps at whatever is within his range. Omnivorous in his desire, unrestrained in his efforts, tenacious in his purpose, he is gradually changing the face of the earth, and there seems to be none to deny him or challenge his mastery. Deluded by this easy mastery, we give no thought to the question of what basis there is to our assumed right to possess our universe. Our own wayward desires and impulses, however natural they may be, are no title to ownership. Unmindful of this we take our title for granted and grasp at everything, never questioning whether this may be robbery. Powerhouse, factory, and department store make us familiar with the exploitation of nature for our benefit. And lured by familiarity, the invisible trap for the mind, we easily yield to the illusion that these things are rightfully at our disposal, thinking little of the sun, the rainfall, the watercourses, as sources by no means rightfully ours. It is only when we suddenly come up against things obviously beyond the scope of human domination or jurisdiction, such as mountains or oceans, or uncontrollable events like sudden death, earthquake, or other catastrophes, which clearly indicate that man is neither lord of the universe nor master of his own destiny, that we are somewhat shaken out of our illusions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 314

<idle musing>
An amazing indictment of humanity, all the moreso because it was written in 1942! Long before any environmental movement, long before plastic became the ubiquitous problem it is today. Even back then he perceived the dangers inherent in the ruthless exploitation of the earth. Truly an amazing thinker!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Gratitude or glumness?

The natural man feels a genuine joy at receiving a gift in obtaining something he has not earned. The pious man knows that nothing he has has been earned, not even his perceptions, his thoughts and words, or even his life, are his by desert. He knows that he has no claim to anything with which he is endowed. Knowing, therefore, that he merits little, he never arrogates anything to himself. His thankfulness being stronger than his wants and desires, he can live in joy and with a quiet spirit. Being conscious of the evidences of God’s blessing in nature and in history, he pays tribute to the values of that blessing in all that he receives. The natural man has two attitudes to life, joy and gloom. The pious man has but one, for to him gloom represents an overbearing and presumptuous depreciation of underlying realities. Gloom implies that man thinks he has a right to a better, more pleasing world. Gloom is a refusal, not an offer, a snub not an appreciation, a retreat instead of a pursuit. Gloom’s roots are in pretentiousness, fastidiousness, and a disregard of the good. The gloomy man, living in irritation and a constant quarrel with his destiny, senses hostility everywhere, and seems never to be aware of the illegitimacy of his own complaints. He has a fine sense for the incongruities of life but stubbornly refuses to recognize the delicate grace of existence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 313

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A different set of lenses

Because of this attitude of reverence, the pious man is at peace with life, in spite of its conflicts. He patiently acquiesces in life’s vicissitudes, because he glimpses spiritually their potential meaning. Every experience opens the door into a temple of new light, although the vestibule may be dark and dismal. The pious man accepts life’s ordeals and its meed of anguish, because he recognizes these as belonging to the totality of life. This does not mean complacency or fatalistic resignation. He is not insensitive. On the contrary, he is keenly sensitive to pain and suffering, to adversity and evil in his own life and in that of others, but he has the inner strength to rise above grief, and with his understanding of what these sorrows really are, grief seems to him a sort of arrogance. We never know the ultimate meaning of things, and so a sharp distinction between what we deem good or bad in experience is unfair. It is a greater thing to love than to grieve, and with love’s awareness of the far-reachingness of all that affects our lives, the pious man will never overestimate the seeming weight of momentary happenings.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 312–13

Monday, August 30, 2021

As in a mirror…

Reverence is a specific attitude toward something that is precious and valuable, toward someone who is superior. It is a salute of the soul, an awareness of value without enjoyment of that value or seeking any personal advantage from it. There is a unique kind of transparence about things and events. The world is seen through, and no veil can conceal God completely. So the pious man is ever alert to see behind the appearance of things a trace of the divine, and thus his attitude toward life is one of expectant reverence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 312

Friday, August 27, 2021

Don't do this! (editing)

A common mistake, but please, please, please, don't do this. Your copyeditor will thank you!

The Latin abbreviation e.g. means "for example," after which two or more examples occur. Do not, I repeat, do not then end that listing with "etc." Etc. means "and the others," which is an example from the department of redundancy department. You already said you were listing a few/couple of examples!

End of screed. You may now return to your regularly scheduled writing...

For a complete list of editing posts, see here.

The bookstore

"We watch a reader in a bookshop: he picks up a book, leafs through it—and for a short instant he is entirely cut off from the world. He is listening to someone speaking, whom others cannot hear. He gathers random fragments of phrases. He shuts the book, looks at the cover. Then he often takes a brief glance at the cover flap, hoping for some assistance. At that moment, without realizing it, he is opening an envelope: those few lines, external to the text of the book, are like a letter written to a stranger."—Roberto Calasso, The Art of the Publisher, via Shelf Awareness

The presence of God, part 2

Whatever the pious man does is linked to the divine; each smallest trifle is tangential to His course. In breathing he uses His force; in thinking he wields His power. He moves always under the unseen canopy of remembrance, and the wonderful weight of the name of God rests steadily on his mind. The word of God is as vital to him as air or food. He is never alone, never companionless, for God is within reach of his heart. Under affiiction or some sudden shock he may feel temporarily as though he were on a desolate path, but a slight turn of his eyes is sufficient for him to discover that his grief is outflanked by the compassion of God. The pious man needs no miraculous communication to make him aware of God’s presence, nor is a crisis necessary to awaken him to the meaning and appeal of that presence. His awareness may momentarily be overlaid or concealed by some violent shift in consciousness, but it never fades away. It is this awareness of ever living under the watchful eye of God that leads the pious man to see hints of God in the varied things he encounters in his daily walk, so that many a simple event can be accepted by him both for what it is and also as a gentle hint or kindly reminder of things divine. In this mindfulness he eats and drinks, works and plays, talks and thinks, for piety is a life compatible with God’s presence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 311

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The presence of God

The pious man is possessed by his awareness of the presence and nearness of God. Everywhere and at all times he lives as in His sight, whether he remains always heedful of His proximity or not. He feels embraced by God's mercy as by a vast encircling space. Awareness of God is as close to him as the throbbing of his own heart, often deep and calm, but at times overwhelming, intoxicating, setting the soul afire. The momentous reality of God stands there as peace, power, and endless tranquillity, as an inexhaustible source of help, as boundless compassion, as an open gate awaiting prayer. It sometimes happens that the life of a pious man becomes so involved in God that his heart overflows as though it were a cup in the hand of God. This presence of God is not like the proximity of a mountain or the vicinity of an ocean, the view of which one may relinquish by closing the eyes or removing from the place. Rather is this convergence with God unavoidable, inescapable; like air in space it is always being breathed in, even though one is not at all times aware of continuous respiration.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 310

<idle musing>
Doesn't that thought thrill you? Even take your breath away? Have you ever experienced that kind of closeness to God? Don't you want to?

I have, and I do want it more. I want that to be my daily experience. To walk with God as Enoch did, as others throughout history have. That's why I'm drawn to the mystics; they experienced God and wrote about how it felt, how they obtained that closeness. Practice the Presence of God is one of my favorites, written by a friend of his because he was an illiterate dishwasher in a monastery. Overlooked by the powers of the day, the world has forgotten all of them, but the work of this lowly dishwasher continues to stir people 400 or so years later.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The truly pious

Piety is the direct opposite of selfishness. Living as he does in the vision of the unutterably pure, the pious man turns his back on his own human vanity, and his longing is to surrender the forces of egotism to the might of God. He is aware of both the shabbiness of human life and the meagerness and insufficiency of human service, and so, to protect the inner wholesomeness and purity of devotion from being defiled by interference from the petty self, he strives toward self-exclusion, self-forgetfulness, and an inner anonymity of service. He desires to be unconscious that it is he who is consecrating himself to the service of God. The pious man lays no claim to reward. He hates show, or being conspicuous in any way, and is shy of displaying his qualities even to his own mind. He is engrossed in the beauty of that which he worships, and dedicates himself to ends the greatness of which exceeds his capacity for adoration.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 308

<idle musing>
True piety is very much absent from the world, isn't it? People seem more interested in trumpeting their relgiousness from the street corners than in being quietly faithful. But, not much has changed from Jesus's day, has it? He castigated the Pharisees and others for their public displays then.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

It's all in the outlook

Every man’s life is dominated by certain interests, and is essentially determined by the aspiration for those things which matter to him to a greater or a lesser degree. The pious man’s main interest is concern for the will of God, which thus becomes the driving force controlling the course of his actions and decisions, molding his aspirations and behavior. It is fallacious to see in isolated acts of perception or consideration the decisive elements in human behavior. Actually, it is the direction of mind and heart, the general interest of a person, that leads him to see or discover certain situations and to overlook others. Interest is a selective apprehension based on prior ideas, preceding insights, recognitions, or predilections. The interest of a pious man is determined by his faith, so that piety is faith translated into life, spirit embodied in a personality.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 308

Monday, August 16, 2021

Sale!

Even though I no longer work for Eisenbrauns, I keep an eye on their sales. This one is great: 40% off Hebrew Bible titles, including the LSAWS series (one of my favorite series), Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Waltke and O'Connor), and Futato's Beginning Biblical Hebrew.

You can see all the goodies here. Enjoy!

Friday, August 13, 2021

In the balance—and found?

The survival of mankind is in balance. One wave of hatred, callousness, or contempt may bring in its wake the destruction of all mankind. Vicious deeds are but an aftermath of what is conceived in the hearts and minds of man. It is from the inner life of man and from the articulation of evil thoughts that evil actions take their rise. It is therefore of extreme importance that the sinfulness of thoughts of suspicion and hatred and particularly the sinfulness of any contemptuous utterance, however flippantly it is meant, be made clear to all mankind. This applies in particular to thoughts and utterances about individuals or groups of other religions, races, and nations. Speech has power and few men realize that words do not fade. What starts out as a sound ends in a deed.

In an age in which the spiritual premises of our existence are both questioned and even militantly removed, the urgent problem is not the competition among some religions but the condition of all religions, the condition of man, crassness, chaos, darkness, despair.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 298–299

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Separation of church and state

We affirm the principle of separation of church and state; we reject the separation of religion and the human situation. We abhor the equation of state and society, of power and conscience, and perceive society in the image of human beings comprising it. The human individual is beset with needs and is called upon to serve ends.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 298

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

More than a hypothesis!

Detachment of doctrine from devotion, detachment of reason from reverence, of scrutiny from the sense of the ineifable reduces God as a challenge to a logical hypothesis, theoretically important but not overwhelmingly urgent. God is relevant only when overwhelmingly urgent.

It is a fatal mistake to think that believing in God is gained with ease or sustained without strain.

Faith is steadfastness in spite of failure. It is defiance and persistence in the face of frustration.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 296

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The road is full of wonder

No one attains faith without first achieving the prerequisites of faith. First we praise, then we believe. We begin with a sense of wonder and arrive at radical amazement. The first response is reverence and awe, openness to the mystery that surrounds, and we are led to be overwhelmed by the glory.

God is not a concept produced by deliberation. God is an outcry wrung from heart and mind; God is never an explanation, it is always a challenge. It can only be uttered in astonishment.

Religious existence is a pilgrimage rather than an arrival. Its teaching—a challenge rather than an intellectual establishment, an encyclopedia of ready—made answers.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 296

Monday, August 09, 2021

And the goal of humanity is?

If the ultimate goal is power then modern man has come of age. However, if the ultimate goal is meaning of existence, then man has already descended into a new infancy.

At times it is as if our normal consciousness were a state of partly suspended animation. Our perceptivity limited, our categories one-sided.

Things that matter most are of no relevance to many of us. Pedestrian categories will not lead us to the summit; to attain understanding for realness of God we have to rise to a higher level of thinking and experience.

This is an age in which even our common sense is tainted with commercialism and expediency. To recover sensitivity to the divine, we must develop in uncommon sense, rebel against seemingly relevant, against conventional validity, to unthink many thoughts, to abandon many habits, to sacrifice many pretensions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 294

<idle musing>
It never ceases to amaze me that he wrote these essays before 1970. If they were true then—and they were—how much truer they are now!

Commercialism and capitalism has invaded every corner of our lives! It has become our god. And it is a merciless god. We sacrifice our children, our elders, our marriages, even ourselves to its merciless demands. And even then we feel inadequate. We have indeed decended into a new infancy—and we don't even know it. How sad.
</idle musing>

Friday, August 06, 2021

To whom much is given…

“All sins may be atoned for by repentance, by means of the Day of Atonement, or through the chastening power of affliction, but acts which cause the desecration of the name of God will not be forgiven. ‘Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you till you die, says the Lord of hosts’” (Isaiah 23:14).

In the light of these principles, e.g., a slight act of injustice is regarded as a grave offense when committed by a person whose religious leadership is acknowledged and of whose conduct an example is expected.

God had trust in us and gave us His word, some of His wisdom, and some of His power. But we have distorted His word, His wisdom, and abused His gift of power.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 292

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Peace, peace, but there is no peace…

There is a longing for peace in the hearts of man. But peace is not the same as the absence of war. Peace among men depends upon a relationship of reverence for each other.

Reverence for man means reverence for man’s freedom. God has a stake in the life of man, of every man.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 288

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

This is the dawning of the age of...

This is an age of suspicion, when most of us seem to live by the rule: Suspect thy neighbor as thyself. Such radical suspicion leads to despair of man’s capacity to be free and to eventual surrender to demonic forces, surrender to idols of power, to the monsters of self-righteous ideologies.

What will save us is a revival of reverence for man, unmitigable indignation at acts of violence, burning compassion for all who are deprived, the wisdom of the heart. Before imputing guilt to others, let us examine our own failures.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 286–87

<idle musing>
He sure pegged our age, didn't he? And he wrote this in the 1960s!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

A question to ask

Prior to theology is depth theology; prior to faith are premises or prerequisites of faith, such as a sense of wonder, radical amazement, reverence, a sense of mystery of all being. Man must learn, for example, to question his false sense of sovereignty.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 276

Monday, August 02, 2021

More than one-dimensional

God is Judge and Creator, and not only Revealer and Redeemer. Detached from the Hebrew Bible, people began to cherish one perspective of the meaning of God, preferably His promise as Redeemer, and become oblivious to His demanding presence as Judge, to His sublime transcendence as Creator. The insistence upon His love without realizing His wrath, the teaching of His immanence without stressing His transcendence, the certainty of His miracles without an awareness of the infinite darkness of His absence—these are dangerous distortions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 274

Friday, July 30, 2021

Into the darkness

The ambiguities are numerous and drive us to despair—almost. Yet the God of Israel does not leave us to ourselves. Even when He throws us into darkness, we know that it is His darkness, that we have been cast into it by Him. Thus we do not pretend to know His secrets or to understand His ways. Yet we are certain of knowing His name, of living by His love and receiving His grace, as we are certain of receiving His blows and dying according to His will. Such is our loyalty, a loyalty that lives as a surprise in a world of staggering vapidity, in an hour of triumphant disloyalty.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 270 (emphasis original)

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Loss of intimacy

The tragedy of our time is that we have moved out of the dimension of the holy, that we have abandoned the intimacy in which relationship to God can be patiently, honestly, persistently nourished. Intimate inner life is forsaken. Yet the soul can never remain a vacuum. It is either a vessel for grace or it is occupied by demons.

At first men sought mutual understanding by taking counsel with one another, but now we understand one another less and less. There is a gap between the generations. It will soon widen to be an abyss. The only bridge is to pray together, to consult God before seeking counsel with one another. Prayer brings down the walls which we have erected between man and man, between man and God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 266–67

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Thought for the day

Worship is more than paying homage. To worship is to join the cosmos in praising God. The whole cosmos, every living being sings, the psalmists insist. Neither joy nor sorrow but song is the ground plan of being. It is the quintessence of life. To praise is to call forth the promise and presence of the divine. We live for the sake of a song. We praise for the privilege of being. Worship is the climax of living. There is no knowledge without love, no truth without praise. At the beginning was the song, and praise is man’s response to the never—ending beginning.

The alternative to praise is disenchantment, dismay.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 263

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Separation of church and state: a different look

Religion as an establishment must remain separated from the government. Yet prayer as a voice of mercy, as a cry for justice, as a plea for gentleness, must not be kept apart. Let the spirit of prayer dominate the world. Let the spirit of prayer interfere in the aifairs of man. Prayer is private, a service of the heart; but let concern and compassion, born out of prayer, dominate public life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 261

Monday, July 26, 2021

A false separation

The hour calls for a revision of fundamental religious concerns. The wall of separation between the sacred and the secular has become a wall of separation between the conscience and God. In the Pentateuch, the relation of man to things of space, to money, to property is a fundamental religious problem. In the affluent society sins committed with money may be as grievous as sins committed with our tongue. We will give account for what we have done, for what we have failed to do.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 261

Friday, July 23, 2021

Thought for the day

What is handicapping prayer is not the antiquity of the Psalms but our own crudity and spiritual immaturity.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 261

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Open the door!

God is beyond the reach of finite notions, diametrically opposed to our power of comprehension. In theory He seems to be neither here nor now. He is so far away, an outcast, a refugee in His own world. It is as if all doors were closed to Him. To pray is to open a door, where both God and soul may enter. Prayer is arrival, for Him and for us. To pray is to overcome distance, to shatter screens, to render obliquities straight, to heal the break between God and the world. A dreadful oblivion prevails in the world. The world has forgotten what it means to be human. The gap is widening, the abyss is within the self.

Though often I do not know how to pray, I can still say: Redeem me from the agony of not knowing what to strive for, from the agony of not knowing how my inner life is falling apart.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 259

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Called back from oblivion

Prayer serves many aims. It serves to save the inward life from oblivion. It serves to alleviate anguish. It serves to partake of Gods mysterious grace and guidance. Yet, ultimately, prayer must not be experienced as an act for the sake of something else. We pray in order to pray.

Prayer is a perspective from which to behold, from which to respond to, the challenges we face. Man in prayer does not seek to impose his will upon God; he seeks to impose God’s will and mercy upon himself. Prayer is necessary to make us aware of our failures, backsliding, transgressions, sins.

Prayer is more than paying attention to the holy. Prayer comes about as an event. It consists of two inner acts: an act of turning and an act of direction. I leave the world behind as well as all interests of the self. Divested of all concerns, I am overwhelmed by only one desire: to place my heart upon the altar of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 259

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A house of prayer

In his cottage, even the poorest man may bid defiance to misery and malice. That cottage may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storms may enter it, but there is where the soul expects to be understood. Just as the body, so is the soul in need of a home. Everybody must build his own home; everybody must guard the independence and the privacy of his prayers. It is the source of security for the integrity of conscience, for whatever inkling we attain of eternity. At home I have a Father who judges and cares, who has regard for me, and, when I fail and go astray, misses me. I will never give up my home.

What is a soul without prayer? A soul runaway or a soul evicted from its own home. To those who have abandoned their home: The road may be hard and dark and far, yet do not be afraid to steer back. lf you prize grace and eternal meaning, you will discover them upon arrival.

How marvelous is my home. I enter as a suppliant and emerge as a witness; I enter as a stranger and emerge as next of kin. I may enter spiritually shapeless, inwardly disfigured, and emerge wholly changed. It is in moments of prayer that my image is forged, that my striving is fashioned. To understand the world I must love my home. lt is difficult to perceive luminosity anywhere if there is no light in my own home. It is in the light of prayer’s radiance that I find my way even in the dark. It is prayer that illumines my way. As my prayers, so is my understanding.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 258–59

Monday, July 19, 2021

Is your soul homeless?

Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festered with aimlessness, falsehoods, and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life, in which to divest itself of enforced pretensions and camouflage, in which to simplify complexities, in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer. Continuity, permanence, intimacy, authenticity, earnestness are its attributes. For the soul, home is where prayer is.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 258

Friday, July 16, 2021

Real prayer

We have lost sensitivity to truth and purity of heart in the wasteland of opportunism. It is, however, a loss that rebounds to afllict us with anguish. Such anguish, when converted into prayer, into a prayer for truth, may evoke the dawn of God. Our agony over God's concealment is sharing in redeeming God’s agony over man’s concealment.

Prayer as an episode, as a cursory incident, will not establish a home in the land of oblivion. Prayer must pervade as a climate of living, and all our acts must be carried out as variations on the theme of prayer. A deed of charity, an act of kindness, a ritual moment—each is prayer in the form of a deed. Such prayer involves a minimum or even absence of outwardness, and an abundance of inwardness.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 258

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Theology as palimpsest

In antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages, due to the scarcity of parchment, people would often write new texts on top of earlier written parchments. The term denoting such writings is “palimpsest." Metaphorically, I suggest that authentic theology is a palimpsest: scholarly, disciplined thinking grafted upon prayer.

Prayer is either exceedingly urgent, exceedingly relevant, or inane and useless. Our first task is to learn to comprehend why prayer is an ontological necessity. God is hiding, and man is defying. Every moment God is creating and self-concealing. Prayer is disclosing or at least preventing irreversible concealing. God is ensconced in mystery, hidden in the depths. Prayer is pleading with God to come out of the depths. “Out of the depths have I called Thee, O Lord” (Psalms 130:1).—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 258

<idle musing>
I like that: theology is a palimpsest. It adds an urgency and relevance to prayer that otherwise might be lacking.

May your theology ever be enlightened by your prayer life!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

How's your theology?

The test of authentic theology is the degree to which it refiects and enhances the power of prayer, the way of worship.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 257

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It's a matter of priorities, really

As they say, presented without comment, which is really a very strong comment!
I cannot say that I feel complacent about our chances for peace. Our terrible sin is in not giving peace absolute priority and in failing to realize that to attain peace, we have to make sacrifices. We are ready to make sacrifices for the sake of war, but not, apparently, for the sake of peace.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 255

Monday, July 12, 2021

Progress? Not so much

First, although people have accepted the civil-rights movement as legitimate, they do not seem to have perceived the movements implications. Their lives continue without awareness of the spiritual implications that civil rights demand, without a sense of the deeper meaning of human dignity. The implications of such dignity must be translated into daily action and the way we live. In a sense, the civil-rights movement is of concern not only for the Negro but for the white people. I have not seen much repentance, or a renewed understanding of what it means to be human, regardless of color. Instead, I see that indifference continues.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 253

<idle musing>
Not a whole lot has changed in the last fifty years, has it? About the only difference is that now we say "Black" instead of "Negro" and that racism has become even more blatent among some people.

I wouldn't call either of those progress. Would you?
</idle musing>

Friday, July 09, 2021

Awe and wonder

Just as we are command to love man, we are also called upon to be sensitive to the grandeur of God’s creation. We are infatuated with our great technological achievements; we have forgotten the mystery of being, of being alive. We have lost our sense of wonder, our sense of radical amazement at sheer being. We have forgotten the meaning of being human and the deep responsibility involved in just being alive. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” But that is no problem. We all want to be. The real problem, biblically speaking, is how to be and how not to be; that is our challenge, and it is what makes the difference between the human and the animal. The animal also wants to be. For us, it is the problem of how to be and how not to be, on the levels of existence. Now, what is the meaning of God? The meaning of God is precisely the challenge of “how to be."—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 252 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
He hits it on the head here. We take life for granted, ignoring the beauty all around us. I'm reading The Nature of Oaks right now (on Jim Eisenbraun's recommendation). It's causing me to look around with even more wonder and awe at God's creation. Truly, fearfully and wonderfully made!
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Outrage!

To destroy the illusion that man is his own center cannot be done easily. In order to understand, and to cultivate an openness to transcendence, many prerequisites are necessary, prerequisites of the mind and of the heart. However, our society, our education, all continue to corrode men’s sensibilities. I am not optimistic; we are getting poorer by the day. To give you an example: Man does not feel a sense of outrage anymore, even in the face of crime. We are getting used to it. We are getting accustomed to evil. We are surrendering to that which we call inevitable. That is fatalism; it is pagan. The message of the Bible is that man is capable of making a choice. Choose life—but instead we choose death, blindness, callousness, helplessness, despair.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 251

<idle musing>
Well, he got part of it wrong. It seems all we sense anymore is outrage! But other than that, he got it right. We still are choosing death, blindness, callousness, helplessness, and despair. We think the person who can prove to be the most victimized is the winner. That's not the sign of a healthy society!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

A parable

Remember back in the early days of blogging when blogs cross-linked to interesting stories on other blogs? I fear those days are gone—I'm a prime example. Take a look at my blogroll. About 75% of them are dead links now, but I haven't updated it in over five years. Part of that is because it's sad to chop off links that were once vibrant, even though as a gardener, I know how important it is to remove dead branches.

Anyway, I digress. The Curmudgucation blog has a marvelous parable. Do read it. It isn't very long. Go! Read it! Or, in the words of Augustine, "Click! Read!" (or something like that…)

A little lower than the…

I would say that the major religious problem today is the systematic liquidation of man's sensitivity to the challenge of God. Let me try to explain that. We cannot understand man in his own terms. Man is not to be understood in the image of nature, in the image of an animal, or in the image of a machine. He has to be understood in terms of a transcendence, and that transcendence is not a passive thing; it is a challenging transcendence. Man is always being challenged; a question is always being asked of him. The moment man disavows the living transcendence, he is contracted; he is reduced to a level on which his distinction as a human being gradually disappears. What makes a man human is his openness to transcendence, which lifts him to a level higher than himself. Overwhelmed by the power he has achieved, man now has the illusion of sovereignty; he has become blind to his own situation, and deaf to the question being asked of him.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 251

<idle musing>
I was reading in Hebrews today, where the author says that humanity was created a little lower than the angels. Today's excerpt from Heschel fits in well here. We have lost site of who we are, what we were created to be. We have become drunk with our own power, little realizing that with power comes responsibility—responsibility for how we use that power, whether for good or ill. Unfortunately, we have largely used that power for ill. And the earth shows it.

But you can't abuse power forever without repercussions. And we are beginning to feel those repercussions in our climate. And in the dissolving of our social networks.

But, like the infamous "cows of Bashan" in the book of Amos, we ignore them. As long as we have full stomachs and entertainment, all is well. Except, just as Amos says, all is not well and at some time the bills will come due.

I pray that God will be merciful!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

We see but dimly

Human faith is never final, never an arrival, but rather an endless pilgrimage, a being on the way. We have no answers to all problems. Even some of our sacred answers are both emphatic and qualified, final and tentative; final within our own position in history, tentative because we can speak only in the tentative language of man…

His thoughts are not our thoughts. Whatever is revealed is abundance compared with our soul and a pittance compared with His treasures. No word is God's last word, no word is God’s ultimate word…

The Torah as given to Moses, an ancient rabbi maintains, is but an unripened fruit of the heavenly tree of wisdom. At the end of days, much that is concealed will be revealed.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 245

Friday, July 02, 2021

Bored?

Man cannot live by sedatives alone. He needs not only tranquilizers and sedatives, he also needs stimulants.

In search of exaltation man is ready to burn Rome, even to destroy himself. It is difficult for a human being to live on the same level, shallow, placid, repetitious, uniform, ordinary, unchanged. The classical form of exaltation is worship. Prayer lifts a person above himself. Life without genuine prayer is a wasteland.

But exaltation is gone from the synagogue, from the church, and also from many a classroom and university. The cardinal sin is boredom, and the major failure the denial to our young of moments of exaltation. We have shaped our lives around the practical, the utilitarian, devoid of dreams and vision, higher concerns and enthusiasms. And our religious leadership suffers from a me-too attitude toward fad and fashion, accommodation and progressive surrender.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 228

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Maybe not! But you are still responsible!

The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. It also became clear to me that in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible. I did not feel guilty as an individual American for the bloodshed in Vietnam [or Afghanistan, or Iraq, or …], but I felt deeply responsible. “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). This is not a recommendation but an imperative, a supreme commandment.https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374524951 —Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 225

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Maybe you didn't do it, but…

At this hour a major lesson implied in the teaching of the ancient prophets of Israel assumes renewed validity: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.

It is important that we distinguish between guilt and responsibility. It is dangerous to confuse these two distinct terms. Guilt which originally denoted a crime or sin implies a connection with or involvement in a misdeed of a grave or serious character; the fact of having committed a breach of conduct, especially such as violates law and involves penalty.

Responsibility is the capability of being called upon to answer, or to make amends, to someone for something, without necessarily being directly connected with or involved in a criminal act.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 220 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
This is especially important to remember now. Maybe you aren't guilty of trying to overthrow the government, but you are responsible to see that things get made right. Sure, you didn't kill a Black person when trying to arrest them, but you are responsible to see that things get made right. Sure, you didn't push the Native American off their land, but you are responsible to see that things get made right. The list could go on. And on. And on. Because as humans we've committed many crimes and sins over the years.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Computer upgrades, continued: DisplayLink on MacOS 11.4 (Big Sur)

Yesterday I related my experience upgrading the harddrive/SSD and replacing the battery. I also mentioned that I lost the ability to turn my screens 90 degrees. I like doing that so that the middle screen of my three-screen setup is more like a sheet of paper. Like this:

Late last week, I read that DisplayLink now supports it under Big Sur (MacOS 11.x), so I figured I would update my system over the weekend. So, Saturday evening I started by downloading both Big Sur and the DisplayLink update and then tried to install Big Sur. Well, something in 10.4 was causing my admin password entry to hang. Not sure what it was, but it probably was a kernel extension (kext) based on my research. Anyway, I decided to wait and try again on Sunday rather than stay up all night trying to get it to work : )

I started from a fresh restart and the admin password took with no problem. The computer did it's thing, rebooting a couple of times. Ever since I had a bad logic board on my older MacBook, I'm always nervous when a computer reboots. But it did fine; the fans raced a few times when the processor was doing its thing, but otherwise uneventful. I logged in and a few things asked for permission—Big Sur is very restrictive about what can access what. That's good, but even now, three days later, I'm still answering permissions. Some are turned down and I don't recall ever giving them permission to access that stuff in the first place! So, good move on Apple's part. I tend to be pretty restrictive about what I let touch what files and software developers always seem to think they need more permissions than I'm willing to give them.

When I first logged in, DisplayLink was showing me all three screens, just not allowing me to rotate them. I installed the update, gave it permission to record my displays—it needs that the rewrite to the three screens—and then rebooted. And waited. I only had the one screen via the HDMI, not the other two via the GUD 300. Great. Now what?

Frantic googling showed that others had the same problem. The DisplayLink site said to check the hardware in your About this Mac and showed a screenshot. Don't go down that road! Mine didn't show the DisplayLink, so I lost a bit of hair over that. Everything else looked fine, though. I moved my backup drive from the GUD 300 to direct just in case, but nothing changed.

More frantic googling turned up someone saying that you need to manually start DisplayLink from the Applications directory and implied you had to do that everytime you log in. So, I started it manually via Cmd-Space and typing DisplayLink.app and viola! I had three screens again. One thing more thing that no one had mentioned was that a DisplayLink logo shows up on your menu bar at the top of your screen.

This is important!

Clicking on that gave the option to download an app that allows you to start DisplayLink on startup. Do it! It works like a charm; across multiple reboots and logouts I haven't had an issue with it. As for rotating the screens, it works great. See the two screen shots below. Be sure to click the menu bar option so you can easily change stuff.

Now I just need to get Dropbox to stop grabbing my screenshots and dumping them in a subdirectory! I'm disliking how possessive Dropbox seems to be getting with the passing of time, but in my line of work its the default, so I need to use it. I just need to reign it in a bit more...

I hope that this helps someone with a DisplayLink problem. It would have been helpful to me to have all this in one place instead of chasing it down all across the internet!

One complaint about Big Sur: They took away the dashboard! They have been gradually taking away its functionality over releases, but now it's totally gone! It was handy for me because I would put sticky notes there and I had a calendar and iStatPro for monitoring the system. Not sure what I'm going to do, but I did find this for monitoring fan speed and cpu temps, which referred me to this and this. I've installed them both; not sure which I'll keep. I moved stickies to the desktop, but I don't like it. Not sure what to do about a quick calendar view yet. I like seeing the whole month, without any added stuff. There's got to be a small app for that somewhere...

The role of science

Now, for the first time in history, science has become the handmaiden of the state. Now science must satisfy the demand of the state, and that demand is power. Therein lies the danger of its secular subservience and the cause of its conflict with humanity. For power, even if prompted by moral objectives, tends to become self-justifying and creates moral imperatives of its own.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 217

<idle musing>
I hate to contradict him, but while it is true that science is truly the handmaiden of the state in our culture, it's not the first time. The city of Syracuse in the Hellenistic age comes to mind, with Archimedes and his many inventions. But, his point is well taken: Power corrupts. Always and in every age. Period. And I emphasize always.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 28, 2021

Computer upgrades

A few years ago now I upgraded from my Macbook Pro 2011 to a refurbished Macbook Pro mid-2015. The stuff I was doing was overtaxing the 2011 machine, but I still wanted to stay with a Macbook with a magsafe connector. The last one to have it was 2015. It wasn't ideal in that it only had a 256 GB harddrive, so I knew I would be upgrading it at some point.

Well, that point was about 2 weeks ago. I needed to install Adobe's stuff for the work I'm doing for Lockwood Press. Needless to say, I was already bursting the limits of the harddrive before; Adobe's Suite isn't exactly small! And, at about the same time, my battery started doing the dreaded swelling thing. So, I bit the bullet and ordered a new SSD harddrive and battery.

The web site warned that replacing the battery wasn't going to be child's play; they recommended a professional do it. Well, I've been building computers since 1983, and I've had my Macbook 2011 apart more than once, replacing its battery, upgrading the RAM, and putting in an SSD to replace the 5400 RPM drive, so I figured I could handle it. Replacing the harddrive would be a cake walk, I figured.

Of course, because I needed to upgrade to Mac OS 10.14 to make the new harddrive work (that's the way they designed the Macbook 2015—bad design), I also had to upgrade some other software, such as MS Office 2011 for Mac, since they were 32-bit software and 10.14 didn't reliably run 32-bit software—believe me, I tried it! Word would crash all the time at the most inopportune times. You couldn't minimize a window or change screens without a crash! I decided to wait to upgrade the software until I had the new harddrive in to avoid having to authenticate it twice (a real pain! I've done it before).

Once the hardware arrived, the next evening I proceeded to replace the battery. Because the battery in the newer Macbooks is glued in (actually extremely strong double-stick tape), you theoretically need to use acetone to soften the glue. Not something to tackle in the house—Debbie and I both get headaches from the smell of it, even in small amounts. So, I decided I would disassemble the Macbook in my study to the point where you needed to use the acetone and then move to the garage, open the doors and do it on a table out there.

The disassembly video was extremely good, giving each step in detail. Because I had been inside many laptops over the years, it went relatively well. My eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be, so I had to go slower to make sure I didn't break any of the tiny connectors, but it came apart fine. Because the battery had swollen, I was able to get the double-stick tape off without using the acetone, so that was a huge plus.

Now to reassemble it. I didn't replace the harddrive at this point because you need a functional computer to condition the battery. Reassembly was much slower. If you ever do it, be very careful to keep all the ribbon cables out from underneath the logic board. I missed two of them and had to partially disassemble it again to access them. But, finally, after about two hours total, I got it together and plugged it in. It needed to charge fully before turning it on, so I let it charge overnight. The next day, I turned it on and it fired right up! You need to let it discharge completely and then recharge to condition it, but you can work on it while it discharges, in fact they recommend that.

Next up was the new harddrive. Replacing it physcially is a snap, no more than 10 minutes. The next step was a bit more complicated. Because the SSD in the Macbook was a proprietary style, you can't use a standard drive enclosure to just clone the drive—unless you buy a custom enclosure for $99.00. The upgrade was already running me almost $500 for everything, so I didn't want to drop another $100.00, so I figured I would use my Time Machine backup instead.

So, I booted into Internet Recover mode. It found the correct wireless network, so I figured everything was cool and clicked on it. The spinning disk went nuts for 10 minutes before deciding it wasn't working. Great. Try again. Same thing. Frantic Google search. No joy. Try again, this time, instead of just clicking on it, I hit return. It brought up the password box. Why didn't they mention that??!!

It did its thing for a while, then rebooted into recovery mode again. It wanted to download and install Big Sur (MacOS 11.4), which is what the instructions recommend so you have a recovery partition. But, it said it would take 5 hours! Yikes and then I would still need to take the 3 hours or so to restore from Time Machine. Sorry. Not going to happen! I restored from Time Machine.

Everything worked fine. Except I lost the ability to rotate my monitors 90 degrees. Seems DisplayLink doesn't have the ability to do that above 10.12. Bummer. Meanwhile, I needed to upgrade my Time Machine backup. It was a 500 GB drive and now I have a 1 TB drive in the Macbook. Not using it all, but it seems stupid to have a backup that is smaller than the drive its backing up. So, on our monthly trip to the local big box store, I picked up a 2 TB USB 3.0 5400 RPM Seagate drive. Its working fine; I plugged it into my GUD 300 hub.

Summary: I should have dropped the extra $100 for the custom case, because now I have a 256 GB SSD that I can't use anywhere, even as a portable. And, if you aren't really comfortable inside a computer, get someone else to replace the battery. Given how my eyes are now, next time I don't think I'll do it; I'll hire somebody with younger eyes than I have to do it. I really don't like the fact that Apple has done their best to make the machines nonupgradeable. By the way, because I replaced the harddrive, no Apple store will even look at my machine anymore if I wanted them to replace the battery. That's just stupid.

One final word: I found out last Thursday that DisplayLink now supports rotating displays under Big Sur, so over the weekend I made the move, but that's for another post because it wasn't obvious and Google wasn't terribly helpful. Stay tuned! And hopefully this post will help someone somewhere when they get the dreaded Internet Recovery errors.