Sunday, October 31, 2021

Theology affects politics

Today’s David French column contained these two sentences that, to me anyway, show why people have decided that “the other side” isn’t just wrong, but is sinfully wrong:
“Rulers can be actively malevolent, but they can also simply be wrong. Our fallibility is part of our fallen nature.”
No! No! No! A thousand times No! Fallibility is part of our createdness. We could be wrong without any fall (whatever that means). Being wrong simply means we aren’t omniscient! Now, add our sinful tendencies into that wrongness, and you have a problem. But, to assume that the wrongness in and of itself is sinful, well, that’s imputing to the other side guilt—and allowing you to feel you have the right to correct them mercilessly… Or at least that’s how I see it this Sunday morning.

Of course, I could be wrong, but if so, is that sinful? Or simply the result of being a created being? I say it is only sinful/fallen if I malevolently hang onto it in the face of evidence otherwise. Mark the word malevolently in bold in your mind.

Just an
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Friday, October 29, 2021


God is not alone when discarded by man. But man is alone. To avoid prayer constantly is to dig a gap between man and God which can widen into an abyss. But sometimes, awakening on the edge of despair to weep, and arising from forgetfulness, we feel how yearning moves in softly to become the lord of a restless breast, and we pass over the gap with the lightness of a dream.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 346

<idle musing>
Funny how that works, isn't it? We let go and cease striving, letting God do it and voila! It happens.

Scary and yet reassuring thought—at least to me. I like to have my ducks in a row, even though I know I can't get everything right. But when things go totally haywire, and in my despair cry out to God, suddenly things change. Maybe they don't get better the way I wanted them to be, but by crying out to God, I acknowledge my own limitedness and find release. I'm not God, and wasn't created to be God. I'm not supposed to bear all that strain. By acknowledging that, I release myself to him, and " pass over the gap with the lightness of a dream."
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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A shadow of a person

The man who betrays Him day after day, drunk with vanity, resentment, or reckless ambition, lives in a ghostly mist of misgivings. Having ruined love with greed, he is still wondering about the lack of tenderness. His soul contains a hiding place for an escaping conscienee. He has torn his ties to God into shreds of shrieking dread, and his ear is dull and callous. Spoiler of his own lot, he walks the earth a skeleton of a soul, raving about missed delight.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 345-46

<idle musing>
He missed a line: "And he blames God for it." Other than that, right on the money.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A career worth having!

Prayer is like the light from a burning glass in which all the rays that emanate from the soul are gathered to a focus. There are hours when we are resplendent with the glowing awareness of our share in His secret interests on earth. We pray. We are carried forward to Him who is coming close to us. We endeavor to divine His will, not merely His command. Prayer is an answer to God: “Here am I. And this is the record of my days. Look into my heart, into my hopes and my regrets.” We depart in shame and joy. Yet prayer never ends, for faith endows us with a bold craving that He draw near to us and approach us as a father—not only as a ruler, not only through our walking in His ways, but through His entering into our ways. The purpose of prayer is to be brought to His attention, to be listened to, to be understood by Him; not to know Him, but to be known to Him. To pray is to behold life not only as a result of His power but as a concern of His will, or to strive to make it a divine concern. For the ultimate aspiration of man is to be not a master but an object of His knowledge. To live “in the light of His countenance,” to become a thought of God—this is the true career of man.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 345

Monday, October 25, 2021

Affliction and prayer

In those souls in which prayer is a rare flower, enchanting, surprising, and scarce, it seems to come to pass by the lucky chance of misfortune, as an inevitable or adventitious by-product of affliction. But suffering is not the source of prayer. A motive does not bring about an act as a cause produces an effect; it merely stimulates the potential into becoming the actual. Peril or want may clear the ground for its growth, stubbing up the weeds of self—assurance, ridding the heart of the hard and obdurate, but it can never raise prayer.

To a farmer about to prepare a seedbed, the prerequisite for his undertaking is not the accidental need of a crop. His need of food does not endow him with skill in cultivating the earth; it merely affords the stimulus and purpose for his undertaking. It is his knowledge, his possession of the idea of tillage, which enables him to raise crops. The same principle applies to prayer. The natural loyalty of living, fertilized by faith saved through a lifetime, is the soil on which prayer can grow. Laden with secret fertility, and patient discreetness concerning things to be and things forever unknown, the soil of the soul nourishes and holds the roots of prayer. But the soil by itself does not produce crops. There must also be the idea of prayer to make the soul yield its amazing fruit.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 344

Friday, October 22, 2021


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


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