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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Samwise Gamgee's Words of Wisdom


Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.


Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are.  It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.  The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were.  And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?  But in the end, it’s only a passing thing -- this shadow.  Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you...  that meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But, I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.. I know now.  Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t.  They kept going...because they were holding on to something.


Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?


Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.



- From "The Two Towers," Lord of the Rings

Wake (2)


A wake, like Qohelet, shouts:




Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' Eccl 1.2



and makes us mindful to seize the day:




Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do... Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days.  For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Eccl 9.7-10



(just as Khayyam wrote:




Come, friend, let us lose tomorrow's grief/And seize this moment of life:/Tomorrow, this ancient inn abandoned,/We shall be equal with those born seven thousand years ago! [Quatrain 130]*)



while preparing for the end of day:




However many years anyone may live,/Let them enjoy them all./But let them remember the days of darkness,/For there will be many./Everything to come is meaningless. [Eccl. 11.8]



***


Wakes, like Khayyam's Rubaiyat, remind us of our ignorance amidst all the learning we have acquired, and of our insignificance amidst all our claims to greatness:




Heaven’s wheel gained nothing from my coming,/Nor did my going augment its dignity;/Nor did my ears hear from anyone/Why I had to come and why I went. [Q 3]




If the heart could grasp the meaning of life,/In death it would know the mystery of God;/Today when you are in possession of yourself, you know nothing./Tomorrow when you leave yourself behind, what will you know? [Q5]



Or of the futility of dwelling on the what-was and what-could have-been:




O Heart, do not grieve over this worn-out world,/You are not aimless, do not indulge in aimless sorrows;/Since it is not clear what has gone and what has not,/Be happy, don’t grieve over what was and what was not. [197]




* All quatrains from the translation of Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs -- The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam. New York, Penguin Books, 1981.  For online texts of other translations by Edward Fitzgerald, Richard Brodie, Arthur Talbot, and Edward Whinfield, go to this site.





Wake


A wake always calls to mind Solomon’s aphorism:




It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,


For death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Eccl 1.2, TNIV)




A wake makes us reflect on our own readiness for the last gasp, as it makes us share the grief of the bereaved.



***


I had been to the wake of Baguio businessman and biker, Jerome Coronado whose wife, Celeste, is a dear friend. It was heart-breaking for me to see her  widowed at 32.  She has always been full of radiance and blessings, and it is quite unsettling to find her in grief.


The tragedy will not extirpate the radiance in her nor screen out the blessings from and for her I’m sure, for she has always been wise beyond her years, and so full of vitality.  But I know, as all those who have experienced death in the family know, that she will have to go through the long process of emotional healing.


And as part of her circle of friends, we who are of The Woods (Dhang, Ged, Jasmin, Michelle, et al.) wish her a greater hope for better things to come. We hope to help her sustain her strength as she struggles her way through the tangled morass of the Black Forest and finds her way back to the clearing in the Green Woods.




Sunday, November 23, 2008

Darwin's "Origin"

24 November 1859. English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin releases his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, republished 13 years later simply as On the Origin of Species.


Interesting reads/sites: The Clergy Letter Project, AllAboutScience, AboutDarwin, TalkOrigins



More Million$ from Africa & Europe

Four scammers' baits I recently got from my mail...

From:Mr Ambrus Kelvin.
SA Post Office
P.O. Box 10 000
PRETORIA
0083 SOUTH AFRICA .
{MONEY TRANSACTION}
{THIRTY SIX MILLION USD}
(RE: TRANSFER OF $ 36,000,000.USD)
{BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY/YOUR ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED}

My Name is  Mr Ambrus Kelvin. And I work in the International operation department in a Local Bank here in South Africa On a routine inspection, I discovered a dormant domiciliary account with a BAL Of 36,000,000 (Thirty Six Million USD) on further discreet investigation I also discovered that the account holder has long since passed away (Dead) leaving no beneficiary to the account

The bank will approve this money to any foreigner because the former operator of the a/c is a foreigner and from Iraq in particular and I am certainly sure that he is dead and nobody will come again for the claim of this money A foreigner can only claim this money with legal claims to the account Holder therefore I need your cooperation in this transaction.

I will provide the necessary information needed in order to claim this money, But you will need to open an account where this can be transferred. If you are interested send me your private Telephone No And Fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the Deposit. I wish for utmost confidentiality in handling this Transaction as my job and the future of my family would be jeopardized if it were breached The information will be as.
Follows:
Bank Name Address......?
A/C Name.................?
A/C Number Even an empty
A/c is still ok! ..........?
Swift Code No................?

And i am assuring you that the transaction is risk free hence we are going to follow the normal transfer process. Finally a 25% of the total fund will be given to you for your steadfast corporation. Upon the receipt of the above details, payment will be activated by the feeding of your data into payment system, followed by a signal that will be sent to the paying bank to remit funds into your nominated bank account within 5 official working days of receipt of the above information.

Contact me urgently via email privately for further details: {ambruskelvinza1970@msn.com}
Thanks.
Yours Faithfully,
Mr Ambrus Kelvin

♣♣♣


ab_nwelch1964@internet.lu


DEAR FRIEND,

GREETING IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. I AM MRS.ABIGAIL NWELCH,A WIDOW TO LATE MIKA NWELCH. I AM 50 YEARS OLD,I AM A NEW CHRISTAIN CONVERT, SUFFERING FROM LONG TIME CANCER OF THE BREAST,FROM ALL INDICATION MY CONDITIONS IS REALLY DETERIORATING AND IT IS QUITE OBVIOUS THAT I WON'T LIVE MORE THAN SIX MONTHS, ACCORDING TO MY DOCTORS,THIS IS BECAUSE THE CANCER STAGE HAS GOTTEN TO A VERY BADSTAGE. MY LATE HUSBAND WAS KILLED DURING THE COTE'D IVORE CIVIL WAR, AND DURING THE PERIOD OF OUR MARRIAGE WE COULD'NT PRODUCE ANY CHILD.

MY LATE HUSBAND WAS VERY WEALTHY AND AFTER HIS DEATH, I INHERITED ALL HIS BUSINESS AND WEALTH.THE DOCTORS HAS ADVISED ME THAT I MAY NOT LIVE FOR MORE THAN SIX MONTHS;SO INOW DECIDED TO DEVIDE THE PART OF THIS WEALTH, TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHRIST CHURCHS AROUND THE GLOBE. I SELECTED YOU AFTER VISITING THE INTERNET AND I PRAYED OVER IT.I AM WILLING TO DONATE THE SUM OF $5,000.000.00 U.S DOLLARS,TO THE LESS PRIVILEGED.

PLEASE I WANT YOU TO NOTE THAT THIS FUND IS LYING IN AN INTERNATIONAL BANK.I HONESTLY PRAY THAT THIS MONEY, WHENTRANSFERRED WILL BE USED FOR THE SAID PURPOSE; BECAUSE I HAVE COME TOFIND OUT THAT WEALTH ACQUISITION WITHOUT CHRIST IS VANITY. MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS THE LOVE OF GOD AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPRITE BE WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY; I AWAIT YOUR URGENT REPLY.

YOURS IN CHRIST.
MRS.ABIGAIL NWELCH.

♣♣♣







Foundation's Officer,
Fondazion Di Vittorio, ITALY
http://www.fondazionedivittorio.it

Dear Donation Beneficiary

The Fondazion Di Vittorio, ITALY, is glad to notify you that you have been chosen by the board of trustees as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation.

To celebrate the 7th anniversary program, the Fondazion Di Vittorio, ITALY in conjunction with other relevant bodies is giving out a Yearly donation of $100,000,000 USD (One hundred Million United States Dollars ) to 100 lucky recipients.You were selected among the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of $ 1,000,000.00 USD ( One million Dollars) as charity donations/aid from the Fondazion Di Vittorio, ITALY in accordance with the enabling act of Parliament.

Please endeavor to quote your Qualification numbers (N-222-6747, E-900-56) quote in all discussions. when sending your claims inquiries to our Financial Officer.

SEND ALL YOUR CLAIMS AND INQUIRIES  INCLUDING YOUR NAME, ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBERS TO

Mr.Claudio Giovanni
Executive Secretary,
Fondazion Di Vittorio.
Email: fdvclaudiogiovanni@mail2consultant.com

All information is strictly confidential and will only be used for the purpose to which it is been requested.

On behalf of the Board,  kindly accept our warmest congratulations. Pls note that this is not a Hoax/Lottery of any Kind. This is a donation donated to you by our prestigious organization to enable you meet your goals for this year 2008.

Regards.

Mrs.Christine Puttick

♣♣♣




Hello Sir,


After several official enquiries i made from the foreign trade office of our  chambers of commerce and industry, i decided to contact you through this medium to request for your guidelines and assistance in making a business investment transfer of £12,800,000.00 (twelve million, eight hundred thousand british pounds sterling) to establish a real estate,construction and alternative energy  business in your country in the next few days.


Kindly take out a moment of your very busy schedule today to respond back by email or telephone for further details and include your private telephone number and email for secure communication.

Please send your reply to my private e-mail address: esqjimharry@gmail.com


Regards,


Jim Harry, Esq
McCullough & Co Solicitors
London, United Kingdom
Telephone:44-703-193-8513
Private E-mail: esqjimharry@gmail.com

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Daddy's Rules for Dating"

Gone are the days when parents do a B.I. on their kids' boyfriends or girlfriends, one of my colleagues observed. Some still do, apparently.  And they come up with something like the  forwarded email message pasted below hehe. I'm sure a Pinoy wit will come up with his own version of this, in full local color.  :)





APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO DATE MY DAUGHTER


NOTE: This application will be incomplete and rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, lineage, and current medical report from your doctor.

NAME_____________________________________ DATE OF BIRTH_____________
HEIGHT___________ WEIGHT____________ IQ__________ GPA_____________
SOCIAL SECURITY #_________________ DRIVERS LICENSE #________________
BOY SCOUT RANK AND BADGES__________________________________________
HOME ADDRESS_______________________ CITY/STATE___________ ZIP______
 Do you have parents? ___Yes ___No
Is one male and the other female? ___Yes ___No
 If No, explain:_____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________
 Number of years they have been married______________________________
 If less than your age, explain_________________________________________________________
 
ACCESSORIES SECTION:
 A. Do you own or have access to a van? __Yes __No
B. A truck with oversized tires? __Yes __No
C. A waterbed? __Yes __No
D. A pickup with a mattress in the back? __Yes __No
E. A tattoo? __Yes __No
F. Do you have an earring, nose ring, __Yes __No  pierced tongue, pierced cheek or a belly button ring?

 (IF YOU ANSWERED 'YES' TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, DISCONTINUE APPLICATION AND LEAVE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY. I SUGGEST RUNNING.)
 
ESSAY SECTION:
 In 50 words or less, what does' LATE' mean to you?__________________________________________
In 50 words or less, what does 'DON'T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER’ mean to you?___________
____________________________________________________________
In 50 words or less, what does 'ABSTINENCE' mean to you?___________________________
 
REFERENCES SECTION:
 Church you attend___________________________________________________
How often you attend______________________________________________
When would be the best time to interview your:
father? _____________
mother? _____________
pastor? _____________
 
SHORT-ANSWER SECTION:
 Answer by filling in the blank. Please answer freely, all answers  are confidential.
A: If I were shot, the last place I would want shot would be:____________________________
B: If I were beaten, the last bone I would want broken is my:___________________________
C: A woman's place is in the: __________________________
D: The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is:________________________
E. What do you want to do IF you grow up? ___________________________
F. When I meet a girl, the thing I always notice about her first is:____________________________
G. What is the current going rate of a hotel room? ______________
 

I SWEAR THAT ALL INFORMATION SUPPLIED ABOVE IS TRUE AND CORRECT TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH, DISMEMBERMENT, NATIVE AMERICAN ANT TORTURE, CRUCIFIXION, ELECTROCUTION, CHINESE WATER TORTURE, RED HOT POKERS, AND HILLARY CLINTON KISS TORTURE.
 
________________________________________________
Applicant's Signature (that means sign your name, moron!)
 
_______________________________
________________________________
Mother's Signature Father's Signature

_______________________________

________________________________
Pastor/Priest/Rabbi State Representative/Congressman
 

Thank you for your interest, and it had better be genuine and non-sexual. Please allow four to six years for processing.
 You will be contacted in writing if you are approved.

 Please do not try to call or write (since you probably can't, and it would cause you injury). If  your application is rejected, you will be  notified by two gentleman wearing white ties carrying violin cases. (you might watch your back)
 To prepare yourself, start studying Daddy's Rules for Dating.
 

 

DADDY’S RULES FOR DATING

Your dad's rules for your boyfriend (or for you if  you're a guy) :

Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her  neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear  to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete  idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the  door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure  that your clothes do not, in fact come off during the course  of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your  waist.

Rule Four: I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a 'Barrier method' of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you. 

Rule Five: It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day.. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: ‘early.'

Rule Six: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge . Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything  softer than a wooden stool. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual themes are to be avoided; movies which feature chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine: Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten: Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to  mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi . When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my  daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Fundamentalism and Freedom


...the freedom promised by fundamentalists often leads to frustration and confusion.  After one converts to fundamentalism, spiritual growth is gauged on how separate he or she is from the popular culture.  Every failure in their goal to remain separate reminds them that they are losing the battle against the world... The shame and guilt experienced because of these failures to remain truly separate can lead to bitterness and self-deprecation... there is another option for fundamentalists who feel they have failed to live up to their holy calling.  Rather than sinking into depression or rededicating their lives at the altar, they might find encouragement in their realization that the Apostle Paul’s instruction was that Christians are to reject any human invention of spirituality and be conformed – not to a subculture – but to the image of Christ.



Shelton L. WoodsA Broken Mirror: Protestant Fundamentalism in the Philippines (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 2002), 197.

This Preaching Business



So, do we have a deal? Three men sat at a table next to where I ate my lunch in the dining area of a vegetarian eatery along Session Road. Two of them were listening intently to a middle-aged man in a ballcap and maong jacket, his hands spread over a multi-layered plastic folder.


I couldn’t help overhearing them as Mr. Ballcap-Maong obviously intended to make known his Smart/Globe “load wallet” business to everyone in the hall, perhaps hoping that some of the other diners will take interest in his enterprise.


From their conversation I gathered that one of his two listeners whom he often referred to as “Pastor” had become part of his “downline” and had convinced his younger companion, a Bible school graduate, to join him in the “loading” business.


Addressing the younger preacher, the dealer asked, “So kailan ka magsisimula [So when are you starting]?”


“Bukas siguro [Tomorrow, maybe], came the reply.


Ballcap-Maong shook his head, sighed and said, “Alam mo, ang business parang Bible Study yan e. Kung ako ang binabible studyhan mo, hindi ako maniniwala sa ‘yo. Di ka sigurado e. Pwede ba yun? Dapat huwag mong pakitaan ang prospect mo na nagdududa ka sa mga sinasabi mo dahil oras na me makitang pag-aalangan sa ‘yo, hindi mo siya macoconvert. Ganyan din sa business. Dapat kung bukas ka magsisimula, wag mo nang sabihing ‘Siguro.’ So ano, i-close na natin ang deal?“ [Engaging in a business is just like conducting a Bible study. If I were your student in a Bible Study class, I won’t believe you. You are unsure of what you’re saying. That can’t be. You must not give your prospect any hint that you’re doubtful of what you’re teaching. Otherwise, you won’t be able to convert him. In business, when you say you’re starting tomorrow, don’t add ‘maybe.’ So do we have a deal?]


Quite a salesman, I thought, as I finished my meal. I glanced in their corner as I made my way out of the dining area in time to see the young prospect handing in his initial payment to the triumphant dealer.


***


Tentmakers. The pastors mentioned above are just a couple of the hundreds of preachers in the country who are striving to make both ends meet by engaging in secular work (“tentmaking,” in Bible school parlance). Some have been quite successful in juggling their time between their worldly and heavenly commitments and have even become the financiers of their churches’ outreach programs.


Others have not been as fortunate, though – just like those I know who have tried earning their keep as insurance and real estate agents, multi-level marketing salesmen (read: Amway, 1st Quadrant, Forever Living, etc.), or promoters of other income generating schemes. For often, their neighbors and acquaintances find it hard to figure out whether these enterprising messengers of the kingdom of heaven view their “prospects” as lost souls to evangelize or potential business associates to recruit.


***


Bible or Business Studies? To a certain extent, the salesman was right: doing Bible studies is much like doing business. In Bible School, especially in Evangelism I & II, we were instructed to incorporate some principles of the business world in our teaching and preaching techniques. We were challenged to be "wiser than those in the world” and use “worldly wisdom” in selling the Gospel message. In a sense, we must see Bible doctrine as a business package that must be wrapped in attractive cover and the contents thereof explained or described in a seamless and convincing way. Our targets of evangelism – our “prospects” – must be 100 percent sold to our message.


In the mission field, I came across various motivational, inspirational or manipulative techniques and strategies used by preachers from different denominational or theological backgrounds in their attempts to “win souls” to their respective causes.


In a way, many of these preachers assume different identities ala Avatars. They morph into one or more of the following characters:


♦Health Buffs. They use Martial or Internal Arts programs, dieting tips, food supplement ads, and other clean-and-healthy living practices and tools to subtly promote their religious convictions.


VIP-mongers. They try to win souls by showing off a list (and yes, even photos) of their big-time members – those who are well-known in the entertainment industry, the government, the academe, non-government and private organizations, and other institutions.


Personality cultists. God’s spotlight is fixed on their preacher/pastor/priest/minister/imam/founder. Their religious leader with feet of clay is the Star for all seasons, The Anointed, The One. Those who disbelieve in him/her will not have eternal life.


Number-crunchers. They may not necessarily be good in Math, but they sure are engrossed in statistics. They either tell people that they are “the fastest growing church/religion” in the world, or that their number runs into hundreds of thousands of millions and hordes are getting baptized or initiated into their group.


Imeldifics. Magnificent temples/churches/mosques, hallowed halls, grandiose ceremonies, expensive ecclesiastical robes or ministers’ suits, luxury cars – all these we have, they claim, and so “prove” the veracity of their truth-claims.


Generation XYZiers. Rock-and-roll, theatrical gadgets, the latest teenage craze... you name it, they got it all. Whatever and wherever their market approach takes them, they’re all for it as long as their auditoriums get filled up with those who are in search of meaning. You wanna be hip? Join us! Come to where the flavor is.


The Boo-ers. A horror movie and a hard-hitting sermon are all they need to convert people. Listen to the groans of the rich man in ETERNAL torment ! Watch how the worms go in and out of the man’s nose, eyes, and ears! Oh, you wouldn’t want to have such a terrible end, would you?!


The Bwhuhu-ers. Experts on playing on the emotional strings of people, they look you in the eye and with all feelings tell you of how they know deep in their hearts that they are in God’s one and only religion. Their carefully worded, tear-jerking stories are enough to prove their sincerity of their character and the truthfulness of their claims.


Colonialists. They capitalize on their White missionaries who have a better apprehension of truth than their Black, Brown, Yellow and Red neighbors in this global village. Look at how tall they are, how their blue/green eyes sparkle! Listen to how fluent they are in our own local language! And their testimonies – how touching! Surely, these zealous Americanos know a lot and speak no falsehood!


Old Path-ers. They got all these charts on when, where and how denominations began. They contend that these false churches are but corruptions of the Divine Pattern for the Church. But thank God, they add, the One, True Church remained faithful to this day. The long line of our martyrs from AD 1 onwards left a “Trail of Blood” that proves our church to be the real one. Or, We have restored the Ancient Order of Things and are therefore the New Testament Church.


The Scholars. They attempt to either intimidate or impress their prospects with their smattering knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Since they know the original languages of the Bible so much, they alone qualify as exegetes and hermeneuts.


The Wonderfolks. With their health-and-wealth gospel, they attract multitudes of people and some of their spokespersons rake in millions of money. They treat your psychosomatic illness and you become a believer. They bless your empty purse, and you become hopeful.


Praiseworthy or contemptible? Judge for yourself.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A "Holy Brawl" : Thoughts on the Discourse of Sanctification

An essential part of a religious discursive formation is the discourse of sanctification or consecration -- the imputation or conferring of holiness on a person or thing.  Worship of relics, pilgrimages, beatification rites, veneration of saints, and the use of holy water are just a few of the myriad practices subsumed under this discourse.


There is politics in all these, of course, for rules govern each practice and power is wielded by those who make rules and wear titles.  There is a set of rules for how a statue is to be dressed or displayed, another for how a procession should be made while hoisting a religious article, another for how and when  catch-phrases and slogans are to be uttered, another for where people should be seated in a temple or church, another for how one must contort his/her body in meditation, etc.


Many religious people submit to these rules unquestioningly, believing the same to be heaven-wrought and  that digressing from or transgressing these will cause them to be hell-bound.   Consequently, their spiritual lives become compartmentalized and regimented.


The hegemonic religious discourse thus creates a herd that cannot or does not attempt to move beyond its fenced theological pasture.  It creates a herd that lives in the delusion that the tiny patch of land it moves in is all that matters to the Great Shepherd.


***


The religious discourse of sanctification even makes so-called "holy men" unholy as depicted in a recent news article titled,


"Monks Brawl at Christian Holy Site in Jerusalem"



written by Mattie Friedman of Associate Press.

As to the cause of this fracas, the report says:

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.


The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.


The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule — the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus — and give the Armenians a claim to the site.


The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way, sparking the brawl.


Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.


A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police.


Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.



These religious people sanctified certain sites and curios, packaged them with dogmas, and guarded these dogmas with "fists of fury," all the while calling upon the name of the Lord.


When the uproar ceases, however, all of them end up shaming the name of their Lord and once more showcasing to the world the political color of their supposedly spotless robes.


***


Catholics, Evangelicals, and the neither-Catholic-nor-Protestant sectarians (certain Churches of Christ, the Iglesia Ni Cristo,  Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) may be congratulating themselves while reading the news  report posted above, deeming themselves holier than the fighting Armenian and Greek Orthodox brothers.


But wait, there's more!


In many ways, all these churches also operate practically within the same religious discourse as those monks (minus, perhaps, the fistfight).  Consider:


1. Consecrated lands.  Some of them campaign for the protection of the "Holy Land" and the preservation of  Israel -- the so-called "People of God" -- even to the extent of influencing the imposition of and/or supporting a lopsided foreign policy.  Never mind that Palestinians have as much right as the Israelis for a political territory in that hotly contested corner of the Middle East. And never mind that Paul had spoken of a new "Israel of God" that encompasses people from every ethnic background (see Gal 6.16, for example).


2. Consecrated temples. Some  teach that marriage ceremonies conducted outside their "sanctuaries" do not have God's blessing.  Others cannot imagine worshiping outside their hallowed buildings and still be acceptable to God. Never mind that a marriage ceremony is primarily a civil contract, and that the Scriptures do not have such convoluted rules about this rite. And never mind Jesus' declaration that worship is not confined to any particular mountain or temple (John 4.21-24), or Paul's reminder to the Corinthian Christians as being the 'temple of the Spirit" (I Cor. 6.19) or the Athenian philosophers of God not dwelling "in temples made with  hands" (Acts 17.24)


3. Consecrated assembly areas. Some prohibit potlucks "in church." Never mind that one may pee, puke and crap in the toilet in the same church building; or that the Corinthians did have love feasts in their regular assemblies (I Cor 11.20-22).


4. Consecrated furniture. Some declare the pulpit and "The Lord's Table" as "no-woman's-land"  -- i.e., no women are allowed to preach, teach and pray from or behind these church fixtures. Never mind that  the early church had no sacred pulpit or  gilded "Lord's Table" to speak of, that women prayed and prophesied in the Corinthian church (I Cor 2.2-16; 14.1,ff.)


5. Consecrated people. Some think that baptisms not administered by their (preferably male) ministers/preachers/pastors/priests are not scripturally valid.  Also, some consider "Saints" as only those people declared so by the Pope.  Finally, some of them confer upon their leaders titles as kilometric as "The Most Reverend so and so, Bishop of this and that" or as short but equally honorific such as "Your Grace."  Never mind that the there is no Scriptural prescription on who should baptize, that all Christians are saints or "holy people" (see I Cor 1.2, for example), or that these devotees often address their Master  as "Jesus" with no ecclesiastical titles appended to the name.


No indeed, it does not matter whether some rules or rites are unnecessarily constricting, oppressing, and outrageous. What matters most to some is that status quo is maintained: money is kept flowing into the church coffers,  church members are psychologically fine-tuned or socially fattened, and power is perpetuated.


So some of us must look elsewhere for a more intellectually, spiritually and morally uplifting fellowship of   believers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Lives as a Battlefield


Our lives are a battlefield on which is fought a continuous war between the forces that are pledged to confirm our humanity and those determined to dismantle it;... those whose aim is to open our eyes, to make us see the light and look to tomorrow, asking ourselves about the future of our children, and those who wish to lull us into closing our eyes, encouraging us to care only for our stomachs today, without thinking about the tomorrow of our country.



- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, in Devil on the Cross, quoted by Kathleen Greenfield in "Murdering the Sleep of Dictators: Corruption, Betrayal, and the Call to Revolution in the Work of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o," Charles Cantalupo, ed., The World of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc., 1995), 37.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ha(ha)lidou Kabo(bo)re

In 2005, this scammer also posed himself as "The Chairman" of the "Contract Awarding Committee of the EUROPEAN
UNION CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT( ECC) in BURKINA FASO West Africa."

***



HELLO DEAR,

THIS MAIL MIGHT COME TO YOU AS A SURPRISE AND THE TEMPTATION TO IGNORE IT AS UNSERIOUS COULD COME INTO YOUR MIND BUT PLEASE CONSIDER IT A DIVINE WISH AND ACCEPT IT WITH A DEEP SENSE OF HUMILITY.

I AM MR.HALIDOU KABORE, THE MANAGER IN CHARGE OF AUDITING  DEPARTMENT OF  BANK OF AFRICA (B.O.A) OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA FASO IN WEST AFRICA, WITH DUE RESPECT AND REGARD, I HAVE DECIDED TO CONTACT YOU ON A BUSINESS TRANSACTION THAT WILL BE VERY BENEFICIAL TO BOTH OF US AT THE END OF THE TRANSACTION.

DURING OUR INVESTIGATION AND AUDITING IN THIS BANK, MY DEPARTMENT CAME ACROSS A VERY HUGE SUM OF MONEY BELONGING TO ONE OF OUR DECEASED CUSTOMER WHO DIED ON JULY 30TH 2002 OF A GHASTLY MOTOR ACCIDENT AND THE FUND HAS BEEN DORMANT IN HIS ACCOUNT WITH THIS BANK WITHOUT ANY CLAIM OF THE FUND IN OUR CUSTODY EITHER FROM HIS FAMILY OR RELATION BEFORE OUR DISCOVERY TO THIS DEVELOPMENT.

ALTHOUGH PERSONALLY, I KEEP THIS INFORMATION SECRET TO ENABLE THE WHOLE PLANS AND IDEA BE PROFITABLE AND SUCCESSFUL DURING THE TIME OF EXECUTION, THE SAID AMOUNT IS FIVE MILLION THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS (US$ 5.3 M ), AS IT MAY INTEREST YOU TO KNOW, I GOT YOUR IMPRESSIVE INFORMATION ON MY SEARCH FOR A RELIABLE PARTNER, I CONTACTED YOU TO BE MY PARTNER AND PERSON TO BE RELIABLE AND CAPABLE TO CHAMPION A BUSINESS OF SUCH MAGNITUDE WITHOUT ANY PROBLEM.

MEANWHILE ALL THE ARRANGEMENT TO PUT CLAIM OVER THIS FUND AS THE NEXT OF KIN TO THE DECEASED, GET THE REQUIRED APPROVAL AND TRANSFER THIS MONEY TO A FOREIGN ACCOUNT HAS BEEN PUT IN PLACE AND DIRECTIVES AND NEEDED INFORMATION WILL BE RELAYED TO YOU AS SOON AS YOU INDICATE YOUR INTEREST AND WILLINGNESS TO ASSIST ME AND ALSO BENEFIT YOUR SELF TO THIS GREAT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY,IN FACT I COULD HAVE DONE THIS DEAL ALONE BUT BECAUSE OF MY POSITION IN THIS COUNTRY AS A CIVIL SERVANT AND WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO
OPERATE A FOREIGN ACCOUNT AND WOULD EVENTUALLY RAISE EYE BROW ON MY SIDE DURING THE TIME OF TRANSFER BECAUSE I WORK IN THIS BANK.

THIS IS THE ACTUAL REASON WHY IT WILL REQUIRE A SECOND PARTY OR FELLOW WHO WILL FORWARD CLAIMS AS THE NEXT OF KIN WITH AFFIDAVIT OF TRUST OF OATH TO THE BANK AND ALSO PRESENT A FOREIGN ACCOUNT WHERE HE WILL NEED THE MONEY TO BE RE-TRANSFERRED INTO ON HIS REQUEST AS IT MAY BE AFTER DUE VERIFICATION AND CLARIFICATION BY THE CORRESPONDENT BRANCH OF THE BANK WHERE THE WHOLE MONEY WILL BE REMITTED FROM TO YOUR OWN DESIGNATION BANK ACCOUNT.

I WILL NOT FAIL TO INFORM YOU THAT THIS TRANSACTION IS 100% RISK FREE, ON SMOOTH CONCLUSION OF THIS TRANSACTION, YOU WILL BE ENTITLED TO 30% OF THE TOTAL SUM AS GRATIFICATION, WHILE 5% WILL BE SET ASIDE TO TAKE CARE OF EXPENSES THAT MAY ARISE DURING THE TIME OF TRANSFER, WHILE 65% WILL BE FOR ME, PLEASE YOU HAVE BEEN ADVISED TO KEEP "TOP SECRET" AS I AM STILL IN SERVICE AND INTEND TO RETIRE FROM SERVICE AFTER WE CONCLUDE THIS DEAL WITH YOU.

I WILL BE MONITORING THE WHOLE SITUATION HERE IN THIS BANK UNTIL YOU CONFIRM THE MONEY IN YOUR ACCOUNT, AND ASK US TO COME DOWN TO YOUR COUNTRY FOR SUBSEQUENT SHARING OF THE FUND ACCORDING TO PERCENTAGES PREVIOUSLY INDICATED AND FURTHER INVESTMENT, EITHER IN YOUR COUNTRY OR ANY COUNTRY YOU ADVICE US TO INVEST IN AND ALL OTHER NECESSARY VITAL INFORMATION WILL BE SEND TO YOU WHEN I HEAR FROM YOU.  DO CONTACT ME AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE THIS LETTER THROUGTH

NOTE ON YOUR WILLING NESS TOWARDS THIS TRANSACTION, I WILL WISH YOU TO INDICATE YOU'RE SELF BY SENDING BELOW INFORMATION.

1.      Your Full Name:..............................
2.      Your Phone Number:.......................
3.      Your Age:........................................
4.      Your Sex:........................................
5.      Your Occupations:...........................
6.      Your Country and City:....................

7.      Your Religion:.................................

Yours Faithfully.

Mr.HALIDOU KABORE.

habore_kabore05@netcourrier.com

THE MANAGER IN CHARGE OF
AUDITING DEPARTMENT OF
BANK OF AFRICA (B.O.A).

Iluko SMS Ticklers

Among the Ilocano text jokes* I received last sem, here are the top 4 in my list:

1. Park

Boy: Sukitek dagiti bituwen nga isagot ko kenka! [I'll snatch the stars and give them to you]


Girl: Nah, dim pay masukit ta duggong mo inyan to ket dagita bitwinen? [Bah! You can't even pick your nose...]


Boy: Jak la impagarup nga pati duggong ko ket kayat mo... [I never knew you also desired (my) booger]

2. Street

Lasing sumisigaw: Hoooooh! Rumuar amin nga natured! Nagsilabasan ang mga SIGA. [Drunk shouting: Hoooh! Come out, toughies!]

Siga: 'Pay'a! Nya probleman? [Tough guy: Got a problem?!]


Lasing: Itulod dak man agawid!  Mabutengak gamin... [Could you please walk me home? I'm scared...]





3. Penal Colony

Guard: Hoy!!! Agparutka man ti ruut! [Hey!!! Keep weeding!]


Balud [Prisoner]: Madik! [No!/Don't want to!]


Guard: Agparutka wenno saan? [Are you gonna keep weeding or not?]


Balud: Nagtulengka! Nu 'bagak nga madik, MADIK! Uray man nu ikkatendakon nga BALUD! [You're really deaf, are you? If I say I don't wanna do it, i won't! I don't even care if you kick me out of prison now!]


4. Restaurant

Juan: Kapi man, with milk. [Coffee please. With milk]


Waiter: 12 pesos sir.


Juan: 10 la di kalman. [It was only 10 pesos yesterday]


Waiter: Ngimmina ti gasolina sir. [Gas prices went up sir]


Juan: Han mu nga ikkan ti gasolina! [Well, don't put in gasoline (in my cup)!]


5. House

Anak: Tang, anya sidatayo? [Dad, what's for dinner?]


Tatang: Pusit ti sidatayo, anak. [Squid, son]


Anak: Apay ngay nga kamatis met ti adda ditoy lamisaantayo? [Why do I see only tomatoes on the table?]


Tatang: Pusit garud, ipusitsitmo ta kamatis iti bugguong! [Yeah, that's what I mean -- squeeze out the tomatoes into the fish sauce!]


*Text messages from Junley Lazaga -- "straightened out," of course, for readability. Puns in the original language are "lost in [my stilted] translation."

***



These jokes (which may not really be funny to those outside our culture) not only gives us a peek into how Filipino wit works but also into how he uses humor as part of his coping mechanism in the midst of any personal or national crisis.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rants on "All-Souls Day"

We often reserve the sweetest flowers for graves that know only the smell of their own stench.



Reminds us of that famous "Anonymous/Unknown" who wrote these beautiful lines:

One Little Rose











I would rather have one little rose
From the garden of a friend,
Than to have the choicest flowers
When my stay on earth must end.





I would rather have one pleasant word
In Kindness said to me,
Than flattery when the heart is still
And life has ceased to be.



I would rather have a loving smile
From friends I know are true,
Than tears shed round my casket
When this world I've bid adieu.



Bring me all your flowers today
Whether pink, or white, or red;
I'd rather have one blossom now
Than a truckload when I'm dead

***


It has been over four centuries since Giuliano della Rovere (Julius II, Pope from 1503-1513) caused the sale of indulgences primarily to fund the building of St. Peter's Basilica, but multitudes still buy into  various forms of a commercialized or numbers and money-driven theological discourse of salvation:


- The more faithfully you give your tithes and offerings the more you please the Lord and the more you ensure eternal rewards...


- The candles you burn will keep the souls of your loved ones from the terror of eternal fire...


- The more church books and magazines you sell, the greater your chance for getting into God's list of the redeemed...


- The more you convert and baptize, the grander the place you'll get in heaven...


So this "All-Sales Day" and the following days, keep emptying your pocketbooks and piling up your coins to high heavens.  Keep working hard for your salvation by upping your church statistics. For, to paraphrase Johann Tetzel, every ring the coin makes in the coffer or every notch the church stats climbs, a soul from eternal damnation crosses (or will cross) over to eternal glory.


***


On "All-Souls Day," what passes for faith to many is superstition to others. For example, some believe that what invests "holiness" and "power" to tap water is merely the devotee's gullibility while others contend that what gives the water miraculous or magical quality is divine power coursed through a human channel.


***


TV shows make a lot of hype out of rehashed "White Lady" and other ghost stories.  What's more disturbing to me are the other "ghosts" of the past that continue to haunt us from time to time and erode our confidence in the effectiveness of our coping strategies, particularly our repression of painful memories.


Whether real ghosts or not, some of these haunt us because the quest for meaning and justice has remained elusive for many of us.


On the other hand, some of the ghosts that haunt us are just like some digital images -- doctored, self-created.


***


It is said that 600 memory bits hit us every second. No wonder remembering the past can be disorienting.


***


Thanatologists tell us that we normally go through the following stages when grappling with the issue of death and dying:


1. Denial and isolation


2. Anger, rage, resentment, envy


3. Bargaining


4. Acceptance


Those of us who have lost loved ones and have gone through these stages of emotional struggle know that oftentimes, would-be sympathizers are of better help to us when they keep platitudes out of their talk.  Sometimes, their silent presence is all we need.


***


Encyclopedias inform us that mice can live up to three years, elephants 70 years, tortoises 200 years, Redwoods 3000 years, and humans 115 (well, at least based on the longevity of current "world's oldest person alive" title holder Edna Scott Parker).


Bottomline (borrowed line): "We are all terminal -- it's only a matter of time."


It's pathetic that many of us are concerned more about living long than living well/right.


Michael Josephson has this to say on "Living a Life That Matters":




Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.


There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.


It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.


The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?



What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.



What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.


What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.


Choose to live a life that matters.





***




The Egyptians are said to have built over 90 pyramids and mummified 730 million bodies -- all in the name of immortality.


Talk of the mortality of immortality, the temporality of the eternal.


***


One of my favorite texts in the Pentateuch is Genesis 49.33-50.3:




When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people....


Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.  Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel.  So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.



I often talk about this passage in three phrases:


A Fine Farewell. Jacob died in a manner that many of our old folks would like to -- children at the deathbed, ample time for final instructions, and readiness to go.


A Tender Touch. There may be some out there who, like me, did not have the privilege of  seeing their dying father through. Joseph was a fortunate fellow, for he did not only have the enviable reputation of having vast political authority, vaunted physical beauty, abounding love for family, effective managerial skills, and famous descendants (Joshua, Deborrah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samuel); he also had a good relationship with his dad and was present at his old man's death. For many of us, nothing can be as haunting as not having kept one's promise to be at the bedside of his dying father, holding his pale hand, closing his black-ringed eyes,  and embracing him whose faint heartbeat  is finally stilled.


A Memorable Mourning. In ancient Bontoc society, a Kachangyan (aristocrat) gets to be mourned for three days while an ordinary tribesmate gets just one day. In Jacob's case, the mourning took 70 days -- more than enough for the bereaved to recoup. And I suppose the mourning was done in respect and out of a feeling of loss for the patriarch.  Herod the Great had a different idea: he knew his Jewish subjects would rejoice at his death, so he ensured that thousands would mourn when he'd finally join his ancestors by decreeing that at his death dozens of Jewish leaders were to be executed.


***


Two of my favorite quotes on death:




To live in the hearts of those we leave behind us is not to die. - Thomas Campbell




Death is not extinguishing the light -- it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. - Rabindranath Tagore


Kung Fu

Hubei Province's Wudang Mountain was the site of the 30 Oct 08 3rd international "Traditional Wushu Championships."


Italian Pilli Sabrina, one of the participants, was quoted as saying,




Chinese martial arts are quite helpful to man's body and mind. Wudang Kungfu teaches me to make my heart more peaceful.  I will persist in practising in the future.



Similarly, Anthony Herron, an Internal Artist, also explains in relation to Tai Chi:




Tai Chi denotes the martial art; the practice itself just as Ba Gua (or Pa Kua or Ba Gwa) is the martial art practice.  The Chuan/Zhang suffix denote the study/philosophy of the martial art.  I engage in both the martial art and the study/philosophy.  It is the mind, body, spirit approach which cannot be separated.  As for martial arts in America/the West, most are concerned with learning how to fight/beat someone up/look pretty/get a black belt.  There is little focus on the real philosophy behind the arts.  Therefore, the art is separated from the philosophy which lends to a deformed art: people beating up others.  That deformity is as real as separating the mind and/or spirit from the body of a person; the person is mal-formed and acts/reacts abnormally.  This is the main reason that many people learn martial arts: to beat up others. [email excerpt; emph. mine, sms.]



Note: Chinese Martial Arts are generally classified into "hard style" or wai-chia (like jeet kune do, Chinese kickboxing and certain types of kung fu) and "soft style" or nei-chia (like t'ai chi, pa kua chang, and fusing-ichuan). Kung-fu literally means "done well"]


***


Ever since watching Enter the Dragon and other Bruce Lee (or Lee Xiao Long -- Lee, the "Little Dragon") films, I never lost my fascination with Kung Fu and have since then added Jackie Chan, Jet Li and others to my  list of favorite martial artists. Like the rest of my childhood friends, I tried my hand in some forms of this sport, particularly the Japanese-originated Shotokan Karate and Aikido.  Like them, I initially had the impression that martial art is meant for only one thing -- getting to fight off the bad guys and creating for oneself an intimidating reputation in your neighborhood.


Across the years though, I never got past the white belt and rarely ever gone physical with anybody.  I  have also forgotten my katas and, instead of developing flexilegs or flexiback, all I got now are stiff legs and an aching back.  I guess the only thing I remember about Aikido are its three basic principles which I have applied more in interpersonal relationships than in close-quarter combats:


1. Evade the force.


2. Follow the direction of the force.


3. Neutralize the force.


Behind these three principles is the admonition that both the external-aggressive/defensive and the internal/nonagrressive form of the art must be mastered.


[Watch docu on Bruce Lee here]