THE LORD GIVETH AND THE LORD TAKETH AWAY

I have real empathy for people who suffer and endure, especially those good folks who have bad things happen to them through no fault of their own.

Having said that in order to establish that I’m not a Scrooge nor a Grinch, I sometimes don’t have patience with people who look to the supernatural to fix their problems or to explain them in the first place.

What brings this to my blog page at this time is a recent encounter I had with a co-worker. She has a masters degree, teaches special needs children, and is very good at what she does. Yet she is still a babe with no education or wisdom when it comes to dealing with the adversities of her life.

Within the last year her three year old son developed an infection that still has not been diagnosed and which had him in a coma for several days during which time he nearly died. He still is taking medication and seeing the doctor on a regular basis, and they are told that he could have a flair up again at some future time.

Also within that time she gave birth to a new baby son who was born with congenital birth defects that affected the heart and lungs. The baby spent two months in the intensive care ward at Riley Children’s Hospital during which time he was revived from apparent pending death on numerous occasions. He still has some of the problems and must be monitored closely.

During the time that she was dealing with the baby in the hospital, her husband was in a terrible auto accident and sustained severe head trauma and is now mentally and physically impaired. Probably in an irretrievable state from what she is being told. During the next few weeks they are going to be taking him to various medical centers to learn the actual extent of his injuries and find out the prognosis for improvements in his condition.

Now like I said, I have extreme empathy for people is such situations. I’m not sure that I could bear up under the adversities this lady is dealing with, and I admire her greatly for her apparent ability to do so. I have donated to a fund being raised among our coworkers to help them out financially with some of the costs they will incur not covered by insurance. Things like travel costs, lodging, meals, etc. while they go to the various clinics and specialists in search of some good news. I have personally wished her and her family well and offered any help I can give.

Her reply was, “Just pray for us.” Thinking that she meant that in a generic sense, kind of like saying, “Just be there for moral support,” I replied, “Sure. You know that we’ll all be thinking of you and hoping for good news soon.”

She shook her head and said, “No, not hope. We need prayer. If everyone prays for us, God will intervene and everything will be o.k.”

No matter how nice I was trying to be, and no matter how much I wanted to support her and her family in this time of turmoil, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I replied, with a smile, “So you’re saying that if everyone you know just prays for a good resolution to this, that God will fix it, and everything will be o.k.”

She nodded, “Yes. Of course. God answers prayer, and I know that he’ll make everything right if everybody prays for us.”

Again, I couldn’t just let it go. “So God will make right the injury he caused or allowed to happen in the first place? Don’t you see the contradiction there?”

She shook her head, “No, not at all. God is simply testing our faith and the faith of those around us. If we pray, and everybody else prays, God will listen and everything will be o.k.”
I went on, “So, not to beat you over the head with this, but what if everybody prays, and prays diligently, for a good outcome and it simply doesn’t happen?”

Her response was, “If that was what happened, then obviously we didn’t pray hard enough, or our faith wasn’t strong enough, because if we do, the Bible tells us that God will answer every prayer. Along with the prayer we have to have faith and put it all in God’s hands, and if we do, things will be alright.”

I paused at this and thought before I replied. Still I replied in a fashion that probably wasn’t the best in this situation. “Don’t you see that you are setting up a straw man with this thinking? If your husband can be treated and things improve, then your faith and everybody else’s faith was true and strong. If nothing can be done, then your faith or everybody’s faith who prayed for you was inadequate in number or in sincerity. God gets the credit but he doesn’t take the blame. The same bible that tells you that God answers all prayers also tells you that nothing happens without God causing it or allowing it. So he either caused or allowed this and every other tragedy you’ve dealt with, into your life, and now you think that he’ll take it all away if you and all of us just pray hard enough? There is no logic in that.”

She smiled and said, “Apparently the Lord sent you to test my faith at this time, and I appreciate what you’re saying, but God will not give us more than we can endure, and he is always testing our faith and our resolve. Thank you for your questions, and I know that they are simply rhetorical, and not actually doubt on your part, and rest assured that you’ve helped me to focus more on my faith by merely asking these questions.”

With that she walked away with a smile on her face, thinking that I was doing the Lord’s work by helping her to face her doubts and still answer from a position of faith and resolve. But that wasn’t what I was doing. I truly don’t get how people can believe that the same God who caused their problems, if indeed there is a god out there who could do that, is the same god they turn to, to fix those problems. It would be kind of like if an arsonist burned down my house, I would then go to him to rebuild it for me and I paid him to do it. It just doesn’t make sense.

Those people I see on TV after a tornado or a hurricane, or whatever, who have just lost their home, their family, their neighbors, etc., and they praise the Lord for saving them. “I wouldn’t be here right now if God hadn’t reached down and spared me.” Never mind that God just tapped their loved ones and friends on the shoulder and selected them to die. It’s all about God sparing those who survived. If God was real, and God was the magnificent, beneficent being his believers envision him to be, there wouldn’t be tornados and hurricanes, and other disasters to kill hundreds or thousands of his faithful in the first place. If God was real and he actually was the omnipotent, omnipresent being some believe him to be, he wouldn’t make children sick or kill children just to test the faith of their parents, or their parents friends or coworkers.

This line of thinking isn’t the only reason that I don’t believe in any gods, or in demons, or in anything else supernatural, but it is part of the reason. I actually have many more reasons, and I emphasize the word, reason.

I wish this woman I mentioned above, all the best. I hope her husband makes a full and complete recovery, that he can forget all the pain and agony that he endured to get back to that place he was before God inflicted injury upon him. I wish her children the best and hope that they never again are ill or injured. I wish her the best, for she is a truly nice and compassionate person who I admire and like. But right along with those wishes, I also hope that she comes to a point in her life where she can use the rational side of her thought processes to root out the superstition and illogic that holds sway over much of what she believes.

SOUNDS OF THE PLAYGROUND

Sounds of the playground
ring now in my ears,
faces and names of others
come back from fifty years.
Ring around the rosie,
or playing hide and seek,
days on the playground
are the ones of which I speak.
Days of shooting marbles
and playing tug of war,
we learned the lessons
we’d keep forevermore.
We learned who to count on,
and who we could trust
from among our playmates,
and who was fair and just.
If for just a single day,
if only for a moment,
I could return to that place
to figure where it went,
maybe I’d find answers
to questions I have found,
answers learned long ago
on that old playground.

Wonders of Technology v 1.0

Ah, the wonders of the Internet and modern technology. I can sit in the comforts of my home at the wee hours of the morning, sip my first cup of coffee of the day, and research and find answers to almost anything that interests me. I can find today’s weather and extended forecasts with the click of a mouse. My RSS feed supplies me with all the relevant news that happened overnight, and selected podcasts inform and entertain me without having to search a radio dial or be limited to far away listening choices that are unavailable over the airwaves.

Being a lifelong and confirmed music junkie, there are few areas within this world of technology that please me more than those that hook me up to good music. Amazon, iTunes, and others can fill my music folder for me on any given day, and thereby fill my iPod. Yes, life is good.

The iPod is where all of this is headed. Not the iPod, per se, but a nifty new freeware program that has brought new life and joy to my world of all things Pod. The program is called Yamipod (Yet Another Manager for iPod). I downloaded the latest version, 1.7 for Mac, from one of the myriad of download sites that have it. Within five minutes I was using it with minimal problems, and within fifteen minutes had figured out all of the key features.

What are those features? Why do I now use Yamipod 90% of the time that my iPod is connected to the computer? Well, first and foremost, it allows me to manage my music how I see fit, not how Apple forces me to do. That is, I can load any mp3 onto Yamipod with drag and drop ease. No more building play lists, unless I want to, and Yamipod allows me to build them on the fly if I so choose.

Another great feature that Yamipod gives me that iTunes doesn’t is the ability to download files FROM the iPod to the computer. I have inadvertently deleted a song from my computer after putting it on to the iPod, or filed it somewhere that I can’t find it. Now if I want a copy of that song back on the computer all I do is copy it from my Yamipod directory back to the folder of my choice on my computer.

Probably the best thing about Yamipod is its ability to do the above and to do it between computers. That is, I can hook my iPod to my new iMac, to my old iMac, to my Windows based laptop running Vista, or my XP machine at work, and take songs off the iPod, put songs on the iPod, or merely play the songs from the iPod using the computer as a high tec jukebox. This is possible because Yamipod runs on the iPod itself, not on the computers to which you hook it. You merely drop the tiny Yamipod file onto your iPod and, voila, you have true portability and usability of your music.

If I’ve bought a song on one computer and put it on my iPod, why should I not be able to use that song on other computers within the parameters of the fair use section of copyright law? Now with Yamipod I can do just that. If I record a CD, or buy a prerecorded CD, I can play it in any machine that will play that format, and do it legally for my own enjoyment. Now I can use the songs on my iPod in the same way as long as there’s a computer to which I can connect it.

Yamipod also will find duplicate songs on the iPod and remove them, allow you to download RSS feeds, download podcasts, find missing songs, export song lists to HTML or text, store song lyrics, and many other features too numerous to mention.

Anyway, I didn’t intend to get so effusive, and definitely not so techie, but I just needed to share my excitement with having discovered such a useful and utilitarian application. And I repeat, ah, the wonders of the Internet and modern technology.

ALTRUISM AND GENETICS

Scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered a human gene that they think is responsible for generosity and altruistic behavior in a person’s character.

This is really interesting, if true. It might explain how, even though people mostly look the same, we are indeed ‘made up’ very different.

The study appears online in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior. Lead researcher Dr Ariel Knafo wrote in the article, “The experiment provided the first evidence, to my knowledge, for a relationship between DNA variability and real human altruism.”

The gene is called “AVPR1a”, and it plays a key role in allowing a hormone called arginine vasopressin to act on brain cells. Arginine vasopressin is thought to be utilised by the body when bonding with parents, friends, partners and the like, and relates the information passed to and from the pituitary gland.

The researchers point out that a version of AVPR1a also exists in voles, where it also promotes social bonding. This, they say, suggests that altruism may have a long history in our genetic coding.

Dr. George Fieldman, a lecturer in psychology at Buckinghamshire New University in Great Britain says that carrying genes which promoted altruism and social bonding make evolutionary sense. He points out that the success of altruism as a strategy was based on the concept that a good deed was likely to be reciprocated. However, the odds of that happening among strangers were lower than among people who were known to each other. Therefore, the impulse to bond socially, and make new friends, was, and is, genetically important, and apparently AVPR1a is a key player in achieving this.

I found this very interesting, and it certainly does explain to some extent the wide range of human makeup. I recognize that, indeed, some people just have the natural attribute of caring about those around them, and others don’t. Some people even work pretty hard to manipulate others to their own ends, making me wonder if a deficiency of AVPR1a might explain sociopathy.

TOAST THE THINGS I BELIEVE

When I die I will only be
the footprints I left in the sand.
Let them cry for all the laughter,
and laugh at what’s at hand.
When I die let them toast me,
to all the things that I believe,
let them raise a glass to celebrate
and spill not a drop to grieve.
Let the toasting last all night,
as they toast the things I believe.

I believe in ending hunger,
I believe in awe and wonder,
I believe in acting younger.
I believe in inspiration,
I believe in moderation,
I believe in consternation.
I believe in the written word,
I believe kindness is favored,
I believe what’s shared is savored.
I believe in family Sundays,
I believe in wasting Mondays,
I believe in having fun days.
I believe in intuition,
I believe in having vision,
I believe in contradiction.
I believe in being smitten,
I believe our book is written
By those we call our friends.