Repairing to Mr. Coffee

7 07 2011

I tell people that I repaired the church’s coffee maker, and their usual response is a look of confusion and the question, “Why not just buy a new one?”  I find this line of thinking mildly irritating.  Half a century ago, people actually tried to repair things when possible.  But a coffee maker?  The repair is usually so easy and cheap, if not free, that I cannot conceive of dumping Mr. Coffee into the waste bin too readily.  The driving force behind the continual growth of your local landfill rests in the fact that a coffee maker’s replacement is very cheap and easy.  For a few bucks, you can have a new one.  For some labor, you can have a dirty and well-used one.  Which do you choose?  It’s not a hard choice, really.  You toss that cheap foreign-made contraption into the trash receptacle and go for a new one.  When a thing is cheap, you don’t fix it.  Instead, you get rid of it.  When it is easily replaced, you don’t look for reasons to keep it.

Now, I say all of this, because Mr. Coffee could just as easily be a real person, not just an appliance with a personal name.  When relationships are cheap, we don’t invest any effort into getting them on their feet again when things go sour.  If a person is easily replaced, then that’s exactly what we do with them when they offend us.  It just happens that this is exactly where our society is heading.  We have these devices that act like social condoms, in that they allow us to interact with each other without getting anything infectious rubbed off on ourselves.  We know them as Facebook, which protects us from actually having to face people.  We know them as texting, because we can’t bear the pressure of having to talk to each other.  Oh, yes, and there’s the weblog (blog), which, in some cases, is the only way to even get through to some people, such as yourself.  The numbers of ways in which we can communicate with other people has skyrocketed just within the last decade or two.  Most of these ways would seem to bring people together, but they do, in fact, relieve us of the onerous burden of having to look into a person’s face and see a reaction when we speak our minds.  In this age, we are connected with more people than ever before.  In this age, we foster shallower relationships than ever before.  The two go together to some extent.  In truth, anyone who maintains a great number of friendships isn’t going to have the time or emotional energy to have a deep relationship with all of them.  In fact, more relationships usually translates to fewer deep relationships, with those few even being shallower than otherwise.  More than that, though, we’ve added barriers to prevent depth, for the sake of our comfort.

I was cruising at a high point on a Los Angeles freeway today with a coworker whom I believe to be a eugenicist.  I can’t nail him down on the subject, because he also happens to be a postmodernist, which means that he can wriggle out of any tight argument by changing what he claims to be on any given day.  I gestured at the broad urban skyline, with that sprawling metropolis before us, and I told him that, taken as a whole, humanity seems quite expendable.  With billions of people on this globe, each one seems easily replaced.  Taken individually, though, it becomes a very different matter.  Name any person you know, and that person becomes absolutely irreplaceable.  He tried to convince me that people are exactly like ants.  I agreed with him, for the sake of argument, that the society was very much like a colony of ants working together.  However, when you take a single ant and compare it with any single human, there’s really no comparison.  If the entire city of Los Angeles were wiped from the face of the earth, I doubt that many people would mourn greatly for the loss of this place.  What they would regret is the loss of individuals.  A city is nothing.  A person, even, would be nothing, except for the fact that there can never be a replacement for the specific people that you know.

Social proximity makes all of the difference.  If Mr. Coffee is just the stage name of some guy who advertises percolators, then his death might make the news, even make people pause for a couple of seconds, but few people will cry over it.  No one would be devastated by it.  However, if Mr. Coffee happens to be your father, then things are going to get messy really fast.  A new spokesman can easily be found.  A new father can never replace the old one, not by a long shot.  Social proximity determines replaceability, which determines how quick we are to discard a relationship, or even a person’s life, when that relationship or person falls into the category of things we would call broken.  On a lighter level, it means that in this age we do nothing to fix broken relationships.  If a friend doesn’t please us anymore, then we simply “unfriend” that person and move on.  New and exciting relationships are always waiting for us, just a click away.  People are disposable.  Friendships are more unlikely than ever to get fixed, when broken.

On a darker level, people who do not suit us are also quite replaceable in a physical sense, and that’s where things get really hairy.  We’ve seen it before, in the Nazi holocaust.  The next holocaust is a little bit closer, because society is a little more loosely connected.  The value of a human drops when no one gets close enough to know the individual as a unique and irreplaceable item.  As we more easily drop the inconvenient relationships from our lives, we more easily drop the inconvenient people from life on earth.  The next holocaust will be welcomed by people who don’t care much for the anthill, because, when it really comes down to it, they never really invested the time and trouble to know the ants.  When Mr. Coffee is so easily replaced by another cheap appliance or person (depending on what he is), he is more frequently buried in a landfill/cemetery, rather than spared.

Ah, but that’s the next holocaust.  The holocaust that’s going on today also follows the same principle.  If it’s still unseen in the womb, then killing it is just an abortion.  If it has left the womb and we can see it, then killing the thing is murder, deserving of harsh punishment.  The reason is simply that once we have seen it and done some face time, it ceases to be merely a baby and begins quite swiftly to become a Johnny or a Jennifer.  To see and interact personally is to develop a relationship.  The closer we get, the more human it becomes, until it seems less like the member of a species and becomes, rather, its own species entirely.  A pack of wild dogs is just a menace, but your dog, Rover, is a family member.

The further apart we drift, the closer we get to killing each other.

Every good Christian wants a deep and abiding relationship with God.  Simply put, we want to be something better than just another unit of this anthill.  We want to be something irreplaceable to the one who made us.  The fact is, we always were, and we always will be.  We already have that kind of significance to our omniscient creator.  The only variable is in whether or not we seek to reciprocate that relationship.  The less we know and appreciate God, the quicker we are to kill him.  In this is the key to our own salvation, for we cannot ever really kill God.  The more shallow the relationship, the more likely we are to put him out of our lives when convenience doesn’t suit.  We attempt to kill God by removing him from our world, and those who try generally succeed.  Such is Hell.

So, here I am, waiting for that KSD301 thermostat, so I can finally fix the church’s other coffee maker.  Hopefully, I can resist the urge to make a several-gallon pot of coffee, just for myself, simply because I can.  The next time someone asks me why I bother, I’m going to say that I really love my coffee, but I’m going to explain that I believe in fixing things when reasonably possible, rather than discarding them.  In an age where even people are swiftly becoming disposable, I find myself reacting to this trend by doing little things to repair rather than replace.

A Thumb to the Wind; awaiting a coming storm

6 11 2010

Is the government watching you?  Is there a camera installed in your television?  Are people monitoring your every move with GPS tracking?  Perhaps the government has built concentration camps for dissidents?  Are you worried that rail cars are being equipped with guillotines and shackles for the event of social unrest and martial law?  Are the elections rigged?  Are we on the verge of totalitarian tyranny?  Periodically, someone starts a story to scare the country, a conspiracy theory that the government is making plans to overthrow our basic liberties and kill its opponents.  The prophecy watchers usually manage to link it to apocalyptic scripture.  Other tremulous individuals chalk it up as the beginning of some Orwellian dystopia.  Still others, sitting in the sidelines, make a great deal of fun out of the matter, mocking the conspiracy theorists while patting themselves on the back for their own reasonableness and raw intelligence.  While the last group might be right that the conspiracy theorists are frightened of their own shadows, the one thing that they seem to overlook is that this sort of thing happened before, and, likely, all of this will sooner or later happen again.  We hold our thumbs to the wind and judge for ourselves of the coming storm.  It will come.  It always comes.

Our classic example is usually the Nazi regime, which can be described by the dual horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War.  To adequately gauge our proximity to its repeat, we would, then, need to understand the underlying cause of these atrocities.  As is usually the case, the popular ideas, the ones they fed us in school, are only superficially true.  In this case, the cause is said to be the Versailles Treaty, which is assumed to have oppressed the Germans into economic ruin.  However, Hitler overthrew this burden prior to the war, and no war was evidently necessary to prevent its return.  Anti-Semitism could have explained the Holocaust, but if this sentiment had been the cause, then it was manifest for many centuries without incident.  Something else would be necessary to initiate the act.  Additionally, the death camps consumed quite a number of individuals other than Jews.  The act of purging society of unwanted people through mass murder is a problem in itself, regardless of who happens to be its target.  The real travesty was not that the Jews were targeted for slaughter, but that any civilization would target any group for slaughter.  The real problem lay in the fact that a society perceived that the world ought to be conquered by the Germans and that the world ought to be purged of inferior people.  Politicians may go to war for petty causes, but nations die for noble ones.  The people of Germany threw themselves into the meat grinder for what they thought to be a worthy purpose.

Technology and genetics were the litmus test for the Nazi regime.  If a person showed Arian (Germanic) characteristics, then that person was of a superior race.  Why would that race be superior?  It was deemed superior because the Germans had proven their superiority through superior technology.  The most advanced civilization was supposed to have been that way as the result of superior genetics.  Translation: they were more highly evolved.  Racism against Africans and native Americans has been often justified by these peoples’ inferior technological development.  Because a farmer in the Congo, who plows his field with a sharp stick and an ass, doesn’t know how to rapidly propel balls of lead at an enemy, he is assumed to be mentally inferior.  The arrogance of Nazism rested in the belief that all Nazi technology came from Nazi ingenuity, as though acquired understanding were passed from parents to their children through their genes.  In truth, no single civilization has had a monopoly on innovation.  The real story is that the nations that best communicate with, trade with and share ideas with other nations around the globe are the nations that collect the greatest store of technology.  Europe had this cutting edge through its imperialism.  They imported resources from around the world and assimilated it for themselves.  In our time, it is the United States that has mastered multinational relations.  Whatever we needed, we imported from without, whether it be chai tea or the atomic bomb.  If anyone is at risk for falling for the same delusion, it is we.

But, what is this delusion?  Digging beneath the superficial element of mere economics, we find the dogma of Darwinism, though that isn’t really even the ultimate underlying cause, either.  The Nazis dared to conquer the world in order to displace all other people to the point of extinction.  What is not often known is that the First World War was fought for the very same reason.  The textbooks give credence to the idea that Europe killed itself because a very angry Serb shot in the head some fat Austrian in a funny outfit.  The chain of alliances and mutual defense pacts then caused a chain reaction of entanglements that drew all of Europe into war.  This, of course, is only superficially true.  People don’t mass for a common cause to fight and die over a contractual technicality.  Germany, formerly known as Prussia, had for a long time been seizing its surrounding Germanic neighbors in a quest for power.  The Teutonic mission was to unite all Germans under a single banner, and then to overcome the rest of the world.  The assassination that started it all was merely the excuse to let it all begin.  That war was not fought because an Austrian was killed.  It was fought because the people of Germany believed that it ought to be fought, that France ought to be conquered, that the world ought to be overcome.  Professors in Germany, even then, were teaching that the Germans were a more highly evolved people, and that they would eventually drive the lesser peoples to extinction.  Britain could, possibly, have prevented the second war by bombing more German universities and shooting more German professors while they were at it.  The underlying dogma did not die between the two wars, and so the horror was repeated.  Therefore, we must ask ourselves how close we are to repeating it, ourselves.

If the Second World War was a better-organized and more enthusiastic version of the first, then we can set it aside and look more closely the first one to understand them both.  In the couple of decades leading up to the First World War, Europe saw the emergence of new trends that it had not seen in several centuries by any other name.  Eugenics, Futurism, Socialism, Social Darwinism, institutionalized Darwinism, and the abortion epidemic all took root in this tumultuous period.  Eugenics was the belief that inferior people, poorer and less fit, should be discouraged from breeding, that this most sacred act of reproduction should be controlled by an authority to produce a better society.  We see it today in China’s one-child rule.  Futurism was a belief that humanity was evolving toward greater and greater heights, technologically, genetically and socially.  Socialism was the belief that society should act as a single unit to promote its over-all betterment, rather than be left to individuals.  Social Darwinism was a practical application of Darwinism in the social realm, a matter of taking evolution seriously, making it really just another form of eugenics.  Darwinism, itself, was the promotion of the best race against and to the utter deletion of all others.  Abortion was promoted, happily, as a useful means for enacting eugenic theory, because a child was better-off murdered than allowed to live as an inferior and impoverished being.  Over all, the first two decades of the twentieth century were a time of hope, change and unabashed unrestrained arrogance.  In all of this, Darwinism was the underlying theme, the religion of the new age.  But the underlying cause of Darwinism was modernism, the complete reliance on technology and the exclusive faith in nothing beyond or behind the physical universe.  We were gods.  We were evolving.  Change was good.  We put our faith in mortal men, sacrificing our culture, our liberties and even our children to the all-consuming juggernaut.

Modernism, but especially atheistic modernism, has been the terror of our time.  Christian modernism is represented in the Northern Baptists and  Christian evolutionists, those who flatly reject the miraculous simply because it is miraculous.  Whether they are correct in their theology or not, they do lend a morsel to the monster.  The real threat has always been secular, modernist and Darwinist.  A physical universe indicates no moral code, and if the physical universe is all we accept, then we are free to do anything.  Additionally, if we are Darwinist, then the nearest we can come to something we might call “good” is through competition, subversion and the complete elimination of all peoples not resembling us.  It might be the duty of the strongest race to kill all others, if this were the case.  Moreover, if there were no God, then the primary arbiter and engineer of human destiny would be humanity, itself, which cannot achieve a unified purpose without clear leadership and rigid organization.

So, how close are we to seeing another horror?  Our schools are still teaching Darwinism.  We still control the most advanced civilizations.  Society is still overwhelmingly dominated by the modernist mindset.  To top this off, our government has been growing steadily since its inception, centralizing power and taking on more of the socialist responsibilities formerly assigned to the individual.  Atheism and secularism have a stronger hold than ever before.  The travesty of abortion goes without saying.  A man can earn a jail sentence for causing the death of an ocotillo, but he can also receive a jail sentence for preventing the death of an unborn child.  We have all of the necessary elements that we had then, and we have it in spades.  So, what, then, is keeping the next evil from rearing its ugly head?  Our unlikely allies in this case include a vocal and militant conservative, and mostly Christian, bloc in the United States, paired with a growing postmodern movement in Europe.  The very same religious fanatics that see conspiracies and persecution under every rock are the very roadblocks to those horrors.  Enough of them exist within the United States to cause a political overthrow of the presiding power at first scent of tyranny.  The government knows this.  Consequently, while these conspiracy theories continue to be only theories, they act to prevent their own fulfillment.  Such people were not a force in Germany prior to the wars.  The self-proclaimed intellectuals may continue to ridicule the paranoid conservatives for every false fear, but this is only possible because the paranoid actively keep the fears false.  So long as enough people worry and chatter about their conspiracy theories, there will never actually be any conspiracies.  At least, there will not be any successful ones.

On the European side of the equation we have postmodernism holding down the fort, where Christianity and real conservatism have almost breathed their last.  Ironically, postmodernism is also a mortal enemy to the faith.  It just conveniently happens to be a considerable enemy to a more dangerous enemy.  At least, modernism is a more physically dangerous enemy.  As for the destiny of the soul, they are both a threat.  Postmodernism did exist prior to the First World War, though it was not strong enough to prevent it.  In fact, one might figure that it came about as a reaction against the meaninglessness and meanness of modernism and Darwinism.  When faith in evolution reached its prime, that’s when postmodernism gave its natal cry.  Not strong enough to deny modernism, yet not willing to accept it, postmodernists lulled themselves into an agnostic slumber.  They can accept evolution, but they cannot accept its implications.  They can swallow the bait of adaptation, but they cannot stomach the mechanism of change.  They want to be the top of the food chain, but they won’t eat meat.  They want to evolve to a higher level, but they won’t suffer natural, or in this case artificial, selection.  Consequently, today’s Europe still wants to dominate and change the world, but they’ve pulled out all of the necessary teeth and claws for performing this task.  They are the rabbit that would devour the wolf.  Problem is, the wolf is Muslim, and it has teeth.

So we wet our thumbs and hold them to the air to determine which way the wind blows.  Does a chill wind blow from the east, or does it hearken from the west?  The west would riddle us, but it is checked, for now.  The east would devastate us, but it is weak, for now.

At the moment, we are safe.

At the moment, so far, we are so good.

God bless this moment.

Disposable Man

30 05 2010

Somewhere on the streets of gold a man does not walk, though he might have.  He was not born into that world.  He never walked there.  He was discarded from there before he ever arrived.

Somewhere in a dark alley on Earth, another disposable man also does not walk.  He was never born into this world, much less reborn into the next.  Perhaps, he was murdered in the womb, discarded before he ever arrived.

Then again, perhaps he never even arrived in the womb.  Maybe his parents used effective contraception.  Perhaps they abstained altogether.  The parents were too busy to marry, or they rejected each other, not knowing that they rejected their own destiny.

Disposable Man had no say in his own parentage, whether he would be born at all.  Had he been born, he would have had no say in his own death.  No degree of effort could prevent his passing.  Somewhere in between the two, between the cradle and the grave, we presume that he would have had the autonomy to choose his destiny, and yet, that destiny may have been the beginnings, or lack thereof, of yet another Disposable Man.  The part in the middle, where we assume he had free will, another is born into the world by destiny through the actions of an autonomous man.  Perhaps we presume too much.

When a woman aborts her child, we say that she has murdered another human being, and rightly so.  She assumes the right to live, and she attributes to her child the duty to be discarded.  The child is disposable, but she is not.  From before conception the baby had no identity at all.  Had she abstained from sex, it would not have existed.  She would not have been guilty of murder, because nothing existed to be murdered.  So much weight is given to sentience.  Some would say that the death of a human does not matter before it is fully conscious enough to realize that it is getting ripped apart.  At what point does the human soul enter the body?  As far as I know, I am the only one for whom it ever has.  I cannot study or know the soul of a single other human on the planet, any more than I could travel to a parallel universe.  People are islands, entire universes separated from each other by uncrossable chasms.  I only know that I have a soul, because I experience the act of living.

The woman who wishes to kill justifies her act, essentially, on the notion that the soul of the baby has not yet arrived, does not exist.  Yet, no one can know if or when it ever does.  She can only know the existence of her own soul, and this is the crux of the matter.  She was the only person that concerned her, anyway.  Abortion is, at heart, a postmodern problem.  The modernist, at least, can see the creation of a new human within the womb, because the modernist is obsessed with the physical world.  What can be studied can be believed.  But the postmodernist is obsessed with the highly internal world of the mental universe, those events and experiences which capture the soul.  If she does not feel it, then she does not care.  As postmodernism grows, so does the industry of infanticide.

A pastor need only mention the word, abortion, and we can see certain women in the congregation squirming in their seats, as though the truth were trying to crawl right out of their wombs where they sat.  But there can be forgiveness.  If Paul The Apostle can make a living at murdering masses of believers, yet repent and walk straight into Heaven, then there is hope for any of us.

Otherwise, the mother of the Disposable Man may find herself disposable in the next life.

What of the man who was never conceived?  He may have more in common with the everyday man than any might recognize.  The one who fails to live the entire nine months of gestation may only live a few weeks, but the elderly man who dies after a century still dies.  Both are soon forgotten.  As we approach eternity, both lifespans approach nothingness.  A man of any lifespan gradually becomes a Disposable Man.  If he is not born again into eternity, then he is lost before he even began.  He is like the man who never existed.

Coming into existence was always a matter of destiny.  It always comes about by an act of God, being entirely beyond us.  This remains as true for the second birth as for the first.  And so, our Disposable Man does not wander the streets like a haunting ghost.  He ceases  to exist without a trace.

At the top of this page is a picture.  Look again.  Is something missing?  Was it ever there?  Something is desperately missing from that picture, gone as though it had never existed.  It is Disposable Man, and it may be you.