On the Pressures of Doing Drugs – a note to my Grandchildren from one who has not been as pure as the driven snow.

demonic2

By now many of you have heard of the Heroin epidemic that seems to be sweeping the nation from corner to corner. Some of you may be effected by this evil in your own families – it has hit ours, and it’s like a body slam when it hits close to home. So I offer this a warning from my own personal experience.

I’m no stranger to the drug scene, but I am immensely grateful that it was short lived and far away in my past. Let me tell you the story.

My career in the drug culture happened in the late 1960s just prior to me graduating from college, and somewhat in the midst of the 1960s drug scene and the whole counter-culture scene that was running rampant then. I was somewhat immune to all of this since I was married with a small child and going to college which took up enormous amounts of time and energy – I just didn’t have the time to “save the world” by getting high.

Then he came to live with us for a time. He was a full-fledged 1960s prototype Hippie complete with the long hair and clothes to match. Rolled his own cigarettes and smoked the “cool” grass of the time and listened to the hard rock music. He was cool, he was sick of the “system” and held a middle finger up to it – whatever it was — often.

He was my brother in law – fresh from the divorce of his new wife and running away from the little girl that was his beautiful daughter.

While he was with us – I don’t recall how long – there was often pressure to try some of his “stuff.” I generally resisted, but every now and again I rolled one and inhaled deep and long – and waited for that promised high. It never came, and each time I found myself sulking away in a corner saddened by who knows what – but saddened.

Gordon then started the pressure of trying something new and different – something he was sure I would like. This something was what the Indians used in their religious ceremonies, so how bad could that be, and it could be a way of opening new vistas to my life. It was safe he said because it was natural (haven’t you heard that if it’s organic and natural its gotta be good?)

This natural and organic stuff the Indians used for spiritual and religious use was Mescaline, a naturally occurring psychedelic with a long history of human use. It is best known as the primary active chemical in the peyote cactus. So before too long I was primed and persuaded to partake of this pill that was to enhance my life experience.

As I mentioned earlier, this took place close to the end of my studies at San Diego State … in fact what I am about to share with you happened during finals week of my final semester at school — I was about to take that big step into the real world of full responsibility and citizenship … well maybe not.

So Gordon and I each took our pill and set off into the night in his car. Thus began the most frightening experience of my life – before or since that night.

We wound up at an all-night drive in restaurant along Harbor Drive in San Diego. We settled into a booth – across from one another – and settled in.

As we sat there I could feel the changes taking place in and around me. I would look across the table at Gordon and would begin to see changes in his face – unpleasant faces that I tried to shake off  (not a whole lot unlike the picture above) . But they came back … and worse each time. At peak I saw Gordon’s face dissolve into an evil distorted countenance of oozing skin and bone — something out of a horror movie.

I was descending into insanity (and I mean this literally) … and then I would come out of it to a place of sanity. But then right back into insanity. In and out – in and out – each time as bad or worse. I began to fear that the next trip into insanity would be my last and I would never come back – a deep and profound fear had a grip on me.

Eventually, after a night of this I guess the stuff worked its way out and it was gone – and I was on the sane side of reality.

But it was not over – remember, it was finals week and I was right in the middle of it. Fortunately that day was one with no tests and I settled into the Student Union for the day. And what a day it was. I lay down on a bench and stayed there all day unable to move. My body felt as if it was filled with concrete and I couldn’t move even if I had wanted to.

And I had finals pending!

I made it through, passed my finals and graduated to a brand new job as a computer programmer. It very easily could have been different – very much different.

Thus ended my career as a drugee … but I still continued my drinking for far too many years.

____________________

The drug problem has not gone away … on the contrary it has intensified with the strength, harmful effects and lethality increasing as the years go by. And has a sense of hope increased or diminished in the years of children growing up to adulthood?

So this is my note to my grandchildren — from one who has not always been clean as the driven snow:

· Be very careful who you hang with – they may not have your best interests at heart.

· Resist any and all pressures for you to do the wrong thing. Get help with this if you need it – parents, teachers, pastors, grandparents, even police – people who have demonstrated a love and concern for you over the years.

· Know that this stuff can kill you in very unpleasant ways. It has killed others.

· You can get through this. If you can find a Christian Youth group try it out and get plugged in – you might find peers that actually care.

And remember — I love you very much,

Grandpa

demonic

Stay away from me or I’ll kill you!

For You Inventors–A Mother Load of Ideas for Innovation and Invention

V__446E [161710]

Life on Planet Earth is filled with amazing designs. Designs and machines doing just about anything and everything you could imagine.

From the machines in the smallest cells — to the hands,  arms and legs that produce those last second buzzer beating 3-pointers in basketball.

Those amazing vocal instruments belting out incredible music that we can all hear with those amazing machines called ears.

It’s those new and rapidly growing fields of study call Biomimetics and Systems Biology which looks at those designs in nature — the real ones – and produces inventions based on those designs. 

Here are a couple of articles for you to look at and marvel:

I recently had my own idea of a GPS-less navigation system based on how salmon, turtles birds and other animals migrate and navigate. Unfortunately, I’m late to the party and many others around the world are well along with this idea. But these ideas are based in the designs seen in biology.

So look around you at some everyday things. Things that you may see a better way to build something based in biology … its called Intelligent Design.

Don Johnson – April 2016

 

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

An interesting story from my old shipmate and new Hungarian friend.

 

MrvonD3VonD Navy

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

by Adam von Dioszeghy

Fifty years is a long time. People die. Generations die. Babies are born. Buildings are torn down and new ones go up. Ships are scrapped and new ones launched. Some types of music pass out of favor and others rise to the top. Old habits cease and new ones take hold. In general, things change.

Most of us don’t like change; at least, we don’t like those things to change that we have not only become accustomed to but that we like a lot. And yet, change is inevitable, like it or not. The hardest thing to take is the unexpected change of something that you would have sworn would never change. You go into a thing, expecting it to be JUST as you knew it and….bam! it’s gone. Or it is now something totally different than what it used to be, than what you knew it to be.

I served as a Naval officer in the conflict know as the “Vietnam War”. It started in 1964 and ended in 1975. I was involved in the front end, on a destroyer (USS Porterfield DD682); my last deployment was in 1967, on the same old destroyer. When my tour ended, I said my good byes in Yokosuka, Japan, flew back to the US – to be specific, to Travis Air Force Base in Northern California – went to law school, practiced law and lived another kind of life. But I never forgot Vietnam or the Navy. As hard as the experience was, it left an indelible mark on my life and on my persona. I still say, “say again” instead of, please repeat it, or “you’re coming in garbled and unreadable” instead of, I didn’t understand you, and “we’ve been rotating and radiating” instead of, we’ve been moving about aimlessly. When we are getting ready to go somewhere, I say, “single up all lines”. Fortunately, my wife understands me and my idiosyncracies. This speaks volumes for her and her kindness.

In 2000, we moved back to the land of my birth, Hungary. The Navy faded further and further back in my mind. But – as tangents go – it never quite reached the point of being completely forgotten. Some of the Navy pictures still hang on the walls. My old “official” Navy baseball cap is still around, and I still wear it; it has the name of my ship and my name, rank and position (ASW or Anti-Submarine Warfare officer) on it. It has survived 50 years of use and abuse. Not like some other things…but I’m getting ahead of my story.

In 2016, Aliz and I decided that it was time to visit our old homeland, the U.S.of A. We had not been there since 2009. Our last home was in Napa Valley, California, so that was the major destination we had in mind. But we had friends all over the State, so we made arrangements to see as many of them as possible. One such friend was Martha, the widow of one of my shipmates on the Porterfield. In fact, he was not just a shipmate but my superior officer, as he was head of the Weapons Department, ASW being a part thereof. He was also the best friend I had on the ship. He left the Porterfield late in 1966 to pursue a Naval career, which he managed to do excellently…as he did most things. Sadly, he died after a short illness, battling pancreatic cancer, in 1999. Aliz and I kept in touch with Martha, his widow. So, as we planned our journey, we decided to include a trip to San Diego to visit her.

The Porterfield was homeported in San Diego. Although Martha and Todd lived in various places in the States, they returned there when he retired, and she still resides there.

The San Diego Naval Base has always been a big and important one, and it has stayed that way even after some down-sizing by the Navy. The destroyers and cruisers of the fleet were “housed” at the “32nd Street Naval Station”. I had many wonderful memories of the base; well, not so much of the base itself, as its Officers’ Club, affectionately referred to as “O Club”. Rarely did a day go by when – after “libs” began (for you non-Navy types, that is the commencement of liberty…usually about 16:00 hours…or 4 p.m.) – the officers would gather at the O Club for a few drinks (one, two, seven or eight) and for discussions of the disgusting habits of the CO (Commanding Officer) or the XO (Executive Officer) or the idiotic ways of the Navy. When the ship would go out for excercises on Monday morning, and return Friday afternoon, it was inevitable that all officers (not on duty) would gather at the O Club, occasionally even joined by wives and/or girlfriends. From time to time, such gatherings would “deterriorate” into dinner, and a very late night, indeed. Cops, way back then, were a little more forgiving of drunk driving, especially by “warriors”. I’m happy to report that there were never any accidents, let alone ones with death or injury attached. God looks after fools, little children and – apparently – drunken Naval officers. As a personal aside, on one occasion, our ship came back after a particularly difficult and trying week at sea, and was followed by an unusually enthusiastic evening of drinking and dining, with even more than the usually copious amount of imbibing. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the next morning – a Saturday – I had to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) on Point Loma at a unversity there. When the test began, I was not even hung over: I was still inebriated. For reasons only known to the Man Upstrairs, I got a high score on the test, and managed to get admitted into Stanford Law School. Apologies for the digression….

So, as you see, the O Club was an essential part of my Naval experience. And as memories would occasionally surface, it featured prominently in my recollections. However, the distance to Hungary and our very infrequent trips to the US reduced the chances of ever seeing my beloved O Club again. And then came the visit of 2016.

Before going to visit Martha, Aliz and I decided to stay a couple of days at a hotel in downtown San Diego and see some old sights. And, of course, go to the O Club for a drink, “strolling down memory lane”; Aliz had heard so much about the place, I desperately wanted her to come and re-live a few moments with me in that iconic place.

Of course, San Diego had also changed in 50 years. There were new freeways criss-crossing it, new high-rises, changing views and the redesign of the center of town, making recognition of old things difficult. As Aliz and I sat in a downtown bar, I asked the bartender if he was local. He shook his head…he was new in town. So I said,

“Then, I guess, You wouldn’t know how to get to 32nd street from here?”

Before he answered, a nice young man, sitting at the end of the bar, with a baseball cap turned backwards on his head, said to me,

“Do you mean the Naval Base?”

I lit up like a lamp.

“Yeah, the 32nd Street Naval Station!”, was my enthusiastic reply. The young man pulled out his smart phone, punched in some data, and commenced telling me how to get to it, using some freeways. I was so happy I could have danced a jig. It looked like Fate wanted us to go memory-hunting. I couldn’t wait till the next afternoon so we could make our pilgrimage.

The next afternoon came, and my excitement rose to new heights. I told story after story to Aliz about those wonderful times at the O club so many years ago. How every time one of us “made rank” (being promoted to a higher rank), he had to host a “wetting down party” for all the other officers in the wardroom….a financial “hit” of no inconsiderable measure to his pocket book. She hid her boredom well, and was waiting to see and experience the “scene of the crimes” herself. I followed the instructions of my young friend of the previous day and made the approach to the gate of the base. I tried to search my memory to see if anything looked familiar, but the surrounding area had changed too much. The entry, which was quite active and busy back in the 60s, seemed much less so; and yet, there was a line of cars waiting to enter. Finally, I pulled up to the Marine sentry.

My heart was beating pretty fast as I handed the Marine my Navy i.d. card. The card was dated Sept. 21, 1968, and the accompanying photo was of the same vintage. It took some imagination to match the face of the 30 year-old officer, staring back at you – with a decidedly military look – with the face of the 77 year-old geezer sitting at the wheel of the car seeking entry. However, the old i.d card had “indefinite” for the expiration date, so the card was – technically! – valid. The Marine stared at the card, as if he was looking at a ghost. He looked at the photo and then he looked at me. Finally, his hand flew to his cap in a salute.

“Good afternoon, Sir. May I help you?” Deja vu was all over me. The spool of time was being rewound.

“Good afternoon, Marine”, I replied. “I haven’t been on this base since the Vietnam War….almost 50 years ago. Can you direct me to the Officers’ Club so I can show my wife where we had about the only fun back in those long-gone, hard days”, I continued. “I have forgotten where it is.”

There was a pause, and the Marine – still standing at attention – slowly replied.

“I’m afraid, Sir, that there is no longer an Officers’ Club on this base.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t have heard right. WHAT? NO OFFICERS’ CLUB ON A NAVY BASE??? I almost didn’t know what to say to him. Then I gathered my wits about me and turned back to him.

“Where do the officers do their drinking when the ship ties up after a hard week of exercises at sea?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know , Sir….all I know is that there is no Officers’ Club on this base….hasn’t been one since women entered the Navy fighting force. Now, I don’t know if the two events are connected…”, said the Marine. I shook my head and continued my seemingly hopeless task (meanwhile, the line behind me was getting longer, but no one honked the horn): “Do you mean to tell me that you can’t even have a BEER on this base??!!” The laconic answer was: “I’m afraid you can’t, SIR!”

I was devastated. There was nothing else I could do. My wife was remarkably silent and placid beside me. I straightened in my seat (as much as I could), and said to the Marine:

“Thank you, Marine…I’m sorry I bothered you.” The Marine straightened – which was unnecessary being that he was as straight as could be – tightened his salute and said, in parting:

“No problem, SIR! And I’m sorry, SIR! I understand how you feel, Sir. And, thank you for serving in ‘Nam, SIR!” My hand flew to my coverless head, and my salute was as snappy as his. I put the car in gear, negotiated a U-turn and headed out the gate. The folks behind me probably wondered what that was all about. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that any of them could have guessed.

Aliz and I did not speak until we were back on I-5, heading north. She must have know how I felt and did not want to disturb my thoughts. I looked at her – her face reflecting the setting sun – and I thought that her eyes were a bit more moist than usual. I smiled, as our eyes met, and said:

“Thomas Wolfe couldn’t have said it better: ‘You can’t go home again'”.

I got just a little drunk that night in a nice, civilized, civilian bar.

 

More of Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. von D as we called him back then) here:

http://www.amazon.com/BRIDGING-TWO-WORLDS-Memories-Reflections/dp/1622878663/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

How Jesus Christ Superstar Helps Us Appreciate Easter

https://youtu.be/lS2nX4fuzqc

IDontKnow

“I don’t know how to love him, what to do, how to move him. I’ve been changed, yes, really changed. In these past few days when I’ve seen myself, I seem like someone else. I don’t know how to take this. I don’t see why he moves me. He’s a man, he’s just a man….”

https://pjmedia.com/faith/2016/03/26/how-jesus-christ-superstar-helps-us-appreciate-easter/?singlepage=true

The first play I ever saw on Broadway – and at the time a skeptic/agnostic/atheist …

 

Don Johnson – March 2016

The Irony of Bernie and Seattle

Bernie

I find great irony, contrasts, contradictions and not a little troubling concern when I see that Bernie Sanders was victorious in the state of Washington (read Seattle).

Seattle can rightly be viewed as the apex of Free Market Capitalism, with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Starbucks and others creating much employment, economic opportunity and great wealth for many, not only in Seattle but around the nation – indeed the world. How many years was Bill Gates the richest man in the world? How many millionaires did he create?   The last ten years or so of my working career was centered around developing software using Microsoft Windows and Microsoft software development tools.

Then we have Bernie Sanders, the self professed Socialist, which puts him in the camp of the central planners of history – the central planners of those glorious reaches for utopia via those many failed 5 year plans. Those central planners who seek to level the playing field and eliminate that dastardly “income inequality” and make us all economically equal (except for those exempt central planners with the mansions and lavish dachas in the countryside).

Swinging back to Seattle, we see that grand golden goose that has laid so many golden eggs for so many.

440px-Simpleton_finds_The_Golden_Goose_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661 

And we see that very rich man along with his wife who are in the process of giving their wealth away. Giving it away in ways that benefit many of the sick and poor around the world. And they are doing this in the grand tradition of the free market enterprise system – they give this wealth away voluntarily and without the coercion of those Bernie style central planners.

So we have the irony of a Bernie Sanders seeking to confiscate the wealth of a Bill Gates – wealth created from that golden goose called Seattle and redistribute according to needs as determined by those central planners in their dachas.

Is the Golden Goose an endangered species?  

dead-goose-taxidermy

Don Johnson – March 2016

The Challenge of Easter – From the Wall Street Journal

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-challenge-of-easter-1458916153

Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore the radical claim of the Resurrection

Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted  the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.

Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. Photo: Bridgeman Images

By

James Martin

March 25, 2016 10:29 a.m. ET

450 COMMENTS

When was the last time you felt stressed out by Easter? So much Easter shopping to do, so many Easter cards to write, so many Easter gatherings to attend. Not to mention the endless stream of Easter commercials on television and online, the nearly unavoidable Easter-themed movies and all those tacky Easter sweaters that you’re forced to wear every spring. And don’t forget the travails of setting up the annual Easter tree and stringing Easter lights on your house.

Every year you lament how overly commercialized Easter has become. Can the holiday get any more money-oriented? You feel that way every year, don’t you?

Of course you don’t.

That is because Easter has stubbornly resisted the kind of commercialization, commodification and general crassification that long ago swallowed up the celebration of Christmas, at least in the U.S. Here’s a confession: It’s reached the point where I have begun to, yes, dread the Christmas season, and it can be fairly stated that I now dislike Christmas. By that I mean the commercial complex that has grown up around the holiday. (The Feast of the Nativity is another story. That I love.)

So how has Easter—with some notable exceptions, like ever-expanding Easter baskets with more and more expensive gifts for the kids—maintained its relative religious purity?

Advertisement

Mainly, I would say, because of its subversive religious message: Christ is risen.

That is quite a statement. And it’s one that non-Christians can readily grasp, even if they don’t believe it. Jesus of Nazareth, the man whose followers claim that he healed the sick, stilled storms, raised people from the dead and made the poor the center of his ministry, was crucified under the orders of Pontius Pilate and died an agonizing death in Jerusalem. Then, as his followers believe—myself included—after three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set aside those teachings that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable—say, forgiving your enemies, praying for your persecutors, living simply or helping the poor. You can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave, who demonstrates his power over death and who has definitively proven his divine authority needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.

In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.

This is unlike Christmas. To be clear, Christians believe that, at the first Christmas, God became human. This is the meaning of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” God took on flesh, a concept as bizarre then as now.

But the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.

Related Reading

In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, one of the few disciples who did not desert him at the Crucifixion. (The fidelity of the women disciples—in contrast to all but one of the men—is an undervalued aspect of the narratives of the death and resurrection of Jesus.) Mary arrives at the place of Jesus’ burial early in the morning, peers into the empty tomb and eventually sees someone. It is the Risen Christ.

But she thinks he is the gardener. “Sir,” she says, “if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” When he speaks her name, “Mariam” (the Greek texts preserve her original Aramaic name), she realizes who it is.

What is going on? How could Mary not recognize the person that she has been following for so long? In later stories, Jesus seems similarly hard to recognize. In the Gospel of Luke, when two disciples encounter him as they are walking to the town of Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, they don’t recognize him at all.

How is this possible?

Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015. 

Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015. Photo: NurPhoto//ZUMA PRESS

More confusion: In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears as an almost ghostly figure, apparently able to walk through walls; in other accounts, he is decidedly corporeal. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says explicitly, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he appears to the unfairly named Doubting Thomas (for who wouldn’t doubt?), he says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

Ghostly and yet physical, recognizable but unrecognizable. Which is it? How could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have presented the details of such an important story with such seeming contradictions? The agnostic or atheist will point to this as proof that it never happened. I would suggest that it’s quite the opposite.

Most likely, the narratives reflect the struggle of the eyewitnesses and, later, the evangelists to understand and communicate what had been experienced. After all, no one had ever encountered what theologians call the “glorified body,” the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection. So they struggled to explain it. It was him, but more. It was his body, but something else. It was like this, but not like this.

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling.

But it was him. One of the most astonishing insights about Easter is that this is the same man who was crucified. Sometimes people speak, inadvertently, as if Jesus of Nazareth died on Good Friday and a new person, the Risen Christ, appeared on Easter Sunday. But as the Jesuit priest and New Testament scholar Stanley Marrow has written, for him to have risen as anything other than the Jesus the disciples knew would strip the Resurrection of all meaning.

As Father Marrow wrote, “Showing them ‘his hands and his side,’ which bore the marks of the crucifixion and the pierce of the lance, was not a mere theatrical gesture, but the necessary credentials of the identity of the risen Lord, who stood before them, with the crucified Jesus whom they knew.”

That has implications for all Christians. For one thing, it means that Jesus carries upon himself the visible marks of his human life. In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.

This is the mystery of Jesus’ two “natures”: human and divine. The divine one suffered human pain, and the human one is now raised from the dead.

But this was true before the Resurrection.

As mysterious as it is, Christians believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at all times—fully human when healing someone from an illness, fully divine when sawing a plank of wood in his workshop. So his teachings are not simply divinely inspired but flow from his human experience.

To take a homey example, during the time of Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, Nazareth was a poor village of no more than 400 people, as archaeology has revealed. The backwater hamlet was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” says the Apostle Nathanael when he first hears about the messiah’s hometown.

Jesus worked there as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as carpenter but also as craftsman, woodworker or even day laborer. It was a job considered below the status of a peasant, since a tekton did not even have the benefit of a plot of land.

‘If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.’

But a mere 4 miles from Nazareth was the bustling city of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by King Herod. Sepphoris had a population of 30,000 and included a Greek amphitheater that seated 3,000, a fortress, courts, a royal bank and so on. Most contemporary scholars believe that the poor carpenter from Nazareth almost certainly visited this cosmopolitan city, called the “ornament of all Galilee” by the Jewish historian Josephus. There Jesus would have seen beautiful buildings and houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes (the ruins of which one can still see today).

What did Jesus think when he walked back from the wealthy city to his poor hometown? How could his heart not have been moved by how the poor were forced to live in Nazareth? How could he have seen Mary and Joseph at their backbreaking chores and not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?

When Jesus witnessed injustices—the shunning of certain of the sick, the mistreatment of the powerless and gross material inequalities—he was inspired to preach against them not simply out of divine inspiration but because his human heart was, as the Gospels often say, “moved with pity.”

When we listen to Jesus, then, we are listening not only to a God who cares for the poor but a human being who knew the poor and who was poor himself.

A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015. 

A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word.

Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.

Jesus’ message still has the power to make us feel uncomfortable, as it did in first-century Palestine. It was just as much of a challenge to pray for your enemies in antiquity. It was no easier to hear Jesus’ judgment against the excesses of the wealthy during a time of degrading poverty for so many. It was just as subversive a message to be asked to pray for your persecutors as it is now.

By walking out of the tomb on Easter, Jesus declared something life-changing, something subversive and something that cannot be overcome by commercialism. It is a message that refuses to be tamed. The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive.

The Resurrection says, “Listen.”

Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of several books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship With Jesus.”

Praying for “A Hedge of Protection”

hedgeOfThorns

People who pray, often ask that the Lord to place a “Hedge of Protection” around their family … someone in trouble or someone at risk.

Reference here: In the time of the Old Testament, wild animals were much more prevalent in the Middle East than they are today. The Bible mentions lions (Judges 14:5), wolves (Jeremiah 5:6), bears (1 Samuel 17:34), leopards (Hosea 13:7), and hyenas (Isaiah 13:22). Although stone walls could keep predators away from living areas and livestock, the walls would have to be very tall and would take a long time to make. Wood was not plentiful enough to waste on a fence. Instead, a hedge of thorn bushes could be induced to grow around a living compound. Thorn bushes would be too dense to crawl through, too sharp to chew through, and too deep for all but the most determined leopard to jump over. A hedge would also be a deterrent to sheep and goats seeking to escape their pen. As Satan is compared to a “lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), a thorn hedge is an appropriate metaphor for the protection God gives His followers.

The other night as I was praying such a prayer and asking the Lord for a hedge of protection around loved ones in trouble, I paused to wonder:

“What if I am a part of that hedge of protection – a part of that nasty thorny thicket intended to protect those under my influence?” 

And what am I protecting against?

  • Unfaithfulness
  • Substance abuse
  • Pornography
  • Divorce
  • Abandonment
  • Abuse
  • Dishonesty
  • Thievery
  • Lying
  • Adultery
  • Financial recklessness
  •   … and more

If I am part of that hedge —

… Then what kind of husband should I be?
… What kind of father should I be?
… What kind of grandfather should I be?
… What kind of leader should I be?
… What kind of citizen should I be?

spring 2012 066

As I look out at the world from my place in that thicket of thorns, let me be a man of character … a man of principle … a man of steadfastness that will resist the evil ever persistent in trying to overcome those within my protective thicket.

And what about me … who shall me my hedge of protection?

hedge

 

 

Don Johnson – March 2016

Bridging Two Worlds: a book review

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1622878663

518istmWaAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ve been reading the memoir of my old USS Porterfield shipmate and new friend Adam von Dioszeghy. Well I’ve just finished it and would like to share with you a bit about that remarkable story.

I’ve read many books over the years, and many have been biographical and some autobiographical. This one is among the best, if not the best I’ve read, and certainly the most captivating. The man’s story is almost beyond belief, and I am thrilled to have known him back in 1965-66 if ever so briefly and casually. And now to know him so much more intimately, albeit via the book and e-mails back and forth, brings a deep satisfaction.

The man begins life in 1938 as a Hungarian aristocrat – a Baron – the ruling class. But at 7 years of age everything is stripped away except for his mother — herself a Baroness – by World War II. Adam describes those war years vividly and with much passion, but also with a fair amount of humor.

Life after the war, under Communism is brutal for Adam and his mother, mainly because of his mother’s previous station in life as an aristocrat. Here is how he describes the treatment of his mother in those Communist years:

“ … she … was stripped of all human dignity common to even the lowest of beings. The authorities treated her worse than if she was a leper or a person afflicted with the foulest of communicable diseases, or possibly a criminal. There were only certain places – and not very desirable ones – where she was allowed to live. … Day in and day out, in every conceivable circumstance, it was made known to her that her very existence was bothersome to the “state,” and the sooner she could depart this vale of tears for better climes the better. … “

In Adam’s late teen years as a university student he becomes involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and is twice wounded. Now a wanted man and marked for death, he and his mother escape on foot to Austria with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Within a few short years they wind up in St. Louis and then on to Northern California where Adam gets a bachelors degree from Stanford University. (Mind you, when he and his mom arrived in the US, they spoke no English.) This was a year after the beginning of the Vietnam War, and Adam was drafted. But rather than let the draft play out, Adam joined the Navy and was commissioned an Ensign at Newport Rhode Island. He was then assigned to the USS Porterfield (DD-682) where he and I served together including one tour to Vietnam (he did three).

Following his Navy service, Adam returned to Stanford where he earned a law degree and began a 35 year career as a trail lawyer.

Just a note here that his book is full of very insightful and often humorous experiences as he (and his mom) navigate through this new country of theirs.

Following retirement the von Dioszeghys moved to Hungary where they have a flat in Budapest and a small 7 acre country estate where they grow grapes and make wine.

Adam closes the book by revisiting his heritage and discovering more about his father and his service in World War I, and how as a respected leader strived to return order and dignity to the now defeated and very fragmented nation. He also described a visit and tour to the Parliament building in Budapest, and to a very elegant meeting room where his grandfather sat and spoke nearly 100 years prior. Had life turned a different direction, Adam would have sat in that same seat years later.

And remember his description of how his mother was treated by the Communists? Now standing outside the Parliament with his wife Aliz, Adam reflects on one of the menial jobs his mother was allowed to have – chipping marble stones used in the reconstruction of that magnificent but badly war damaged Parliament building — chipping stones for long hours in all kinds of weather as if a slave in the service of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

And I close by pointing out the irony of two immigrants, Adam and his wife Aliz, each choosing citizenship in new nations – he as a US citizen and her as a Hungarian citizen, while at the same time retaining citizenship in their respective old-countries.

Don Johnson – March 2016

Censorship in Academia

choir

Yesterday my wife and I attended a yearly gathering of about 500 middle school musicians and singers from around the state of Connecticut — our 13 year old granddaughter was among the 500.

My attention was especially drawn to the hands of the many participants and of the conductors. Watching the conductors leading the several choirs with many body queues, especially with hand and finger gestures was fascinating — as was watching the many hands and fingers producing amazing music as many fingers danced across the whole range of orchestral instruments. 
Truly an amazing day of talent and music as well as a fine demonstration of the wonders of the human hand.

___________________________

Now to put the above comments into context, I invite you to read the following:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/03/mob_with_pitchf102658.html

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/03/censorship_in_r102659.html

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/too-hot-to-handle-update-on-the-plos-one-paper/

A scientific study was made on the dexterity of the human hand. In the report, several references were made to “ .. the Creator.”

Much negative reaction ensued resulting in the paper being retracted.  The retraction was entirely due to the remarks referencing “the Creator”, and not disagreement with the technical content of the paper. 

The following are my remarks regarding the paper and its retraction.

___________________________

I find it entirely appropriate, and even commendable, that a group of researchers studying the intricacies of the human hand should (intentionally or not) credit the design they are trying to capture to a “Creator” and to ascribe the language of design to their model – the human hand … even in a so called “scientific” journal.

As far as I could tell, the end purpose of this study was for robotic or prosthetic purposes, and not to prove the existence of a “Creator.”

I read through many of the on-line comments to the PLoS ONE paper, and was appalled at the bigotry and small/closed mindedness of many of those professing to be the gate-keepers of this journal. It’s as if they have their heads inside a barrel with their fingers firmly stuck in their ears lest they hear the incessant drum beat of design coming from outside the barrel.

What I would suggest to these gate-keepers is to avail themselves of the many opportunities within their own campus and city to study first hand the beauty, adaptability and intricacies  of the human hand. Get out of the laboratory … get out of the lecture hall … get out of the book you are writing. Go to an orchestral and choir event. Go to a baseball game and witness the execution of that perfect double play. Go to a football game and watch that amazing throw and fingertip catch that wins the game in the final seconds. Go to a fine art museum and gaze at the fine paintings and sculptures created by those many human hands. Go to the surgical unit at a local hospital and watch the skilled and trained hands at work on needy patients. Go to you library and scan through some of the hand written manuscripts you might find there – and carefully look at and read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence written carefully by human hands.

Then I would suggest a retreat back to the office, lab and lecture hall to ponder a bit:

1) Did I perhaps witness just a bit of that “divine foot in the door” in any of what I’ve seen around campus?

2) How many generations of folks like me before we stumble on the origin of the hand by evolutionary means? Will we ever even approach it?

3) About that report – it’s been retracted with seemingly little concern over the validity and/or use of the data and insights collected. Is it possible that some young enthusiastic researcher/engineer could have made use of the study in providing a somewhat useful hand to that wounded soldier? Guess that doesn’t matter as long as the feelings, yes feelings, of the Atheists is protected. 

  

 Don Johnson – March 2016

Headlights Against the Storm–The Finest Hours

Finest Hours

Often a movie comes along that teaches strong life lessons. The Finest Hours is one such movie. And given that I experienced this movie just prior to an unfolding near-tragic family crisis, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The trailer for this movie gives away the plot as well as the ending, so I don’t hesitate sharing my thoughts here – but I will forgo in sharing personal details.

As in the movie, one very close to us found himself out on the very stormy and dangerous sea of life with little prospect for rescue.

As in the movie, those waiting helplessly on shore could do little to reach out hands of rescue – faith and hope were the only tools available, and at a critical point in this story faith and hope were put into action.

In the movie, the townspeople and loved ones drove to the shoreline of that still stormy sea and turned their headlights out into the darkened sky and sea. Shore power had previously been lost, so the shining headlights were the only beacon reaching out to those lost on the troubled sea.

In our own real life story we are experiencing many who have driven to the shoreline and have turned on headlights into that stormy sea. The lights come in many forms and from many places – from all across the nation and around the world.  The lights appear as prayers – the lights appear as meals – the lights appear as phone calls – the lights appear as tears of concern and love – and not least … the lights appear in the skill and dedication of many trained professionals.

Headlights showing the way …

Psalm-107-29

 If you find yourself in the midst of a dark and stormy sea, look for those headlights that are streaming your way – they are reaching out to you.

If someone close to you is in the midst of a dark and stormy sea, point towards that sea —  turn on those headlights and reach out to help guide that lost soul  to the safety of the shore.

Don Johnson – February 2016