From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Work 'til you drop: Tired or fired

Take a break!  (Painting by Grant Wood)
A significant percentage of today's workforce is afraid to take earned vacation time. 

According to Christine DiGangi of, these employees fear that taking time off “makes them look replaceable, therefore putting them at risk of losing their jobs.”  This potentially-lethal
mindset has been called a “work martyr complex.”

Is it even legal for employers to fire workers for taking earned vacation time?  Unfortunately, it often is.  DiGangi explains that “there’s no federal law guaranteeing people the vacation they’ve earned.”  Not only that, “employers can fire people for pretty much whatever they want to.”

When even God modeled a Sabbath for would-be workaholics, what gives employers the right to deny their people some time away from the grind?  Vacation time can strengthen employees’ health and personal relationships, which in turn can have a positive impact upon work performance.

In order to lessen the debilitating fear of being fired, Di Gangi recommends that employees build personal emergency funds.  With at least a few months’ worth of savings set aside, they can breathe easier while rightfully claiming some hard-earned vacation time.


Copyright September 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cherish freedom? Thank a cat

(Compilation by Alvesgaspar)
During World War I, approximately 500,000 cats were assisting Allied soldiers on land and on sea.

Mark Strauss of io9 explains that these cats killed vermin on ships and in trenches, served as gas detectors, kept troops company, and sometimes actively saved human lives.

A kitten named “Pitouchi” was adopted by Lt. Lekeux of the Belgium army.  When Lekeux was later trapped in a trench with the Germans approaching, Pitouchi jumped from the hole onto a piece of nearby wood.

When the Germans saw Pitouchi, they assumed that they had mistaken a cat for a man, and left the area.  Pitouchi then jumped back into the trench to comfort the beloved lieutenant whose life he just saved.

Seafaring cats were just as advantageous to their human companions.  Without cats on board, ships could easily be “overrun with rats and mice that would eat into the provisions, chew through ropes and spread


Copyright August 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Deep time: Old and older

Map Lichen   (Photo by Tigerente)
It’s amazing just how far a 110 camera plus a child’s curiosity can reach.

In Rachel Sussman’s case, what began as a youthful hobby of photographing storm-tossed trees, eventually developed into a philosophical exploration of deep time.

During a trip abroad as an adult, Sussman “found herself on a remote Japanese island, photographing a 7,000-year-old tree.” This led to the launching of her Oldest Living Things in the World project. 

Paulette Beete of the National Endowment for the Arts explains that Sussman’s project entails internationally-based photographs of “everything from a 3,000-year-old lichen to a 9,550-year-old spruce to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen trees.”

The subjects of these photographs come under the umbrella of what Sussman calls “deep time.”  Although this phrase means different things to different people, Sussman defines it as a “scale that’s so much deeper than a human life span.”  She often cites Greenland’s map lichens, which grow just one (silly?) centimeter every 100 years, as an example of experiential  “deep time.”

In questioning why this particular year is dubbed “2014” when the planet has existed for far longer than that, Sussman critiques the key role that religion has played in our perceptions of time.  She explains that this religious lens for viewing time is “completely detached from the deep history or big history… of our planet.”


Copyright August 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Napoleon I: Religious opportunism

Napoleon I's Deathbed  (by Horace Vernet)
Napoleon Bonaparte is often praised for his religious tolerance.  This quality was not so much due to faith as it was to opportunism.

Wikipedia explains that although Napoleon was “piously raised and received a Christian education,” he could best be described as a deist who recognized the redeeming social value of religion.

Napoleon I therefore practiced a kind of “When in Rome…” religious philosophy.  Although he allegedly admired the Prophet
Muhammad, Bonaparte nevertheless stated:  It is by making myself a Moslem that I established myself in Egypt.

His “religious tolerance” extended to other traditions, as well.  Bonaparte explained:  It is by making myself a Catholic that I brought peace to Brittany and Vendee…  If I governed a nation of Jews, I should
reestablish the Temple of Solomon.

Bonaparte often emphasized Roman Catholicism (he was crowned Emperor Napoleon I by Pope Pius VII) because he believed that Catholicism’s “splendorous ceremonies and sublime moral[s] better act over the imagination of the people than other religions.”

Although he is said to have privately favored “the Mohammedan religion” because there are “fewer incredible things in it,” Napoleon (ever the opportunist) was “anointed by a priest before his death.”


Copyright August 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 29, 2014

Can crushes crush?

The Flirtation  (by Eugene de Blass)
An article titled “Hitched: Is it OK to get crushes… when you’re married?” from Women’s Health thus far elicited 94 comments, many of them emphatic.

After wrestling with her attraction to a banjo-playing “hottie,” married (with toddler) author Korin Miller concludes:  As long as I’m not having crushes on the regular, hiding anything from [husband] Chris, or treating him any differently because of another guy, it’s fine.

Or is it?  Many readers think not.

One warns:  Why even flirt with disaster?  Playing with a crush can lead to cheating, so don’t take the chance.

Another told the sad story of a marital breakup, due to his wife’s crush on her boss’s boss.

Still another claims that the media messes up marriages by convincing people that it’s perfectly normal to have such extra-marital crushes.

Can crushes crush?  In some cases, yes.  Each “spoken-for” person must therefore decide:  Is this a chance worth taking?


Copyright August 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Koko and Robin: Two extraordinary beings

Young Gorilla  (Photo by Justin Norton) 
Robin Williams was so universally loved that his death was mourned by more than one species.

When Koko (the female gorilla that “understands spoken English and uses over 1,000 signs to share her feelings and thoughts about daily events, life, love, even death”) overheard her human trainer discussing Williams’ death, she began to show obvious signs of mourning.

In 2001, Williams had been invited by the Gorilla Foundation in California to meet with Koko.  Laura T. Coffey of TODAY reports that when this occurred, “Williams and Koko laughed, tickled each other and hugged like old friends.”  Williams described this encounter with Koko as “mind-altering.”

Koko's enthusiasm for Williams was especially heartening in that Koko hadn’t smiled for six months before then, due to the death of her “childhood gorilla companion, Michael.”  Koko not only smiled while meeting with Williams, but also tried on his glasses, kissed his hand, and “pulled him in for a big hug.”

After hearing of his death, Koko's head was bowed, and her lip was quivering.  Her eyes became filled with sadness.

She, too, was missing the light that was Robin Williams. 


Copyright August 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Parenthood: Evolutionary kindness

And so it begins...  (Photo by Indrani)
According to her August 2014 Spirit article titled "Chaos Theory," Sheril Kirshenbaum's experience of parenthood has not been without its frenzied moments.

Nevertheless, Kirshenbaum asserts that "when it comes to parenting, scientific evidence proves that the perks for our health and happiness far outweigh the pitfalls."

How is that possible when parenting tends to yield exhaustion of body, mind and bank account?  To answer this question, Kirshenbaum relies upon the reassurances of research findings.

It is now known that oxytocin (the happy hormone) increases significantly for both parents "during the first six months of a child's life."  Not only that, the scent of a new baby "triggers the brain's dopamine response."

The very act of raising a child nurtures altruistic tendencies in parents to the point where their neurological systems change for the better.  Kirshenbaum explains that parental "brains are literally being reshaped from a world primarily consisting of self to one consisting of both self and other."

As parental brains become rewired for altruism over time, the world itself becomes a kinder and gentler place.


Copyright August 27, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved