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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Is anti-Semitism 'alive and well' in Michigan?

(1819 Hep-Hep Riot in Frankfurt, Germany)
When Zach Tennen was recently approached by two men who allegedly asked if he were Jewish, what should he have answered?

According to the Associated Press (AP), his affirmative reply resulted in a vicious physical attack by those who fired this fully-loaded question.  During their assault, Tennen was punched in the face.  His jaw was broken and his mouth felt as though it were stapled shut.  He told the AP that "no one should ever be subjected to the horror" that this entailed.

Tragically, the horrors of anti-Semitism have been ongoing for centuries.  Wikipedia defines "anti-Semitism" as "suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage."  Extreme examples such as the Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms, and Nazi Germany come to mind – but they were preceded by numerous smaller incidents such as the above-mentioned one in East Lansing, Michigan.

For example, the Hep-Hep riots of 1819 were preceded by centuries of non-citizen/restricted-rights status for Jews of Central Europe.  When Jewish representatives "formally demanded emancipation" at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, "vicious opposition" ensued.  Anti-Semitic publications became more and more common, and Jews were portrayed as "upstarts" who would "take control of the economy" if not put down.  Tension built and anti-Semitism increased until "riots began on 2 August 1819 in Wurzburg, Germany." These riots quickly spread to other towns and cities throughout the land.  Police sometimes "appeared too
late or stood by idly…"

Not every act of anti-Semitism results in widespread riots against the Jews.  However, each one comes closer and closer to being a tipping point in that heinous direction.  

Copyright August 31, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mark David Chapman: Minister's offer

(Photo by CrazyLegsKC)
When Mark David Chapman - John Lennon's killer - recently went before the parole board, he stated that a Medina, New York minister
named Stanley A. Thurber had offered him a place to live and a job (or two).  Chapman described Thurber as "an older fellow" with "a lot of contacts in the area" who "agreed to refurbish his upstairs apartment for me…"

This would not be the first time that Chapman has been befriended by a member of the clergy.  Wikipedia tells us that he became a born-again Christian in 1971 (approximately nine years before Lennon's murder), and was distributing biblical materials as part of that conversion experience.  He afterwards moved to Chicago, and was playing guitar in churches and in "Christian nightspots."  He later studied for a while at Covenant College, an evangelical Presbyterian school in Georgia.  After a suicide attempt in 1977, Chapman "found a place to live with a Presbyterian minister."

Stanley A. Thurber is an Assembly of God minister who pastored the Oak Orchard biblical community in Medina for years, along with his now-deceased wife Ann.  According to Ann's obituary, Stanley "completed 
the Biblical Studies with Burean Bible College..." 

Oak Orchard Assembly of God describes itself as a community "made up of people just like you learning to love each other where we are while we become who God wants us to be."  It goes on to explain that this "is most effectively accomplished through relationships – life in life, serving and helping one another."   

Certainly, Thurber's offer to assist Chapman seems very much in line with this type of Christian hospitality.  It might even be a viable answer to the soul-searching question:  What would Jesus do?


Copyright August 30, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ann Romney: All God's women have wings

(William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1867)
It seems that Ann Romney and John Lennon have a lot in common after all.  Her speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida was all about love, love, love.

From Romney's perspective (Ann's, that is), this love would be well-nigh impossible without the shining example of women, women, women.  She talked about a "love so deep that only a mother can fathom it" (fathers and Fathers need not apply).  She talked about the "great collective sigh from
the moms and dads across America who made it through another day," but topped that off with a pronouncement that the women are "sighing a little bit more than the men."

And why is that?  In Romneyville, it's because women "have to work a little harder, to make everything right."  In fact, "it's the moms of this nation – single, married, widowed – who
really hold this country together" (women without children need not apply).  Rather than present some facts and figures to back this up, she simply reiterated (in preacher-like tones):  "You know it's true, don't you?"

Romney then went on to allegedly speak for all of America's women who (in her estimation) neither want nor expect life to be easy.  These "best of America" and "hope of America" fertile females are "too smart to know there aren't easy answers," yet "not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers." 

Enter Mitt. 

Although Ann Romney just presented America's women as "all that plus a bag of diapers" – she goes on to assert that "no one will work harder" and "no one will care more" than Mitt.  Not only that, Mitt will also "move heaven and earth… to make this country a better place to live!"  (Perhaps America's "blessed" women are just great enough to recognize a political "messiah" when they see one…)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bears: Masters of the Forest

The "Spirit Names" by which bears have been addressed indicate the human respect they have commanded throughout the ages. According to, these names include the following:  Divine One Who Rules the Mountains (Ainu), Great Man (Siberian), Master of the Forest (Lapp), Holy Animal (Lapp), Owner of the Earth (Siberian), Pride of the Woodlands (Finn), Worthy Old Man (Ural Altaic), and Venerable One (Vogul). emphasizes that bears were often viewed with great reverence.  The English word "beserk" is derived from a Scandinavian legend in which bear-skin shirts (called bear-sarks) were donned by warriors so that they would "gain the strength, stamina, and power of the animal."  An Ancient Greek legend tells of Callisto being transformed into a bear as punishment by Hera for bearing her husband Zeus' child Arcas (whose very name is derived
from the Greek word for "bear" – Arctos).  Arcas was a hunter, and wound up shooting  Callisto (not knowing that this bear was actually his mother).   Zeus took pity on both mother and son at that point, and changed Callisto and Arcas into Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, "the two great bear constellations."

Reverence for bears has long been associated with a healthy amount of respect for what they are capable of.  When their presence or turf is not treated with the utmost of care, the results can be catastrophic.  A thorough knowledge of safety tips is recommended for those who might encounter these Masters of the Forest while visiting their domain.


Copyright August 28, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong: Religion secondary to faith

Neil Armstrong  (NASA photo)
Back in the late 1950s, Neil Armstrong decided to become a Boy Scout leader.  When filling out the application to do so at his local Methodist church, Armstrong was asked about his religious affiliation.  His reply:  Deist.

According to Wikipedia, Deism "is a philosophy which holds that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of a creator."  The word "deism" was part of a 1675 English dictionary, and was used in English print as early as 1621.  During the 17th and 18th centuries (aka "Age of Enlightenment"), Deism came into its own with European and American intellectuals.  Christians "who found they could not believe in supernatural miracles, the inerrancy of scriptures, or the Trinity, but who did believe in one God" embraced it.

Nevertheless, rumors persist that Armstrong, while walking on the moon, heard the Muslim call to prayer and subsequently converted to Islam. presents a 1983 letter, "authorized by Neil Armstrong," which denies this claim.  This letter asserts that "the reports of his [Armstrong's] conversion to
Islam and of hearing the voice of Adzan [the Islamic call to prayer] on the moon and elsewhere are all untrue."  The US State Department also released a memo to this effect.

The Telegraph not only reports that both of Armstrong's parents were "extremely devout," but also explains that "Neil Armstrong later professed no explicit religious beliefs."


Copyright August 27, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Multitasking: More pain, less gain

(Photo by MilesTeg)
Turns out that those who suffer from "octopus brain" (reaching out in many different directions at once, aka "multitasking") might be better off
ignoring that phone (no matter how "smart" it is) when it threatens to interrupt a preexisting task.

Dr. John J. Medina, author of New York Times
bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, is a developmental molecular biologist who "has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information."  Father of two boys, he is also the author of Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five.

Medina asserts that although the brain can effectively manage such dual tasks as breathing and walking, "the
brain's attentional 'spotlight' can focus on only one thing at a time…"  Concepts are naturally approached by the brain sequentially.  What this amounts to in practical applicability is that claims of multitasking effectiveness are more mythical than real.

Another way of explaining this is that "we are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously."  Shifts in attention invariably require some time to accomplish.  The brain must first disengage from the task at hand, and then engage with a second one.  If there are third, fourth (and who
knows how many other) tasks awaiting, the brain must "rinse and repeat" this disengagement/engagement process over and over again.

All of this shifting back and forth results in a form of system overload.  Both the brain and the person begin to "lose it."  This happens literally as well as figuratively.  Medina reports that interrupted people not only take 50 percent longer to accomplish tasks, but also make "up to 50 percent more errors" while doing so.  


Copyright August 26, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beating cheating: Advice from 'the other'

Madame de Pompadour (mistress of Louis XV)
Rather than beating cheating by doing one better, it might instead help to learn why cheating occurs.  And - on a day when there's plenty of time left for a good cry - who better to ask than the one he or she has been cheating with?  

If the Woman's Day article 8 Marriage Lessons from Surprising Sources is any indication, an earful of useful responses may reward such a bold inquiry. 
Advice from the proverbial 'other' seems to center
upon two main themes:  being good to yourself and being good to your partner.

Being good to yourself entails keeping friendships,
hobbies, meaningful work and projects intact even
when tempted to throw them all aside "for the sake of" the primary relationship.  What the latter choice generally leads to is an overwhelming "need" for that relationship, which in turn tends to smother it.  Better to have her or him missing you than wishing you would disappear around the next corner.

Being good to yourself also means maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  It's hard enough to be truly present in a relationship without also wondering if you'll be able to stay awake long enough to kiss goodnight.  You may be wondering, "But who has time for all that primping?"  Women's Day answer:  The 'other' does, so you'd better too…

Now that you've been so good to yourself that your partner finds you once again irresistible, how can you keep the reignited home fires burning?  By being at least as good to your partner as you now are to yourself…   If he or she has the urge to spill detail after detail about the work day, listen up!  Ask questions.  Give compliments.  Empathize.  If she or he offers to cook dinner, swoon over the results (even if they're a bit charred).  And who knows?  A grateful hug could then lead to a very satisfying dessert.


Copyright August 25, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 24, 2012

Temptation: Partnering with Pater Noster

Le "Pater Noster"  (by James Tissot) 
Although many pray on a regular basis not to be led into temptation, many also believe that “God helps those who help themselves.”

Lexi Petroni, in her Woman’s Day article How to Increase Your Willpower, has put together a list of research-based suggestions for effectively resisting those temptations that are better shunned than sorry.  Six of these eleven suggestions warn against those
things which decrease willpower, and the other five advocate for those things which increase willpower.

Petroni states that the following things make it more difficult to resist unwholesome temptations:  getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night; undergoing PMS or ovulation; parenting; being super stressed in general; saying “no” too much of the time; and having a spouse or housemates that consistently tempt you.  Some of the things on this list may sound surprising – for example, parenting and saying “no” too often.  Petroni points out that parenting “might leave you feeling burnt out, exhausted or stressed – maybe even all three – which creates the perfect situation to say sayonara to willpower.”  She also points out that willpower can be like a muscle which weakens when overworked from saying “no” too many times.

This latter point explains the logic of Petroni’s suggestion to not be overly strict.  Because our bodies are “natural pleasure-seekers,” constantly denying them treats will eventually boomerang.  Therefore, never allowing “a bite of cake or a sip of a shake” could result in a tendency to “pig out.”  Petroni’s other four suggestions for increasing willpower are the following:  do things to feel good about your overall body image and health; regularly eat foods that are rich in “natural vitamins, fiber and protein”; keep busy but not stressfully so; and enjoy warm sunny weather.


Copyright August 24, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Isaac's namesake

Abraham and Isaac (Rembrandt)
Hopefully, tropical storm Isaac won't be anywhere near as hardy as its namesake.  Biblical Isaac is said to have lived 180 years, thus "making him the longest-lived patriarch."

Hopefully, too, the outcome of Isaac will reflect some of the joy that biblical Isaac brought to his parents, Abraham and Sarah.  Wikipedia reports that "the anglicized name Isaac" derives from the Hebrew terms for "He laughs/will laugh."  Genesis attributes this jolly-sounding name to Abraham's laughter when told by Elohim
that he and his aged wife Sarah were going to have a baby.  (However, this laughter was a double-edged sword in that it also
could have indicated a lack of faith in God's pronouncement.)

Although Isaac was Sarah's first child (she had been unable to conceive beforehand), also-elderly Abraham had had a previous son Ishmael with Sarah's "Egyptian handmaid" Hagar.  Although Sarah had been the one to originally "offer" Hagar to Abraham, the
ensuing "love triangle" (and ramifications about who would then be Abraham's heir) resulted in the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael.

When Isaac was just a youth, Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice him upon Mount Moriah.  Abraham went so far as to bind Isaac to an altar and draw a knife to him when an angel interceded.  Although both
father and son are said to have faithfully followed God's commands, one can't help but wonder what lasting effects this may have had upon Isaac's peace of mind.

When Isaac was 40, Rebekah was chosen by Abraham's steward Eliezer as a wife for him.  She did not conceive until Isaac was 60 years old, and then their sons Esau and Jacob were born.  Although they were twins, Esau was slightly older.  This resulted in yet another sibling rivalry, which eventually led to the deliberate deception of Isaac by Rebekah and Jacob.  Jacob was therefore unknowingly blessed by Isaac rather than Esau, and thus became Isaac's primary heir.  Esau and Jacob managed to reconcile years later when it came time to bury their father, Isaac.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunshine Rule: Disinfecting anti-Semitism

(Photo by Bobjgalindo)
It was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who first proclaimed that "sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants."  This expression particularly fits the airing of proverbial dirty laundry.

One of the dirtiest items in the sociological basket is anti-Semitism.  Soon after Brandeis made this famous pronouncement about sunlight, Jewish organizations began tailoring it to their own needs.  Back in the days of the civil rights movement, what came to be known as the "Sunshine Rule" worked well.  The more the dirt of anti-Semitism was exposed to general scrutiny, the sooner the tide of public opinion would wash it away.

However, time and tides wait for no man (no matter how well-meaning), and this Sunshine Rule began to boomerang.  What
started out being a necessary exposure of widespread evil is now sometimes an unnecessary spotlight on lesser-known pockets of prejudice.

In his Jewish Daily Forward article titled Ignoring Anti-Semitism is Sometimes Best: Exposing Hatred Isn't Always a Good Way To Eradicate It, David Bernstein points out that "annual ritualized condemnations of the Jewish state [Israel] on American college campuses receive nearly all their diminutive
media coverage from Israeli or Jewish sources."  He therefore recommends a more sparing use of the Sunshine Rule than has been previously merited.

Bernstein offers guidance for knowing when to shine a public light upon anti-Semitism and when not to.  With blatant anti-Semitism that "only a lunatic fringe would dispute," Bernstein is all for speaking out (and loudly).  However, when anti-Semitism is weak enough to be taken seriously by only a very few, it may be best to let
it die a natural death in its own dark hole.


Copyright August 22, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peas: None for Louise, please

Pisum Sativum (Photo by Rasbak)
Who knew that the ever popular (with the preschool set) Eat Your Peas, Louise! is actually an unethical book?  Perhaps Michael Marder suspected it right along…

And just who is Michael Marder to question little Louise’s phonically enhanced diet?  The New York Times identifies him as the “Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz” whose “most
recent book, ‘Plant Thinking-A Philosophy of Vegetal Life’ will be published by Columbia University Press this year.”  (Sounds like even more of a mouthful than Louise’s peas…)

It seems that Marder has a real propensity for delving into vegetal mysteries (no mere weekend gardener, he).  In his April 2012 article If Peas Can Talk, Should We EatThem?, he cites the results of an Israeli study “revealing that a pea plant subjected to
drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil.”  This was done biochemically through the root systems, and prompted the other plants to ready themselves for a similar situation.  These other plants were then better able to cope with the drought when it later reached them.

The ethical questions raised by this study are many.  What it all boils (or stir fries) down to for Louise is this:
If peas are empathetic (and “smart”) enough to warn their neighbors about impending doom, should we not
befriend them rather than betray them?  Just as we (hopefully) cringe at the thought of eating our pets, should we not give the same respect to our leafy brethren?

In a follow-up May 2012 article titled Is Plant Liberation on the Menu?, Marder attempts to assuage such philosophical angst.  He claims to know that plant stress does not reach the same intensity as animal suffering, and therefore does not equate vegetarianism with meat-eating.  (He did, however, previously make a case for eating perennials rather than annuals - which could still spell no more peas for Louise.)


Copyright August 21, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 20, 2012

Praise: Hollow vs. Hallowed

Back in the days when behavior modification was "all that plus a bag of stickers," teachers were taught to praise, praise, praise. 

If Johnny answered one math problem out of ten, he was praised.  If Sally kept quiet for
three whole minutes, she was praised.  The ubiquitous "Good job!" (best repeated in a singsong manner and coupled with a glow-in-the-dark happy face) rang through all the "happy" hallways.

But this is now the twenty-first century, and articles such as 9 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child reign supreme.  Not surprisingly, these nine forbidden parental verbalizations include the following:  Why can't you be more like your sister?  Wait till Daddy gets home!  Stop, or I'll give you something to cry about…  But surprisingly, they also include "Great job!" and "Good girl!"

Paula Spencer of Parenting explains that these last two exclamations are used so indiscriminately as to become meaningless.  Chirping "Great job!" each time your child makes a stray mark with a crayon could quickly lose its salutary effect.  She recommends replacing effusiveness with specificity.  A well-placed "It's so refreshing to see a purple pig for a change" is much more invigorating to your toddler's sense of artistry than a generic "Nice picture."

"OMG!" you lament.  "Next thing you know, they'll be taking the praise out of worship.  "Not a prayer!" (as they say in secular circles)…  After all, "Hallowed" does not ring hollow – it instead expresses gratitude for That which is eternally praiseworthy.


Copyright August 20, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Autism: A 'death sentence' at times?

Heart of the Milky Way (ESO/J. Girard)
Autism is not usually viewed as a terminal disease.  However, it might just turn out to be a "death sentence" for Paul Corby – a
23-year-old Pennsylvanian who needs a heart transplant in order to survive.

According to the New York Daily News, Corby is being denied this transplant because he is also autistic.  Although "able-bodied and high-functioning," he was turned down by the hospital group
Penn Medicine due to "his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effects of steroids on behavior."

Since there are more patients on the transplant list than there are hearts to give them, hard (sometimes short for "hard-hearted") decisions ensue.  There are physicians who assume that autism entails an inability to follow directions.  These same physicians might therefore assume that autistic patients would not be good candidates for managing the ongoing challenges of post-transplant life.

However, what is commonly referred to as "autism" is actually a subcategory of "Autistic Spectrum Disorders" (aka "Pervasive Developmental Disorders").  The key word "Spectrum" and the plural word "Disorders" denote a wide variety of symptoms and behaviors within this overall diagnosis. 

Subcategories on the milder end of the Autistic Spectrum, such as High Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, have been subject to a great deal of debate.  A scientific understanding of such diagnoses seems to be very much a work in progress.   Dr. Tony Atwood explains that these milder Spectrum Disorders have been far less researched than the extremely severe "silent and aloof" ones.  There is some disagreement among clinicians as to whether Asperger's is a "unique disorder" or "simply a form of autism with a higher
intelligence quotient."

When even autism experts can't conclusively describe the various manifestations of autism, what is to be said about hospital groups that make life-and-death decisions based upon far less of an understanding?  Can it be that Paul Corby is virtually being "sentenced to death" without so much as a trial? 

Corby's mother seems to think so.  She has taken this "case" to the "court of public opinion" by launching a petition "calling for the hospital to change its mind about the transplant."  Although Penn Medicine "won't comment on Paul's specific case," it has stated that "we always encourage patients to seek
another opinion."

Perhaps a revised "other opinion" could (and/or should) come from Penn Medicine itself…


Copyright August 19, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kjerstin Gruys: Through the looking glass

Mirror Globe (Photo by Arpingstone)
If famed sociologist Charles Horton Cooley was correct about self-concepts, then Kjerstin Gruys might be in for some rough times ahead.

Kjerstin Gruys, who has a history of anorexia, decided to go "mirrorless" for the year which included her wedding.  According to Godward's Eric Rennie, this decision was made after Gruys' body was larger than the gown she had hoped to pour herself into.  Rather than simply trying for the next size(s) up, Gruys began a very public
campaign of avoiding all mirrors.  This even entailed turning away from the glare of her own reflection in others' sunglasses.

It would be wonderful (perhaps) if shedding a preoccupation with body/self image were as simple as stepping through the proverbial
looking glass.  However, just as Alice discovered, imagined Wonderlands on the far side of the hill have their own share of demons.  Spending enormous amounts of time avoiding something
is tantamount to not thinking of a hippopotamus for the next five minutes.  It quickly becomes all about the hippo.

Rennie offers this quote from Cooley:  I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.  (Lewis Carroll would have been proud of this logic…)  Ashley Crossman further explains what Cooley (1864-1929) was about.  His theory of "the looking glass self" hinges upon three main components:  "our imagination of how others see our appearance; our imagination of the others' judgment of our appearance; and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification, determined by our imagination of the other's judgment of us."

The key word here seems to be "imagination."  The reality of what the Self truly is can get easily distorted in a hall of mirrors, especially if every last one of them is covered with shame.


Copyright August 18, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jimmy Lee Swaggart: 'A' for effort

(Photo by Tiago F. Abreu)
Say what you want about disgraced televangelist Jimmy Lee Swaggart – but not until you, too, have turned down a lucrative offer from a record company while struggling to survive as a preacher.

This offer came from Sun Records (then-label of Swaggart’s cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis).  Wikipedia references Swaggart’s biography, To Cross a Riverwhen reporting that producer Sam Phillips wanted
Swaggart to be Sun Record’s very first gospel artist.  At the time, Jerry Lee Lewis was making hundreds of dollars more per week as a musician than Swaggart was as a minister.  Nevertheless, Swaggart turned Phillips down, “stating that he was called to preach the gospel.”

And preach the gospel he did.  At first, Swaggart and his family “lived in church basements, pastors’ homes, and small motels” because they couldn’t afford their own home.  He would preach from a flatbed trailer that was donated to him, and “began developing a revival-meeting following throughout the American South.”

The rest, as they say, is history – some quite good, some not so good.  Which would make Swaggart…

After “the Fall” (and an announced “time of healing and counseling”), Swaggart continued his ministry (although under different auspices and on a much smaller scale).  He continues to inspire many through his preaching, books – and, ironically, his gospel music.


Copyright August 17, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Aping Wall Street: Money see, money do

(Photo by Matthias Trautsch)
Brett Arends’ portrayal of what would happen if Occupiers aped the morals (or lack thereof) of Wall Street seems more sobering fact than rollicking fiction.

Arends sums up the rules of “America’s Street of Shame” in the following manner:  “On Wall Street, you take every nickel and dime you can get your hands on.  If it’s not nailed down, it’s yours.  You take without conscience or shame.  If you see a blind man selling pencils on the street, steal the pencils.  Steal the pennies.  Steal his dog.”

Now that you’ve stolen those pennies, flip them whenever
ethical decisions need to be made (or ignored).  Wall Street results would predictably look like these: “Heads you win, tails they lose.”

So how can Occupiers mimic Wall Street tactics?  Arends implies that if each Occupier were to apply for all credit cards that they’re eligible for, and each Occupier were to then charge them to the max, and each Occupier were to then default on the payments, and each Occupier were to then declare bankruptcy…  well then, Wall Street might eventually be truly Occupied by those who beat them at their own game.

Arends also suggests that this strategy occurred to the Occupiers, but that “they considered it grossly immoral.”  Although immoral strategies seem expedient, they eventually crumble under the weight of their own inequities.  That could be why Churchill famously commented:  “Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

That could also be why Gandhi stated:  “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  Kudos therefore to all those Occupiers who preferred “camping out in the cold, eating lentil curry” to adopting Wall Street tactics of their own.


Copyright August 16, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

George Jones: 'Religion' revision

George Jones (Photo by Secisek) 
Looks like George Jones is giving what he once dubbed his "religion" one last shot.  The Associated Press reports that "country music icon" Jones is "ready for one last go-round on tour before retiring from the road."

During an interview with John Gerome, Jones discussed his notorious past.  There was that two-week drinking binge, after which he "took off on a riding mower in search of another drink."
Then there was that "No Show Jones" nickname, a result of all those concerts lost to addiction. So what is it that kept Jones going?  When Gerome asked that question, Jones replied:  I have always loved traditional country music.  It has been like a religion for me…

Although this passion might have been "religion" enough to keep body and soul together (barely), it wasn't religion enough for soul to dominate.  After a 1999 DUI "horrible car wreck," Jones felt that "finally something put the fear of God" into him.  It was then that he turned to "Queen of Southern Gospel Music" Vestal Goodman for help.  After that, Jones told this to 700 Club's Cheryl Wilcox:  I just thank God I'm still here, and the main thing is to try and get closer and
closer to Him.

Jones also credits fourth wife Nancy with helping him to get his life straightened out.  While down to 105 pounds with doctors telling him that he "wouldn't last another two months if things didn't change," Jones met Nancy.  She stayed right by his side as Jones (then hospitalized) "went through 30 days of reading the Bible" and putting aside pretty much all else.  Jones then "found that way back with the Lord's help…"


Copyright August 15, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Euthanasia: Whose call is it?

There are those who believe that euthanasia is sometimes the kindest alternative.  This assumes that humans can ever really know what all the alternatives might be.
Newborn Chihuahua (Toronja Azul)
Although laws forbid a widespread practice of human euthanasia, animals are not nearly as well protected.  The following stories
illustrate the limitations of human knowledge concerning seemingly hopeless animal plights.

On August 12, 2012 reported that a six-month-old puppy was rescued from a Detroit sewer by the Michigan Humane Society.  Although no one quite knows (or is saying) how the puppy got there, a caring passerby heard the desperate
yelps and signaled for help.  One of the rescuers stated that the puppy (that easily could have been given up for dead) was "definitely happy to be out of there."

Then there's the September 23, 2011 story about the abused dog Harper (found squirming within a trash bag) that suffered from "swimmer puppy disorder" (pectus excavatum).  This is a condition which "causes puppies to lie flat on their chests with their legs perpetually splayed out, as if
they were humans – or perhaps frogs – swimming through water."  When discovered, Harper was taken to a local animal shelter.  One of the shelter workers decided to take Harper home for one night of loving care before what was thought to be an inevitable euthanization.  This care involved massaging Harper's stiff muscles in order to relieve some of the pain.  After just a few hours of such merciful attention, Harper showed marked signs of improvement.  With subsequent donated hydrotherapy and massage therapy, Harper began walking and living a healthful life.

On August 1, 2012 photographer Stonehouse Hudson uploaded an image of John Unger and his dog Schoep which then went viral.  The photo showed Schoep being cradled by Unger while both were immersed in the waters of Lake Superior.  Unger was told that Schoep "had severe arthritis and may need to be put down soon."  He responded by providing water therapy for Schoep within the lake.  Schoep's limp began to improve from this therapy.  People who saw the Internet photo then offered to help.  One woman paid for Schoep to have "the latest laser therapy on his joints."  Other viewers sent "packages of glucosamine, treats and other treatments to help Schoep with joint pain."

So who's to say when a life is really hopeless?  Human perspectives are often quite clouded by ignorance and self-interest.  Those who can't create life might wish to therefore cease from destroying it.  These three animal rescues illustrate just what a life-and-death difference the power of love can make.    


Copyright August 14, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 13, 2012

Elaine Fox: Retrain your brain

Think your bank account looks half empty?  Well, think again. “Sunny” thoughts could suddenly change that to half full.

Sounds like a bunch of hyped-up hooey?  Not according to Oxford professor Elaine Fox, who claims that thinking sunny (positive) thoughts can actually reprogram the brain…  Within a special CNN column, Fox discusses neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to flexibly adjust to new input).  Fox states that although we respond to our
existing neurons, our neurons also “respond to us, to the things we do and even the things we think, resulting in observable changes in our

Now some might argue that too much sun could eventually fry the delicate brain, and the body along with it…  Fox would probably agree.  She points out that “rainy” thoughts are sometimes necessary in order to protect individuals from truly hazardous circumstances.  However, many overwhelm their natural “alarm systems” with negative interpretations of events that might otherwise be beneficial.  She asserts that optimism, “especially when linked with realism, is associated with better health, more success and a deeper sense of well-being.”
So how can the floodwaters of pessimism be rechanneled?  Ethan Youngerman of reports on Fox’s “suggestions for flexing your optimism muscles.”  These include the following:  counting blessings (maintaining a daily awareness of the good things that occur by actually writing them down); curating moods (by actively taking charge of your feelings); mindfully meditating (cultivating “a kind of neutrality toward bad events”); and making an effort to smile and laugh more often (which “releases mood-boosting endorphins, even when you force it”).


Copyright August 13, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bishop Gumbleton at Kateri Shrine

(Kateri Tekakwitha)
Twenty-twelve is surely a year of grace!  Not only will Kateri Tekakwitha be canonized on October 21st, but Bishop Thomas Gumbleton will be conducting a Day of Reflection at her Fonda, New York Shrine on August 17th.  (*Please see 8/15 update below.) sums up this beloved bishop's teaching/ministry with these sixteen words:  "to transform the world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible."  To this effect, Bishop Gumbleton has been a leading light in the peace and civil rights movements.  He has passionately advocated for an end to war, for the abolition of nuclear
weapons, for the rights of homosexuals and women to fully participate within the Catholic Church, and on behalf of sexual-abuse victims within the Catholic Church.

Although some of these stances are markedly different from those currently held by the Vatican, Bishop Gumbleton feels nevertheless
impelled to uphold them.  During a PBS interview, he explained the following:  The Church, over the centuries, has tried to teach about sexuality in single life, married life, homosexual life, and our teaching has evolved.  And that's true of
almost any moral teaching within the Church.  As we get new insights, new understanding, the teaching evolves.  Teachings on slavery.  100 years ago in this country Catholic bishops accepted slavery – said it was perfectly justified.  You would find no person in the Church saying that today.

Bishop Gumbleton's Kateri Shrine Day of Reflection serves as an inspiring "overture" to the 14th Annual Kateri Tekakwitha Peace Conference.  This conference features other well-known leaders who are carrying on the conscientious traditions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  These leaders include three-times Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly and popular author David Swanson.


Copyright August 12, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

*8/15 Update:  Word just came in that due to an urgent family situation, Bishop Gumbleton cannot attend.  Kathy Kelly will be leading the August 17th Day of Reflection instead.  She, too, is a leading light with much wisdom to share.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan: Ayn Rand to Thomas Aquinas?

Thomas Aquinas (Gentile da Fabriano)
Wikipedia reports that Ayn Rand was a major influence on Paul Ryan's political career.  At an Atlas Society meeting in 2005, Ryan stated that Rand's thinking was "by and large" the reason he "got involved in public service."  Rand was so much of an influence on Ryan that her works became required reading for all of his staff and

Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum in 1905.  She spent her formative years in Russia and did not move to the United States until 1926.  Wikipedia explains that "Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion."  Her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, is named
after the Titan who was said to have literally carried the world's burdens on his shoulders.  The shrugging of Atlas implies a deliberate rejection of such heroic self-sacrifice.  This was Rand's way of encouraging those who willingly suffer at the hands of evil to shake off that role and adopt "the trait of rational self-interest."

This Objectivist philosophy does not sit well with many of today's Catholic leaders.  In 2012, Ryan seemed to radically shift his stance on Rand and told National Review the following:  I reject her philosophy.  It's an atheist philosophy.  It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.  If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas

This "seven-year switch" from Rand to Aquinas not only represents a leap of faith, but a quantum leap from the "side" of atheism to that of Roman Catholic sainthood.  So which is it?  Will the real Paul Ryan please stand up and be counted...


Copyright August 11, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 10, 2012

Herbert Hoover: Quaker roots bore fruits

(President Herbert Hoover)
The name Herbert Hoover is often linked with the Great Depression.  The 31st President of the United States is more often blamed for these hard times than credited with his many efforts to relieve them.  Not many realize that much of Roosevelt's New Deal was predicated upon programs that Hoover had initiated.

Hoover learned early on to effectively deal with hard times.  The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum reports on the "joys and hazards" of his boyhood life in the small Quaker town of West Branch, Iowa.  What fun it was to hike, fish, swim, sled, and hunt for fossils!  However, this fun was tempered by such challenges as droughts, storms, "typhus, diphtheria and pneumonia."

The Hoovers belonged to a strict Quaker sect that "valued a blunt plainness… believed that people will work well together" and "were dedicated to peace, and the belief that good common reason
and strategic planning provide one with an uncluttered conscience."  Hoover's mother was a "recorded minister" whose "faith was expressed in temperance and charitable activities."  The "long hours of Quaker
meetings" provided young Hoover with an opportunity for developing tremendous patience.

This early Quaker training seemed to bear much fruit during Hoover's presidency.  He was the first to donate his entire four-year salary to charity, and worked diligently to protect the rights of children.  He designed
extensive criminal-reform legislation, and initiated a Good Neighbor policy with Latin America that resulted in the withdrawal of troops from Nicaragua and Haiti.


Copyright August 10, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Matrix bicycling: Two wheels, One messiah

(Photo by StromBer)
Although bicycling has become an Olympics sport, Matrixism adherents won't be competing in those games any time soon.  That's because Matrixism has ruled that "all forms of professional
athletic competition have now been abrogated."

For those who think that Matrixism is just a Hollywood creation, think again.  According to the website, Matrixism is a viable "religious movement" with roots in the Bahai Faith.  Back in 1911, Abdul Baha (Baha'u'llah's son) first made mention of "the matrix" within a series of speeches.  The content of these speeches was then published under the 1912 title The Promulgation of Universal Peace (PUP).

Here is a quote from page 305 of PUP:  The majority of people are captives in the matrix of nature, submerged in the sea of materiality.  We must pray that they may be reborn, that they may attain insight and spiritual hearing, that they may receive the gift of another heart, a new transcendent
power, and in the eternal world the unending bestowal of divine bounties.

Just what is this "matrix of nature" that flesh is heir to?  The website not only associates it with "the rules, norms and values of our current society," but also links it to the "hyperreality" of media such as Internet and television.  Jean Baudrillard's book Simulacra and Simulation (which makes a "cameo appearance" in The
Matrix film) further explains this notion of hyperreality.

Religious movements tend to have doctrines, and Matrixism is no exception.  Its Four Tenets include a belief in the One (a returning messiah who will bring world peace), an acceptance of psychedelics as sacrament, and a "recognition of the semi-subjective multi-layered nature of reality."  The Matrix films are considered to be "sacred texts." 

Bicyling is a major ritual within this movement.  In fact, the primary holiday of Matrixism is Bicycle Day, which commemorates the first intentional LSD trip taken by founding chemist Albert Hoffman on April 19, 1943.  (Hoffman was riding a bicycle to and from his laboratory at the time because of wartime restrictions on the use of motor vehicles.)  Critical Mass is another Matrixism ritual.  It occurs monthly and entails the promotion of  bicycling as "an environmentally sound form of transportation."   


Copyright August 9, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved