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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Feeling abandoned? Hawking has the cure

Malik in 2014   (Photo by Kurt Kulac) 
If things aren’t going particularly well for you in this corner of the cosmos, Stephen Hawking says not to worry:  There may be many other universes to choose from.

So if your favorite boy-band singer (husband, wife, BFF… you name it) seems to have ditched you, bear in mind that he (she or it) might be right by your side within a parallel universe.

When Hawking was recently asked about “the cosmological effect of singer Zayn Malik leaving the  best-selling boy band One Direction,” his immediate response was this:  Finally a question about something important.

Hawking then urged heartbroken teenagers everywhere to immerse themselves in theoretical physics, touting such knowledge as the ultimate cure for abandonment issues.

And Hawking should know...

Abandoned by much of his own body, the great scientist has not let that deter him.  Hawking is still going strong in this world (and who knows in how many others) years after his medically-predicted death.


Copyright April 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rosie's riveting arms: Where from?

Michelangelo's Isaiah  (Sistine Chapel)
When Norman Rockwell wanted to symbolize American fortitude during World War II, he chose a riveting model:  young Mary Doyle Keefe from Arlington, Vermont.

Rockwell later wrote to Keefe, calling her “the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and apologizing for the hefty body in the painting.”

This “hefty body” was not just a figment of Rockwell’s imagination.  It was one that he, and the world at large, was quite familiar with. This was the body of Michelangelo’s Isaiah, famously displayed in the Sistine Chapel.

Now Rosie's not holding the Book of Isaiah, nor is a cherub perched near her shoulder; nevertheless, her bodily resemblance to the depicted great prophet is a striking one.

Wikipedia reports that Rockwell is not the only artist to borrow from Michelangelo’s Isaiah.  The renowned painter Caravaggio is another.

Isaiah might have been proud of the non-idolatrous way in which the Arlington folks related to their local celebrities.  Keefe, who recently died at age 92, had explained:  People didn’t make a big deal about [such] things back then.    


Copyright April 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grave influences: Politics from beyond

Angel of Grief    (Public Domain)
David Clark Scott of The Christian Science Monitor presents this excerpt from Larry Darrell Upright’s recent obituary:  …the family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary   Clinton in 2016.  R.I.P. Grandaddy.

If this obituary truly reflects the wishes of its protagonist, then Mr. Upright may now be one happy “ghost.”

On the other hand, life after death is ideally quite different from life here on earth.  This difference would hopefully be reflected by a marked change in Mr. Upright’s priorities. 

Some key questions:  Does the family really think that their beloved Grandaddy will be peacefully resting with all this politicking going on?  Is that not something better left behind as the mortal coil is shuffled off?

This obituary, rather than serving as a healing balm, has instead been fanning the flames of earthly enmity.  Guestbook responses such as the following seem less than uplifting during sacred transitional times:  God Bless, We would not vote for Hillary if she was the only one running.


Copyright April 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 27, 2015

Acres of (big green) Apple

(Photo by Forest & Kim Starr)
Talk about doing a 180!

Why it used to be that Greenpeace was constantly complaining about the size of Apple’s environmental footprint.  These days, Apple has become quite the “green” company.

Yoni Heisler of BGR News reports that Apple, in partnership with The Conservation Fund, plans “to acquire upwards of 36,000 acres of forest land in the eastern United States.”  The idea behind this is to “manage these forestlands sustainably…  while supplying business paper and packaging needs.”

Other projected benefits include “providing permanent environmental protection [of these forests],” thus assisting with “fighting climate change.

Although it’s been said (melodically) that “God didn’t make little green apples,” He nevertheless might approve of the big green Apple that seems to be emerging.


Copyright April 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Confronting catcallers: Signs of change

 (Photo by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez) 
ABC News reports that a new breed of “stop signs” is popping up within some of America’s major cities.

In New York and Philadelphia, these new signs have vivid messages such as “NO CATCALLING ANYTIME” and “NO

Groups like Hollaback! (an “anti-street harassment group) are becoming more and more proactive.  Hollaback! cites a CDC survey when claiming that “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences” are the most common forms of “sexual violence” for both genders.

Although non-contact street harassment has become somewhat “normalized” over the many years of its existence, the effects remain traumatizing for many.  Raising public awareness via these eye-catching signs may be the first step forward in mitigating this longstanding problem.


Copyright April 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Grief: The 'sixth step'

Skydiving   (Photo by Simonsanely)
Those who interpret Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five steps of grief as a neat little package are in for some grievous awakenings.

Life is just not that formulaic.  As the poet (most likely Edgar A. Guest) once wrote:  Life is queer with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns…

After detailing the first four steps (“denial, anger, bargaining, depression”), Ross ends her grief paradigm with “acceptance.”

The word “acceptance,” though, often connotes a rather weary trudge through life.  That is why a “sixth step” of grief might be more than welcome.

Experts are now talking about “the tackling of a grand challenge” as this sixth step.  When all is said and done, all is not said and done.  The griever is still alive, and can either celebrate that precious gift or mourn the loss of those who have moved into other realms.

Or both…  Whereas mourning a loved one’s absence may never end (perhaps rightfully so), celebrating the everlasting continuum of life can help to offset the sharpest edges of that pain.

Some take up adventurous pursuits such as skydiving or traveling solo cross country.  Others pick back up on unfinished dreams.

As Dr. Cara Barker states:  People who have suffered a profound loss, if they’re open, then a tiny little light goes on and they begin to cherish life in a way that is profound. 


Copyright April 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 24, 2015

World religions: Pew projections for 2050

Afghan Muslims   (PD)
"The times they are a changing" is as true for religion as for everything else.

Largely due to “differences in fertility rates,” as well as to conversions and “the size of youth populations,” the world’s “religious profile” is quickly shifting.

The Pew Research Center notes that the number of Muslims is catching up to the number of Christians worldwide.  These two groups could be about equal in number by the year 2050.

Since Islam is growing faster than any other world religion, it could overtake Judaism as the largest non-Christian religion in the United States within the next several decades. By 2050, Muslims are predicted to constitute 10 percent of Europe’s overall population.  At that time, India might “have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world.”

Christian demographics are shifting away from the United States and towards “sub-Saharan    Africa.”  Within 40 years (from 2010 to 2050), the number of Christians within the United States is expected to decrease from “more than three-quarters of the population… to two-thirds…”

Pew also predicts that by 2050 the “global Buddhist population” will remain steady, but the “Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.”

As for “atheists, agnostics” and non-affiliates of any religion?  Their overall numbers are on the decline. 


Copyright April 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tebow II

Go for it!    (Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri)
Just as Rocky found redemption in William Penn’s City of Brotherly Love, Tim Tebow is currently seeking a similar outcome.

Of course, Tebow has been seeking spiritual redemption right along.  He now has another chance at worldly redemption, to boot.

The Washington Post reports that Tebow is now officially a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.  His goal is to once again play “for the glory of the Almighty.”

However... will he play gloriously?  That remains to be seen.  Already being described as “one whose very public faith makes him a target as much as an inspiration,” Tebow will need to prove his consistency as a quarterback.

Perhaps running up and down the Philadephia Museum of Art steps might help Tebow’s cause.  It certainly didn’t hurt Rocky's any.


Copyright April 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

At 115: 'Everything comes from above'

God's keeping score...  (Photo by Xiaphias)
About to turn “Sweet 116,” the world’s oldest woman had this wisdom to share:  Everything comes from above.

In case Reuters didn’t catch her drift the first time around, Jeralean Talley repeated:  Everything just comes from above.

Talley, born in 1899, therefore credits God for her longevity.  She is extremely grateful for having lived long enough to witness a fellow African American become president.

Talley hasn’t just sat around waiting to become even older than old.  She has “maintained an active lifestyle, bowling until she was 104.”

Talley continues to be an active member of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Inkster, Michigan.  In fact, “a front row seat is kept for her” there.

She will be going out to dinner with family on her upcoming May 23rd birthday.  Then come June, Talley plans to go fishing.


Copyright April 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Michele Bachmann not enraptured with Obama

(Chart by Lamorak)
“The rapture is coming, the rapture is coming!”  Thus theorized Michele Bachmann in response to Obama’s so-called intentions concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Huffington Post reports that Bachmann recently announced:  We need to realize how close this clock is getting to the midnight hour.

Bachmann’s end-time warnings include assertions about Obama’s alleged goals to “cut the legs out of Israel and lift up the agenda of radical Islam.”  She fears that this will come to pass when “Iran has a nuclear weapon.”

Bachmann also claims that the United States has embraced “a pagan view” because of stances on abortion and gay marriage.  She feels that these viewpoints are leading to the nation being cursed and punished by God.

Comparing Obama to the pilot who deliberately rammed a Germanwings airliner into the French Alps, Bachmann emphasizes:  We will suffer the consequences as a result.


Copyright April 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 20, 2015

Does Phillip Buchanon owe his mom a cool million?

CBs in a Base 3-4 Defense  (Killervogel5)
Some parents generously put their kids through college, and then some.  Others demand “back pay” (in one form or another) for their parental “services.”

When former NFL cornerback Phillip Buchanon was drafted in 2002, he was afterwards hit with this claim by his mother:  …she told me that I owed her a million dollars for raising me
for the past 18 years…   

For those math majors in the crowd, this breaks down to “approximately $55, 555.55 a year in restitution.”  After all, raising a child isn't cheap these days.

Nevertheless, should a grown “child” feel obligated to reimburse Mom and Pop for their years of parenting?  If so, in what way? 

Does “Honor thy mother and father” carry with it a monetary “clause,” or simply (well, not so  simply) an ethical one?

Des Bieler of The Washington Post contends that Buchanon “didn’t ask to be born.”  Some karmic philosophies might beg to differ.  And once born, most infants seem intent upon being nurtured.

Bieler points out that relatives of “countless other professional athletes” ask for financial assistance. Is this all that qualitatively different from a mother seeking reimbursement?

Some might say that parenting falls into a special category.  Buchanon himself, although admittedly enraged over this million-dollar claim, has stated:  It’s true; mothers have a way of making you learn the most important lessons in life.    


Copyright April 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lincoln eye-witness accounts murky

(Image by Currier & Ives)
With death rows teeming, and innocents held for years on scanty evidence, it’s all the more essential for eye-witness accounts to be thoroughly scrutinized.

Analyzing the allegedly first-hand reports of Lincoln’s assassination gives perspective as to just how varied such accounts can be.

On this 150th anniversary of the tragic event, Phil Edwards of explains how shock may have distorted the impressions of witnesses.  Lincoln’s fellow theatergoers gave numerous versions of how John Wilkes Booth fled the scene.

The theater box within which Booth shot Lincoln was 12 feet off the ground.  Some say that Booth jumped down; others say that he carefully lowered himself “on a flagstaff.”

Some describe Booth as “limping in pain” after this maneuver; others say that he “ran with lightning speed across the stage.”

Did Booth shout “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”) before and/or after the murder?  Some say he yelled it “after reaching the stage.”  Others claim that he instead shouted “Freedom.”

What we do know for sure is that Booth managed “to escape a theater full of hundreds of witnesses, many of them soldiers, after killing the president in clear view.”

Apparently, though, “clear view” isn’t always reliably transparent…    


Copyright April 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Got a problem? Call Putin

Just give a call...     (Public Domain)
If you’ve got a personal problem while residing in Russia, you can do what millions have done:  Call Vladimir Putin during “his annual marathon phone-in.”

ABC News explains that this yearly event (perhaps a throwback to the days when “poor Russians would write letters to the Czar…”) is an opportunity for “ordinary” folks to pick
Putin’s brain.  Not only that, it is also a chance to beg for favors.

During the recent phone-in, one woman asked Putin to intervene in a marital dispute.  The wife in question wanted a dog, but the husband didn’t.  It would be Putin’s task to convince this husband to cozy up with Fido.  Putin’s response?  He laughed, then said that perhaps he could help the husband to be “persuaded”

When shown a photo of a “squalid house” in which “an 85-year-old veteran was living,” Putin asked for details in order to “deal with it.”

Not a Russian citizen?  No problem.  There’s still time to hightail it over there for the next phone-in. This year, Putin even fielded a question from an English citizen living in Russia. Putin teased the caller with this question:  Cherchez la femme?  (Essentially meaning, “Here to chase women?”)

ABC News commented that this year’s record number of “3 million callers” reflects “how many Russians believe their president can solve their problems if only he knew of them.”   


Copyright April 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 17, 2015

Migrants: Dying to reach Europe

Malta Harbor  (Photo by Henry M. Trotter)
In search of a better life, or to preserve life altogether, more and more migrants are risking it all for the shores of Europe.

They are coming from Algeria to France, from Libya to Malta, and from Nigeria to Italy.  They are fleeing Africa because of war, injustice, famine and poverty.

One young lady told immigration authorities that she had left Kano (in Northern Nigeria) because of fears that she would be kidnapped by Boko Haram. 

Who could argue with that?

Another, who left Gambia in search of a viable future, stated:  My family, they don’t have nothing. They are poor people. 

That either…

Yet another, who had been in Libya for 15 years, “was terrified at the prospect of ISIS gaining even more territory.”

That too.

Refugees such as these are paying “a fortune” for the privilege of “washing up” on European shores. Conditions on the boats are deplorable:  wet, cold, overcrowded and barely seaworthy.  Many don't survive the journey.

Nevertheless, hope trumps risk.  Hope trumps hardship.  Hope even trumps evil.  So here’s hoping with hope, rather than against it.


Copyright April 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Marriage: Stretching it how far?

An Arranged Marriage  (Antoine Dieu)
Rubber bands can only be stretched so far until they break.  Is the concept of marriage also that way?

Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation contends that there are no Constitutional grounds for requiring marriage to be “redefined.” 

Anderson argues that the only reason government should be “in the marriage business” is to protect offspring.  He then limits “offspring” to heterosexual unions only.

Anderson cites “anthropological truths that men and women are distinct and complementary.”  He challenges the notion of “parenting,” and replaces it with “mothering” and “fathering.”

Aside from the “same-sex” one, other malleable definitions of marriage are also on Anderson’s cutting board.  These include “throuple” (allegedly “three same-sex people who might want to marry”) and “wed-lease” (“renewable five-year marriage contracts,” as opposed to “wedlock” unto death).

Anderson's arguments bring a number of key questions to the table:  Does marriage exist solely to protect offspring, or to also protect the spouses themselves?  Should “offspring” be strictly defined in terms of hetereosexual relationships?  Should the government even be involved with legitimatizing romantic agreements between consenting adults? 


Copyright April 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Percy Sledge: When a Man Loves God

Percy Sledge   (Photo by Carol Highsmith) 
Southern soul-singer Percy Sledge could have been a rich man early on were it not for what CNN terms “a fit of generosity.”

While “working as a hospital orderly, picking up gigs at night with a group called the Esquires Combo,” Sledge wrote “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

His lyrics came straight “from the heart,” referring back to a “former girlfriend.”  The melody was one that Sledge had
hummed as a youth when “picking and chopping cotton in the [Alabama] fields.”

Nevertheless, Sledge turned songwriting credit over to two other Combo members, Andrew Wright and Calvin Lewis, because they had “helped him with a few chords.”

Because of that, Sledge “never saw a dime of songwriting royalties.”  This, even though his “holy love hymn” had gone all the way to number one. 

When asked by Blues and Soul Magazine if he regretted being so generous, Sledge replied:  Worst decision I ever made.  But I am not at all bitter.  I figure if God wanted me to do what I did… then I’ll leave it that way.

In other words, “Thy will be done…” on earth, and now in heaven too.   


Copyright April 15, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gisele Bundchen: A lady always knows

(Public Domain)
Perhaps Gisele Bundchen is a fan of the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  She certainly seems in tune with one of its famous lines:  …a lady always knows when to leave.

E! Online reports that Bundchen has made up her mind to “step away from the runway.”  In a sense, she is doing so out of gratitude.  Her words:  Automatically, my body tells me if what I do is worth it, and it asked me to stop.

Certainly, a body that has garnered as much fame and fortune as Bundchen’s is worth listening to.  But so few heed the body’s warning signals, and fewer still display gratitude for the precious gift of physical health.

Bundchen explains:  I respect my body, it’s a privilege to be able to stop.  She will be “spending more time with her two children” in lieu of pushing to the hilt.

Seems to be an obviously great decision…  But how many in the prime of life have the wisdom and fortitude to forfeit some individual ambition for family gain?

It takes a lady, a true lady, to set those priorities straight.


Copyright April 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lauren Hill: Blessed, really blessed

(Fair Use:  Lama Foundation)
At 19, Lauren Hill was wise beyond her years.  She had told WKRC-TV:  Every moment you get with someone is a moment
that’s blessed, really blessed.

Hill made this statement when painfully aware that her moments were running out.  Battling an inoperable brain tumor, she bravely inspired “others to live fully.”

Basketball was Hill’s passion, and she wasn’t about to let a tumor bench her.  Playing for Mount St. Joseph, “a Division III school in suburban Cincinnati,” Hill gave it her all.

In so doing, Hill was setting an example for people to “live in the moment because the next moment’s not promised.”

As she once told the Associated Press:  Anything can happen at any given moment.  What matters is right now.

Right now, Hill has passed on to another realm.  And right now, many of us are still existing in this one. 

Either way, the wisdom remains the same:  What matters is right now.


Copyright April 13, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jordan Spieth: The hardest thing

Hole 10 at Augusta   (Public Domain)
Playing championship golf is definitely not the hardest thing for Jordan Spieth.

Instead, the hardest thing for Spieth is to put aside wanting to win so bad.

The competitive urge certainly played its part in getting Spieth to the Masters.  But once there, this urge can get in the way if allowed to run unchecked.

Wise beyond his 21 years, Spieth knows this.  He has developed a myriad of self-analytical techniques for perfecting his game.

Daily News reports that Spieth has not forgotten the lessons learned from last year’s loss to Bubba Watson.  In Spieth’s own words:  What I learned was patience… with the kind of mental stuff that’s running through your head, the stress levels.

Could be why Spieth is being called “an old head on young shoulders…”


Copyright April 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Keith Mitchell: Football to Yoga

Yogi in a Garden  (Public Domain)
When Keith Mitchell suffered a serious spinal injury on the playing field, his first response was:  This is embarrassing.

Turns out that it was a whole lot more than embarrassing.  Mitchell became paralyzed for six months, then needed a great deal of therapy to even walk again.  NFL participation was now out of reach.

As Mitchell put it:  When you’re on your back, you’re open for everything.  Even for yoga, which was definitely a stretch for this
linebacker with a “gladiator” mentality…

His therapist began instructing him in meditation.  Mitchell stated to HuffPost Live’s Marc Lamont Hill: My rehabilitation was very limited [due to the delicate nature of the spinal injury], so meditation changed my whole life.

Mitchell continues to devote a great deal of time and effort to yoga.  He now avidly passes on this wisdom to others.  He proclaims:  …it opened my mind to so many dimensions that I’m still learning on a daily basis and it’s really changed my life.  I’m so grateful.


Copyright April 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 10, 2015

Godzilla: The modern myth endures

Godzilla    (Fair Use)
The modern mythology of Godzilla is so strong that the Japanese people (along with many others) continue their love/hate relationship with this complex monster.

On the one hand, Godzilla is far worse than a fire-breathing dragon.  The “fire” that Godzilla exhales is radioactive, symbolizing the destructiveness of atomic/nuclear warfare.

On the other hand, Godzilla is a force that can also yield goodness.  After the destruction comes the rebirth.  This gojiri (half gorilla/  half whale) of a creature has therefore been likened to a Shinto “God of Destruction” – one which “lacks moral agency and cannot be held to human standards of good and evil.”

Wikipedia explains that Godzilla’s “vaguely humanoid appearance” and clumsy demeanor endears it  to viewers “despite its wrathful nature.”  Humans may be subconsciously recognizing their own dichotomies as they pay homage to Godzilla’s dual nature.

Godzilla is so ubiquitous that its image pops up in varied venues the world over.  This lovable     “lad” has been featured in everything from Subway ads to Honda commercials (for which both companies have been sued by Godzilla’s parent company, Toho).


Copyright April 10, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Long distance runners 'brought home the bacon'

Today's version...  (Photo by MartinPutz)
If you’re looking for a macho mate, it might be best to “dial long distance.”

Medical Daily reports that such “distance runners have higher levels of testosterone and genetic leverage” over their competitors.

This hormonal “advantage” allegedly signaled the presence of a good breeding partner.”

A person who could outrun prey would have been a person who “brought home the bacon” to a cave-dwelling family.  

Although animals are often superior sprinters, humans are far better at going the distance.  Humans can sweat, so as not to overheat.

Human tendons and posture “are designed to propel,” which greatly assists in maintaining momentum.  

These superior hunters often exhibited generosity and intelligence, two other highly desirable traits. All in all, they were the “rock stars” of the Stone Age.


Copyright April 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mandatory church: What First Amendment?

Senator Allen  (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
She meant well.  But good intentions have paved many a road to the wrong places…

Arizona senator Sylvia Allen recently theorized that what is most wrong with America is a lack of beneficial morality.  Daily News reports that she stated:  We are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have.  We should
probably be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.

It is one thing to have a sound premise, but quite another to follow it up with a questionable conclusion. 

First of all, is beneficial morality only to be found within church walls?  For that matter, is it only to be found within religion?

Secondly, if religion is indeed the only way to achieve such virtue, what religion are we talking about?  Senator Allen speaks as though all religious Americans are church-going people.  This is not necessarily true.  America is a diverse nation - composed of those who attend churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship.  There may also be those who are profoundly religious, but rarely or never attend formal services.

Should all of these folks, plus the humanists who find their inspiration in philosophy and the arts,    be ordered to attend church on Sunday?  Is weekday Mass no longer viable?  How about Seventh  Day services?

Should the government be the one doing the ordering?  Is that not called a theocracy?  Is that not contrary to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?


Copyright April 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Finding alien life: Not if, but when

Ganymede   (NASA photo)
NASA is no longer using the “if” word for prefacing discussions about finding alien life.

As far as Interim Director of Heliophysics Jeffrey Newmark is concerned, the “if” is now a “when.”  Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan adds:  We know where to look, we
know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.

Nevertheless, Stofan cautions that “alien life” does not necessarily mean “little green men.”  It might instead mean “little [very little] microbes.”

What leads these esteemed scientists to  believe that life exists beyond Earth? Recent discoveries on Mars suggest that “50 percent of the planet’s northern hemisphere once had oceans up to a mile deep for… up to 1.2 billion years.”  Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is now   known to have “a large liquid ocean beneath its icy crust.”

Director of Planetary Science Jim Green thus concludes that “the solar system is really a soggy place.”  Since water and life are closely linked, “soggy” bodes well for astrobiological exploration.


Copyright April 7, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stray dogs appear at animal lover's funeral

Zen Circle of Life  (by Kanjuro ShibataXX)
It is said that love transcends everything, even death itself.

ABC News reported that “a pack of stray dogs” showed up   at animal-lover Margarita Suarez’ funeral, and then “stood guard” by her coffin.

Because Suarez' funeral occurred "in a town more than 830 miles away from her home,” the dogs that showed up were not necessarily the ones she had helped.

Nevertheless, these “canine celebrants” entered the funeral home and proceeded to stay all day and night near the coffin.  In the morning only one remained, but the whole   pack later made its way back to the cremation site.

Staff at this funeral home stated that dogs do not generally “hang around” there. Workers said that they “had never    seen anything like it before.”

According to Suarez’ daughter, Margarita had “always fed the dogs on her block and the 20 stray cats that lived there.”

In life’s sacred circle, it certainly seems as though what goes around, comes around… 


Copyright April 6, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A.D.: How twelve guys took down Rome

Conversion of Paul  (Jean Fouquet, c. 1455)
For Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the Book of Acts tells the story of how “twelve guys” managed to “take down Rome.”

The Blaze explains that this husband-and-wife team (he a “famed TV producer,” and she an “actress”), keep their Tinseltown marriage going strong via a combination of 
“prayer and devotion to their faith.”

Wanting to share this faith with viewers led them to bring their well-acclaimed series “The Bible” to the History Channel.  Now they are following that up with a twelve-
week series titled “A. D.: The Bible continues.”  This latest series will portray “the biblical story of Christianity’s beginnings.”

Downey reminds viewers that "the story did not end at the cross.  It was just the beginning.”  Burnett adds, “It’s unbelievable if you think of it.  Well, it’s God’s plan, so we believe it…”

And who is the major character in this A. D. story?  The temptation might be to answer, “St. Paul,” but Burnett deems otherwise.

Burnett emphasizes that the “major character in the Acts of the Apostles… is the Holy Spirit” (which “is mentioned 57 times throughout the text”).

Copyright April 5, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Iran: A mystery to many

Mohammad Mosaddegh   (Public Domain) 
Opinions about Iran run rampant these days, but how much solid information is supporting these viewpoints?

The Christian Science Monitor set about to ease this dilemma by offering a ten-question quiz titled “How much do you know about Iran?”

This simple quiz will indicate just how much (or little) knowledge an individual has about Iran.  These test questions are, of course, just starting points.  Each can
then lead to a more detailed exploration of Iranian history and culture.

For those who see Iran as the enemy, and nothing but the enemy, it is wise to “Know thy enemy.”

For those who see Iran as a potential friend, then “Knowledge is power” for accomplishing that aim.

At the very least, quiz-takers might become motivated to learn the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite Muslim.  That, in itself, would also be a great beginning.


Copyright April 4, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 3, 2015

The skinny on skinny

Following the Fashion (Gillray, 1794)
For a long time, “skinny” has been vigorously promoted by the media. 

Weight-loss products and regimens abound.  Fashion models often look as though they might not make it to the end of the runway.

France now joins Spain, Israel and Italy in taking action against this alarming trend.  Paris Reuters reports that all four countries have legislated against “too-thin models on catwalks
or in advertising campaigns.”

In France, "skinny" is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) that “is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labour.”

This translates into models needing “a BMI of at least 18, about 55 kg (121 lb) for a height of 1.75 metres (5.7 feet), before being hired for a job and for a few weeks afterwards.”

Not only that, websites “encouraging eating restrictions for a prolonged period of time…,” will be subject to fines and prison time.

Is this yet another case of too much government intervention, or is it simply a health-promoting measure?  There’s a thin line here that might have been crossed…


Copyright April 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Indiana's RFRA: Glenn Beck's solution

Traditional Gown  (Photo by MASA)
When America has a dilemma, Glenn Beck invariably has a solution. 

This time the debate is about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Indiana seeks “to prevent the government from forcing people to provide services that go against their religious beliefs.”  

An example of such governmental force would be requiring a baker to provide the cake for a gay wedding even if that baker believes gay marriage to be sinful. 

Those who oppose the RFRA state that it would foster, and even sanction, discrimination.  They add that religion is no excuse for prejudicial refusals.

Beck argues that government has no business meddling in private affairs such as marriage.  He adds, “Gay people have every right to get married, but they don’t have a right to    force people who disagree to be involved in the ceremony.”

Beck further states:  I’m not for discrimination against gays.  But I’m also not for          discrimination against religious people.


Copyright April 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fools' Day: Double-edged hilarity

Massacre of the Innocents (Guido Reni)
Here on Planet Earth, there are actually many Days of Fools.  In fact, one can philosophically argue that every day is essentially April Fools’ Day.

Throughout human history, foolishness has been seen as a mixed blessing.  In some ways, the hilarity makes for good health; after all, laughter is an excellent inner massage.

Nevertheless, there can be a strong element of animosity within the merriment.  Being pranked can result in physical and emotional angst that lasts far beyond any specified holiday.

This dichotomy is especially vivid within the Day of the Holy Innocents.  Originally steeped in tragedy (the alleged mass killing of Jewish infants by King Herod), this feast day has now become an occasion for jokes and hoaxes.

Wikipedia explains that in some regions of Ibero-America, Day of the Holy Innocents pranksters taunt their “victims” with      this expression:  Inocente palomita que te dejaste enganar (“You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled”).  This seemingly-lighthearted statement becomes especially poignant when its horrific roots are considered.


Copyright April 1, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved