Killing the Bear

The sprawling old house clung to the side of the mountain, overlooking the valley. One day a young bear came to visit the house on the mountain overlooking the valley. He stuck his nose in places he should not have and browsed around for something to eat. The inhabitants of the house found him amusing and entertaining, since he was so young and could not possibly do much harm. He was only a little bear, so he did not bear the menacing potential of the grown grizzly.

The young man of the house also enjoyed watching the little bear, but he did not like it very much that it was so comfortable being close to human habitation. He went for his gun, because he knew that someday it would be a big bear.

He retrieved his gun and waited for the right moment to shoot that furry little creature. His family thought him mean for wanting to kill such an innocent little animal, but he heeded not their distress. The little bear stood on his short back legs, making himself look very cute and comical, and it was then that the young man put a bullet through its heart.

“How can you be so cruel?” wailed the young man’s sister. “I liked that little bear. He looked so very sweet and innocent. I should have liked to have him for my pet.”

The young man looked his beautiful sister in the eye and said, “True, sister. The little bear was most cute and adorable, and it nearly broke my own heart to kill him. When he stood on his little legs and cocked his funny head, I almost could not bring myself to do it, but I knew I must. You see, the little bear is really just a cute form of something terrible and menacing. Should you have caught him for a pet, he would have won your heart and stolen your affection. Too late you would have realized that he had become too big for you, that he had become your master and you its slave. You must remember this always, dear sister, that sometimes the thing that looks the most cute and comfortable is not always safe.”

 

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Landing Flight 1549 on the Amazon

It actually happened in South America, not in the state of New York. I know. That’s what the big shot media says happened, but they’re just a little bit off. Let me tell you how it really happened.

Flight 1549 was actually flying over South America, somewhere in the vicinity of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, when it struck some birds. Actually, I should say “we,” because I was on the flight. I was one of the passengers, so I have first-hand information here, although I must admit that it might be a bit fuzzy, because the whole thing was fairly traumatic.

So, we hit the birds, and then things kind of went south. Air traffic controllers tried to get us to some nearby airport, but the pilot was too stubborn to take any advice. There was one airport that we very likely could have reached, but the pilot thought he was such a big shot that he didn’t need to listen to other people’s advice. He was gonna do it his way. So he landed that sick Airbus right on the Amazon River. Yes, sir. He landed that Airbus as if it was a Seabus. Some dude out on his fishing boat caught the whole thing on video. I can’t remember too much of it, but the video shows us coming down, hitting the water a little too fast, doing a nice big hop, and then settling down nice and easy.

Well, it wasn’t actually that easy. The pilot had to maneuver around a whole menagerie of fishing boats, cruise ships, and what-not, but he got ‘er down without hitting any of ’em. Well, almost. There was one loony ship that was right in our flight path, I mean, our water path, and the dumb captain couldn’t steer worth a dime. I was sitting right by a window, and I saw that crazy ship comin’, and I knew it weren’t going to be good. Sure enough, he went roaring right past my window, smacked into our wing on the starboard side, and ripped it right off. At least he missed the fuselage. That could’ve been bad. I guess he just kept right on going, because I didn’t see him again.

The next thing I recall, we’re bobbing down the Amazon like a wet duck with one wing clipped off. I don’t remember any rescue ships or anything, but somehow me and my sister and another fella were the only ones on the plane anymore besides the captain. Kind of strange, but the plane seemed awful empty. We were just a bobbin’ away down the Amazon.

But then we hit something. At first, I thought we might have hit another ship, but no way; we hit land, and for some crazy reason, there was a railroad track running right down the middle of it, and we was on the track, and there was a big old mean train tearin’ right after us. Well, the captain put his brains to good use and mashed the throttles all the way forward, all the way to the firewall. The only problem was that we had lost one of our engines when we hit the Amazon, but it was still enough to go clippin’ down that track pretty quick, and that track kept us real nice and straight.

We went faster and faster until we left that smoking, belching, roaring train a ways behind us, and then we ran out of track. It just kind of petered out, I guess, because all of a sudden we didn’t have no track to keep us straight anymore. The whole plane went skiddin’ sideways, and then the engine quit working. And then everything came to a screeching stop. And there we sat. Well, we actually got out of the plane, surprised to even be alive. The whole thing was kind of crazy, if you know what I mean.

So we walked around the broken airplane and scratched our heads about what to do next, and all of a sudden that train must have gone by somewhere real close and hit a nasty bump, because one of them sea containers—two of ’em, actually—came out of nowhere, spinning and bumping and crashing straight toward us. We all jumped off to the side, and that container went hoppin’ off into the jungle somewhere.

And I’m afraid that’s about the end of the story, ’cause that’s when I woke up.

Why Be Happy?

I can think of all kinds of reasons for not being happy. In fact, the reasons are so numerous and compelling that I’m often not happy, and I don’t mind sharing those reasons. I would, after all, be quite sad if you didn’t know why you should be sad.

You should not be happy, because the world is messed up. The world is broken, screwed up, twisted, corrupted. You need only to walk down some hideous alley to see for yourself. Broken windows, sagging doors, mangy dogs, evil cats, hungry children, tattooed criminals, and reeking dumpsters speak all too clearly of brokenness and corruption. The next time you feel like being happy, just think of a stinking back alley, and the sweet cloud of despair is sure to darken your day.

I thought I had a long list of reasons why you should not be happy, but, come to think of it, every reason I have comes back to the fact that we live in a messed up world. Somewhere way back in the dark past, some lady fell prey to a talking serpent, and now the world and all of life is just plain messed up and broken. Our relationships with God and fellow humans are now nothing but dismal shadows of what ought to be. We try to get to know each other, but we can’t. Actually, most of us don’t really want to know other people; we would rather live in our cracked and crusty shells, safe from the prickly shards of brokenness. We try to talk to God, but he sits behind a granite cloud, it seems, incapable of hearing our feeble, hollow, shaky prayers. Broken relationships is an excellent reason not to be happy, but, like I’ve already mentioned, this stems from the brokenness of our world.

When that talking serpent beguiled the lady, he introduced to a perfect world that hideous thing of rebellion, the dark and sinister attitude that cripples every honest institution. God had a place for Lucifer, but it wasn’t good enough, so Lucifer became the devil by virtue of his rebellion. Now, our world is full of rebellious little devils, because most of us don’t want anybody telling us what to do. The really bad little devils become criminals and end up in correctional institutions and holding pens, commonly called prisons. Criminals, generally, are quite unhappy. Why? Because they got caught for their misbehavior. They sit in prison, because someone judged their conduct unethical and damaging to society. If you think you want to be happy, just think of all your tax money that goes to paying prisons whose chief purpose is to clothe, feed, and house bad guys who, more often than not, come back. Again, this reason stems back to the first—namely, that our world is broken and corrupted.

If, after considering these several reasons, you’re still suffering from happiness, allow me to offer a few more. We have, so far, considered rather generic reasons. There are many other, more specific ones. Making breakfast, for example, gives ample opportunity for things to happen that could deepen the gloom. I like my toast toasted just enough to have a light brown hue, but it can happen that while I’m rubbing the sleep out of my eyes I fail to notice that the previous toaster operator left it set to the extreme. Five minutes later, the toast gleefully explodes from the machine, having completely changed its atomic structure. No longer is it bread; it’s now nothing but a crunchy slice of carbon. That, my dear reader, is reason enough to stumble around all day with my head in a black cloud, a cloud emanating the aroma of badly burnt toast.

Many, many more possibilities regularly present themselves, but here’s another specific scenario that could easily evoke much unhappiness. You’re on your way to a friend’s wedding, driving your brand-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta when the oil pressure light comes on, the motor gives a hideous clanking and banging, and the car grinds to a shuttering halt. I think, unless you’re some strange, unearthly human, that you will find it fairly easy not to let yourself get too happy. This might be an extreme example, but it is generally true that vehicle failure, or failure of any kind of equipment, gives us grand reason to put away happiness.

Maybe the most compelling reason for embracing unhappiness is the death of someone we love. When cold Death steals the last breath of our friend or family member, the cold, steel rain of despair washes away all traces of happiness. It is quite easy then to allow ourselves the sweetness of cynical despondency and depression. Happiness is hardly a temptation.

I think you’ve probably caught on by now, dear reader, that I’ve been writing somewhat facetiously. I really do not intend to convince you that you should not be happy. In fact, my goal is just the opposite. I want you to find hope and happiness, even in the face of what appears to be utter hopelessness and despair. Frankly, I don’t have an easy answer to this question. I don’t really know how to be genuinely happy, even if everything is going well. I tend to be gloomy just because I have a hard time coming up with a good reason to be happy. My natural orientation is toward gloomy cynicism. But that’s not the way it ought to be. I think we ought to be happy, simply because that’s the way God wants it.

Menacing Doorstops

I have given it serious consideration and come to this conclusion: doorstops are dangerous. In fact, they are so dangerous that I prefer to call them menacing. Now, before going further, maybe we ought to discuss our terms.

Lets define the first, namely, doorstops. Put simply, doorstops are mechanisms installed and employed for the purpose of maintaining the open state of doors. These doorstops come in every shape and size imaginable, but they come mainly in two types—those attached to the door and those not attached to the door. The ones not attached to the doors are, generally speaking, more interesting than the attached variety. Whether it’s a cute little puppy straining with his every effort to keep the door open or a miserable little man getting his guts squeezed out by an unmerciful door, the variations are seemingly endless. The second type, those attached to the doors, are generally more prosaic. Whether attached to the bottom of the door or installed on the hinge, these are typically just a simple, one-piece, slightly bent piece of metal affixed with a rubber cap on one end and attached to the door by a pin on the other to allow for pivoting. The pivoting allows for unobtrusive storage when not in use.

Our second term is the word menacing. When I think of menacing, I think of a bulldog sitting on its owner’s front step, baring its teeth and daring the fool to challenge him. The bulldog has a look of menace in his eyes that should make any man think twice before attempting entrance. The bulldog is a menace, because he could, no doubt, kill the man stupid enough to try. Merriam-Webster defines menace as “one that represents a threat.” An angry bulldog, I think, fits that definition quite well.

Now, lets think of these two terms together—dangerous and threatening mechanisms that keep doors open. Interesting. I’ve never heard anybody put it this way before. In fact, I regularly see people using these mechanisms, and they appear quite healthy and happy, at least most of the time. Sometimes when the doorstop fails, they can get pretty upset. It seems that they expect these mechanisms to perform flawlessly. Maybe that’s why they’re a menace; they appear to be working, but then they sometimes get a bad streak and decide to fail. Just like the bulldog, they look all friendly and happy until—POW—they bite.

Okay, so maybe I’m being somewhat facetious. We all know, after all, that doorstops really are not comparable to an angry bulldog. They just simply don’t bear the threat to our well-being like the stocky canine. However, I still remain convinced that they are not as safe as we might think.

The primary function of the doorstop is to keep the door open. This poses at least one major problem. Lets say we’re moving into a new home and, instead of employing someone with the job of opening and closing the door, or simply doing so ourselves as we lug in the boxes, we drop the doorstop to keep it open. It’s a hot summer day. Lots of bugs are buzzing about. Some of them have stingers, and others have terrible, skin-ripping, blood-sucking devices attached to their anterior. While we’re in the living room stacking boxes, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, malaria-packing mosquitoes, ticks, and a whole army of other bugs march through the open door. Clearly, the doorstop is held responsible for allowing the entry of such menacing bugs. The doorstop probably even called them in while we had our backs turned.

While the above scenario is a bit unnerving, it certainly is not the most extreme example of the doorstop’s menace. It gets worse, much worse.

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, and the janitor props open the church door with the doorstop as a gesture of kindness. While it does ease the church attendees’ burden of having to open the door, it also poses a threat similar to the scenario I depicted in the previous paragraph. A little winged critter sneaks in unnoticed. The church service begins, and the janitor closes the door. All goes well during the singing, Sunday school, announcements, prayer time, and even the first part of the sermon. It’s not until about three-fourths of the way through the sermon that things get interesting. Pastor Gilbert paces behind the pulpit, preaching a very animated message about the power of the Holy Spirit. His eyes are blazing with energy. He viciously pounds the pulpit to emphasize his various points. With increasing fervor, he preaches. And he’s really preaching—preaching so hard that the sweat starts running down his back, trickling down his forehead, and even dripping off his nose. But he doesn’t care. He’s preaching about the power of Holy Spirit, and he’s showing his church what it looks like.

Pastor Gilbert is about getting ready to start winding down his sermon when his voice suddenly reaches a higher pitch. He had been preaching, but now he’s really preaching. He’s even dancing up and down and running around like a madman. His eyes get a wild, desperate look. His hair stands on end. Tears start streaming down his cheeks. “Look! He’s got the Spirit now!” one of the members whispers to another. “I ain’t ever seen him so animated!”

But he ain’t got the Spirit; he’s got a yellow jacket down his pants. And that yellow jacket is doing a right smart job of sewing it up. Every member is now wide awake. They’re listening with rapt attention. They realize now that they’ve never known what it means to be powered by the Spirit. One by one they stand to their feet, hands raised, shouting amen and hallelujah. But Pastor Gilbert isn’t having much fun.

It all reaches a climax when the pastor jumps so high that he clears the pulpit and crashes into the aisle, breaking an ankle. And then the allergic reaction begins. His throat constricts. His heart goes crazy. Because everybody thinks it’s just the working of the Holy Spirit, they don’t realize that the man’s dying. So he dies.

When the church finally realizes that their pastor is dead, they become so grieved and disillusioned by it all that they leave the faith. As one member expressed it, if the Holy Spirit kills a godly man like Pastor Gilbert, then God must be an awful, bloodthirsty tyrant.

This all happened because the janitor used the doorstop. The doorstop killed the pastor.

I don’t suppose that it would take much more to convince my dear readers that doorstops are a real menace. Not only do they allow dangerous bugs into one’s home, they can go so far as to kill a man, even a pastor. I wish I could stop here, but the fact remains that doorstops are dangerous in still another way. It may not be as dramatic as the death of Pastor Gilbert, but still dangerous nonetheless.

Doorstops do one thing quite well: they keep doors open. While this is great, since it greatly reduces the stress of repeatedly opening the door, the use of the doorstop conveys a subtle attitude. When I use a doorstop, I convey a message of autonomy, independence, freedom from needing others. You see, the doorstop allows me to do it myself. I can engage the doorstop and carry things through the door myself. I don’t need someone else to hold it open for me. This is often done under the guise of convenience and efficiency. After all, if we’re moving into a new home, the doorstop frees up another person to help bring in boxes, but even this is not as good as it appears. Freeing up another person to help bring in boxes means that I’ll get moved in more quickly, which means it’s still all about me. The use of the doorstop gives a subtle but clear message that I don’t need other people. I can survive just fine on my own.

This attitude of individualism is rampant in our society, and it’s also a real problem in our churches. If I don’t get in church what I want, then I move on or make a big fuss about it. If the pastor isn’t funny and engaging, then I find one who is. If the church doesn’t have enough programs to suit me, then I just won’t come. It’s all about me, myself, and I. And the doorstop feeds this attitude, or at least compliments it.

This attitude, if allowed to grow unchecked, will eventually spiral down into the cesspool of moral depravity in which Adolf Hitler swam. He lived with the intent of establishing a superior race, and he didn’t have noble reasons for doing so. I don’t believe it unfair to say that individualism was a powerful motive. He certainly didn’t do it because of having benevolent feelings for others. In a cruel and heartless endeavor, he set out to show himself the best of the best, following the philosophy of macro evolution in which every creature fends for itself. Without individualism, evolution perishes. The philosophy of the doorstop is one of individualism; therefore, the doorstop supports evolution.

I suppose other conclusions could be drawn about the doorstop, but I think I’ve revealed enough to convince most of my audience that doorstops are not to be trusted. They should be used as sparingly as possible. They look harmless enough, but just like a friendly bulldog, they can bite at the least provocation.

In the Beginning, God

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was shapeless and empty, a bit of nothingness suspended in empty space. No horizons, no converging lines of reference existed. Nothing bordered on nothingness—until the Spirit of God stirred upon the waters and spoke.

Light pierced the darkness. Day broke from night. Air became atmosphere. Water gathered into lakes, pools, and oceans. Dry land appeared and sprouted forth grass and trees. Sun and moon took their places and shed their light upon the earth. Fish and whales and all kinds of water creatures swam the seas. Birds took the skies and filled the air with their songs. Beasts and cattle of all kinds, and every thing that crept upon the dry land, came forth and roamed the woods and plains. And God made man in his own image.

The man was the only one of his kind, so God struck him with lethargy and drew forth a rib, and from it made the woman. And everything was very good.

The man and woman loved each other. They roamed the garden that God had made for their pleasure. They lived in the deepest of serenity and the happiest of peace. They walked the garden paths with their Creator and spoke with him in joyous abandonment.

The Devil stole into the paradise and spoke to the woman. She looked upon the fruit and desired, knowing that it would give her knowledge—knowledge that God held back and would not give to her. She ate the fruit. And shared with her husband.

Darkness overtook the light. Fear broke the serenity. Sorrow spoiled the peace.

The Creator came at twilight and found the man and the woman guilty of sin and treachery. He drove them from the Garden and into the pit of darkness.

The atmosphere crumbled. The lakes, pools, and oceans overflowed and covered the earth, even the highest mountain. Creatures drowned. Whales languished. The fowls of the air wanted for a resting place and found none. And man perished from the earth.

In the Beginning, God.

Pernicious (Word of the Day)

Within the minds of many in our society, lies the pernicious philosophy of relativism and tolerance. They believe that most anything is acceptable and tolerable, except, of course, an intolerance of their philosophy.

Truth is relative, they say, and is determined by the individual. Each man determines his own truth and lives by his own code of ethics, that is, if he has any. Nothing is rooted in the absolute or anchored in the immovable. Truth floats about the boiling sea much like a ship with neither compass nor rudder.

Because truth is relative and individualistic, the bearers of this philosophy demand tolerance. We must not pass judgment, for our truth and our ethics have no bearing on other individuals. Each man is right in his own eyes. Therefore, nobody can be judged as behaving badly.

This philosophy has obvious dangers. Without stable and immovable truth, society becomes a mad chaos, much like a discordant symphony trying to play Beethoven’s 5th. Nobody can work together. Each man is on his own, and the conductor throws his hands up in frustration and walks away in despair.