Archive for July, 2010

To Survive We Must Learn From Our Past

A person can look like a prophet by applying abiding historical principles to a current situation and making a prediction.  The year was 1786 and the 13 original states were busy approving their new constitution. Scottish history professor, Alexander Taylor, at the University of Edinborough wrote the following about “The Fall of the Athenian Republic.”
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasure, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policies, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”
His study of Athenian history enables him to draw from a 2,000 year old example. Each day his forecast is looking frighteningly more like the writing of a divine prophet. Onebiblical test of a true prophet is that he is always right. I hope the wise Dr. Taylor proves not to be a true prophet.
The sage Benjamin Franklin seemed aware of this principle when he concluded, “When people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
It is like lacing a boot. The more a politician gives the more votes he gets. The more votes he gets the more likely he is to get reelected. The more he is reelected the more money he gives away. For many the issue is reelection not what is good for the country. I literally thank God for the admirable exceptions to this.
There is an old cliche based on a bit of British history. St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s churches are both supported by the state. At a time when St. Paul’s was in disrepair the Parliament debated transferring funds from St. Peter’s to St. Paul’s. Out of that came the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Assuming there are basically two classes of people, the haves, the St. Peters, and the have nots, the St. Pauls, there is an interesting analogy. The government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
To pay Paul the government becomes dependent upon a working class. It is not the traditional working class as thought of. It is the class comprised of energetic, creative, resourceful, enterprising, industrious, adventurous, risk taking, hard working productive people; the Peters. What happens when they get fed up working for the government to give to Pauls who can but don’t work?
There is a distinction between those who can and those who can’t work. It is good to provide for the justifiable needy. Providing for lethargic, apathetic, lazy persons is not right. However, they, the Pauls, vote and they are in larger numbers.
This is the scenario of which Taylor and Franklin wrote.
The process ultimate can be averted. However, there comes a tipping point at which it can’t. Hopefully we are not there.
This extract from the inaugural address of President Eisenhower offers us hope.
“IF my people will humble themselves and pray ….” WOW!

Dying: Think About It

Do you ever think about dying?
If you are the average American, studies show it is one of your three most thought about subjects. Yet, seldom do people talk about it.
Jonathan Edwards, considered America’s most important philosophical, theological thinkers, and intellects, had 120 personal resolutions. One was to think often and intently of his own death.
Hearing that I thought how morbid it sounded. Then I realized death being inevitable it is practical to think about and prepare for it.
You don’t see any greeting cards reading “Merry death — Happy Dying.”
Candidly like every healthy person I have a fear of death. It is a good thing. It is a preservative of life. It motivates caution and develops our survival instincts.
Physically I prepared for my death a long time ago. I planned my funeral and have done everything possible to delay it as long as possible. It is a good but not easy thing to do. Selecting the casket was a downer.
The funeral director showed me one assuring me it was down stuffed and had a satin covering. He concluded, “It is very comfortable.” What!
I was assured another one had a lifetime guarantee. What am I missing.
From a spiritual perspective the fear of death which I noted is overcome at the time of death. Jesus said of His followers they would never see death. Sounds out of bounds when it is considered they all die. It is reasonable when it is realized there are several Greek words that can be translated “see.” One means to be preoccupied with or transfixed by. What Jesus’ statement means is that when death comes for believers they pass right on by it without noticing it because they are absorbed with what lies ahead. Joy replaces fear.
When study revealed that to me I thought I should have known that because the Psalmist wrote, “Yea, thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”
Perhaps not all religious systems have that belief but I am thankful to know one that does.
In light of the fear of death being removed when dying I rejoice and relax on rough flights when I get scared. I rejoice over it not being my time to die.
There is a spiritual dimension to life and death. It is wise to live prepared physically for death. It is even better to be prepared spiritually.
There is a government sponsored TV ad regarding visiting foreign lands and being aware of their laws regarding drug use. It concludes, “Know before you go.” That is good advice in thinking of death.
One philosopher of yesteryear observed it seems strange that people see people dying all around them and never consider it will happen to them.
In light of the ratio of deaths being 1-to-1 I commend physical and spiritual preparation. Know before you go.

Is There A God?

Everybody has a sense of God consciousness. Oh, yes they do. Some believe in Him and sense a personal relationship with Him.

Others spend their time trying to deny His very existence. They can’t according to a basic law of logic which states you can’t prove a negative. To prove God doesn’t exist you would have to know all there is to know about everything — everything and know that in that body of knowledge there is no God.

If you didn’t know everything but did know fifty percent of everything there is to know wouldn’t it be possible that in that unknown fifty per cent God does exist? Who knows fifty percent of all there is to know about everything?

Suppose you knew ninety percent of all there is to know. Would it not be possible that in the unknown ten percent He exists? Even if you knew ninety-nine percent there is still the possibility of His existence in the unknown.

No one knows one hundred percent of all there is to know. Some persons indicate they are all knowing and profess God does not exist. I know some such people and respect their opinion. They are gracious in response. A minority of such people attack the intellect and assault the very character of those who disagree with them. These are the evangelicals of no faith.

I had a friend who owned a large trucking company. He told me he required every potential driver to take a lie detector test before being employed. One question always asked was do you believe in God. He said there never was a person who said no that the test didn’t indicate they were lying. That is his story believe it or not.

God cannot be proven to exist. He is too big for that. However, He has given us lines of logic leading to conclusions only answerable by His existence. Some are:

Where there is a law there is a law giver. Highway speed laws indicate someone made the law. Inertia, gravity, thermodynamics are laws in nature indicating there is a Lawgiver.

Boi mean life. Genesis means life. There is an irrefutable law of biogenetics that says life only comes from life. The existence of life indicates there is a Lifegiver. Where there is design there must be a designer. The design of the human body is incogitable. The design of the universe suchas precise revolution of planets in orbit and the earth’s rotation on its axis reveals design which demands a Designer.

The law of cause and effect speaks of God. For every effect there must be an equal or greater cause. The universe is the effect. It shouts of a greater cause —- God.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician/philosopher renowned for his work in calculus and author of the famed Pascal Wager. He held that the prudent person torn between atheism and belief should “bet” on the existence of God. The reason: If God exists, at death the prudent person will get a heavenly reward. If God does not exist, well, no harm done. If one bets against God’s existence and He does exist, well ….

Wolves And American Ranchers

Conservation is an elemental essential. However, extremism in anything is not good.

A few years ago conservationists said the buffalo and elk herds in Yellowstone were over populated and wolves needed to be reintroduced to enable a balance of nature. In 1994 there were no wolves in the Yellowstone area.

I just returned from Montana where I had the good fortune of visiting with ranches. The experiment has gone on long enough for there to be an observable result. Wolves, the apex-killers, have changed the ecosystem in Yellowstone and the region.

Wildlife biologists and ecologists in Yellowstone are still rather pleased with the result of the reintroduction of wolves. The elk herd has been driven to greater elevations and reduced from around 19,000 to 11,000. Vegetation eaten by elk along low lying steams has rebounded and proliferates. Other carnivores benefit from food left from wolf kills.

It is ranchers and businesses in the area who have suffered the greatest losses.

The elk herd in Yellowstone has been so depleted that it has impacted hunting in the designated areas. Normally 2,000 to 3,000 permits are granted. None will be awarded this year because the wolves have decidedly depleted the herd. That means millions of dollars are lost due to hunters not coming into the area. Great revenue is lost because of there being no permits sold. These lost funds normally go to wildlife conservation.

Some persons disparage the iconic image of blood-lusting wolves. Ranchers don’t.

Wolves have impacted cattle herds. In certain regions there is only a 5 percent survival rate of calves. That represents thousands of dollars lost to the ranchers.

Grown cattle lose between sixty and eighty pounds of weight because of being harassed by wolves. At $1.05 per pound in a herd of 500 cattle that is a loss of $84.00 per head for a total loss of $42,000 per herd.

In one area 123 sheep have been killed by wolves.

We watched a herd of elk being harassed and eventually stampeded by a pack of wolves. A ranger pointed out five dead elk in a field killed by wolves. They don’t just kill for food. They kill for fun. The pack attack we saw was in a vast snow field on the slope of a mountain and was carried out for fun.

Various packs prefer certain animals. Over by Ted Turner’s Circle D ranch the preferred elk herd has been so impacted they are now working on the buffalo.

The Circle D has about 4,000 buffalo  Aldo Leopold wrote of a fierce green fire in a wolf’s eyes. The fire blazes when wild predators and domestic prey encounter each other.

Conservation is not only commendable it is crucial. However, forethought and unbiased planning is needed. The Green Movement has a lot to offer if they can just control their extremists who tend to act on emotion and impulse rather than un-skewed facts and fundamental logic.

In all decision making reason and logic should take precedent over emotion and sentiment.THIMK! Yeah, I know.

Swiss Army

We just visited the enchanting land of Switzerland and learned a bit more about their proud heritage.

There is a Swiss statement: “Switzerland has no army. Switzerland is an army.”

That is not exactly true. It has a population of six million of which 600,000 are in the army. At the age 20 each man is conscripted into the army and given 15 months of training. Until the age of 42 they train two to three weeks a year. They keep their weapon in their homes and stand ready to fight.

A distinction of the army is no person’s military rank can be greater than his or her professional rank. Job parody is the point.

Swiss forces last fought outside their nation’s borders in 1515 and they haven’t been at war in more than 500 years. For years there were various volunteer armies in regions who fought as mercenaries. The armies fought for whoever hired them. Once the Duke of Burgundy hired one Swiss army and the King of France hired another. The two armies fought each other as proxies for the Duke and King.

Such a national defense force preserves peace.

Nothing personifies the pride the Swiss have regarding their army than the “Dying Lion of Luzern” carved in sandstone mountain face above the town of Luzern. It depicts a wounded lion with a broken spear shaft extending from its body. Its paw rests on lilies symbolizing France and there is a Swiss shield thereby. It is a tribute to the Swiss soldiers who died attempting to save Marie Antoinette in 1792.

A caption above it reads: “To the Bravery and Truthfulness of the Swiss.”

The name Luzern itself is interesting. It means “The Lantern” or “The Light” and is based on the legend that an angel with a lantern showed founders to the place to establish the city.

Perhaps the European war that brought about more good than most is the Battle of Solferino. This pitted the Austrians against the Sardinian (French.) A Swiss business man, Henry Durant visited Napoleon III near the battle sight where there were 40,000 casualties. He convinced Napoleon “we are all brothers” and all who suffer deserve help.

The outgrowth was the International Red Cross. Durant being Swiss reversed the Swiss flag which is a white cross on a red background and put a red cross on a white background. Thus, it became the symbol of the International Red Cross. Durant formulated and fostered many of the current rules of war. The work of Durant resulted in him being the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

As an aside those medieval armies must have smelled very bad. All of society did. During that era it was believed water damages the skin and bathing was bad for you. It is said of King Louis XIV of France water only touched his body once in his life. It occurred at his baptism as an infant. Even drinking of water was discouraged. Children were told it would cause frogs to grow in them. Come to think of it deodorants are a relatively new thing.

We are blessed to live in this era and this country. If you are going to visit only two foreign countries make them Switzerland and Israel.