People


This is almost humerous but it rings true what with all the databases out there that have your information. the grocery store has those little VIP Store cards that if you use will allow you to save a percentage on you bill… at the cost of your purchase being added to their database about your buying habits. Not to mention credit card purchases, credit reports, bank statements, HMO records, dentist records, hospital records, military records, police records and the lists go on infinitely, everyday a new list, a new way to catalogue you and your habits. As you read this say hello to the guys and gals in Foggy bottom.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

 

It is ironic that the very ones who pried open the lid of our Judicial system are the very ones who are now trying to nail it back on.  The natural response to anarchy is totalitarian rule. So it is easy to see how we have gotten to this point from say… the Sixties and Seventies.   Now, it’s hard to see how we can claim to be a democratic republic given we can only choose from only two parties which are running politicians whose image is more important than their character and substance.  There are no more statesmen who hold the best interest of the nation above their own political ambitions.  So, in order for the politicos to retain their power they have to have a victimized society which they can “care” for and pander to.  This is the enevitable result…

Reporting live frome the Village, I’m Number 6.

 

We’re run by the Pentagon, we’re run by Madison Avenue, we’re run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don’t revolt we’ll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche… As long as we go out and buy stuff, we’re at their mercy. We’re at the mercy of the advertiser and of course there are certain things that we need, but a lot of the stuff that is bought is not needed…   We all live in a little Village… Your village may be different from other people’s villages but we are all prisoners.”   Cult TV (UK): “An Interview with Patrick McGoohan”, conducted by Warner Troyer, March 1977

From The Prisoner

“Where am I?”
“In the Village.”
“What do you want?”
“Information.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“That would be telling…. We want information. Information! INFORMATION!”
“You won’t get it.”
“By hook or by crook, we will.”
“Who are you?”
“The new Number Two.” 
“Who is Number One?”
“You are Number Six.”
“I am not a number — I am a free man!”
                                                                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner

                                                       

Jesus loves porn stars! So heralds the cover of the controversial Bible (The Message version) being distributed by the guys over at Triple X Church. Triple X is an anti-porn website run by Mike Foster and Craig Gross, who also run the ministry Starving Jesus, and together authored the book, “Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About Sex”.

The flashy picture above is the actual cover of the Bible Foster and Gross are distributing. Distributing at Porn conventions, that is. The ministry of XXXChurch is to attend porn conventions which are frequented by the top names in pornography like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy (who often participates in public debates with XXXChurch on porn). Does Jesus love porn stars? Here’s my controversial answer– No, He does not.

Modernly, “porn star” is simply a euphemism of a lifestyle, not a human being. It’s used, as best I can tell, exactly like “pimp” or “rock star” or “redneck” , words which no longer refer to an individual, but a particular lifestyle. Go to your local superstore, and you’ll find t-shirts (in the teen section by the way) with those titles screen printed on the front. I remember a girl with whom I went to high school wearing a t-shirt which simply said, “I’m a Porn Star,” in the same coloring and typeface as the Bible cover above. Who’s not seen the Rockstar brand energy drink, or heard a rap song about being a pimp or a country song about being a redneck? These titles don’t refer to people as individuals, but lifestyles. Contrariwise, I could say that Jesus loves homosexuals, because this currently still refers to individuals, not the lifestyle. Does Jesus love Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson? Absolutely! He also loves every single other individual involved in the pornography industry. However, He does not love porn stars, nor does He loves pimps, rock stars, or rednecks, as those words are used in modern vernacular to convey not the individual man, but his lifestyle; lifestyles often characterized by their committment to ignorance, promiscuity, drug use, and immorality on many fronts. Does Jesus love that? Of course not.

The message that Jesus loves porn stars, to modern individuals, does not convey the intended meaning, therefore, that Jesus loves the individual man, but that Jesus seems to have a special place in His heart for the porn star lifestyle. This is clearly seen in the ABC news video (below) where a female pornography actress says the Jesus Loves Porn Stars t-shirt is “awesome”. Finally, porn stars are justified, Jesus loves it, and if He does, what’s the problem?

Aside from the obscure message that Jesus loves porn stars, the XXXChurch website sells items which again are intended to deliver the message of Christ to individuals struggling with sex addiction. To encourage men to abstain from lust, cards are handed out that remind them (forgive me for typing this) “Don’t Spank that Monkey”, and the XXXChurch website sells Jesus pencil toppers, and Jesus bobble heads, called Jesus nodders.

  Penciltoppers_copy           

Jesus loves you. Let’s remind modern men that they are just that- you, men, women, people, individual humans in God’s image. Jesus doesn’t love porn stars, but He loves every single human, despite their man made titles.

Reality Television is King since the writer’s strike has deprived us of our fix of sit-coms and drama this season.  All the reality shows; such as: Smarter than a 5th Grader, Deal or No-deal, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and a host of others; have flooded the cable and airwaves in a rush to fill the void.  

As I sat there this week watching the Biggest Loser I began to think about what I was ingesting, no, I don’t mean foodstuffs, but thoughts and ideas.  What are the bait, hook and tackle? 

The Bait:

One only has to look around at the average waistline and you can see how our lives of ease and/or materialism-induced-stress have weighed on us.   Daily you can find articles, self-help programs and a mountain of books trying to get their collective arms around the problem of obesity.  In fact we have spent so much time gathering this information that we have had little time for anything else, especially such trivial things as exercise, play, and the like.  At some point one has to conclude it is time to stop thinking about it and do something about it. (I haven’t reached this radical point, yet.)

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So here is the positive premise, if we see people engaged and succeeding in the attempt it will motivate others to get up off their lazy keesters and do likewise.  So… someone put it on television for the masses to see and hopefully emulate.  This is a good thing. 

The negative premise is that now that it is on television our voyeuristic natures kick in and we watch others play the game instead of engaging in it ourselves.  We’ll just sit here and watch how it’s done.  This is not so good. 

The Hook:

Always hidden in the bait is a hook and this is no different.  The hook is the game, who will go who will stay.  How do they accomplish this?  Ah, here is where psychology sets the hook, “challenges and temptations!”  It would truly be a boring show if all it was, was watching rollie-pollies sweat and work out (no matter how much the trainers rant and rave).   One can stand to watch only so much flabby jiggling and man boobs.  Therefore, there has to be some other angle, the hook is: game-play during temptations and challenges.   

The manipulations, the deceptions, the intrigue; and that’s just the commercials.  Raw human nature is front and center in the reality show.  Wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and pride are the stars, with the players as supporting cast.  Being the voyeurs we are, we enjoy watching it in others as they stumble and fall below the yellow line.  (Yes, it is a cynical view but I believe an accurate one.  It’s like NASCAR, the reason a huge percentage watch is to see a wreck.)  In short it’s addictive

The Tackle:

All this leaves us with the final two ingredients, the weigh-in and the elimination room.  Who will be the biggest loser this week?  Which team will have the greatest percentage weight loss?  Who will be exempt, who will go home?  Ooooo, I get tingly just thinking about it.  Here is the payoff for watching the sweating and the puking and the jiggling: someone is going home.  Who will it be?   

In summary I have to say that I find these reality shows entertaining on the surface but since my mind is warped and wired differently I find these same shows somewhat disturbing.  I realize it is a game, but it seems to reinforce the idea of situational ethics.  The, “I am going to do what it takes to make sure I come out the winner,” the Zen of (Donald) Trump if you will.  That may be understood to be the “American Way” but it is far from the Biblical Way.    

These shows are the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity.  They promote greed, the Bible says to give; they bank on covetousness, the Bible condemns it; they manipulate and lie to get to the next level, the Scriptures tell us to sacrifice self and put others ahead of ourselves.   Even the Golden Rule has changed from, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to “do unto others before they do unto you.”  Each week millions tune in to get their weeks fix of existentialistic materialism and we never see that it is not only our waists that are getting thicker.  Think about it.   

Well, just thought I’d weigh in on the matter.

Photo from:http://www.dogpile.com/clickserver/_iceUrlFlag=1?rawURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brainfart.org%2Fdisplay_image.asp%3Fid%3Dwide_load.jpg&0=&1=0&4=204.9.89.53&5=98.16.20.233&9=1b7e198a3cbc43cb9aafabc15f74c801&10=1&11=info.dogpl&13=search&14=372380&15=main-title&17=1&18=1&19=0&20=0&21=1&22=plwbduwW%2FgM%3D&23=0&40=MmNZ7ovFAlQMex5Go2DtCg%3D%3D&_IceUrl=true 

Have you ever met one of those people who are great out of the gate but exiting the second turn seem to just fizzle?   Someone who is full of ideas, good ideas even, but sputters to a halt once the actual work begins?  One who can find 10,000 excuses for starting tomorrow instead of today?  No? “In that case, Hi, I’m Larry.”   (Not really but I thought it was a great line from the movie Sky High.)

I could do an entire posting on my life just using lines from movies and songs, that is sad really because I only know a few lines from books I could use.  I would have to say that I am a product of the 70’s and 80’s.  I am first generation MTV.  I remember when “Video Killed the Radio Star” was regularly played on MTV, Martha Quinn was our VJ and Dire Straits was singing “I Want My MTV.”  I remember when Madonna was just a Boy Toy Material Girl (wait nothing’s changed there) Pat Benetar, Blondie, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Robert Palmer and a host of others whose videos told stories and captured our attention, at the distraction of things more necessary.  Leisure Suits, disco, and the Iranian Hostage debacle were some of the benchmarks of my teenage years, quite the contrast with my redneck, white socks and cowboy hat.  I’ve always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole world.  Living at the speed of MTV and never looking beyond the moment.

I cannot blame the culture I grew up in for my lack of discipline and my Doctorate in Procrastinology, that is all on me, I am a self-made man in that regard.  Instead of reading a classic book… I popped a tape in my “add on” cassette player and cranked up Waylon Jennings, Molly Hatchet, and ELO.  Instead of exercising and pursuing my love of baseball… I ended-up living out Jackson Browne’s classic, Smokin’ in the Boys Room.  Instead of disciplining myself to schoolwork and get good grades… I floated through, just getting by, living for the Heat of the Moment.  Never looking to tomorrow but was more concerned with, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now!”  “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” I cried from the front seat of my friends Trans Am as we did our best Smokey and the Bandit imitation.  My life was just like that scene where the bridge was out, and being young, dumb and foolish I was going to make the attempt to jump it anyway, only to stop short not having the nerve to totally commit to full throttle breakaway.  My illusion of life being captured on Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell album was just that, an illusion.  Tighter and tighter the spirals of life swirled and I did not see that mine was out of control and I was on the Eve of Destruction.

Sounds very exciting doesn’t it?  Kind of a redneck, James Bond, Joe Walsh: Life of Illusion fantasy that I wanted to live out.  Reality never came close to the grand fantasy I was living inside myself.  I was never able to live up to the person I dreamt myself to be.  “But then again, Who Does?” (had to give props to Blade Runner there, this being what, its 25th anniversary)  So, things didn’t turn out the way I planned, hmmmm actually that was the problem… I never had a plan.  Peg the volume, Fry, Walsh, and Henley are living Life in the Fast Lane at the Hotel California.  And the illusion continued.

In ’77 my world came undone when dad died.  Mom’s world crashed in on her and in a way I lost both parents that Good Friday morning.  Clarence Carter singing, Patches is a poignant memory I have of that spring.  That summer consisted of Star Wars and a massive crush on Carrie Fisher, yep that year my fantasy was to be Luke Skywalker, battling the evil Empire and flying off among the stars with the girl.  (Lucas messed up a great adolescent fantasy by making Leia, Luke’s sister… at least for all those other nerds who aren’t from West Virginia or Arkansas, kissin’ cousins don’t ya’ knowJ)  So by the time High School was over I had it in my mind that I should make my mark on the world at least by the time I turned eighteen.  Eighteen came and went so I figured fame and fortune and everything that goes with it was just around the corner by twenty.  Twenty was a bittersweet year, still had not made my fortune and the girl I figured I would one day marry started dating my best friend.  (They have been happily married for I guess as long as my wife and I have, going on twenty-one years now, and I still count them as some of my best friends.)  Later that same year I met my wife-to-be, I just didn’t know it…yet.   While she claims that after that first date and that first kiss she went home and told her momma that she had met the man she was gonna marry.  I think that was just to stroke my ego… musta’ worked cause we’ve been together for twenty-four years.(married for 21)

So, what was my point here?  I wanted to say something important about finishing what you start and having the discipline to see things to the…  

Ernest Hemingway(Continued from an Part 1.  Read more in Part 3, and Part 4)

The Sun Also Rises is a novel about those most impacted by the Great War: the individuals who made up the aptly named “lost generation”.  World War I took nearly 9 million lives, but it ruined the lives of many more who survived.  Hemingway’s story of Jake and his post-war companions presents more than just an interesting account of Parisian social life and Spanish bull fighting; it demonstrates the incredible toll that the war took upon those who were most intimately involved in it.  For them, the effects of the war never ended.

Hemingway gives a wink and nod in his title to anyone familiar with the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.  Within its ancient pages we find a story of existential angst as presented through the eyes of a Jewish king who was repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to find meaning in life.  Ecclesiastes’ theme “vanity of vanities” perfectly elucidates Hemingway’s novel.  The characters in his book fly from one diversion to the next, but never to anything substantial.

Jake and Brett represent the two paths down which the worldview of nihilism can lead and the diverging experiences of Europe and America after the war.  Jake’s impotence is an important symbol within The Sun Also Rises.  It represents the loss of ideological life that resulted from World War I.  In his outward appearance Jake looks perfectly healthy, but he has lost something vital: the ability to consummate passion and impart life.  This is a strong comparison to post-war Europe: it had survived the Great War, but it had come out of it vitally wounded.  No one could pretend any longer that things were alright with the world.  A society that had produced such atrocities was fundamentally broken.  “Enlightened” Europe had entered the war ideologically robust; it had emerged sterile.

Brett is the antithesis of Jake and the “Americanized” nihilist of the novel.  This may come as a surprise to some readers due to the fact that Brett seems to be the most vivacious and care-free character of the book.  However, a closer reading will reveal that this is nothing more than a veneer to cover the inward angst that she is experiencing.  “I’ve got to do something,” she tells Jake as he walks her to Romero, “I’ve got to do something I really want to do.  I’ve lost my self-respect.” (187)  A few sentences later she bemoans the fact that she “can’t stay tight all the time”. (187)  Alcohol is her panacea to a painful existence.

Brett is the quintessential nihilist-turned-hedonist.  Traditional values are shattered, nihilism ensues, and hedonism is embraced as the existential life-raft to keep from going under.  Thus Brett becomes an excellent picture of the “booming twenties”: an era of music, art, excitement, and despair. 

It is interesting to note that Hemingway does not seem to extend any hope at the end of his novel.  Brett remains a devoted pleasure seeker and Jake seems to adopt the same artificial and shallow set of values that “the Count” (67) has embraced.  However, this is consistent with the cyclical emphasis of the novel: “The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to his place where he arose.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

 All quotations taken from:   Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 2003
Catchy Title, eh? “A Movie review:”So, What fare are we serving up today?

“Because of Winn-Dixie”

I was shocked! I tell you absolutely shocked, to find out tonight that there are actually some people who have not yet seen, “Because of Winn-Dixie.”

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This movie is a Southern fried humdinger!

When I first sat down to watch a Family Night movie titled, “Because of Winn-Dixie” I thought yea, ok, I’ll endure this and then we’ll get to a good movie. I found myself eating that sentiment and walking away thoroughly satisfied. I had not read the book so I had no idea what I was about to see. We liked so much we bought it and have re-watched it on several occasions.

The story is about a preacher, his daughter Opal, her adopted dog Winn-Dixie, and the adventures, and friendships forged one summer in a small southern town. Between Opal and Winn-Dixie we see the greatest adventure of all, that of people and relationships. We see the tender heart of a child who wants to know why her momma left her and her daddy on the one hand, but who refuses to become scarred , cynical and jaded by that loss. We see how simple acts of kindness change all those who come within Opal and Winn-Dixie’s sphere of influence.

Far from being a Pollyanna, Opal is a real kid with real hurts and real questions. Her character is powerfully endearing and reminds us that people crave fellowship with others and will respond when given the opportunity. The charming innocence and childlike wonderment of Opal is contagious, and the simple honesty of child and dog quickly affects all those this dynamic-duo come into contact with.

This is real entertainment. No flash, no glitz, no glam… just a purity that speaks to the heart. This is the way movies should be. Two thumbs up!

I just finished a novel by Naomi Ragen, titled, ”The Covenant.”  I happened across this book while wandering through a local thrift store.  I was strongly compelled to pick it up and I read the dust jacket.  Then, I randomly scanned a few pages.  I have not regretted my purchase.  I believe the dedicatory says it better than I, concerning the purpose of this book and the story Ms Regan weaves so well. 

 “For all victims of terror, and those who loved them.  May God Comfort all mourners and wipe the tears from all faces”. 

This is an intensely personal representation of those whose lives have been devastated by terrorism. (Ms Regan and her family were present at the Passover Massacre in the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002 when a suicide bomber killed twenty-nine and wounded hundreds.) The conflict “continues” as we are introduced to the characters:  A Jewish doctor, his wife (who is in the latter stages of a difficult pregnancy), and their daughter come face to face with a horror that seems too awful to bear.  It is also a story of survival that spans generations.  The young wife’s grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz and we see in her and her three friends what it means to be a survivor, and the bond that developed between them, making them family and more.  We see how these four made a covenant, while in Auschwitz, that will affect all their lives in this crisis. 

Ms Regan does a wonderful job developing the characters, plot and conflict quickly.  The use of time, date, location stamp at the beginning of each chapter and major scene change keeps you on track with the flow and interdependence of the themes and story line.  The indomitable spirit of these characters who refuse to be mere victims of such a cowardly act of terrorism is the strength of the story.

Personally, there were passages that made my blood boil with the desire to extract vengeance on the ideologues who in their ignorance and self-deception, aid cowardly fanatics in their terrorist agendas.  There were passages of great empathy for the main characters who were dealing with a situation that I would find unbearable.  She does an outstanding job of relating the politics of lies and the international bias against Jews and how Israel and the Jewish people are portrayed in the media and on the world stage.

By the time I finished the book I felt I knew the characters and had lived through this ordeal with them, but then it struck me like a bolt of lightening:  This is the story of all those who have been attacked by terrorists.  I was stunned to research the shear number of Israelis who have been attacked by such terrorists since the intifada Arafat started after Sharon visited the Temple Mount.   I wept for all those who have suffered because a few old terror mongers realized that by perpetuating lies and keeping a population disenfranchised and oppressed (mainly through their own greed and corruption) they could maintain political control and get rich in the process.  (I digress)    I wept for Israel and I wept for Jerusalem.   Shaalu Shalom Yerushaliim.

I just had to post this:

IDIOT SIGHTING:
We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a “large” enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, “Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower.” I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, “NO, it’s not.” Four is larger than two.”
     We have not used Sears repair since.


 IDIOT SIGHTING
 
My daughter and I went through the McDonald’s take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, “You gave me too much money.” I said, “Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back.”  She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me t o repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said “We’re sorry but they could not do that kind of thing.” The clerk then proceeded to give me back$1 and 75 cents in change. 
 
 
IDIOT SIGHTING
I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road The reason: “Too many deer are being hit by cars out here!
  I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.”

IDIOT SIGHTING
My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for “minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.

IDIOT SIGHTING
The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged coworker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?”

IDIOT SIGHTING
At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker. She was leaving the company due to “downsizing.” Our manager commented cheerfully, “This is fun. We should do this more often.” Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.   
   
IDIOT SIGHTING

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. “Hey,” I announced to the technician, “it
s open!” His reply, “I know. I already got that side.”

 I recently discovered – via this post on another blog – that Stephen Pinker (popular, Led Robert Plant would be proud!Zeppelinish hair-styled, psychology prof. from Harvard) has published yet another article arguing for a biology-based morality.  You can read the NY Times article here. 

As some of you already know, I have already posted on Pinker’s pernicious problem of a materialistic morality.  Although his most recent article is somewhat longer than his earlier article in Time magazine, his arguments remain the same.

Rather than rehashing my appraisal of his argument in this post, I invite readers to check out my earlier post, “Stephen Pinker and the Morality of a Meat Machine”.

You gotta love that hair though 🙂

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Seems we have established the link between art and culture, and the fact that art should be art, without labels.  Specifically, it has been argued that we should not attempt to produce “Christian” art for the sake of “Christian” art.  I think that there is a bit of dishonesty in this argument.

 

If we are comparing today’s “Christian” labeled art with art from antiquity, and other eras of world history.  We are, in fact, arguing that Art with a “Christian” label is inferior to its “secular” counterpart.  Is this an honest critique?  I believe it is.

 

Let’s define a term before we proceed.  What art are we talking about here?  Name one instance where art is art for its own sake.  I dare say that once you get beyond kindergarten, or maybe later in life drawing, composing, or painting for one’s own self gratification, you find much “true” art.  Throughout history art has always been a product of consumerism.  “Artists” of the past were commissioned to do a work, and we now stand in awe of their accomplishments.  Michelangelo’s David, the Sistine Chapel, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, all were commissioned art and artists.  They produced “art” to fit the commission.  Of course the prevailing worldview was Christian theism and the art reflected that worldview.

 

Fast-forward to the twenty-first century.  The theistic worldview is on the decline and is now only one of many competing worldviews that the population at large can embrace.  It follows that taste and consumption of art will align with the chosen worldview.  It will follow then that a theistic, Christian worldview will produce “Christian” art.  Just as Atheistic-nihilism produces a Maplethorpe and his art.   The article, “What is Christian Art?”(see below) correctly points out, “Good art represents the artist. We don’t have to think consciously about what we’re producing to have our art represent our thought. An existentialist artist doesn’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to make existential art.’ It is in the air he breathes, so it naturally comes out.”  Throughtout history we see art change to reflect the culture and age in which it was produced.  Today’s art may or may not be on par with the past masters.  Modern artists usually do not have patrons who commission them to produce artwork.  Therfore they turn to marketing and mass production in order to produce a product called art.  How else are they to pay the bills, put food on the table and make a life?  It is not just “Christian” art these days, it is “African” art, “Gothic” art  and a myrid of other niches that have been identified by Madison Avenue as target demographics.  I believe that much of the argument I have seen here in our blog is more about economics than the nature of art, Christian or otherwise.  Now as to the quality, or depth of the arts in “Christian” packaging… I do not have the credentials to judge.  The dime store novel of yesterday is in some cases now looked on as high art.  Is the non-Christian worldview art better than Christian worldview art?  I think not… but we do have some dollar store Christian art out there as well.

rron170l.jpgAh, the wonders of the World Wide Web.  Who among us – while sitting before the computer – has not been seized with the sudden desire to type our own name into a search engine to see what the results would be?  Perhaps we harbor a hidden desire that our name will repeatedly flash upon the screen in a magnificent shrine of blue text; thus confirming our suspicion that we are much more famous than we had previously believed.  Or maybe we are plagued with a persistent paranoia that some acquaintance of ours has posted a particularly malicious comment about us on a personal blog (complete with embarrassing photos).  Whatever our motivation, I am sure that most of us have succumbed to the temptation of trying to find our name somewhere on the web.  At least I know that I have.  In fact, I just did the other night.

“Joshua Johnson”.  I entered my name into the search engine making sure to enclose it with quotation marks so that only those exact words would be queried.  In a moment my monitor was filled with hundreds of references to web pages that contained my name (235 to be exact).  I must confess, however, that I was quite disappointed with the initial fact that none of these names apparently referred to me.

            There were a great many lawyers, which makes me wonder if men named “Joshua” have an uncommon proclivity towards the legal profession or if men from the legal profession just enjoy placing their names on the internet.  There are also quite a few college students who share my name on the web.  This, again, causes me to wonder why I – being a college student – have not found myself among the references.  Perhaps I have not achieved the level of notoriety that is required to be considered worthy of a search engine’s recognition.  Or maybe I just need to join an athletic team at my school (frisbee golf appears to be the recreation of choice as far as “searchability” is concerned).

            Scattered among the lawyers and college students that are my namesakes were several obituaries.  It is an eerie thing to see your name in an obituary.  While the life that is being eulogized is quite different from my own in its personality and achievements, there is still a strange feeling that occurs when I read a sentence that starts with, “In memory of Joshua Johnson…” or “Joshua Johnson dies at age…”  It makes me contemplate my own mortality as I consider the possibility that another Joshua Johnson could have been reading my obituary tonight.

            Indeed, I see a great deal of possibility as I scan through the electronic references that bear my name.  All of the contingencies of life swirl before my eyes as I see soldiers, firemen, teachers, and construction workers – all who are as different from one another as I am from each of them – yet all sharing in that most important of identifiers: our name.  I wonder what circumstances guided the destinies of these men; what circumstances have guided my own life?

            I feel small as I see that christening which was given to me by my parents – that verbal tag that I have clung so tenaciously to as my own – scattered and stamped upon thousands of other men.  I am compelled to wonder along with Shakespeare’s Juliet, “What’s in a name?”  What is it about this combination of letters and syllables that causes my ears to perk up if I overhear them in a neighboring conversation?  Why is it that I feel so strange when I read of the life and death of a complete stranger who shares nothing with me but a title?

            There I sat, my face illuminated by the glow of my computer’s monitor, staring at the interpretation of my own name in a hundred different lives; confronted by my anonymity, my mortality, my identity.  It’s amazing what you can learn on the internet.

The other day, while at the mall, my wife and I went through an oft-repeated routine: she entered a clothing store and I took a seat on a bench outside to wait for her.  Why did I not join her?  There are many reasons actually, but I will give only two.  First – as any married man could testify – entering a clothing store with your wife can be a very hazardous experience, for at some point you are certain to be asked a terrifyingly unanswerable question: “Does this make me look fat?”  If you answer “yes”, you will be called an insensitive pig and will be treated as such for the next two weeks; if you say “no”, you will be called a liar until you say “yes” which will gain you the expanded title of a lying, insensitive pig.  And if you choose to remain silent, your silence will be taken for a “yes” and you will be accused of being unable to communicate. Thus, the wise man upon hearing this question will respond by promptly faking a heart attack.

The second reason why I chose not to accompany my wife is that it gave me an excellent opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.  Now, I realize that this may sound like some sort of deranged voyeurism, but I assure you that the kind of “people watching” to which I am referring is perfectly legal.  It consists in observing individuals whom you do not know and trying to guess something about them in that brief moment as they pass by.

The mall is a veritable smorgasbord of humanity and the perfect place for a people watcher.    Take, for example, one the newest trends in parenting: the child safety leash.  I counted at least three children (two boys and one girl) who were tethered to their parents by this strange device.  One of the little boys I saw kept darting in front of his mother only to be jerked back (yo-yo like) by a flick of his mother’s wrist.  She did this nonchalantly while chatting with a friend who walked beside her.  The friend, however, was visibly disturbed and she would wince every time the child was reined in.  I’m surprised that the mother never noticed. 

Then there was the rather large fellow wearing a denim shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots that clicked every time he took a step.  He sported a Fu Manchu and a mullet hairstyle that was billowy on top and stringy in the back.  In one of his meaty fists he clutched a tiny, pink shopping bag that he swung by his side to match his lumbering gait.  I noticed several shoppers point and snicker after passing him, and I must confess that the sight brought a smile to my own face.  Yet he was the epitome of self-confidence; wearing a silly grin as he strode by my bench.  Perhaps he had a gift for his girlfriend or wife in the bag – or maybe for his mother.

Shortly after, a pack of teenaged boys shuffled by.  Nearly everyone of them donned a baseball cap and a polo shirt with the collar turned up in the back.  They appeared to have developed a synchronized strut and seemed to be trying very hard to exude a macho presence to everyone about them.  One of the boys caught my eye in particular; it seemed as if his every gesture was calculated to please his peers.  His eyes darted to and fro from underneath the brim of his cap until once they locked with my own, lingered there for a moment, and then turned away.  I wondered if he was happy – as happy, say, as the big man with the little, pink bag.

All of this had taken quite a while, and I was beginning to worry about my wife (and my bank account).  A quick glance through the store window, revealed her standing at the checkout counter about to make her purchases.  I got up from the bench and strolled over to meet her at the entrance.  As I approached the store, I noticed a man and woman having a heated conversation within.  The man had his hands raised in an exasperated defense.  I smiled to myself.  Poor guy, he should have faked a heart attack.