31 October 2008

First Hack-a-Shaq 5 seconds into the 08-09 season

Who says Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are dull and have no sense of humor? Shaquille O'Neal even had to crack a smile at this one. Of course, it would have been nice if they had beaten the Suns on opening night!

29 October 2008

barack the vote

I watched Barack Obama's "infomercial" this evening. And I understand that the camera shots, the music, the montages, etc. are designed to portray Obama in the best possible light. I also didn't need this thirty minute program to "sell" me on Obama versus McCain. That was never a consideration. My only other option was to go for the Green Party candidate, Cynthia McKinney.

What it did do was to underline, once again, the vast difference in appeal of Obama versus McCain. On the one hand, we have someone calling us to, as Abraham Lincoln put it, "the better angels of our nature." On the other hand, we have a person desperately trying to scare us into voting for him. Hope versus fear.

But even that isn't the determining factor. I won't claim to agree with everything Obama is about. No one is flawless. (What political figure is?) But I don't mind saying that I see Barack Obama as someone who comes along maybe once in a generation. He's someone who has the potential to inspire and to lead us. What an amazing concept--to inspire and to lead!

28 October 2008


Did you know that everything in nature has an infinite number of sides? The little bit I already knew about fractals taught me that. Tonight's episode of Nova, "Hunting the Hidden Dimension," explores the ways in which fractal mathematics and geometry are opening up new avenues of research, from anticipating diseases in the human body to anticipating the scope of climate change.

Plus, if you go to their website, you can design your own fractal image!

NFL joy #2

For the second time this season, all three of my teams have won on the same weekend. (I would like for this to be a routine occurrence, so I plan for this to be my last blog post of this nature.)

The Miami Dolphins knocked off the team that's currently at the top of their division, their archenemy the Buffalo Bills, by a score of 25-16. In one of their uglier wins in team history, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 13-9. Considering how badly the Cowboys have played in October, an ugly win is better than no win at all. And on Monday night, the Tennessee Titans took care of the Indianapolis Colts, 31-21, to remain the only undefeated team in the NFL.

22 October 2008

good news instead

I'm tired of writing about depressing stuff. I want to give God the glory. Today I visited my neurologist, and he told me that there's no reason for me to keep having my occasional MRI scans. There's been no sign of regrowth of the brain tumor, and so, I need not continue with the procedures--which, by the way, have decreased in frequency over the years. In any event, it's good news!

(This is the cartoon I mentioned a few days ago when I went in for my scan.)

I don't want to be proven right

As I suggested a couple of weeks ago in my post, "thinking like reptiles," when political leaders carelessly toss incendiary labels around, like feeding red meat to hungry wolves, don't pretend to be surprised when violence is the result.

As the despicable incident at Western Carolina University shows, it only emboldens those who are already prone to act first and think later. That's a lesson I would hope Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin would have learned long ago.

16 October 2008

will justice be served?

As I watched (most) of "Torturing Democracy" on PBS tonight, I wondered if the Bush administration's attitude of impunity would be its undoing. Will they be called to account for the disgrace they've brought on America? Will anyone in that administration be charged with the war crimes that they themselves have refused to bring against the hundreds they've arrested and tortured?

If our presidential candidates could talk about something other than Joe the Plumber, I might feel better about justice finally being served!

15 October 2008

in love with the church

I’ve now finished André Dupleix’s 15 Days of Prayer with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. As I said two weeks ago, it’s helped me to rediscover why I like him. For a man who was so misunderstood and criticized by church authorities, Teilhard displayed immense amounts of love in return.

Dupleix shows how desperately in love with the church he was. Speaking of it, Teilhard says, “It seems that it gives me a great deal of peace…I hope, with God’s help, to never do anything against the Church, apart from which I discern no course of life with a chance to succeed.” (p. 81) On another occasion, he proclaimed, “Happy are we with the authority of the Church! Left to ourselves, just how far would we drift away?” (p. 83)

It would be easy to dismiss as ludicrous someone who describes the church as “the portion of the world which is reflexively Christified, the principal focus point of interhuman affinities through super-charged charity.” (p. 82) But that requires taking the time to figure out what such a person is actually saying!

In love with the church? Imagine such a thing!

13 October 2008

when your style gets cramped, literally

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 1995. Following that was surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. I’ve had numerous MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans since then to check for re-growth of the cancer. I can thankfully say they’ve always been clear. Today, I had an MRI as a check-up for the first time in two years. Something happened that has never happened before: I had a couple of moments of claustrophobia.

The technician’s assistant asked the usual questions beforehand, like, “Do you have any metal in your body?” I noticed a cartoon on the wall in which a woman is being rolled into the MRI tube. The doctor tells her that they need to scan her brain to figure out why she has claustrophobic episodes! I laughed about that with the assistant, saying, “Yes, let’s put you in this coffin and figure out why you have claustrophobia!”

But when they rolled me into that tube—I don’t know what it was—my brain started working. I thought about that idea of a coffin and being buried alive. I remembered the movie The Vanishing. (By the way, the original Dutch version, 1988, was far superior to the American remake, 1993, with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. The American film had a predictable happy ending.) That image of waking up, buried alive in a coffin, kept coming back to me! Then I thought about people in prison, crammed into tiny cells.

A couple of times I was on the verge of squeezing the little signaling device they give you. I didn’t want to disrupt the scanning process, but I was also ready to get out of that thing! Some deep breathing (and some prayer) enabled me to get through it.

As I left the building and got in my car, I realized that I’ve never understood how terrible it must be for those who have claustrophobia. (Or for that matter, people who have panic attacks and post-traumatic stress syndrome.) I’m almost always a pretty calm person. Maybe I should be thankful for getting a tiny taste of what so many people routinely experience. It goes a long way toward better understanding.

09 October 2008

thinking like reptiles

While watching the news tonight, I saw the incident at a John McCain rally in Wisconsin in which a man with a microphone, proclaiming his anger, described Barack Obama and other Democrats as “hooligans.” My first reaction was, “Does this man know the definition of ‘hooligan’?” Does he actually believe that Obama is a hoodlum who runs through the streets, picking fights and vandalizing? I also thought that he must have been planted there by someone in the McCain campaign. But after seeing McCain’s obvious unease with the man, I don’t believe that. He tried to remind the crowd that “all of us are Americans first.”

But when you begin stirring the pot of racial animosity and carelessly labeling people as “terrorists,” as he and Sarah Palin have done, don’t act surprised when hatred and violence are the result. Especially in tough economic times, many people are looking for someone to blame. We humans do not think very clearly when we’re filled with anger. When you appeal to the basest part of human nature, that’s exactly what you can expect to receive.

05 October 2008

NFL joy

This is, admittedly, a blog post of a less serious nature. Still, I can't remember a day when it's been true that I could state these facts about my favorite NFL teams.

First, that the Miami Dolphins have defeated in two consecutive games the teams that reached the AFC title game last year (New England and today, San Diego). By winning their second game, they've already doubled their win total from one season ago. Second, my number 3 team, the Tennessee Titans, are the final undefeated team in the AFC.

And finally, by beating the Bengals, my beloved Dallas Cowboys managed to keep pace with the New York Giants and the hated Washington Redskins in the NFC East. (What Cowboys fan wouldn't feel that way about the Redskins? By the way, if there's a team with a racist name, the "Redskins" are almost by definition the picture of it!)

04 October 2008

feasting with Francis

Today is the feast day for St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1182-1226). He’s one of the most dearly loved figures in all of church history. People admire him for many reasons—his dedication to the poor, his love of animals, and even the stigmata he received late in his life. But his commitment to peace is a quality we would do well to notice. There’s the well-known prayer attributed to him which begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

The last part goes as follows:
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

I’m especially struck by the line in which Francis prays not so much “to be understood as to understand.” He would rather understand than be understood. What a world this would be if we all had that kind of determination! Imagine how our political landscape would be altered. Imagine how the church would be. We might actually start listening to each other!

01 October 2008

praying with Pierre

For many years, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) has been one of my favorite theologians. He’s been one of my heroes since the mid-80s. But as with other people I admire, I’ve had trouble figuring him out. I’m rediscovering him in 15 Days of Prayer with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by André Dupleix (English translation, 1999). (By the way, click here for the pronunciation of his name.)

When I first discovered this priest and paleontologist, I was fascinated. He was the living embodiment of faith and science that the 20th century had lost. There is much to say about him, but his comments about the resurrection of Jesus are what compelled me today. Teilhard is radically Christocentric—he sees Christ at the very heart of matter itself. His deeply Trinitarian perspective sets him apart from many so-called “new age” movements that claim him as a forerunner.

“But how do we understand the Resurrection?” Dupleix asks. “For Teilhard, in addition to the action of Christ and his work of salvation, the Resurrection has a decisive significance for the evolution of the universe: ‘We seek too much to see the Resurrection as an apologetic and temporary event, like Christ’s short sojourn in the tomb. The Resurrection is something altogether different and much more than that. It is a “formidable” cosmic event. It signifies the actual taking of possession, by Christ, of his functions as the universal Center.’” (p. 11)

This is an affirmation of Paul’s idea of the cosmic Christ which is stated, among other places, in Colossians 1:15-17, where he says that Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The cosmic Christ isn’t some Christic spirit disconnected from the Jesus of the Bible. To underline that, Dupleix reminds us that for Teilhard, “hope, which the world needs desperately, does not presuppose a flight from earthly realities or a suspicion of the visible or the tangible. To the contrary, hope integrates, into their full dimensions, all of the aspects of history and existence. That is so because Jesus, the eternal Word and the man from Nazareth, was raised from the dead.” (p. 12)

Now that’s some hope you can sink your teeth in!