Saturday, April 28, 2007
There is no question that the earth is getting warmer. David Warren pointed out a few weeks ago that since the atmosphere is always changing, there's a 50/50 chance that it will get warmer, so why are we so shocked?
The real debate among the scientific community is whether the cause of global warming is man-made or naturally occurring. Turns out there's a lot of room to argue that this is a natural cycle in the planet's progression through time. [Check that link out if you have a real desire to overwhelm your mind!]
Zenit.org today had a piece about the president of the World Federation of Scientists, Antonio Zichichi. In an address to the Vatican's Seminar on Climate Change, he is maintaining that we mortals aren't contributing very much at all to the warming of the planet. He's very critical of the flawed scientific methodology the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses to come to their conclusions, and refers to solar activity and volcanic action as the chief causes of atmospheric change, and his arguments make a lot of sense to me.
But for a moment disregard all the science and all the politics and all the Hollywood hype: think about this. Mankind has been around for a long time. Sure, today we are at an unprecedented level of industrialization, but the earth has seen a heck of a lot more atmospheric particulate matter in its long life than we've put up there. Volcanoes are a huge contributor to this - many of us can recall how far Mount St. Helens spewed its ash, and that was a relatively small bit of action on the scale of global history. Even the most tragic human actions (the Dresden fire-bombing, or the accident at Chernobyl come to mind) pale in comparison to the destruction and environmental impact an erupting volcano effects. How come Al Gore & Greenpeace don't picket in front of Mount Vesuvius?
My point is, we have become far too proud. Pride is best defined as an inaccurate self-image, whether it be too high or too low. We are far too high on ourselves as a species today. Do we really understand just how big this planet is? We fly from one side of the globe to another in mere hours. What used to be a months-long undertaking fraught with uncertainty and danger is now a $1200 airline ticket and a bad night's sleep away. We communicate electronically instantly; it used to be that if I needed to communicate with somebody in India I'd send a letter on the next ship sailing and it could be years before my reply came, if I could absolutely trust the couriered path for both full routes.
We think we've conquered the world and have solved its deep mysteries, but in reality the earth could split open and swallow a city in a moment and we'd all be left stunned, with only George W. Bush (and increasingly, Stephen Harper) to blame. We have looked God in the face and shrugged nonchalantly; we have built a new tower in Babel and are certain we can guarantee its perpetuity.
But we are small. We are tiny, insignificant specks on this planet, and while we can change the course of water or dig a canal through an isthmus or build a wall visible from space due to our vast technological knowledge, just how much can we really do? Can we divert solar flares (click Visualizations, then watch the Coronal Mass Ejection - very cool) or alter orbits or form stars?
By no means am I arguing that we shouldn't care for the Earth and make it a clean, pleasant place to live. But when the proponents of the Kyoto Accord start insisting we cripple our economies while we wait for the natural planetary warming cycle to revert, I suspect they are more interested in suppressing population growth than saving the planet.
And I won't hear of it.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
CTV News featured the flood the night of April 24, telling the stories of local residents and cabin owners who are beginning to lose the fight against the rising flood waters.
I don't want to detract from those owners' grief or hardship; I can't begin to imagine how difficult and agonizing the situation must be for them.
But the CTV reporter made what I think is an obvious error. Standing in rubber boots in a flooded yard, with the lake behind her, she said that the waters will rise more once the lake's surface ice, visible in the shot, melts over the coming weeks. The story is repeated on CTV's website, here, and here's the quote:
As the lake's ice cover melts, water levels are expected to rise further, with the peak not expected for three more weeks.
This is a glaring error that more and more people make these days, especially when some environut worries about melting icebergs. When ice floating in water melts, the water level will drop. This is because, as any fourth grade student will tell you, ice has more volume than water. As it melts and changes back into liquid, the overall volume it requires decreases.
You've all filled an ice cube tray and seen it come out with ice cubes that take up more space than the water you put in the tray. That's because ice is about 9% less dense than ice (neatly explained by the good folks at Elmhurst College), and when the same amount of matter becomes less dense it requires more volume.
Now there may be a scenario in which the ice dams and causes a rise in water behind it, but the visual and the scenario the reporter explained don't refer to that. Just how does a network reporter get away with such a obvious mistake?
Specifically, I mean Cheryl Crow, and more specifically, when she goes to the bathroom. As a dude, a #1 job requires no toilet paper. #2 however, can often result in what we in our home term "a never-ending wipe."
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the singer has proposed, in an effort to save the planet, that everybody restricts himself or herself to one square of toilet paper per sitting. This will result in the cutting down of fewer trees (so squirrels have a place to call home) and will thus produce more oxygen, on which as Crow so helpfully explains, "we heavily rely."
Now, I'm all for reduced consumption and living a lifestyle in sync with the rhythm of the planet. The Conservatree website has a much more detailed description of the point that Crow is trying to make. They state that only about 40% of any variety of tissue paper contains any recycled content. The biggest marketing campaigns for toilet paper are for the 100% so-called "virgin paper" varieties. I honestly have no idea where my own brand stands in that disparity.
But one square? Does anybody else think that's unrealistic?
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
You see, demographers maintain that in order for a society to break even in terms of population growth, every woman needs to bear 2.1 children in her life - 1 to make up for herself, 1 to make up for her husband, and .1 to make up for the women who are infertile or abstinent.
So when we had our third baby, we proudly claimed to have achieved the work that it would normally take ten women to do.
But now we've got four bundles of joy, and it would seem to be getting extraneous, would it not? We've done our part to help out society, and now modern wisdom holds that it's time to do the responsible thing and stop breeding.
But just the other day I read another bit of 1961's Catholic Viewpoint on Over-Population, which I've referred to before. Fr. Anthony Zimmerman is talking about the myth that contraception brings about fewer abortions by saying that the argument only works in a society where conception is avoided; in other words - only a contraceptive society has fewer abortions. He explains it further by delving into a society before contraception:
People were willing to have the children as they came. Promoters [of contraception] must first reverse this psychological attitude through propaganda, making babies to appear as burdensome, undesirable, and unnecessary. Only then can they sell the idea of contraception; and after contraception comes the first surge of abortions. A further intensification of the contraceptive campaign only increases the degree of hostility toward children, and the compulsion to abort after a failure. In the final situation a continued popularization of effective contraception may or may not reduce abortions; but the abortion rate will certainly remain infinitely above the level of the precontraceptive era. This has been the experience of Japan, where abortions were very few before 1948, but now number more than 2,000,000 per year.
Part of my own vision of my vocation as a husband and a father is to live the culture of life. I take a certain form of delight when people drop their jaws at the size of my family, especially when I tell them that we're not necessarily done. Then I like to help them recognize that the widespread cultural acceptance of the small family is an anomaly in history. I do this by referring to another concept that Fr. Zimmerman points out: any given person generally doesn't need to go back more than 2 generations to discover a large family. I pointed this out to a coworker today when she expressed amazement at the number of kids I now have, and she admitted that her own dad was from eight kids, and her mom was from twelve.
Other people talk about how expensive kids are these days, which is total bunk. Sure, we need to feed them and clothe them and send them to school and enroll them in extracurricular activities, but we don't need to go nuts in any of those elements. Even on a single income, our family makes enough to get by and still give to charity. We get our national child care benefit (thanks again Prime Minister Harper, for including our non-daycare-mentality family!) and our child tax benefit. I work hard at my job, and earn promotions and raises. We buy clothes at end-of-season sales, and we purchase our groceries efficiently too. There are many measures we could undertake to become even more financially independent; we have yet to plant a vegetable garden or learn to make & repair our own clothes. So the "I can't afford any more kids" argument doesn't fly with me. You can always afford what's important to you. Ask yourself: are kids important?
That's what our society is missing today - and Zimmerman practically predicted it nearly fifty years ago.
The good news - again from Zimmerman - is:
Nature's veto against contraception provides a delicate screening process which sifts the human race over the course of centuries. The prohibition is observed more carefully, to some extent at least, by the more conscientious members of the race. As a result, the offspring of conscientious couples gain some numerical advantage over those of contraceptors; in the course of generations this tends to sift out the segments of the race which practice contraception, and the favor the increase of the segments with stronger will power. The race is thus kept on a higher moral plane.
So my advice to any like-minded Catholic couples out there: breed like there's no tomorrow, for if you don't, there won't be.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Put your captions in the comments. My initial ideas are:
"Come on, Dutch genes, now would be a good time to spurt!"
"Hail the egg, giver of Chicken McNuggets!"
Have fun. :)
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
We were gone for about an hour and encountered so many varied scenes that I wished I'd brought my camera to post some pictures.
The first thing we did was stop at a small corner burger joint and get a burger, fries, and root beer to go. I let her dispense the fries at her own leisure while I chomped down on the burger (forgot to ask them to hold the mustard... eww). I met another young dad who was also taking his two-year-old daughter out to give his own wife peace with their newborn as well. He shamed me by picking up a plastic bag which drifted by on the breeze. I saw it first but was content to let it slide on by; he picked it up in full sight of his daughter. Karma points: him: 1, me: 0.
We kept on going, my daughter and I, to the St. Boniface Cathedral. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of this magnificent building, its construction started in 1905, and it dominated the Winnipeg landscape for more than 60 years, until it caught fire. The solid Tyndall stone walls and edifice remained standing; the rest burned to the ground. To this day the ruins are a magnificent sight to behold.
In 1972 a new cathedral was built within those ruins, in style typical to its era. It's a gaudy, sterile, steel-roofed monstrosity - in short, I don't like it. I've never met a convert to Catholicism who enjoys the architectural reformations of the past few decades.
When you think about what a Catholic church should look like, consider how the entertainment industry does it. If you saw one of the post-modern uglicons portrayed in an episode of Law & Order or The Da Vinci Code, you'd wonder what kind of church you were looking at. But when you see towering stone steeples and dark-stained pews balancing out a symmetrical interior peak, adorned with statues, frescoes, and stained glass windows, you know you're looking at a real example of Catholicism.
I must confess, though, that I have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to church renovations. As a Free Methodist, I was raised attending a church that still had strong overtones of traditional Anglican design in its layout. There were pews, a raised platform for the piano and organ, a higher platform for the pastor and any assistants, and even an altar rail where we would kneel to receive a piece of bread and a sip of grape juice on those rare Sundays when we would celebrate the Last Supper.
As I grew older, the church's demographic changed, and we started needing more room for our fellowship meals. So the place was gutted. The raised platforms were lowered and the altar rail was tossed. They also installed a utilitarian carpet and put venetian blinds on the stained glass windows. From then on, we sat in stacking chairs instead of pews, and the whole building took on a much more casual air. This was part of the school of thought in the '90s which held that people needed to be coddled and tricked into coming to church; if you challenge them or present them with something beautiful and magnificent, they'll push away in dread of "organized religion."
At the time I bought into it, but I soon realized that something was suddenly missing in the physical structure we assembled in to worship God. No, it wasn't God missing: it was a sense of reverence, a sense of beauty, a sense of sacrificial workmanship. We would still encounter God there - he meets us where we are, no matter what - but I felt like we had stepped back from him. It was no big deal for him to step closer to us, but when our worship space lost its elevated status it just presented one more obstacle to true intimacy with Christ.
So getting back to my walk... the first time I saw the interior of this new cathedral, inside the interior of the old cathedral, I felt like I had just been slipped a counterfeit bill. Here we have a splendid old building whose ruins still cause one to look upward and ponder the mysteries of the faith - and it's got, basically, a Protestant church inside it. I had to search for the location of the tabernacle the first time I entered the new cathedral. There are no kneelers; the floor is even sloped, which discourages kneeling while in the pews.
The paradox of the two buildings in one caused me to think about the state of the Church today. In many ways we have become a mere shell of ourselves; a massive ruin stands around the withered center of our earthly faith. "Come near and see what God has done for us!" it cries from a distance, and then upon closer approach the answer is, "He has freed us from recognizing his awesome deeds."
There's a rumour about the old cathedral's ruins, however. It is said that when the construction crews began the process of cleaning up the destruction after the fire, they tried to pull down the towering stone edifice but were unable to. They attached more chains and brought in stronger equipment, but for all the might they could muster, the stones would not budge.
That makes me think about the state of the Church today too.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Seasons come and go; emotions rise and fall. Today, Easter Sunday - for as Catholics we celebrate Easter Sunday for a full eight days, from Easter Sunday through the week including the next Sunday - I am so filled with peace and happiness that were I spontaneously to explode, my remnants would be a million roses.
For not only have I a precious new life dwelling under my roof (an oxygen-breathing life, that is, as opposed to her previous state of umbilical sustenance), but my Lord is risen!
Laudate dominum, omnes gentes! Praise the Lord, all peoples! Alleluia!
I'm sure that my emotional state won't last, but while it does I will enjoy it. I'm about to get very very tired, and there will be a lot to overcome in the next while, but for today all is well, and I rejoice.
Death is dead, my hope is fulfilled, my joy is complete. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
UPDATE: I just discovered that the meaning of "Abigail" - which we picked before knowing this - is "Father in rejoicing." Neat-o.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
We're all back home, 8 hours after leaving for the hospital.
Abigail Claire was born at 2:30 PM CDT April 7, weighing in at 9 lb 7 oz (our second-lightest baby, of the four girls so far). 10 fingers, 10 toes, already pooped and peed, and has figured out nursing (kinda).
This might be somewhat early, but... ALLELUIA!
Friday, April 06, 2007
Serpent's fang is biting from beneath.
Fulcrum's pivot: Never doubt his love.
"Peter, put your sword back in its sheath."
"This is me, so take, consume me now."
All his life's ambition is for you.
Drops of blood, as sweat, roll down his brow.
"Father, it is your will I will do."
Heart so hurt by sleeping friends below.
"Can not you stay awake for just one hour?"
Soldiers come. A kiss - a fatal blow.
"God has given me into your power."
"I find no guilt or crime within this man."
"Let his blood be on our own hands then!"
Amen, Amen, Amen!
Monday, April 02, 2007
Allow me to post a poem I composed shortly after his passing:
In triumph, the sacred keys fall to the marble floor,
The clatter echoing through the vaulted halls of antiquity.
The gatekeeper sleeps, but the gate is secure
As a rock which laughs at the futile rage of the foaming sea.
The light atop the rock shines in the darkness
And the darkness cannot overcome it.
Be not afraid! Its coded message blinks
In hopeful concern for a world in ruins,
In love for man gone mad with his excesses.
The red birds fly, in sorrow and in joy,
To the Eternal City where one of them will be exalted
To become the servant of all.
A new hand, withered with age, picks up the fallen keys
And the succession continues,
Full truth ever intact, ever tactful in truth.
Crowned with white
And washing my feet.
Lord God, bless your servant Pope John Paul II, and give a measure of his wisdom and spirit to Pope Benedict XVI. Be with your Church, and guide us through this troubled era.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
I imagine the man born blind; he is lying in his testimony to the Sanhedrin. "He said he would tear down the Temple and rebuild it in three days!"
I imagine the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus healed; he blindfolds Jesus and punches him in the stomach, then mocks, "Prophesy! Who was it who struck you?"
I imagine the single grateful leper; he is demanding of Pilate: "Barrabas! Release Barrabas!"
I imagine the men and women who lined the entrance to Jerusalem only a few days earlier, hailing the King of the Jews and lining his path with palm branches; now they spit on his crucified flesh and laugh: "Hail, King of the Jews!"
I imagine Lazarus, Zacchaeus (in a tree, of course), and Jairus. I imagine the man who had been possessed by a demon. I imagine the woman caught in adultery and released from her death sentence. I imagine the man lowered through the roof. I imagine the woman cured of her hemorrhaging. I imagine the rich young man. They are all calling out "Crucify him!"
I imagine Simon Peter uttering a profound and complete denial of his relationship with Jesus, three times.
I imagine rooster crowing, veil tearing, rocks breaking, earth quaking... the very fabric of the universe rejects this impossibility of God having just died.
I see myself at the foot of the cross, knowing that all that cruelty by all those people whom he had touched - I did these things to him myself.
For we must acknowledge, each of us, our own part in the condemnation and death of our Lord. We've all heard the clichéd phrase that he took our sins upon himself. But what does such a statement mean? It means that he became the object of any scorn or hate in our lives; he became the victim of any crime; he became the recipient of any fraud; he became the believer of any lie. "For anything you do to the least of these, you do to me," warns Jesus.
I know that I have betrayed him many times since he first touched my life; yet he does not stop loving me.
But also when I hear the Passion narrative, and I hear the crowd cry out, "Crucify him!" I must cry it with them, with a pleading in my voice: for it is only through his crucifixion that he saves me. Only when we beg, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" can we know redemption.
So yes, Pilate, please - crucify him. For my own good; for the good of all humanity. Crucify him, and let him save us from ourselves.