BAYOU LA BATRE, AL—Saying it was a “miscarriage of judgment,” and another sign of the country’s wayward direction, local grandfather Vern Owenby confirmed Tuesday that he has been outraged by President Barack Obama’s decision to appoint Loretta Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, to be the next attorney general of the United States. “I like her music and her records as much as the next guy, but she don’t know jack squat about running a nation,” said the 71-year-old amusement park attendant. “Knowing about country music don’t mean she knows about leading a country,” the visibly frustrated Owenby asserted. “First, we had that Schwarzenegger fella running the show in California, then the wrestler guy up in Minnesota, and now this country-western singer lady,” the septuagenarian said. “To turn this great nation around, we need to keep the entertainers out of politics, and get more serious politicians like Ronnie Reagan back into the important jobs.” Owenby added that he took some consolation in knowing that the new Attorney General would be white, unlike her predecessor Eric Holder.
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Early on in their protests, the demonstrators of Hong Kong adopted a song from the democratic Western world to be the unofficial anthem of their movement.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
So goes the chorus of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” The song was written more than 30 years ago for Les Misérables, a musical about the revolutionary period of France. The protesters of Hong Kong—mostly young students—made it their anthem because they saw parallels between the students in Les Mis who fought for revolution, and their own struggle.
“‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ describes the exact situation in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for Occupy Central, the main group behind the demonstrations, said. “Beijing is not listening to the voice of the people and we are trying to get our message out but no one is listening.”
What is that message? The Hong Kong protesters want full democracy for their 2017 election. The election is for Hong Kong’s top civil position of chief executive.
On August 31, China announced that the people of Hong Kong can vote in that election—but only for candidates preapproved by Beijing. This announcement is what triggered the protests, with demonstrators decrying it as “fake” Chinese-style democracy. They demand an unrestricted choice of candidates.
Back in 1997, when the British handed back Hong Kong to China, the Chinese promised Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. Now residents say that the freedom that distinguishes Hong Kong from the rest of China is rapidly disintegrating.
At their peak, the protests drew tens of thousands to the streets. They congested many of the city’s major traffic arteries, and sparked occasional skirmishes between demonstrators and police, who sometimes used pepper spray, batons and tear gas on the crowds. Some analysts believed the protests could spread into the rest of China, and viewed them as a legitimate threat to China’s ruling Communist Party.
But as the weeks have gone by, the number of protesters has been falling. Both Hong Kong and Beijing have said the students’ demands are impossible. On October 21, Hong Kong officials finally held a round of talks with students, and promised to deliver a report to Beijing about their demands. But no change resulted from the talks, and little is expected even if more discussions are held.
At present, it looks like the struggle of the Hong Kong students may be more accurately described by the lyrics of a different song from the Western world. It was written by Sonny Curtis in 1958, and is called “I Fought the Law”:
I’m breakin’ rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money ’cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
The protests are not yet over, but China’s refusal to make any real concessions, or to even to give the protesters any real recognition affirms that in Hong Kong, Beijing is the law—unyielding and uncompromising. The students of Hong Kong sang the song of angry men, and some are singing it still. But, despite their songs, efforts and struggle, it looks like the law won. ▪
By Jeremiah Jacques (this first appeared on theTrumpet.com)
What do you think would make you happier in the long term: winning the lottery, or permanently losing use of your legs in an accident? The answer may surprise you.
By Jeremiah Jacques
Many years ago, a young sultan ruled over a tract of territory along the shores of the Red Sea. Each time a burst of prosperity came his way, the sultan’s spirits soared to the loftiest altitudes of pride, extravagance and self-importance. But during times of adversity, he almost always fell to the depths of discouragement. His temper never knew a medium. The sultan was frustrated by complications that entered into his life as a result of the swings in his temperament, but he wasn’t sure how to pinpoint the problem, and much less to remedy it.
One day, news came to this sultan of a ruler in a nearby kingdom who was said to have boundless wisdom: Solomon, king of Israel.
Accounts of Solomon’s bewildering wisdom made the sultan eager to seek his counsel. He traveled to Jerusalem and was granted an audience with the king. He explained his erratic nature and provided Solomon with examples of the wide oscillations in his mood.
“Return to me in one month’s time. I’ll be able to help you then.”
The sultan went back to his palace, feeling elated, proud and immortal. After the prescribed duration had passed, he returned to Jerusalem and entered Solomon’s court. The king handed him a small box and told him to open it. Inside was a ring with this Hebrew phrase etched onto its surface: Gam zeh ya’avor, or This too shall pass.
“This proverb will serve as a constant reminder that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary,” Solomon said. “Wear it, remember it, and live by it.”
Some have attributed the well-known proverb, not to Solomon, but to medieval Persian Sufi poets, early Turkish writers or others. The account of King Solomon and the sultan isn’t recorded in the Holy Bible, but only passed down by Jewish oral tradition, so it isn’t possible to dogmatically say the Israelite king was its author. However, in his book This Too Shall Pass, Avi Solomon points to discoveries of ancient rings and amulets bearing the Hebrew version of the phrase as substantiation of the Jewish claims. Still, some versions of the Jewish account depict Solomon not as authoring the proverb, but as receiving it from another.
Regardless of the phrase’s origins, its wisdom and value are beyond debate. It is not just applicable to the wildly intemperate sultan in the account, but to every person alive. Abraham Lincoln once praised the succinct brilliance of the proverb, saying, “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.”
Consolation in the Depths of Affliction
When a person is in the middle of a trial, there is a tendency to think it will last indefinitely. We have a nearly impossible time occupying a certain moment—especially an emotionally difficult moment—and conceiving of a future in which we feel differently than we do at that moment. Yet, every one of us can reflect back on trials that seemed hopelessly dark at one point, but eventually mellowed, softened and brightened up. Time goes on, winter gives way to spring, and as King Solomon definitely said, “the sun also rises” (Ecclesiastes 1:5, American King James translation).
If we can remember that adversity will pass, we can weather life’s storms in a way that speeds and facilitates our growth.
But what about profoundly traumatizing events? Does the sun also rise on these? Will the “this” pass even when it involves soul-grinding suffering?
In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert says that even in the most extreme trials we generally bounce back. “Rather than being the fragile flowers that a century of psychologists have made us out to be, most people are surprisingly resilient in the face of trauma,” he wrote.
Gilbert cites studies that tracked people who’d suffered the loss of loved ones or had been paralyzed from the waist down in accidents. The researchers discovered that after just one year passes, almost all people—whether they had permanently lost use of their legs or a loved one—return to their baseline pre-loss levels of happiness. “Although more than half the people in the United States will experience a trauma, such as rape, physical assault, or natural disaster in their lifetimes, only a small fraction will ever develop any post-traumatic pathology.”
This doesn’t mean the suffering from all traumas and tribulations always completely dissipates. The scarring from some experiences is deep, and may leave us with long-term vulnerabilities. But in most cases, we are tougher than we think, and we have some say in how long and to what degree we remain injured.
In the first century, some members of the Church in Corinth believed their trials were abnormal and were more than they could stand. The Apostle Paul wrote to them, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Man has an astonishing capacity for resiliency. In the thick of a trial, we often feel like it’s more than we can bear. But relying on God for help means we can bear and escape it, and build godly character in the process. When suffering comes, we should strive to understand its depth and learn from it. When the time is right, we should let it pass like water flowing over a rock.
Caution: Conquests, Too, Will Pass
As tough as it can be to remember, during the throes of hardship, that it will pass, it’s usually even harder to keep in mind that times of abundance are subject to change.
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul lists nine character traits that every follower of Christ must strive to embody and display. Among these is temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). Merriam-Webster’s defines temperance as “moderation in action, thought or feeling.”
We can be joyous when conquests come our way. In fact, joy is a godly trait that Paul lists in that same letter. But we should remain grounded in gratitude toward God, and wary of riding an emotional high.
One of the studies that Dr. Gilbert cited in his book tracked happiness levels of people who won the lottery. Unsurprisingly, there’s a big surge in the levels of happiness the winners report in the months just after the fortune befalls them. But the elation is short lived. In fact, after one year passes, the data shows that the lottery winners and the paralyzed people were equally happy with their lives.
People often allow times of prosperity to inflate their egos and fill them with hubris. This stifles growth, and may compel a person to burn interpersonal bridges, or to take the prosperity for granted.
Remaining mindful of the impermanence of prosperous physical circumstances doesn’t mean we should limit our exposure to life, like some kind of monk or stoic. We can drink deeply from the wells of life, but must remember that times of prosperity are not guaranteed to last. That will help us to avoid arrogance and extravagance—and the suffering that comes with them.
This Shall NOT Pass
King Solomon said when a person’s life ends, he “shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). You might make arrangements for all of the material things you’ve collected to be crammed into your coffin when you die, but it won’t matter. Only one thing will remain after this life ends.
“[T]he spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). This verse describes the spirit in man, which is the depository of memory and character. (You can learn more about this spirit from our free booklet What Science Can’t Discover About the Human Mind.) When someone dies, this spirit returns to God, who keeps it “on file” until the time of judgment described in Revelation 20:12-15 and other passages.
The only thing that remains after death is the character a person built during life.
How is that character built? In the way the person responds to all experiences, both high and low, in this life.
If a person built righteous character with God’s help, it will never pass.
The Bible foretells a time when sorrow, pain and even death will pass (e.g. Revelation 21:4; 20:14). The entire surface of the Earth, and all the material things of this physical life, will pass away and be replaced by a “new earth” (Matthew 24:35; Revelation 21:1; Psalm 102:25-26).
Life is experience. It is rife with victories and disappointments, prosperity and trials. We can allow them to shove us all over the emotional spectrum, letting prosperity rush us into extravagance, and allowing adversity to hurry us into grief. Or we can view our experiences with a wider view, remembering that this physical life is so fleeting, and that the only thing that will never pass is godly character. With this truth firmly in mind, we can learn to temper our reactions. We can learn to speed our development of temperance and other traits of godly character. We can learn that this too shall pass.
This isn’t terribly exciting, but I knew that by announcing it here I would bind myself inextricably to my decision. So here it is:
For the month of August, I plan to do 100 push-ups each day, and reach the end of the month having done 3,000 total pushups.
Those of you familiar with the sophisticated algorithm represented by this diagram, will have noted something anomalous about my schedule:
That’s right. There are 31 days in August, so I have budgeted one extra day into my schedule to attain my goal. This allowance may come in handy in the event of a wasp-stung thumb, a flayed palm, or a leprosy-stricken cuticle.
Pushup count so far: 3,000! (updated August 31st)
Will you please do this or a similar August fitness challenge with me so we can encourage each other?
My least favorite word of all time is –I can’t believe I’m going to type this– it is onus.
To hear or read the word makes me cringe and shudder. Basically, the word gives me a bona fide case of the word willies.
Among the other words that dislike are spoon (when used as a verb), raunchy, and food.
I once thought it was strange to suffer from such an affliction, but I’ve recently learned that I am not alone.
My brother gets struck by a case of the word willies at the mention or sight of the word respite.
When my sister was small, the word hip gave her such an extreme case of the ailment that she opted to lose points on an oral body-part identification test rather than to utter that dreaded syllable to her teacher.
I have one friend who squiggles uncontrollably to hear the word spouse. Another friend has a robust aversion to any mention of a “hankering” —and another who abhors the word supple.
I met a young mother who hates the word sloppy so much, that when she serves shredded BBQ beef on a hamburger bun, she required her small children to call the sandwich an “Untidy Joseph”.
It’s fascinating to me that some of us hate certain words. Most cases of the word willies are easy enough to understand because they fall into one of these three categories:
(1) Words related to parts or functions of the body that may not be comfortable to discuss (goosepimple, ooze, gland, and goiter, for example).
(2) Profane or obscene words, or euphemisms for them. (you’re right to hate these. Their purpose is to offend, and they weaken language).
(3) Business speak (words like incentivize, solutionize, mainstreamification, etc. They feel phony and insincere, and I think they also weaken language).
It’s easy to understand feeling uncomfortable with words in these three categories.
But it is the fourth category that interests me more than any of these, and that is made of words that one shuns simply because of the combination of sounds contained therein….or because of the overall feeling of the word…
I don’t at all dislike the meaning of the words onus. I find it both precise and noble, actually. My friend who hates the word supple loves its definition. And my brother believes the meaning of respite is one that’s important to be able to convey to other human beings….a subtle shade lighter than hiatus, and slightly darker than break.
The trouble with these words is just that their consonants and vowels blend together like the voices of Bob Dylan and Rebecca Black might if they sang a duet together —in a way that is abrasive to certain pairs of ears.
In my case, my word-willy words are loathsome because, phonetically, they conjure up all manner of unpleasant textures. “Raunchy” sounds fibrous and tough like a mat of coarse hair. “Abstemiously”, by contrast, is among my favorite words because of the way it slides off of my tongue and sloshes around in my ear…(It also has the distinction of being the only word with all 6 vowels, once each, in alphabetical order!).
But, in some cases, it may be difficult to isolate a word from its meaning (just like it’s often tough for me to evaluate a woman’s haircut without being influenced by the face peering out from beneath it).
So now, the *gulp* onus is on you! Are there any words that give you the word willies? If so, why?
From late 2004 to mid 2007, I wrote and recorded a solo album called The Season of Reckless Goodbyes. The album’s two basic themes are (1) giving up the world in order to serve God, and (2) the global revolution that looms on the horizon.
But it would be tough to deduce those concepts just from listening to the songs because the lyrics are mostly allegorical and often encrypted.
I never really distributed the album the way I had with my first solo album called A Glass of Iranian Sand back in 2004, but now that I have this blog, I can share some of it with you. The recordings are just demo tracks laid down on my primitive multitrack recorder, but they’re enough to convey the gist of the songs.
Here is the album’s title track:
(Please excuse the weaksauce vocals especially. I’m no singer)
Here is the lyric:
The Season of Reckless Goodbyes
Go. Take your paintings off my wall.
Don’t forget the new one in the hall.
And if you listen to Fashion Nugget, love,
Please don’t do our “Daria” dance.
In fact, if it’s all the same, you and your latest flame
Can keep CAKE out of your romance.
So much for leaving right on time.
So much for the rest after the climb.
And so much for love unconditional
And farewell my fair-weather friend.
But what should I do with these memories?
Tell me please, what will they mean in the end?
The time from February till July
You declared the season of reckless goodbyes.
I could lay down my arms, I guess.
Our revolution would have one man less
We could be Jews in Jerusalem
Or Spaniards if we live in Spain
It doesn’t scare me to change or to rearrange
If I never have to explain.
The time from February till July
You decreed the season of reckless goodbyes.
She’s been on my mind a long lonely time.
A long long time.
On the surface, it’s a breakup song sung from the perspective of a heartbroken man. He’s telling his unfaithful woman to get out, and the schism is especially tough on him because their lives are so intricately intertwined. Paintings that she created decorate his house. Memories of her are interwoven into his thoughts about his favorite band, CAKE. Does the deep-rooted association destroy his ability to appreciate the band’s music? Probably.
I hope you enjoy it.