Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Shelter of the Ignorant

I have to share this. I do it because I probably have nothing better to write about today!
I have been pondering a statement made about me recently by someone who could not answer some questions I ask them. Actually, what happened was that I read something someone wrote and I wanted to know what they based their opinions on. Since I am intensely curious and nosey about everything, I asked.

Researcher that I am, I presented information to them that appeared to disagree with their opinion and asked them to explain how they got around it. Mind you, it was not MY opinion but documentation that directly conflicted with their opinion that I quoted. Their response was to make a statement about my "limited education". At first I got a bit irked because I was genuinely interested in their answers. I wanted to know where they were coming from and how they got there. Their “intelligent” response was that they became rude and resorted to name-calling.

I thought about it and, yes, I even prayed about it. I do not deliberately try and offend anyone and always feel it necessary to apologize. I try and present my beliefs and/or opinions with supporting facts and without personal attacks. I will usually answer every question truthfully, if I know. If I don't, I will say so.

Further thought let me to conclude that the truly intelligent person investigates and ask questions and when asked the how and why questions, will attempt to present their answers in a rational manner, even if they disagree with the questioner. But, if you don't actually have any answers, what do you do?

That was my answer. I would be tempted to retreat to the shelter of the ignorant.

I realized that when a person responds to questions with rudness and insults, it is ALWAYS because that person doesn't have the answers or they know they are wrong. They will either lie or they don't know and rather than tell the truth or show their ignorance, they retreat to the shelter of the ignorant -- denigration. Their gut reaction when unable to defend their position is to insult and belittle the challenger. It is an attempt to demoralize the individual and make them go away. This is how wars are started.
So, I thought some more. (You see how this works for me.)

The lack of a patch of parchment on the wall doesn't mean that the person asking the questions is "limited in education". Just because someone has a higher degree, say a PHD compared to a BA, means absolutely nothing in terms of intelligence or education. Crazy, huh?

You see, college is designed for a person who wishes to limit their education to one field, maybe two if you have nothing to do. The higher the degree, the more narrow and limited the knowledge. Yes, you get a general overview of other fields, but the focus of college education is the chosen vocation. College graduates are limited in their knowledge to the area they intend to focus on to make their living.

I know this because I have a college education. Frequently, I find that many college graduates can't carry on a conversation in anything but their specialty. They have moderate knowledge of mythology, history, literature, ancient cultures, anthropology, world religions, and major social movements. They are smart in one or two areas because they want to be. (Please no letters. I know you are all very smart and spent a lot of money on your degree. But that was a choice because the information you got is actually free at the library.)

Many self-educated people are brilliant and never attended college. Some of the greatest statesmen in American history were totally lacking in more than rudimentary education by today's standards, but they were readers. They read Blackstone's law, the Greek philosophers, the Bible, and any other book that passed their way. They could survive in the wilderness with no assistance. They built ships, houses, and roads. And they knew all about building nations. Yet they lacked a parchment. Their equivalent today is nowhere to be found.

Conclusion: "Schooling" doesn't necessarily equate with intelligence. The movers and shakers in history have not been social workers or doctors of anything. Yes, I know you serve a purpose but it is pretty limited in scope and people have to be sick to need you. How depressing. However, I’m sure we are all eternally grateful. Good job and all that.

I'm serious.

Back to ME. In light of all this thinking I was doing, I realized that I felt smart. (I didn't always feel that way.) I graduated with honors with a BA in history. I was invited to participate in an honors symposium of the college's brightest. I belong to the highest scholarship society in the country and their plaques are on the wall. I won awards in history and anthropology - their money paid my tuition. I was encouraged to go after a Master's degree.

However, why would I? Since I had always read everything from encyclopedias to references books for entertainment why would I want to spend +$60,000 for something I could get free? I only went to college in the first place because the current job market requires a person with a degree and I would hate working at Wal-Mart even more that I hate shopping there! And I actually hate working! I’d rather be reading something or learning something or writing something.

My only regret is that I didn't get my teaching certification because I love teaching children. But that meant two years of even more narrow education and that would bore me to tears. There is too much to learn to focus on one thing for 30 years.

Oh, you want to get rich? Ah.

So, what did my ratiocination reveal? I have to admit I considered responding to the brilliantly rude mind but after my thinking session a little voice in my ear said, "Why? Their reaction to your questions proved your point. You should be satisfied because.... you were right."

I smiled.

Oh wow, I love it when I'm right.

Note: Education is good, very, very good. But all the education in the world won't make you a nice person.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Weekend Update

I have been so busy that this blog has sort of fallen by the wayside. My Yahoo 360 blog, on the other hand, is what has kept me so busy. Well, in addition to my family. The new baby is adorable and sweet but one forgets how much work and how much noise they make!

This weekend, Sunday, we have her dedication service. My aunt & uncle are supposed to drive in from Georgia for the weekend and be there will us. It appears it will be Becca's mom and dad, me, Jerry, and Mike, Dave, Becca, my sister, my aunt & uncle. I don't think anyone else is coming but that is a a lot.

I am trying to get my house cleaned. Becca's mom is cleaning for me today. I will pay her to do it and she is really good at cleaning. She did it for me once before and it was so nice.

The weekend will be busy and noisy I suspect. We are awfully crowded because of Dave & Becca moving back in but we are managing. I had a new door put up in the den into the garage. The old one was in bad shape and wouldn't lock. Now all I need is a door on the den into the kitchen to give that room some privacy. We are going to put a new door on my bedroom and the one that is there is a good door (just doesn't match the ones I had to change out because they were shot). I am going to try and put the old door up in that den/kitchen entry. It will be just fine in there if it works.

My mother got out of the nursing home. She had been there a couple of months because she broke her leg. Shis 70 yrs old and has diabetes and a calcium deficiency in her bones. The leg broke in 5 places while they were trying to put pins in it so she was put in a nursing home to heal. They say she is fine.

Mike is doing well and is at the stage that he feels very angry with the ex-wife and says he is glad he is not married to her anymore. He says he realized it was the biggest mistake he ever made. I suspect it is the normal cycle of loss that most people feel. He is a very loyal person and very dedicated, even in the midst of his problems he remains loyal to those he loves.

I think what bothers him most is the manner in which she behaved. Sly, sneaky, and without any honest in her dealings. I reminded him when he said as much that I had told him BEFORE he married her that she was a liar and he wouldn't listen. He said he remembered and that he wished he has listened. Then he said, "I'm never going to do that again." But he probably will because he never sees anything bad in anyone until they nearly destroy him.

Well, gotta get busy now. Duty calls. Check out my 360 blog. The link it on the left.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Killing The Bug

The last Saturday of January 2002, I spent most of the day and all night looking for a bug. Not the nasty brown bugs that scurry for cover when you turn on the light, but a bug of a different color. However, this bug is harder to catch than the multi-legged kind.

The day started pretty well. I had it all planned. I was going to have everything done in time for church that night. Saturday’s are usually the only day I have to do laundry and clean house. It usually takes all day and part of the evening to get everything done. But we were in revival and I wanted to try and make it that night. Due to a variety of things, Thursday and Friday had been a wash. The week had not ended well and perhaps that should have been a warning.

Anyway, I planned to pay the bills and tally up the bank account so we could see where we stood financially the coming week. After all, Jerry got laid off that week and we were short an income. You don’t want to spend money until you know how much you have to spend, especially when there is less that there was the week before.

I sat down and began to work on the account but was rudely kicked out. A little box told me there was an error and if I could not resolve it I should contact the vendor. O.k. I turned the machine off and tried again. I didn’t even get into the program that time. It just locked up. So I turned it off again and tried again . . . several times. No luck. Now I was worried. Something was wrong and I could not figure out where. I read the error message carefully. It told me what it was and where it was, sort of. Actually, it gave me a bunch of numbers and letters arranged in meaningful clusters that made total sense . . . to a computer guru. (Guru: A person of great wisdom or extensive knowledge.) But again, it told me if the problem continued to contact the vendor.

I thought I might be able to work this out. I am fairly literate about computers. What I know I learned the hard way. I had a computer when there were no windows! I am one of the few ancient wise women who actually know what DOS stands for and how to use it if the need ever arises. Bill Gates will have to die first.

So, I uninstalled the program. After all, I could have a corrupted data file that was causing the crash. I reinstalled the program. I started to work, made a few entries and was booted out again. I scanned the drive. For the non-computer person, this means I ran a system check, not physically looked at it, to see if there were physical problems with the files or hard drive. There wasn’t. Next, I defragmented the drive. No it wasn’t broken. This means I told it to get itself organized, to put the files in a logical order that it could easily understand. Then I ran a virus scan to see if a bug had crept in. Nothing.

I uninstalled the program and reinstalled it . . . five times. Each time it locked up and wouldn’t let me in and if I was able to get in, it kicked me out. Something was VERY wrong. So I called my service technician. I got a woman. Great, I think, someone who speaks my language, shares my grief, and understands my frustrations. She asked me if I had virus software and if it was up to date. I said I did and explained what. She said I might have a virus it missed because I did not have an up-to-date version of the program. Hmmm. Then, she walked me through a process she said would fix the problem. I thanked her and hung up, happy that the problem was solved.

I started the program and got to work. Worked great. I thought I should print out the register, though, just in case something else went wrong. You can never be too careful with computers. I hit the print key. Up pops a window telling me I have an error. It tells me what it was and where it was, sort of. It wasn’t the same error. It was a new one.

Stupid woman. She didn’t actually sound very nice either. She had a cold, know-it-all voice. And she must not have had a clue or I wouldn’t be having another problem. And the system was not booting up correctly now, at all.

I called back. I got a man, who sounded like he was in a smoky room in Casablanca. He said something and I said, “Excuse me?” I could barely understand him. When we are able to finally communicate, which means I dredged up my Spanish class ears and put them on, I told him my problem.

He said, “Is all your data backed up?” I did like the way words rolled off his tongue.

“Well, sort of.” I said. That means not in the last six months. “Why do you ask?”

“You should back up all your data and reformat.”

There was a long, pregnant pause. I put my head in my hand. “Do you know how long it takes me to get everything back on after a format?”

“I understand,” he said.

“It takes weeks and I have a church newsletter to have out by next Sunday.”

He didn’t respond. Perhaps we had a bad connection. “What might be causing this?” I asked.

“It might be a virus that your software failed to catch.”

I sighed. He had read the note screen, of course. Stupid woman.

“Thank you,” I sighed again and hung up.

So, I began backing up data, stopping only to eat and take potty breaks. It took the better part of three hours to locate and backup all the data I had to save. It is a time consuming, boring, tedious process. You have to hunt down everything you think might be important and copy it to an external disk. Some things are easily found because you tell the computer where you want it stored. Sometimes programs store information where they want to store it, unless you order it not to. And sometimes they do it anyway!

Around 9:00 p.m. I was ready to reformat. At 3:00 a.m. I went to bed, secure in the knowledge that I had rooted out the bug. I had reinstalled all necessary software but I suspected the church newsletter was going to be late. I just hoped I would not be late for church in the morning!

I wasn’t, but I was dead on my feet. As long as we were standing I was fine but when I sat down, I wanted to curl up and snooze. But during the service a voice in my head began to speak. I grabbed my trusty notebook and pen and started to write.

“The computer is a great tool. You load it with all the necessary things to make it work efficiently and as long as you follow the operating procedures everything is great. Follow the manual and you can do a lot of great things that would take hours without a computer.

“You also have the Internet. It is a great resource, a place where tons of information is provided, usually free of charge. But there are a lot of hazards. You go out on the Web and there is always the risk of infection by a virus. Even though you may have an anti-virus program to protect you, a virus can get through and cause terrible damage, even a system crash. Then, you have to locate the problem and root it out. Sometimes the only alternative it to wipe everything out and start over.

“Infection can result without your knowing it. A virus can come in and attach itself to a file and secretly corrupt it so badly that the program no longer even works. Sometimes a virus has the ability to replicate and move to other programs until, suddenly, right in the middle of the most important thing the whole system comes crashing down. Some viruses have the power to totally wipe out everything on your system.

"The computer is like Christians and the Internet is like the world. Christians can cruise along in the world, unaware of their surroundings, secure that they are protected by their beliefs and faith. They move from place to place and at each stop, hidden viruses lie in wait. They attach themselves secretly and begin their work. Even though Christians are trusting in their “anti-virus” religious experience they can still be infected by the viruses lurking in the world.”

I stopped writing at that point. I understood the message. More importantly, I understood why my computer crashed that weekend.

Spiritual viruses lurk around every corner. Each person we meet, each place we go may have something waiting to infiltrate our minds and cause a system failure. And if we don’t detect it, we risk passing it on to someone else. Just because we are Spirit-filled Christians doesn’t mean we are impervious to contamination. It means we are supposed to be on guard, watching for those viruses that may attach, replicate, and corrupt us, and those around us.

Anti-virus programs are absolutely necessary for any computer that will be exchanging information with another computer. However, all anti-virus programs must be updated, usually weekly. Every day a new computer virus comes out and whole companies are devoted to developing applications that will stop them. As of January 25, 2002, my computer was protected against 58,571 viruses and as of November 5, 2005, my protection had reached 70,773. So too, do we need to keep our spiritual programming updated. What worked to get us through today may be useless tomorrow. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. – Matt. 6:34”

After I left church that Sunday, I ate lunch and went back to work on the computer. I stopped and went to church Sunday night. By then, my eyes were beginning to cross. When I got home I worked until midnight. Finally, I had had enough. I crawled off to bed. Monday morning could truly be called Black Monday. I missed four hours of work. I had a migraine coming to call and I was soooo tired. But the computer was working. However, I still had days of work to do.

The bug is dead and my anti-virus program is running. I hope it is working.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Heaven's Library

There is a paradox about writers, at least for me. I have problems with ideas. They tell me that every writer has the same problem but I can’t say that Michael Critchton appears to have ever experienced that phenomenon, nor has Patricia Cornwell. I have a boring, uninteresting life so my choices are rather slim, but sometimes a good idea can pop up out of nowhere and average things end up as grist for the mill.

For me, the effect is somewhat like standing in front of the mirror brushing your teeth and without warning, a third eye appears in your forehead. Toothpaste runs down the front of your shirt and your electric toothbrush roars off without you. I usually have the presence of mind enough to stop the toothbrush, rinse, and find a pad and pen before I lose it completely.

For a couple of years I have been getting these scenes in my head that just seem to pour out on the paper. I race to get them down and end up with a couple of thousand words at a time. Last year I realized that I had a story. I had written enough by this time that I knew the direction I wanted it to go. I had the main characters assigned to the parts I wanted them to play and the bad guy was already decided. Everything was sailing along on crystal seas. I could feel the summer breeze in my hair and feel the warm sun caressing my skin.
Then, that third eye thing happened and changed everything. I sat down on the toilet seat to recover. I had never had such a thing happen before and the impact was shattering to my psyche. How could such a thing happen when one had the story already planned and things were flowing well? I had heard of such epiphanies but never believed in them. Did I say everything had changed?

Once I was able to take my head from between my knees, I went to my computer and dashed off an email to my writing professor from college. He is quite adept as slapping sense back into his students and he relishes doing it. We have remained friends because I like gruff, opinionated people who are nice to me. I think he is nice to me because I like gruff, opinionated people. Ultimately, he is a born teacher and will offer tons of advice in terse form.

His response was as terse and comforting as I could have hoped. “Way too often characters go their own way. You can’t stop them. And, in the long run, it works out rather well. It is as though your subconscious is at least one curve ahead of you.

“Besides, you have to learn that nobody is as pure as you want them to be. Broken, lost people find their way, and we are charmed by those stories. Equally, people we think know what they are doing and are good turn out to be bad apples. Those stories smart a little, but it reminds us of reality.

“I’d just go the way the character wants to go. Nudge him into place later.”

It sounded like good advice. I felt better, assured I was not crazy to follow where the erratic muse was leading. It was after 1:00 a.m. by then so I went to bed, thinking about the changes that would be needed in the story. As I was contemplating the major changes to my story line and drifting off to sleep that third eye popped open and a new thought began to take shape. I was learning quickly that this was a double-edged sword, both painful and instructive. Fortunately, this time, I was not brushing my teeth. To this day, I am still not sure if I was dreaming or not. I didn’t stop the process. I just allowed my mind to drift along on the dream.

I was in a long corridor in a palace. Tall, gilt-trimmed columns supported the ceiling and along the walls were floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books. There were millions of books and other corridors went off to the left and right all along the central corridor. I had never seen such a library. It was book-lover’s heaven. A dozen lifetimes would not be enough to read them all. I could almost feel the disappointment with the realization that I would never be able to read every book.

I moved along the corridors and wondered what all these books were and immediately, I knew that I was standing in Heaven’s Library. No other place could such a building exist, with such vast halls and so many books. I was curious as to what they could possibly contain to merit lining the halls of the creator’s palace. What importance could they have to him that he would keep them?

My mind shuffled through scripture, searching for places in the Bible that referred to books and writers. Paul called Jesus the author (Hebrews 2:20; 5:9; 7:10; 12:2; and 20:12). And John said, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12).

It was the first time in my life I really thought about the four words in the middle of that verse. Everyone always puts such importance on what was happening in the chapter and they never mention those four words, “the books were opened”. But here, in my dream or vision, as I began to examine the books closely, I believe I found an answer something important.

Each book is the draft of an individual’s life written by the creator. They contain the vital statistics of each person at each stage of their life. When the Bible tells us he knows the number of hairs on our head, it is because he has a record in our book.

What is even more interesting is that each book -- yours, mine, your friend’s -- tells the story as He would like the story of that person’s life, each step he would like them to take, every word he would like to hear them say. The characters are people he loves. They have traits and habits and talents. He knows their abilities and he wants them to use them as he planned. He wrote each one as a love story and all the endings are beautiful, happy endings. Then, He placed them on the shelves and handed the pen to the lead character . . . because editing the final draft is up to them.

He has to let the character finish the story. He has no choice. Every character in every story has the ability to do as they please. He knows how HE wants the story to go but the characters, as in any good story, write the story themselves. They can do what they want, go where they want, say what they want, and think what they want. The Author can stop them but ultimately once he creates the character and puts him in the story, he gives them life. Once they begin to breath, they begin to go their own way. The greatest Author won’t interfere but will allow the story to unfold.

The characters can make choices that change the entire direction of the intended story. They may take paths that lead to dead ends and have to be backtracked in order to find a better direction. They do things that they were never intended to do and say things they were not intended to say. They even think things they were never supposed to think.

The Author can try to pull them back on track but if he does, characters can become down right hostile. They balk, they fight, they argue, they struggle and run. He can gently try to steer them back on course. With some, he succeeds and the story exceeds his expectations. The character does wonderful, amazing things.

However, many times the characters simply do not cooperate and the story falls apart. It may be re-written … sometimes over and over, but to no avail. The story reaches a point that the Author knows it is never going to be publishable. Yet, he doesn’t throw it out. He puts it in a place where no one ever sees it, no one but him. Only he knows how the story was supposed to go. And for every unfinished novel a part of him grieves. As he reads over his writing he sees gems throughout that confirm the writing was good. The story was right but something… something special just never appeared or the character took a wrong turn.

The Author never feels that any story is a waste of time but some just never reach their potential. Ultimately, the finished product will never be what it was intended to be. They are aligned along the shelves, never forgotten but never reaching the masses with their message. And so, the corridors of the Court of Heaven are lined with works in progress, unfinished masterpieces, final drafts that just did not meet expectations, and the world will never read the real story, the one that would have made a difference.

My dream ended and I don’t really know what else I saw or learned there. Maybe it was really a dream that meant nothing. For me, it was a revelation into my own life. I am an unfinished product and my life is still being written. I get to decide which story is told.

A great poet said these words, “. . . my tongue is the pen of a ready writer: . .” (Ps. 45:1) Ultimately, it is up to me. I can tell the story my way or I can take the first draft, find ways to improve on the plan, polish it, add special touches until it shines. I can be bound in leaves of gold and put in a place of honor for all to read. Or I can be one of the unfinished manuscripts that no one ever reads and which will remain stored in the library of Heaven as a memorial to what could have been.