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New Years Eve: Our Hopes and Our Will to Try

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is New Year’s Eve and in some parts of the world it is already 2017, it is amazing how time flies.

After the year that was 2016 with its seeming unending cycle of violence, hate, war, destruction, and political turmoil including Brexit and the 2016 Presidential campaign that culminated in the election of Donald Trump is over. Overall 2016 was a difficult year, and some would even call it bad. One hundred years ago the world was engaged in a war that was killing thousands of men a day. Some hoped that 1917 would be better, but it wasn’t. In fact in some ways the conflagration that had erupted in 1914 would get far worse.

I hope that 2017 is different and turns out better than 2016, we certainly could use a break, but the forces of history and nature are sometimes greater than our hopes, but we can always hope. Even so more than hope we who believe in liberty, freedom, humanity, brotherhood, and justice must work against the forces of war, terrorism, dehumanization, and political ideologies that are designed to enslave, devalue, and marginal people based on race, religion, gender, color, or belief.

I believe that the forces that made 2016 so terrible will not take a break and that we need to stand up and do the right and sometimes the hard things in order to protect liberty. The time for safe zones is past, as progressives we have to toughen up; think rationally, and act strategically if we are to protect the liberties of all people, including people who will find out far to late that they placed their trust in the wrong place. But I digress…

Many people will see in the New Year singing Auld Lang Syne. I suppose that as Judy and I pop the Champagne and toast tonight when we watch the Ball descend in Times Square on our television, safe from all the drunk drivers that we will as well. Not that we will be isolated, we will go out earlier and see our friends at Gordon Biersch around dinner time and get out before the crowds get going and the place gets too loud and crazy for our tastes.

But my favorite song for the New Year is Abba’s Happy New Year.  Like Auld Lang Syne it is a melancholy song of the end of one year’s hopes, dreams and expectations and hopes and dreams for the New Year. I think one of the lines that I like, one which I think calls on us to actually do more than hope, but to act on hope, is “May we all have a vision…” A vision requires that we begin to imagine a better future, in a sense it is to dream, as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

To fulfill that dream and vision we must live, work, dream and imagine that things can be better, and as Dr. King said, Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…

The song, Happy New Year ends with this verse, May we all have our hopes, our will to try, If we don’t we might as well lay down and die, You and I

Here is wishing you the best New Year possible, and I for one will not lay down and die.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Future Comes One Day at a Time: Padre Steve’s New Year Eve 2013

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“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”  Abraham Lincoln

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uo0JAUWijM 

Abba Happy New Year

Well finally we come to the end of the year 2013.  That being said we can say that it was definitely a year. It was a year filled with days which were filled with hours which were filled with minutes, seconds and nanoseconds.  It was a year of triumph and tragedy that filled the hearts of many with fear and unease.  At the same time it is now in the past. It cannot be relieved or changed but we can take the time to learn from it and hopefully build a better future.

2013 like all of the past will be remembered and written about by historians, theologians journalists and philosophers and most will place their own interpretation on it and then go on to surmise the future.  I do not presume to be that smart until someone starts paying me to make such learned prognostications.  However the future is unknown and even Jesus warned us “that we do not know what tomorrow brings.”

I am a historian. For me history is not just something dead in the past but a living reality that influences us in everything we do. As such I thing we need to learn lessons from history and apply that knowledge to what we do now. We do not live in a vacuum, if we did we would be very dusty and always spinning around, but I digress.

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Uncertain Times 

I think that we have to learn from the past in order to be ready for the future. But the future is unknown and often uncharted.  Thus we should as George Patton said  “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” That really is the reason I study history, not so we have a laundry list of facts events and dates that I can use to prove my point but rather to see how people and nations dealt with things that they either could not or did not foresee. Human nature doesn’t change and while circumstances and technology may change the way people deal with unforeseeable events can help us navigate future difficulties. It is not a guarantee but it is a help.

Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban wrote today that “None of us are born into the world we live in.”  That is so true because we are all born at a moment in time and the world is always changing and changing is ways that will always surprise us. Maybe not some of the events themselves, but the players that make things happen, the places that they happen and the speed of which they happen.  Time stands still for no person.

Though the future is yet to be written though people of faith place the future in the hands of God we cannot erase the past and go back to some point in time where our interpretation of history says that things were better. Such thinking is pure fantasy and is  quite delusional.

Golda Meir said “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” Unfortunately most politicians and pundits do not understand this as George Orwell so poignantly noted “All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

I think that is a large part of why we are in the political mess we have been in for so long in this country and probably why my spiritual search will never really end.

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Rat from Pearls Before Swine and I have a lot in Common 

For me 2013 was a year of growth and learning.  After 5 years of doing hospital work I am back in academia teaching ethics, military history and a class on working with IGOs, NGOs and the private sector in humanitarian operations or in combat zones. The new assignment will be quite rewarding and I expect to start work on a Ph.D. this year so that when I retire from the military I will be better positioned to teach and do other things in these academic areas.

In 2013 I made plenty of mistakes and really haven’t deviated too much off of the Mendoza Line.  But hopefully have learned from those mistakes. I thought about making specific resolutions for 2014 but decided against it, I don’t want to have to give myself “resolution absolution.”  I figure that there is no way that I could make it through New Year’s Day if without totally screwing them up so why bother.

However that being said I do resolve this year is to go out every day, do my best and try not to screw things up too badly.  It is the same attitude that I have playing baseball or softball, so why not apply it to the rest of my life?

English poet Thomas Hood penned this:

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen. Thomas Hood

All this being said I think that the wisest thing ever said about the future was by Yogi Berra who wisely remarked “The future ain’t what it used to be.” But then was it ever what it used to be?

Tonight I will usher in the New Eve with Judy and our Papillon Dachshund mix Molly and Papillon Minnie after going out to dinner and for a few beers with friends at Gordon Biersch.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Blessings my friends, Happy end of the Old Year and all the best for the New Year!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

Let’s Share a Pint for Auld Lang Syne: Padre Steve Remembers 2010

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Second verse of Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year from Padre Steve

In his book A Tale of two Cities Charles Dickens wrote “that it was the best of times and the worst of times” and I think that for many people the year 2010 matched that description quite well. I know for me it has been a year marked by the recovery of faith and personal achievement muddled with failure and loss, life and death, opportunity and disappointment.  It has been a year of personal growth but not without pain, it has been a year where I began to feel joy again but also the pain of loss with the passing of my dad.  It was a year of transition as I left the church that I had served for 14 years as a Priest and a change of duty assignments with a promotion.  It has been better than the past few years but not without its difficulties. It has been the best of times and the worst of times.

It has been the same for many people that I know, friends and family have had similar experiences this year and for many of them 2010 has been exceptionally painful and fraught with tragedy, suffering and great loss.  Having shared these times with friends I know that there is little that can be said except to sit quietly with them.  Having experienced such times since returning from Iraq I know that it was the people that were there for me that didn’t have the answers that were the most helpful.

2010 was difficult for many around the world due to war, economic crisis and natural disasters.  Close to home over 700 American and other NATO troops were killed fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the war there will certainly continue with casualties likely to rise as the intensity of combat increases. For those that return with injuries that affect them in body, soul and spirit the war does not go away simply because they have returned home.  The past for those of us that have experienced war tends to always remain in the present and cloud our vision of the future.

The English poet Thomas Hood penned this poignant verse which I think encompasses what many have gone through in 2010 but with the hope that 2011 will be kinder to all of us.

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.

The passing of the Old Year and beginning of the New Year always is a time of reflection for me looking back as well as looking forward. For those that have experienced a loss in the past year the time can be filled with pain because the hole left in our lives by the loss is not filled. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “Creation Fall and Temptation” something that means much to me and which I often paraphrase when conducting the funeral or memorial service for a young person.  It is a quote born of wisdom and which recognizes the loss and holds it dear.

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

The marking of the New Year and remembrance of the old with our friends and families is important, something that binds us together in ways that are both personal and spiritual.  While for many the coming of the New Year is marked by drunken revelry I think that it is best spent quietly with friends and family if at all possible.  I remember New Year’s Eve of 2008 in Iraq when I celebrated it quietly with Father Jose Bautista after returning from my two week journey to the Syrian Border. We celebrated quietly watching movies and drinking non-alcoholic beer, they only kind that we were allowed to drink.

I found then that the New Year is a time to be human as God intends us to be living in the real world because it is God that wants us to, caring for each other and not avoiding life, but living in its joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, love and loss.  As Bonhoeffer wrote: “I’m still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.”

To live in the moment with those that we love in the real world and to know that God loves the real world, both the good and the bad, not our idea of an ideal human, but real people just as they are. God loves this real world not an ideal world of our imaginations, but the real world. This world and humanity that we are often tempted to shrink back from with pain and hostility is the real world.  It is imperfect and often unjust, but it is the world that we are called to live in that is for God the ground of unfathomable love.

2010 was a difficult year and for me the best of times and the worst of times but it is what it is and maybe 2011 while certain to have its share of sorrow will be better for all of us.  I think some of what I feel can be summed up in the song Happy New Year by Abba.  The song is somewhat melancholy but it is real.

No more champagne and the fireworks are through

Here we are me and you feeling lost and feeling blue

It’s the end of the party and the morning seems so grey

So unlike yesterday now’s the time for us to say…

Happy new year, Happy new year May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Sometimes I see how the brave new world arrives

And I see how it thrives in the ashes of our lives

Oh yes, man is a fool and he thinks he’ll be okay

Dragging on, feet of clay never knowing he’s astray

Keeps on going anyway…

Happy New Year, Happy New Year may we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Seems to me now that the dreams we had before

Are all dead, nothing more than confetti on the floor

It’s the end of a decade in another ten years time

Who can say what we’ll find what lies waiting down the line

In the end of eighty-nine…

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Abba Happy New Year Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcLMH8pwusw

As I look to the New Year and remember the old I do pray that 2011 will be better for everyone those here are home and those in harm’s way in combat zones.  As someone once said:  “Here’s a toast to the future, A toast to the past, and a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant; The past a bright dream; May our friends remain faithful and dear.”


Peace

Padre Steve+

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