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Study the Past, Don’t Live in It

Matt-Frewer-as-Berlingoff-Rasmussen-TNG-A-Matter-of-Time-7

Friends at Padre Steve’s World

I tend to become somewhat reflective as the New Year approaches. I am reminded of Peter Benchley, who wrote, “The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time. And the present never looks as good as it will in the future.” Likewise, St Augustine of Hippo once asked “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?”

Augustine’s question is interesting, but I think that his question is flawed. I think that the past lives in the present much more than we would like to think and that our future, though unwritten can unfold in a multitude of ways and possibilities.

Many of us live in the past as if it were today. We, individually and collectively, as individuals and nations live in the past and look to it much more fondly than when it was our present. I think that historian Will Durant possibly said it the best: “The past is not dead. Indeed, it is often not even past.”

As a historian myself I value the past and seek answers and wisdom from it to use in the present because what we do in the present does, for better or worse defines our future. Confucius said “study the past if you would define the future.” He was quite wise, he said to study the past, did he did not say to live in it.

That is something that I have been learning for over 20 years now when my Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, used a Star Trek Next Generation metaphor from the episode A Matter Of Time in order to teach me how my past was influencing the way I was living my life.In the episode a shadowy visitor who claimed to be from the future refuses to help the crew of the Enterprise save an endangered world, claiming that if he were to help them, that his “history – would unfold in a way other than it already has.”

Finally, after other all other possibilities were exhausted, Captain Picard was forced to make a decision and confronted the visitor, who as it turned out to be a thief from the past, using time travel to collect technology to enrich himself by bringing it back in time. Picard makes a comment which I think is pertinent in a time like ours.

“A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices! Now, you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one that appears in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well… you know, Professor, perhaps I don’t give a damn about your past, because your past is my future, and as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been written yet!”

When my supervisor told me that my past did not have to be my future, it opened a door of life and faith that I had never experienced before and which showed me that life was to be boldly lived in the present. While it meant a lot then, it means more now for the past according to William Shakespeare “is prologue.”

We cannot help being influenced by the past. We should indeed learn from it, but we cannot remain in it or try to return to it. Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Since I am a Christian, at least by profession, my faith in that future is in the God who is eternal, the God of love. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables said “Love is the only future God offers.” That is the future that I want to envision.

Unfortunently there are many people who claim the same Christian faith that I claim who attempt to return to an imaginary past and to try to legislate that past onto others who do not share their beliefs, if necessarily using the police powers of the state to do so. Such is neither honest because it attempts to enforce a mythologized past on others, nor Christian, because ultimately the Christian hope is focused on the yet to be realized future and not the past, it has nothing to do with establishing some kind of theocratic Christian state that denies rights and a future to all but like minded Christians.

Living is making choices and the future hinges on thousands of them. Many of these choices we make automatically without thought simply because we have always done them that way, or because that is how it was done in the past. However, if we want to break the cycle, if we want to live in and envision that future of the God of love then we have to live in the present though the past lives in us.

T.S. Elliot penned this verse:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

The coming year promises to be challenging, and the tensions between those who want to return to the past, especially the predominantly Christian cult  devoted to President Trump and making America great again and those who believe in an inclusive hope and future for all will be on full display.

As for me, I choose the path of Picard; because my future, and our future, hasn’t been written yet, and cannot be surrendered to those who want to return us to a mythologized past that never existed in history, but which they want to legislate today.

My choice in our time is to resist, and to fight for a future that includes everyone.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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2017: A Future Not Yet Written that Hinges on Each of a Thousand Choices

new-year

Friends at Padre Steve’s World

I tend to become somewhat reflective at the New Year, maybe more this year than in past years. I am reminded of Peter Benchley, who wrote, “The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time. And the present never looks as good as it will in the future.” Likewise, St Augustine of Hippo once asked “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?”

Augustine’s question is interesting, but I think that his question is flawed. I think that the past lives in the present much more than we would like to think and that our future, though unwritten can unfold in a multitude of ways and possibilities.

Many of us live in the past as if it were today. We, individually and collectively, as individuals and nations live in the past and look to it much more fondly than when it was our present. I think that historian Will Durant possibly said it the best: “The past is not dead. Indeed, it is often not even past.”

As a historian myself I value the past and seek answers and wisdom from it to use in the present because what we do in the present does, for better or worse defines our future. Confucius said “study the past if you would define the future.” He was quite wise, he said to study the past did not say to live in it.

That is something that I have been learning for over twenty years since my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency Supervisor, using a Star Trek Next Generation metaphor from the episode A Matter of Time to confront me about living in the past. In the episode a shadowy visitor claiming to be from the future refuses to help the Captain Picard and crew of the Enterprise claiming that if he were to help that his “history – would unfold in a way other than it already has.”

Finally Picard is forced to make a decision and confronts the visitor, who turns out to be a thief from the past using time travel to collect technology to enrich himself. Picard responds:

“A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices! Now, you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one that appears in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well… you know, Professor, perhaps I don’t give a damn about your past, because your past is my future, and as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been written yet!”

He was in telling me that my future did not have to be my past, and that opened a door of life and faith that I had never experienced before and which showed me that life was to be boldly lived in the present. While it meant a lot then, it means more now for the past according to William Shakespeare “is prologue.”

We cannot help being influenced by the past. We should indeed learn from it, but we cannot remain in it or try to return to it. Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Since I am a Christian, at least by profession, my faith in that future is in the God who is eternal, the God of love. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables said “Love is the only future God offers.” That is the future that I want to envision despite the hatred that I see and hear from those who devalue and dehumanize people in the name of their religious beliefs or political ideology, which too often are indistinguishable.

Living is making choices and the future hinges on thousands of them. Many of these choices we make automatically without thought simply because we have always done them that way, or because that is how it was done in the past. However, if we want to break the cycle, if we want to live in and envision that future of the God of love then we have to live in the present though the past lives in us.

T.S. Elliot penned this verse:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

This is truth. We must all find our voice in 2017. My future, and for that matter your future my friends is not yet written, and those who claim otherwise are full of shit. So Happy New Year, find your voice and make a difference.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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You Don’t Know What You’re Missing Until You Find It: Judy Experiences Real Hearing

This is a very personal post as it deals with my wonderful wife Judy aka the Abbess of the Abbey Normal and very real struggle that she has faced her entire life to hear.  Judy was a neo-nate baby back when survival rates were not so good.  Her late father used to talk about when she was in the hospital that he overheard two doctors at his place of business talking about the baby girl who wasn’t going to live.  But she survived.  However, something, God only knows what happened and auditory nerves were damaged leaving her with a serious hearing loss.  Her loss is what is known as a “ski-slope” loss.  She had a decent amount of hearing in low frequencies.  The loss cuts halfway into the speech range and she has almost nothing in the high frequencies. Unfortunately her late parents didn’t pay much attention to things like this and it wasn’t until First Grade that a teacher noticed that Judy could not hear very well and talked funny.   She started speech therapy in second grade. It was when she was eight that she got her first hearing aid, and the second one came a couple of years after.

Back in those days, the mid 1960s hearing aids didn’t do much for people with this kind of loss.  They basically amplified the noise that they heard and nothing else.  So if you had a big loss in the speech range but hearing in the low frequencies you only got more of the low frequencies.  It would be like if you removed all the treble from whatever music system you use and just turned up the bass with a bunch of distortion thrown in.  Such was the case with Judy for many years. In spite of this she learned to function as much as she could as a “hearing” person. She worked hard in speech therapy to say sounds that she could not hear.  By the time that I met in my freshman year of college her many people who did not know her simply assumed that she might be German or some other European transplant.  She took German in college did pretty well and became President of the German club. She did well enough to get around and communicate with Germans in Germany using her German skills when we were stationed there.  In college she went into the program for deaf students at California State University Northridge.  It was there that she became much more proficient in American Sign Language.  Since college Judy has continued to get better hearing aids which in almost every instance have allowed her to gain more hearing capability. As this has occurred she has continues to do things that a person with her amount of hearing are not supposed to do.  She sings second soprano in her church choir and plays the guitar.  All of these things according to the numbers should be impossible for her, but she has developed great speech discrimination despite her hearing loss, but even so still misses a lot.

Now Judy never really knew what she was missing for many years.  Every time she got new hearing aids they would be some improvement, sometimes a lot of improvement over the older versions.  This became much more dramatic with her first set of digital hearing aids.  However, even with relatively recent technology featured in her current set of hearing aids her hearing is only 62% of normal, in other words a 38% loss.  This is not bad compared to the 77% loss that she has without them.  So even best case she misses a lot and cannot understand things like words to popular songs on the radio or a CD player.  She cannot hear much that we in the hearing world take for granted.  If she wants to hear she may have to keep the aids up so loud that they cause headaches.  Until they developed hearing aids which could be adjusted for directional use in a crowded environment the background noise at restaurant or other public venue would make it very difficult to hear who she was talking to.   She cannot hear someone whisper, nor understand if someone turns their back on her as they talk even with her current hearing aids. She has worked her ass off to speak well, sing and play the guitar.  She has a good voice; most people do not know just how bad her hearing is because she does well so many things that she is not supposed to do within the parameters of her loss.

It is funny how many Christians, especially Charismatics and Pentecostals have been uncomfortable with someone with this kind of disability around.  It seems that many have a hard time dealing with the fact that there are some people who do not get healed.  The fact that Judy has suffered with this all her life and never been healed has made our life at times in church rather interesting as people had words from the Lord that she was going to be miraculously healed and often wanted to pray for her, which most of the time Judy allowed them knowing that they meant well and if God wanted to be healed that it would happen.  Since we had seen many other miraculous things in our life who were we to limit God?  At the same time it was never a problem for us that she was not healed, unless of course she lost the use of a hearing aid.  During this time I don’t think that either of us subscribed to this being either an attack of Satan or the will of God.  For us it kind of fits in the, well…to put it in the street vernacular “shit happens” category of life, even to good people including Christians.  There is something in Scripture talks about the rain falling on the just and the unjust so I think that both of us believe that this is part of the human condition and not something personal on the part of either God or the Devil. Since Judy was a baby when she lost her hearing I have a hard time believing that somehow God caused it or foreordained it.  I guess I’m a pretty bad Calvinist or Augustinian huh?

Now I do believe in and seen what I would have to describe as miracles, including a fair amount in our lives.  At the same time I do not see these as a daily occurrence.  Miracles are such because they are not ordinary daily occurrences no matter how hard we believe and want them to be.  Some people for no fault of their own or God’s never get healed, in fact there is a 100% certainty short of the Second Coming, which I believe will be triggered with the Cubs winning the World Series, that all of us will die sometime in our lives, some even more than once, like Cubs fans.

Last week this changed.  Judy has a pair of hearing aids with a very new technology that has leveled the playing field.  She is now experiencing what it is to really hear for the first time in her life.  It has been at times a very emotional experience as she heard certain sounds for the first time, or the nuance or depth of other sounds.  Things that she could not do before like understand someone who was not directly facing her, for example someone behind her at a stadium or in the car.  Or hear the soft staccato sound of rain water coming down the drain spout, or hearing the shower upstairs from downstairs and understand song lyrics on the radio or CD, and movie dialogue.  With each new experience hearing things that she has never heard before and often being so overwhelmed that she starts to cry, she knows that she has crossed the Rubicon and cannot go back.  She realizes what she is missing all of these years and and wants to make sure that she never goes without it again.

Her hearing aids are loaners which she has on a trial basis.  We are praying that Tricare will approve her new hearing aids, and while I expect that somehow it will work out but Judy is dubious. I keep on telling her like Donald Sutherland’s character “Oddball” in Kelly’s Heroes “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

Now they are quite expensive and we hear from her Audiologist that Tricare seems not to be doing much approving for new hearing aids.  Before this was seldom an issue. However for some reason I am hopeful.  What has surprised us is that some Christians have suggested finding a way to lose or destroy the old hearing aids to ensure that she gets the new ones.  This was shocking because neither of us could do that, even if we wanted to.  Now I might pray for them to die, or for the dog to eat them or for Judy to get caught in a sudden cloudburst with no cover so they would short out, but we can’t in good conscience destroy or lose them.  Now there is the possibility that one has developed a short after we went to Kira’s outdoor wedding due to moisture accumulation in the heat and humidity.  If that is the case and it is dead or dying then the hearing aids may have made the decision for us and that would be a good thing, it might be the first time that I have been thankful for the awful humidity back here.  So like a team that is down in the 4th inning by a big score we can always pray for rain…right?

I do hope that she gets the new aids with no delay or just a minimal one.  The difference that they have made in her life is amazing and it is really cool to see how well she is doing with them.  I am blown away with every new discovery that Judy makes.  You can find some of her thoughts about this at her blog, the Abbey Normal Abbess at http://abbeynormalabbess.wordpress.com/

Peace, Steve+

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How can a Opening Day Rain Out be God’s Will?

Tonight was where I need to take exception with Saint Augustine and John “no I’m not having fun” Calvin.  Now I have to admit that I am not a very good Augustinian or Calvinist unless perchance it suits me at the time.  Where I really have a problem with them in in the subject of Predestination.  Now before all the hyper-Calvinists or neo-Augustinians get their panties in a wad or knickers in a twist, I am not referring to the subject of salvation, election, double predestination, or even double secret predestination.  These subjects were argued between my fellow students back in seminary until I wanted to throw up.

I figure that the Deity Herself is not stupid and since She created everything, of course in cooperation with Jesus and the Holy Spirit…I am after all certainly an orthodox Trinitarian in such maters, I figure that She knows who are Hers.  Where I do however differ with the former party animal (Augie)  and frustrated lawyer (John Boy) is in the matter of how this applies to baseball.

Tonight was an interesting night.  I got to the parking lot and the heavens opened.  For 30 minutes rain came down in buckets.  There was lightening and thunder, but the storm passed.  The tarp was rolled away from the field but the infield was in great shape.  However the umpires ruled that the outfield was unplayable.  Now I have been to plenty of games at Harbor Park and seen much worse conditions which were ruled playable.  Obviously this was a case of the Devil’s mischief and not a case of God’s will.  For had Calvin and Augie known about Baseball and the fact that it is the preferred sport of the Almighty, they could not have made such statements about Predestination.  Certainly a rain out of a home opener cannot be God’s will.  I am actually predisposed to believe that the postponement or cancellation of any Baseball game is not the will of God but the work of the Devil.  Now I am not one to give the Devil a lot of credence, because I believe that Christ has defeated him.  Likewise I am not one to find a Demon behind every bush.  However, to be sure, for God to to taunt us with beautiful weather on opening night after a deluge of the type that we experienced was not the work of God.  Indeed this opening day rain out  had to be the Devil’s work.  I remember opening day of 2005 when the weather was 38 degrees at game time, the field wet and winds blowing 20-30 Mph with gusts to 50 mph from Center Field.  That game was played, and numerous others in awful conditions.

I guess there can be a caveat in this, perhaps if the Giants or the Tides are behind in a game and it is before it becomes official that might be the work of the Deity herself, spot of Divine intervention as when Jesus turned the water into Ale (the Saxon translation) at the wedding at Cana.  Of course such speculation leads to certain irregularities and inconsistency on belief, however, one has to take such matters in stride and simply trust God.  Humm…trusting God, what a concept.  I think I’ve read something about that before.  Maybe my time in seminary actually has paid off.

Anyway, there is always tomorrow.  My ticket can be used in another game, which means that I will be able to take someone  with me sometime.  The beauty of the season ticket is that if you miss a game for any reason you can exchange it for another game.  I think that I will have a number of opportunities to take friends to games this year, as I am sure that the Devil will work to keep me from this wonderful gift of God. Tomorrow I go out again, same time, same seat, but hopefully better weather.

Peace,  Steve+

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