Harry, Meghan & me

Millions awoke in the wee hours, early Saturday morning to watch Meghan Markle marry her Prince. Those millions heard the words of the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, sharing a message wise for each of us to hear and to heed… sharing wisdom in a world where prayers will always be necessary, even when we can’t see it… 

From Rev. Curry, with emphasis from the Intramuralist:

“And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen. From the Song of Solomon in the Bible, set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death, passion, fears as the its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods. Drown it out.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said and I quote, ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.’

Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Well, there’s power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love.

There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There’s something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love and our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here. Ultimately the source of love is God himself — the source of all of our lives.

There’s an old medieval poem that says, ‘where true love is found, God himself is there.’ The New Testament says it this way, ‘Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God; those who do not love do not know God; why? For God is love. There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love, to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. Set me as a seal on your heart. A seal on your arm. For love, it is strong.’

But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here. Two young people fell in love and we all showed up. But it’s not just for and about a young couple who we rejoice with. It’s more than that. Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer the sum of the essence of the teachings of Moses and he went back and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, and Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment.’

And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. And then in Matthews’ version, he added, he said on these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world, love God. Love your neighbors. And while you’re at it, love yourself.

Someone once said that Jesus began most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. And a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about some power, real power, power to change the world.

If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power, they explained it this way, they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, something that can make things right, to make the wounded whole.

‘There is a balm in Gilead to heal the soul. They said if you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus how he died to save us all. Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead.’

He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t—he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us.

That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish sacrificial redemptive love, changes lives and it can change this world…’

If we would realize the redemptive power of love…

If we would follow the call to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength…

If we would learn to love all of our neighbors as opposed to only the easiest to love…

And if we would remember that love is never selfish or self-centered…

Maybe then we’d see what actually would change lives and change the world.

The world will not be changed via legislation. The world will not be changed via government. Changing the world starts with us… by loving and respecting both God and one another. 

Respectfully…

AR

a remarkable sequence of events

Fascinating…

Breathtaking…

Scary…

And wow. 

It’s getting hot in Hawaii.

Let’s talk first about what’s actually happening; second, let’s add a few, farther-reaching thoughts, briefly reflecting upon the “fascinating, breathtaking, scary, and wow.”

Have you noticed the remarkable images recently hailing from Hawaii’s biggest island? As reported by Ars Technica (which is far more “technica” than moi), which routinely offers colloquial, scientific insight and opinion, describing the Big Island of Hawaiʻi:

“… There are five individual volcanoes that make up the island. Of those five, Kīlauea is the youngest, comprising the southeastern edge of the island. Kīlauea’s summit is home to a collapsed crater called Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. In 2008, a new vent appeared in the floor of the crater, which has hosted a lake of roiling lava ever since.

Volcanic activity also takes place along a straight southwest-northeast line known as the East Rift Zone. In 1983, eruptions produced Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater, which also hosts a lava lake. Eruptions of lava have continued intermittently in the East Rift Zone ever since…

Almost four weeks ago, it became clear something could be brewing. The number of small earthquakes within the volcano—produced by the movement of magma—ramped up. And as the lava lake at Halemaʻumaʻu began rising, precise satellite and ground sensor measurements showed that Kīlauea was inflating—clear signs that some fresh magma had been delivered. Eruptions don’t always follow volcano inflation, but it’s a darn good sign that the risk has increased…”

The U.S. Geological Center is watching closely. Multiple homes have already been destroyed and some 2,000 residents have evacuated, as earthquakes continue, sulfur dioxide is entering the air, and at least 20 fissures have now been reported; note that fissure #17 is said to be several hundred yards long. “No matter what they number them,” reports CNN, “for residents, the fissures just mean more reasons to run.”

“What happens next?” asks observers. 

Experts are uncertain how much longer this could continue; eruptions from the existing fissures or from new ones may drag on. However, there is intensifying concern that an explosion similar to Kīlauea’s 1924 eruption could soon take place. The 1924 explosion launched boulders as big as 14 tons into the air… and there was very little warning.

So back to adding a few, farther-reaching thoughts…

Most of us watching this event unfold are not watching from the nation’s 50th state. In fact, Hawaiʻi is only one of the five islands of Hawaii, and only approximately, 10 square miles have thus far been affected. Hence, airlines and hotels are reporting few cancellations, and the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau is still actively encouraging tourists to come. The eruptions don’t seem to be significantly disrupting the island’s tourism industry.

So how do we respond when we see these remarkable images? … images of mounting steam, spewing spatter bombs, and lava with a fluvial flow?

Fascinating…

Breathtaking…

But it’s fascinating and breathtaking when removed from the situation. The potential damage and harm only affects a percentage that’s few. Hence, we are sometimes numb to the “scary,” instead more aware of the “wow.”

I wonder where else we do that. When a situation doesn’t directly affect us, where does our awareness of the seriousness of a situation dissipate?

Maybe that’s a quieter, far humbler “wow”…

Respectfully…

AR

the hardest thing to do?

We’ve long heard much in regard to what’s the hardest thing to do…

“I’ve always said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports,” said the great Ted Williams.

“I think the hardest thing to do in the world, show-business-wise, is write comedy,” said the comedic genius, Carol Burnett.

“Stillness. That’s all and that’s the hardest thing,” said the talented Morgan Freeman.

“The hardest thing with musicians is getting them not to play,” said the iconic pop star, Prince.

And from the often articulate Adlai E. Stevenson, “I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”

So much truth and perspective in each of the above, individualized arenas. What still seems hardest for us all?

“To change,” said Mickey Rourke.

“To trust people,” said Dwight Howard.

“Being humble and sweet,” said Jemima Kirke.

“Losing weight,” said Aretha Franklin.

“Losing someone you love,” “forgiveness,” and “asking for forgiveness,” still say many.

I wonder, as we watch people continue to forsake respecting all in all arenas, if the hardest thing to do has less to do with any of the above — hard as each admittedly can be — but more to do with a singular body part.

It seems, my friends, we are consistently, inconsistently awful at taming the tongue.

I speak not of vulgarity; after all, truthfully, sometimes there’s just something incredibly funny about the limited-use-yet-perfectly-timed, creative cuss word. 

I speak instead of the words meant to demean, degrade, or disrespect. While a word out of our mouths can accomplish nearly anything, it can also destroy it.

Maybe we say destructive words flippantly. Maybe they are a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe we put them on social media for all the world to see.

Maybe we don’t actually say the words, but we’re totally ok and egging it on if the words come out of the mouth of someone else. Maybe we’re inconsistent in believing disparaging words are ok, pending who actually says them.

Maybe it depends on who the words are said about — from a sitting senator to a press secretary, as we’ve sadly, recently observed.

Maybe, just maybe, each of us, well, we’re entirely inconsistent. We justify degrading someone.

I read once — ok, maybe twice (or truthfully way, way more) — how if we could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, we’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. No one can tame a tongue. 

Hence, I walk away, still wondering with two thoughts…

One, we only hurt ourselves and our credibility when we’re lured into believing that cursing and blessing can come out of the same mouth…

And two, as adults hailing from all sorts of both individual and collective arenas, each of us has areas in which to grow.

Respectfully…

AR

this is me

Sometimes the most profound moments come from the simplest conversations. I go back to one Friday night, a few years back, when I stopped in to see a friend tending bar at a casual hangout. 

We sat and talked for a few hours… always good… at the end of this day, the end of the week. There was a TV nearby. On it appeared yet another celebrity getting attention for a personal choice — and as oft consistent with our not-so-united society, the attention was prominent, but not necessarily prominently positive. All sorts of people possessing all sorts of perspectives felt welcome chiming in on his choice.

So as one who truly wishes to welcome and consider all perspective — and no doubt, I, too, am a work in progress — I asked my dear, articulate, especially frank friend, Bobby, his thoughts.

Simpler than I imagined, Bobby looked at me, paused from his professional routine, and merely said, not really to me, “You know, I think you need to be the best you — and I need to be the best me.”

He was not speaking to “me,” of course. He was identifying how each of us looks at other people — and why we each feel welcome to generously weigh in with our perspectives, varied as they may be… condoning or condemning, also as they may be.

We look at other people…

And when they are different from us, we justify the condemnation…

Maybe we criticize and condemn because they look differently.

Maybe we criticize and condemn because they act differently.

Or maybe we’re ok with how one looks or acts, but we criticize and condemn because they think differently.

One of my recent (but still all time) favorite movies is “The Greatest Showman,” released last winter starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Ephron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya (… it’s ok if you didn’t like it; for this former show choir parent, “this is me”…).

Within exists an iconic song, nominated for an Academy Award…

“This Is Me.” It’s great for multiple reasons…

For some, as dubbed by Variety Magazine, it is “an anthem for outcasts.” Led by the Bearded Lady — after being shunned by the show’s visionary (Jackman) — the cast of human “oddities” finds their voice and their pride, marching through the streets, refusing to feel as something lesser.

Described by song co-writer Justin Paul, “She (the Bearded Lady) then finds her own sense of power and pride. It’s the moment where they realize, ‘We are who we are, and we’re going to own our own identity.’”

Note she is owning who she is… comparing herself to no one else… being the “best me,” subject to the judgment of no other.

Says the song:

“… When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.”

Yes, there are areas in which each of us is foolish — each of us needs to grow — all of us. God is no doubt, not finished with us yet. 

But sometimes the growth would be faster if we could grow in absence of judgment from anyone else.

Respectfully…

AR

how do you solve a problem like Korea?

This is a tough one. North Korea is a hostile, socialist, arguably Stalinist country, known for their numerous violations of human rights. They boast of a military nuclear weapons program and have a significant quantity of chemical and biological weapons. They are no longer a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a pact made to prevent the spread of such weapons and its technology. Those weapons and technology are dangerous in the hands of a hostile nation.

So what do we do? How do you solve a problem like (North) Korea?

For decades, presidents have attempted to find an effective strategy with this growing threat — and for decades, there has seemed minimal, significant, positive movement. In fact, with each considered an incredibly provocative threat, North Korea has now conducted six nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 (2x), 2016, and 2017 — under presidents Bush 43, Obama, and Trump. They and the presidents before them have been united in their sobering concern.

Shockingly… fascinatingly… eerily — whatever the right word is — there now exists at least the possibility of progress. After years of trying to find the right approach — from Pres. Clinton saying he would prevent the country from developing a nuclear arsenal “even at the risk of war” to Bush 43’s positioning on the infamous “Axis of Evil” to Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” — only now has there seemed at least the possibility of progress. This comes amid Pres. Trump’s approach of “maximum pressure,” a policy bookended by a series of both questionable and sometimes, in my opinion, even queasy quotes. 

Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, and Trump have each exchanged their share of insults. Now, however, Kim and Trump are set to sit down together soon — this month or next. This will be the first time a sitting U.S. President will have met the leader of North Korea since the Korean War. This is significant.

There exists a deep, deep challenge here, friends. Yes, this is significant, and yes, there exists only the possibility of progress. And in all candor, the war of words between Kim and Trump has seemingly, only caused concern by the watching world to increase. With no recent president able to permanently diffuse the growing threat, it is difficult for arguably most to imagine that Pres. Trump, with his tweets and unconventional approach, will be effective. Even more so, the question exists in the minds of many: will Trump do more damage than good? What if he makes the situation worse?

Once again, I find myself observing from a limited vantage point. Also, I find it incredibly difficult to find an unbiased perspective. As noted recently, when news was breaking that Kim and Trump would meet, when tuning into CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC, each had a completely different approach. Each was laced with bias.

I found some words this week that resonated with me, as I crave positive change but unsure if such can be delivered via the current — or any — administration. From Jeff Greenfield of Politico:  

“… In the wake of the head-snapping developments on the Korean Peninsula—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shaking hands across the 38th parallel, talk of a formal end to the war 68 years after the armistice, a meeting between Kim and Trump—voices far removed from the circle of Trump admirers, such as former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, and diplomatic correspondents for the New York Times and the Washington Post, have offered the president measured praise. One of the president’s toughest critics, Rep. Adam Schiff, offered this backhanded compliment: ‘I think it’s more than fair to say that the combination of the president’s unpredictability and, indeed, his bellicosity had something to do with the North Koreans deciding to come to the table.’

Yes, it’s probably too early to sound the trumpets; yes, there is a history of North Korea playing Lucy with the football while the U.S., as Charlie Brown, whiffs badly. Yes, some will argue that Trump has already given Kim what he and his forebears have always wanted—the respect due a nuclear power—without North Korea having to put anything tangible on the table. But when you measure where we are now from where we were just several months ago—Trump threatening ‘fire and fury’ last August, belittling Kim as ‘Little Rocket Man’ in September as North Korea fired missiles into the Pacific, fears of war at a near-fever pitch—we are clearly in a better place. And it is at least plausible that the president’s words and deeds mattered…

It’s not hard to see why the President’s most zealous critics see him as they do…

But that feeling is all the more reason to retain a sense of perspective; to be able to consider seriously the proposition that this misbegotten president has somehow achieved an honest-to-God diplomatic success. After all, it won’t be long before he provides a whole new set of reasons to mourn the fact of his ascendance. If the possibility of a peaceful Korea becomes reality, let’s just let him have this one triumph.”

Wanting to hope… wanting North Korea to no longer be hostile… to no longer be capable of nuclear armament… regardless of who is President.

Respectfully…

AR

problem with the press

The role of the press…

The power of the press…

The freedom of the press…

And thus, the problem with the press.

Let’s be concise — respectful, as always, too…

The role of the press in a democratic society is to provide information to ordinary citizens.

The freedom of the press — declared in the First Amendment — is the free exercise and right not to be censored. This “Fourth Estate” (or “fourth power”) as some have historically referred to the press, denotes an additional set of checks and balances that an uncensored press provides for government.

The power of the press, as admirably articulated by Donald A. Ritchie in his 1987 critique of The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting by Thomas C. Leonard, is “that time-worn cliché” that “often eludes definition.” Ritchie  referred to correspondents who “routinely crowed about their power to make and unmake the reputations of public men, while at the same time many of them bowed and scraped for patronage and wrote predictably partisan dispatches.” The power of the press is the ability to “make” or “unmake” any man or woman of their choosing.

Hence, then the problem with the press

The “press” evolved from the printing press, simply referring to what is published or put into print.

Journalism is something better and more. Emerson College, one of the nation’s top schools for journalism, promotes their degree as follows, “Although technology has revolutionized the ways in which we share and consume the news, the principles and values that govern journalism remain the same. At Emerson’s Department of Journalism, you’ll learn how to tell stories that increase public understanding and awareness.” 

So we increase understanding by the sharing and consumption of news.

Consistent with its etymological definition, “news” means new information; information means provided facts. That means that news is absent of partiality and bias. So when bias is added to news, news becomes opinion. Opinion and news are not the same thing. The opinions of the editorial page have migrated to the front page, disguised as news.

So question: where do you get your “news”?

Second question: are you instead listening to opinion?  

CNN, FOX, MSNBC… The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Examiner… each (and more) is full of opinion. Opinion, as stated, is not news.

Allow me one, brief example — on a subject the Intramuralist intends to soon address. When the news broke in March that North Korea is now willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up nuclear weapons, I quickly surveyed the immediate “breaking news” on the three television stations mentioned above. One was glowing; one was glaring; and one was skeptical. Tell me the news, please. We don’t need the glow, glare, nor skepticism — none of which qualify as news. 

The problem with the press is that multiple media offerings insert their bias and still act as if such qualifies as news. 

Said Gary Ackerman, the former Democratic congressman from New York: “The media has changed. We now give broadcast licenses to philosophies instead of people. People get confused and think there is no difference between news and entertainment.”

People get confused between news and entertainment. 

People get confused between news and opinion.

Intelligent people get confused.

Hence, the problem with the press…

Respectfully…

AR