Tuesday, November 16, 2010


"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips."
Proverbs 27:2
"The crucible for silver and the furnance for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives."
Proverbs 27:21
Pride is the biggest stumbling block to humanity. It is the root cause of all our strife, war, anger, and lack of relationship. All problems can be traced to a lack of humility manifested in the pride of ourselves. Everyone from politicians and CEOs to homemakers and substitute teachers deal with the burning lust for recognition. We want people to see our value. We demand praise for the work and effort we pour into our labors - whatever they may be. Nothing quite stings like not getting the pat on the back we thought we deserved. On the flip side, when the compliments and praise do come - how do we respond to them? What do they do to our character? Do we use them as fuel to keep improving or do we simply rest then on our glory we so "deserve." The test that comes as a result of receiving credit is one of the hardest to pass in life. It can feel incredibly strange to receive praise - despite the fact that we all enjoy it. The balance between needing feedback and receiving it in humility is very delicate indeed. As I have read through the book of Proverbs this year, this issue has been the one that has stuck out the most to me. Perhaps its due to my incessant need of approval or my own personal struggle with pride. But now more then ever, I have realized just how difficult the world of praise, recognition, and humility is to navigate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

John Peter Zenger

No one imagined that Zenger's acquittal set a legal precedent for the elimination of restrictions on the press - it was an instance of jury nullification, not a judicial opinion - and indeed decades would pass before printers in either America or Great Britain were safe from official scrutiny. What made the case so significant to contemporaries, rather, was that it sent a clear warning to judges and prosecutors that the law of libel was out of step with popular sentiment and that they could no longer rely on juries to shield the government from public censure. In doing so, moreover, the Zenger verdict endorsed assumptions about relations between "the people" and their rulers long familiar to reader's of Cato's Letters or the Craftsman - that executive power tends to expand at the expense of liberty, and that to protect themselves, freemen must be able to speak their minds without fear of official retribution.
Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), Kindle Location 3979-85.
The trial of John Peter Zenger against charges of seditious libel is a fascinating story from New York City's early history. The case would not only be a landmark decision for the city, but would have long term effects on what would become the United States of America. The fact that Zenger's lawyer (Andrew Hamilton) led his defense for free was one of the best parts. In essence, Zenger was accused of seditious libel which even Hamilton agreed with was true under the existing law of that time. However, he convinced the jury to partake in jury nullification appealing to the common sense of liberty and freedom of press. It was the law that was at the heart of the issue - not the guilt of the defendent. Highly intelligent defense and one that has has had such tremendous impact on our society today.

Defamatory statements are not always the most pleasant - but there is tremendous value in being able to speak one's mind. From the results of the Zenger case, we eventually reached the ability to simply state our opinions whether factual or not. Of course there is a certain amount of trouble that comes with freedom - and yet the absence of it would be far more damning to our culture. It is so ironic how easy it is to take for granted our freedoms in this country. Freedom of the press seems so "normal" in our Internet age where everyone says whatever they want. And yet at one point, not too long ago, that ability did not exist. Thanks to the courage of men like Zenger & Hamilton as well as the jury that sided with them - we now can boldy state what and why we believe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When The Gales of November Came Early

Does anyone know where the love of God goes / When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay / If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized / They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names / Of the wives and the sons and the daughters
-Gordon Lightfoot-
35 years ago the Edmund Fitzgerald met her doom on Lake Superior. I remember reading about the disaster as a kid in Minnesota. We even sang Gordon Lightfoot's song in 5th grade choir. It is amazing how few people have ever heard of the story/disaster. 29 men met their death in one of the worst storms ever experienced on Lake Superior. So in memory of the disaster - I point out a couple of websites to follow up on it. Read, learn, and remember!

Monday, November 8, 2010


We believe that the world we've inherited has an immense momentum; that actions taken in the past have bequeathed us the mix of constraints and possibilities within which we act today; that the stage onto which each generation walks has already been set, key characters introduced, major plots set in motion, and that while the next act has not been written, it's likely to follow on, in undetermined ways, from the previous action. This is not to say that history repeats itself. Time is not a carousel on which we might, next time round, snatch the brass ring by being better prepared. Rather we see the past as flowing powerfully through the present and think that chartering historical currents can enhance our ability to navigate them.
Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York to 1898, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), Kindle Location 498-503.
It is often said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Although there is some validity to this statement, I do not think it is completely accurate. Each generation & each time period has the ability to make a distinct change & mark. However, that being stated, we often find ourselves in situations and places that were pre-determined for us. The "act" of which is our lives has essentially been set in motion. The possibilities & constraints we face each day are often determined by factors out of our own control. Many of these factors are unfair and biased against those who have less power, influence, and status in society. As a result, we often see a repeat on history. Its why Otto von Bismarck was able to point out that some damn fool thing in the Balkans would trigger a war even before Ferdinand was shot.

All of that being said, the value of history comes into play when we realize that studying our past, its characteristics, and its "currents" - we better prepare ourselves for what the future will certainly deal us. Coaches don't study game film because their opponents will run the exact same script. They study game film because it prepares them for the possibilities of what might come. History provides the navigation to handle our lives. We know recessions will come and will go. We know that conflict results when we force our ethnocentrism on others. We know that religion is often polluted and abused for personal & powerful gain. We know that the rich like being rich and the poor are at a distinct disadvantage. We have seen each of these scenarios time and time again.

Our best hope then is to study, read and learn from what our past has shown us. What can history prepare us for tomorrow? Because although it will never, ever be the exact same - perhaps we can recognize the small clues and patterns that enable us to actually grab the brass ring. Our future has largely already been determined. But what can we do in the intangibles to make a difference?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


One of the things I have discovered a lot about since moving is the critical importance of friends. These relationships with others are so often taken for granted and not fully appreciated in the moment. It is amazing how much a friend can do for a person's life. Someone to vent to, someone to watch football with, someone to laugh with, someone to drink a beer with, someone to share struggles with, someone who is just there when you simply need someone there for you. Besides spouses & kids; I think friends are the most under-appreciated things in people's lives.

The last time I was new in a place was 10th grade. Having moved to Arizona from Minnesota, I was forced to make new friends. Of course I had the benefit of being in high school which provided an abundance of opportunities of new friends. Moving up to Idaho has been a much different experience. I have church, and my job at the school, and even neighborhood opportunities. However, I have seen the difficulty in finding people you simply connect with as if it was designed that way by God Himself. This last Friday, my wife and I had the benefit of meeting a couple of people like that. We laughed, we discussed life, and shared a good meal & beer. It re-reminded me just how good it is to have a true friend.

So here's to my friends. You all are worth so much more than I have ever communicated or shown. Thanks for making life good.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cassandra's Curse

But the fate of warnings in political affairs is to be futile when the recipient wishes to believe otherwise. In formulating Cassandra's curse - that she would tell the truth and not be believed - the ancient Greeks showed their remarkable early insight into the human psyche.
Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, (New York: Random House, 1984), 199.
Greek mythology has always fascinated me. Greek culture seemed to have such as a solid grasp upon humanity and the struggles that came with being human. In a remarkable story, we see the character of Cassandra being able to accurately predict the future. Unfortunately, she is cursed by Apollo in that her gift brings only misery as no one will believe her. Therefore, events like the Trojan Horse came to be because her prediction of Troy's downfall by the horse fell on deaf ears.

How ironic today that we see many leaders stumble in the same was as they did at Troy. Dissent and alternate pathways are shown - and yet rejected simply out of disbelief. Many modern day Cassandras face the same dilemma in that their insight and advice is rejected to the downfall of the hearer. What mistakes could we avoid if we simply listened? What pitfalls might we avoid if we heard the dissent we do not want to hear? Alongside each of those questions is the problem of our desire to "believe otherwise." How many of us are actually willing to listen to opinions and ideas that fly in the face of our own or even what we believe to be normalcy?

It was tragic that Cassandra met her demise without being able to benefit anyone with her prophetic ability. The challenge today is not let the Cassandras in our own lives fail to challenge us to listen and change the direction we are headed.