Archive for the 'Witless' Category

Snow, an Indirect Result of Sin

No one really agrees with me here, and I am used to that. All the same, I am convinced that we would not have snow falling today (and yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that; a few feet already!) if Adam had restrained himself and his wife on that dreadful day. I think this because:

  1. There was no snow before the Fall of Man. Which was good news for Adam and Eve because;
  2. Man wore no clothing before the Fall, so they would have been a little chilly on a day like today – and leaf outfits would hardly have kept back old Mr. Frost from nipping at all that exposed skin.
  3. The earth’s weather was drastically different before the Flood. The vapor canopy (Genesis 1:8) that covered the earth before the Flood allowed for a far more consistent weather pattern, as is evidenced by the lack of rain (Genesis 2:5,6) likely until the day that the Flood began. Yes, you would be correct to argue that snow is then a result of the Flood. However, since the Flood was God’s judgment for sin, my thesis holds. No sin – no Fall, no Fall – no Flood, no Flood -no snow; thus, snow is, at least, an indirect result of sin. That makes more sense to me than blaming April snow on global warming.

 

Many creationists have written about the lack of snow before the Flood. Dennis G. Lindsay, in his The Canopied Earth, wrote:

Another marvel of the pre-Flood world included a lack of seasonal changes that much of the world now encounters. There was no ice-skating, snow skiing, snowball fights or snow shoveling. Rather, there was a year-round tropical paradise—as one might experience on a South Pacific island. It was not until after the Flood that we read about seasons of summer and winter.

So, I am not glum today because of the wet falling white stuff. I am merely grieved because of sin. (Is this an indirect way of complaining about the weather?)

The Winds of Change

It is a cliché and that is unfortunate. The overuse has dulled a vivid word picture. I was trying to figure out who first coined the phrase. The earliest that I could find (utilizing my amateur etymological skills) was the middle of the last century. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his second inaugural address on January 21, 1957, brandished the phrase ‘winds of change’ while speaking about what he viewed as the beginning of the end of communism. He said;

Through the night of their bondage, the unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp thrust of lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city; henceforth it is a new and shining symbol of man’s yearning to be free.

Thus across all the globe there harshly blow the winds of change. And, we—though fortunate be our lot—know that we can never turn our backs to them.

Three years later in Cape Town, South Africa, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harold Macmillan, while giving a speech about decolonization of Africa, made the phrase famous. He said;

The wind of change is blowing through this continent.

Googling ‘Winds of Change’ nets (according to my query) more than 39 million hits. Many of them have to do with the end of the Cold War. That, probably, is because of the song that the Scorpions wrote around the time that the Berlin Wall crumbled. Everyone knows the title: The Winds of Change.

They wrote:

The wind of change blows straight into the face of time

And:

The future's in the air I can feel it everywhere blowing with the wind of change

The imagery, whether on the Dark Continent or down to Gorky Park, is of a sweeping, unrestrained and sometimes chaotic gale of moving circumstance and uncertainty. Most of us know the feeling of sails filled by the winds of change. And most of us dislike it.

I guess we should get used to it. After all, tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (i.e. times change, we need to change with them), and the famous Heraclitian, nothing endures but change.

Change is uncomfortable, but it is often very good. Like here;

… For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52 ESV)

It still lends an unsteady feeling. My hope rests in the fact that, while the winds of change keep blowing, there is someone who never, ever changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

There. That's better.

Baldness and Intellectuality

While having coffee with friends a while back, I timidly admitted the obvious; that my hairline is beginning to recede. My “friend” responded by bellowing out a hearty laugh and then letting loose a one-liner, “Mike, your hair is not receding, it's running away from your face!”

Thanks! You’re a pal. Where are the she-bears when you need them (2 Kings 2:24)?

I find encouragement from Eugene Field’s silly little book called, The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac. In that humorous volume, he devotes a chapter to baldness. He keenly explores the relationship between intellectuality and the hair-free head. He writes;

…a vigilant and active soul invariably compels baldness, so close are the relations between the soul and the brain…

…baldness [is] prima-facie evidence of intellectuality and spirituality…

To support his thesis, he mentions notable smart baldies like Socrates, Confucius, Napoleon Bonaparte, Cicero and (my personal favorite) John Quincy Adams. He goes on to say;

I have always had especial reverence for this mark of intellectuality… bald heads are favored with the approval and the protection of Divinity.

Then, Eugene sort of missteps and lets known that his glabrous condition might have resulted from eating welsh-rarebits, or radiation from a gas-jet light above his reading table (even if the latter were the case, his baldness would still indirectly be a result of intellectual curiosity).

At any rate, I want to believe it.

Pejorative Leadership Principals, Part I

The word pejorative is actually not very precise. I simply mean bad. On the Siberia ’99 team, I began to hone my leadership skills. The team and I came up with several important leadership points. I do not remember them all, but we called them The Pejorative Leadership Principals (PLP)*. This might help the “leader” attempting greatness by negatory people skills or for the generally work disinclined.

 

Show no aptitude. I find this one especially helpful in long-term relationships. The idea is sort of biblical. It is the logical opposite of the concept: “To whom much is given, much is required.” It works like this: At a big dinner, someone asks you slice ten loaves of bread. As a leader, you must, at least, be willing to pitch in. Therefore, you take the bread knife and go at it; viciously maul the loaf. The crumbs and chunks should fall in all directions in a one-meter radius. In addition, it helps to always appear that you are about to cut your thumb off. One very practiced at this principal will quickly be replaced without loosing face. He will be greeted with sympathetic smiles at his poor inexperience with the bread knife. Be creative! This works well with almost all household chores.

 

Delegate weakness. Learning this skill helps the Pejorative Leader maintain a high level of energy by not engaging needlessly in work-related activities. Say, for example, that you are on a hike, but someone else is setting the pace. Since it is, after all, a pace, it is probably too fast for you. It is tactless to say, “Hey, John, could you slow it down. I don’t want to sweat out here!” Instead, you make your way to the pacesetter and quietly say, “Hey, John. This pace is fine for me, maybe even a little slow. But, ah, have you noticed Dan? I think he might get a heatstroke or something if we keep this up. For his sake, let’s slow this whole hike thing down. Oh, by the way, be a pal and carry my backpack so that I can keep an eye on him. Thanks!”

 

Volunteer strategically. I think this one is obvious. You have to get an eye for when the work is nearly completed, or when too many people have volunteered. At the right moment, you pipe up and let your good intentions known, and the louder the better. The only difficult part is to genuinely look disappointed when they say, “Thanks Mike, but we are nearly finished washing your car.” I find it useful to say something like, “Not again! That always happens to me. I never get to do any work around here… Uh, make sure you get the rims.”

When I think of the rest, I will post Part II. Perhaps it is obvious, but Maya really wanted me to add that the above is all written tongue in cheek. 🙂

 

*Note on source: I do not recall his name, but I remember reading a southern humorist about 15 years ago, who writes similar things . Some of these ideas might have resonated from his writings. The ’99 team will vouch to the fact that we came up with (and practiced) these principals, in their above-stated form.

The Seven (Not Six) Cases of the Russian Noun

Last Friday, I passively observed a conversation about Russian grammar between two native Russian speakers. They were counting the cases of the Russian noun. Enjoying native fluency, they do not really need to know the cases. They are unconsciously competent in the language. Other than writers, language enthusiasts, teachers and very astute students, most native speakers cannot explain, in detail, the grammatical features of their language. This is true of most native English speakers too. For example, most English speakers (educated and otherwise) cannot name the many English tenses. Those who assume that English has three tenses are case in point.

Back to the story, the two Russians recited an acronymic sentence that they learned in school and agreed on six cases. I could be silent no more. How could they forget the beloved vocative case? No one really agrees with me here, but I stand my ground. Wikipedia explains the vocative case here (though even in that article they deny the existence of a vocative Russian case). The vocative identifies the addressee. For example, in the sentence, “You’re being stubborn, Mike, about this grammar thing.” – ‘Mike’ has a vocative meaning (though in modern Russian it would still be nominative).

I concede that the vocative is not what is used to be. In fact, as Wikipedia correctly points out, in Russian you will find this case still in use only in some old proverbs and poetry, and when personally addressing God. I only make issue of this case because of the last point.

'God' in Russian is ‘Бог’. To call out to God, the Russian vernacular calls for the vocative phrase ‘Боже мой’, which means ‘My God!’ In modern speech it is often used irreverently (as it often is in English). However, the phrase occurs in the Russian Bible 250 times; as in Psalms 8:1 (and verse 9):

Господи, Боже наш! Как величественно имя Твое по всей земле!

Which I translate like this:

Lord, our God! How awesome (majestic, wonderful) is Your name in all the earth!

For me, that settles the case for the Russian vocative. Okay, maybe not in general use, but important remnants of past grammatical richness remain.

I pray everyday that more Russians would begin to use the vocative case as exampled above. That is, that more would reverently and with repentant hearts call unto the God of all creation! And that is why I contend that Russian has seven cases, and not six. The seventh case merely needs revival.

From Nyet to Da

A known Russian cultural habit is to first offer a negative answer to inquiries and favors. This initial negative response often does not mean ‘no’. With a little conversation and/or cleverness, it may become a ‘yes’ or even an ‘of course! yes’. There is a book called, “From Nyet to Da” (from no to yes) that documents this idiosyncrasy and gives advice to the bewildered and rebuffed foreigner.

I first encountered this bit of culture four years ago, when Maya and I went to a remote Lake Baikal resort. The only place to eat within a 30-mile radius was at the local cafeteria. The first morning, we went to the cafeteria and asked for a breakfast menu. “We’re closed, and, besides, we do not have any food!” came the angry-sounding reply. We did not bring food with us, so we decided to improvise. I noticed a few candy bars behind the counter and asked if we could buy some. The waiter then barked, “Candy for breakfast? You should eat real food. Will you have eggs or kasha?” This happened before every meal that weekend.

That is probably an extreme example (the waiter was a little weird), but it does happen a bit like that. An attendant at a ticket counter might tell you there are no tickets, but if you ask in a slightly different way, you may be on your way to your destination. The same goes for many other public service offices and businesses. You get used to it after a while.

Question: Is this specific to Russian culture?

Last week, I purchased a cool commentary set online from Logos Bible Software. They sent the CDs to my address in the US. I wrote tech support and asked if I could download volumes of the commentary when I need them, explaining that it would probably be months before the CDs would be brought to me way out here in Siberia, and that I need them for a study that I will be teaching.

Here are some excerpts from their reply:

Sorry, but it is
impossible for us to help you in this way. You must wait for your CDs. There is no way we can allow you to download the commentaries from our website. We are sorry.

Even though they left no hope, I responded with this email:

Dear Tech Support,


Thank you for your kind response. I do not mean to be pest, but could you please clarify as to why it is impossible? Downloading the commentaries would be most helpful to me, and besides, Logos Tech Support has allowed me to download ship-only products in the past. However, if it is indeed impossible, then I will patiently wait.


Sincerely, Mike

It turned into a classic case of from Nyet to Da; the next day, Logos sent me the unlock files and the download addresses. They wrote, “you are more than welcome to download the commentaries as needed”.

Thank you, Logos. I'll have the eggs, please.

Back pain

Maya hurt her back yesterday. Since any movement causes her discomfort, I postponed everything and stayed at home today to insist that she do nothing. Immobility is torture to her, so trying to make her rest all day is a titanic task.

It helped me to see how much she does from day to day. I can hardly keep up with the meals, diapers, dishes and all the other minor emergencies that I usually hardly notice (shameful). It is a joy to serve such a wonderful woman in this capacity, if even for a day.

 

Just for fun, I searched through my Libronix library for ‘back pain’ and its variants. I was hoping to find out if some great patriarch or prominent historical figure suffered from a painful back (some theological/historical tidbit that would encourage Maya). In hundreds of books, I found only eight articles, two of them by Warren Weirsbe in his N.T. Commentaries.

 

Here is a quote from one of Weirsbe’s articles, titled “You Don’t Have to Worry”:

 

What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” (careful) in Philippians 4:6 means “to be pulled in different directions.” Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart! The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.” If you have ever really worried, you know how it does strangle a person! In fact, worry has definite physical consequences: headaches, neck pains, ulcers, even back pains. Worry affects our thinking, our digestion, and even our coordination.

(Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989.)

 

Maya was not impressed. :-). She was also unimpressed with my discovery that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, suffered from back pains. “What is your point?” was her response.

I need to put David down for his nap now.