Renormalization

Our guess is that this graphic will be incomprehensible to the typical reader of Billy Lee’s blog. So, don’t worry about it. Billy Lee isn’t going to explain it, anyway. More important things need to be told that everyone can understand, and they will. The Editorial Board

I have a lot to say about renormalization; if I wait until I’ve read everything I need to know about it, my essay will never be written; I’ll die first; there isn’t enough time.

There’s a big problem inside the science of science; there always has been. Experimental facts never match the mathematics of the theories people invent to explain them. The math which people use to express their ideas about the universe always removes the ambiguities that seem to underlie all of reality.

People noticed the problem as soon as they started doing science. The diameter of a circle and its circumference was never certain; not when Pythagoras studied it 2,500 years ago or now; the number π is the problem; it’s irrational; it’s not a fraction; it’s a number with no end and no pattern—3.14159…forever into infinity.

For a circle, either the circumference or the diameter can be rational (written as a fraction) but not both. Perfect circles and spheres cannot exist in nature. Why?  “π” is irrational. It can’t be written like a fraction—like a ratio—where one integer divides another.

The diameter of a circle must be multiplied by π to calculate its circumference; and vice-versa. No one can ever know everything about a circle, because the number π is uncertain, undecidable, and in truth unknowable. Long ago people learned to use the fraction 22/7 or, for more accuracy, 355/113These fractions gave the wrong value for π, but they were easy to work with and close enough to do engineering problems.

Fast forward to Isaac Newton, the English astronomer and mathematician, who studied the motion of the planets. Newton published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. I have a modern copy in my library. It’s filled with formulas and derivations. Not one of them works to explain the real world—not one.

Newton’s equation about gravity describes the interaction between two objects—the strength of attraction between the Sun and the Earth, for example, and the motion of the Earth that results. The problem is that the Moon and Mars and Venus and many other bodies warp the space-time pool where the Earth and Sun swim. No way exists to write a formula to determine the future of such a system.

This simple three-body problem cannot be solved using a single equation. It’s not so simple. More than three bodies makes systems like these much harder to work with.

In 1887 Henri Poincare and Heinrich Bruns proved that such a formula can’t be written. The three-body problem (or any N-body problem, for that matter) cannot be solved by a single equation. Fudge factors have to be figured in. Perturbation theory was proposed and developed. It helped a lot. Space exploration depends on it. It’s not perfect, though. When NASA lands probes on Mars, no one knows exactly where the crafts are located on its surface relative to any reference point on the Earth.

Even using the signals from the constellations of a half-dozen or so Global Positioning Systems (GPS) deployed in high earth-orbit by various countries, it’s not possible to know exactly where anything is. Beet farmers out west combine the GPS systems of two different countries to hone the courses of their tractors and plows.

On a good day farmers can locate a row of beets to within an eighth of an inch. That’s plenty good, but the two GPS systems they depend on are fragile and cost billions per year to maintain. In beet farming, an eighth-inch isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough.

Quantum physics is another frontier of knowledge that presents roadblocks to precision for the mathematically inclined. Physicists have invented more excuses for why they can’t get anything exactly right than probably any other group of scientists. Quantum physics is about a hundred years old, but today the problems seem more insurmountable than ever.

The sub-atomic world seems to be smeared and messy. Vast numbers of particles—virtual and actual—makes the use of mathematics problematic. This pic is an artist’s conception. Concepts such as “looks like” have no meaning at sub-atomic scales, because small things can’t be resolved by any frequency of light that enables them to be visualized realistically by humans.

Why? Well, the self-interaction of sub-atomic particles, as well as their interactions with the swarms of virtual particles that surround them, disrupt the expected correlations between any theories and actual experimental results. The mismatches are spectacular. They dwarf the N-body problems of astronomy.

Worse—there is the problem of scales. Electrical forces, for example, are a billion times a billion times a billion times a billion times stronger than gravitational forces at sub-atomic scales. Forces appear to manifest themselves according to the distances across which they are interacting. It’s very odd.

An infinity of scales pile up to produce unacceptable infinities in the mathematics, which erode the predictive usefulness of the math descriptors. Once again, researchers are forced to fabricate fudge factors. Renormalization is the buzz-word that describes several popular routes to the removal of problems with the numbers.

The folks who developed the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED), for another example, used perturbation methods to bootstrap their ideas into a useful tool for explanations. Their method produced annoying infinities, which renormalization techniques chased away.

At first physicists felt uncomfortable discarding the infinities that showed up in their equations; and they hated to introduce fudge factors. It felt like cheating. They believed that the poor match between math, theory, and experiment meant that something was wrong; they weren’t understanding the underlying truths they were working so hard to lay bare.

The newest generation of scientists aren’t embarrassed by the anomalies. They have taught themselves to “shut up and calculate.” The digital somersaults they must perform to validate their work are impossible for average people to understand, much less perform. Researchers determine scales, introduce “cut-offs“, and extract the appropriate physics to make suitable matches to their experimental results. They put the horse before the cart, more times than not.

The complexity of the language scientists use to understand and explain the world of the very small is the most convincing clue, for me at least, that they are missing important pieces of a puzzle that may not be solvable by humans, no matter how much IQ any petri-dish of gametes might be able to deliver to the brains of the scientists in our future.

It’s possible that the brains of humans, which use language and mathematics to ponder and explain the world, are insufficiently structured to model the complexities of the universe around them. We aren’t hard wired with enough power to create the algorithms for ultimate understanding.

We are Commodore 64 personal computers (remember them, anyone?) who need upgrades to Sunway TaihuLight or Cray XK7 Titan super-computers to have any chance at all.

Pedro Domingos, author of The Master Algorithm – How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine will Remake our World

Nick Bostrom, author of SUPERINTELLIGENCE Paths, Dangers, Strategies

The smartest thinkers—people like Nick Bostrom and Pedro Domingos—are suggesting that an artificial super-intelligence can be developed and hardwired with perhaps hundreds or even thousands of levels—each level loaded with trillions of parallel circuits—that might be able digest all the statistical meta-data, books, videos, and other information (i.e. the complete library of human knowledge and understanding over all of history) to create a platform from which the computer will program itself to follow paths to knowledge far beyond the capabilities of the entire population of the earth.

This super-intelligent computer system might discover understandings in days or weeks (who knows for sure?) that all humans working together cooperatively for thousands of years might not have any chance at all to acquire. Of course the risk is that such an intelligence, once unleashed, might enslave the planet. Another downside is that it might not be able to communicate to humans what it has learned, much like a father who is a college math professor trying to teach calculus to the family cat.

The founder of Google and Alphabet Inc., Larry Page, (Larry graduated in the same high-school class as a member of my family) is rumored to be working to perfect just such an intelligence. He owns part of Tesla Motors, which was started by Elon Musk of SpaceX. Imagine a guy who controls a supercomputer teaming up with a guy who has the rocket launching power of a country. What are the consequences?

Entrepreneurs don’t like to be regulated. The temptations that will be unleashed by unregulated, unlimited military power and scientific knowledge falling into the hands of two men—even men as nice and personable as Elon and Larry seem to be—could spell for humanity over time an unmitigated… what’s the word I’m looking for?  

I heard Elon say that he doesn’t like regulation, but he wants to be regulated. He believes artificial super-intelligence may be civilization ending. He’s planning to put a colony on Mars to escape it’s power and ensure human survival.

Elon Musk

Is Elon saying that he doesn’t trust himself; that he doesn’t trust his friend, Larry? Are these two men asking us to save the world from themselves? I haven’t heard Larry ask for anything like that, actually. He keeps a low profile, God bless him, even as he watches everything we say and do in cyber-space. Think about it.

We’ve got maybe ten years tops; maybe less. Somebody better think of something fast.

Who could ever imagine that laissez-faire capitalism might someday spawn a technology that enslaves the world? Ayn Rand, perhaps?

We humans need to renormalize our aspirations—our civilization—before we generate infinities of misery that wreck our planet and create a future for humans no one wants.

Billy Lee   

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ANNUAL VACATION

Billy Lee and his entire staff of sychophants are on vacation during June and the first half of July. Click on our VACATION POLICY page-link in the black-strip of page-links listed at the top of the page below the header pic to learn more. Billy Junior and his slut-girlfriend, Fannie Jeane, will handle emergencies and approve reader comments until the Pontificator A-team returns. Junior has promised not to publish salacious articles during its absence, like he did last year. THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Yeah, Junior promised his daddy not to publish salacious articles while he’s on vacation. But I found an old essay his daddy wrote that, for some reason, he never published. I was rummaging around in his drawers, when I found the dumb thing. It didn’t seem right to me. Maybe the old fart forgot he wrote it. He forgets a lot of things these days—like giving me my paycheck last month.

He’s in Mar-a-Lago playing golf with Russian spies; he doesn’t seem to give a damn about me and Junior. He can fix his crummy article when he gets back—if he ever notices that I went ahead and published it without him. I didn’t bother to tell Junior what I did. The essay is called Renormalization. There’s no way Junior even knows what the word means. He’s never been normal; neither has his daddy.

Fannie Jeane

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Escape from Freedom

Today, as I write, the orange man (now blonde) who stole our election on behalf of the Russians held a meeting with Russian diplomats. He allowed only one press organization to cover and release photos. I asked some reasonably well-informed, smart people what press organization they thought it might be. They answered, Fox News.

Of course, their answer was nonsense. Fox News is clueless. It always has been. It’s run by a group of non-native Americans (their countries of origin are China and Australia) who have their own idiosyncratic ideas about what they want the USA to become. Their women parade around on camera half-dressed; recent lawsuits have disclosed that executives use many of them for sex. They pretend to be patriots and Christians. Of course, anyone who isn’t deaf, dumb, and blind knows they are neither. They aren’t reporters either. Cheerleaders for GOP politicians is a better descriptor.

No, the correct answer is TASS, the Russian news agency, which is an arm of the Russian government. TASS made the press announcements. They released the photographs. And of course, life goes on. No one seems to care. On Tuesday, the FBI director—who led the investigation into ties between our leaders and Russian mafia-oligarchs—was fired.

On Wednesday (today), we learned that it was the president—he remains under investigation—who fired the FBI director; he celebrated by meeting with his Russian friends. They all wore black suits, as if to highlight their bonds of power. The president lied, it turns out, about both the process and his reasons, according to members of his own staff who leaked to major news outlets.

The president’s bodyguard who delivered the FBI director’s pink slip.

The FBI director learned that he had been dismissed when he saw the announcement on television—the place where all of us get the news we trust most. He thought it was a prank. He was preaching, apparently, to a new class of recruits somewhere in southern California. He read the announcement on the scrolling news ribbon. Later, one of the president’s civilian body guards hand-delivered the director’s pink slip. One report claimed that the leader of the FBI hired a commercial aircraft to make his escape home. (ABC News reported that he was able to secure a government plane.)

Unless the Russians go door to door arresting people, no one will ever care—certainly no one in the GOP, it seems. The typical American lives inside a psychotic bubble of evil. Some act like they’ve lost the ability to assess realistic threats to their way of life; to the things they hold dear. They’ve watched too much television, too many movies, too much pornography; they’ve explored too many fake news sites—sites designed by experts to manipulate them into believing absurdities.  

The typical American takes too many drugs—some wake up with caffeine and amphetamines; some struggle through stressful work days that last way too long; they sustain themselves by swallowing tranquilizers or derivatives of heroin like oxycodone; some put themselves to sleep with barbiturates or alcohol or both. Some drugs are prescribed; they’re necessary. Others are illegal. It doesn’t seem to matter. The appetite for drugs is massive; Americans spend billions of dollars every year for drugs they shouldn’t be taking.

Howard Hughes (1905-1976) inherited the Hughes Tool Company. It became the nexus of a defense contractor empire worth many billions of dollars.

Many Americans would strap syringes to their arms if they believed that no one would notice—as did Howard Hughes, the billionaire industrialist from yesteryear. Some readers may recall that our government confiscated his many businesses to make it easier to build and secure our country’s infamous war machine; the process drove Howard insane; he became dependent on drugs only they could reliably supply to keep him docile and compliant. He lived his last days wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet, because the tissues cushioned his arches and comforted him.

Howard Hughes watched movies all day long, movies he once produced; they often featured his long-lost Hollywood friends. When he felt sad, which was often, he tapped the end of the plungers in the syringes strapped to his arms. Sometimes he cried. 

The Mormon FBI agents who baby-sat him allowed him to wallow. They left him to himself, for the most part. He never traveled, unless they took him. He never fled his gilded prison. His addictions made flight impossible. He might as well have been left to die on a sandbar in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He dropped off the face of the earth. Members of Congress, some of them, worried about him.

The public was asking, Did Howard Hughes die?  He had vanished from view like a ghost. No one ever saw him. He must be dead, some argued. Others knew better. They arranged a phone call with his handlers—to allay the fears of those few who believed that bad actors held him against his will. Some powerful congress members wanted to know the truth and share it with the public.

During the call—which was broadcast to the world via speaker-phone before a full congressional gathering—Howard said that he was OK. He was alive. Someone asked, almost as an afterthought, if he was happy. His reply stunned Congress into silence. He answered, No… I’m not happy. 

The phone called ended, and that was that. A few years later, Howard died. The coroner said that he found broken needles embedded in the bones of Howard’s arms and legs. He weighed less than ninety pounds.

Erich Fromm published the book Escape from Freedom in 1941. It was a required read in my high school during the 1960s, which was a long time ago—for some people. It seems like yesterday to me.

Fromm was a German psychoanalyst who argued that true freedom, if it ever came, would scare people so bad that they would embark on an unhealthy search for security; for certainty. The search would be a kind of escape; a frantic fleeing from the painful dissonance that the dissimilarity between people with disparate values can inflict.

This discord intensified inside the USA during the past decade or so. Does anyone really want to go through the list of things that Americans hate about each other? Must I mention gay marriage, abortion, liberal politics, civilian access to weapons of war, religion, race, ethnicity, politics, viewing habits, Facebook rants, Twitter smears, and on and on?

People follow; they unfollow; they block; they unblock. They flip channels. Nothing works; nothing helps. Erectile dysfunction, for example, is a subject that is thrust into everyone’s faces; into the deepest recesses of our subconscious minds. It’s relentless. It’s discussed with commercial intensity on every media channel. People who watch sports programming can’t escape it. 

No one can turn off the voices that are driving us mad, because the people who manipulate the public don’t agree with our points of view; with our sense of life. Do I suffer from erectile dysfunction? No; Hell no! I wish I never heard the term.

Do I yearn for a leader; a guide; someone to stand things up; to set things right?  Yes. Of course I do. But it seems like Christ is not going to visit anytime soon. Maybe a Second Coming is fantasy. Maybe we’ve been stood up. Maybe we need a Führer. Yeah, that’s it.

I said earlier that I borrowed this essay’s title from the book of the same name published in 1941 by the German-born psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm. I don’t know if the book is required reading today or not; perhaps it should be; better books might have replaced it. 

I considered a different title; I did. Maybe the Stockholm Syndrome would have been better. It’s about the ten percent of hostages who take on the values of their tormentors. I thought and thought. No; Escape from Freedom was best.

At least for now.

Billy Lee

Note from the Editorial Board: The details of the life of Howard Hughes included in Billy Lee’s essay are based on his memories of events as recorded in press accounts written and televised in real time as they were unfolding. Billy Lee’s memories do not in every case align with current historical accounts, because the history of Howard’s life has been reconstructed and fictionalized by many sources—according to Billy Lee. Billy Lee believes current accounts are revisionist, and in some particulars may in fact be inaccurate. Billy Lee witnessed the congressional interview with Mr. Hughes as it occurred.  

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Separation Acceleration

Colin Cowherd is an outspoken sports commentator and media personality who recently signed with Fox Sports 1 to host a number of popular radio and television shows. He has published two books: You Herd Me and RAW

During his Thursday April 20th sports-talk television show, The Herd, Colin Cowherd asked a question he couldn’t answer. The question bothered him, he said. It puzzled him to the point that he asked viewers to message him with their perspectives; he felt discomfort not knowing. Something wasn’t making sense.

He said that he had spent time thinking about why it is that no matter what anyone does to bring about parity in sports or in life, nothing seems to work. Despite rule changes and new regulations designed to do the opposite, good teams emerge that always seem to dominate their leagues season after season; great players leave the mediocre in the dust; even the gap between the rich and poor in society seems to be accelerating—despite safety-nets such as the Affordable Care Act, which have become more pervasive and accessible than ever before, at least in the United States.

Nothing works. The rich get richer faster than the poor; the talented become more talented; performance gaps become more pronounced; inequality increases. Nothing anyone does anywhere ever changes anything. Inequality persists and intensifies.

The Bible quotes Jesus to have said, The poor will always be with you. For some conservative Christians, that statement alone seems to make equality a hopeless aspiration; fairness will always be just out of reach. It’s pointless to try to organize government to address an unfixable problem.

It’s true that Jesus added, You can help the poor anytime you want, but most folks understand that it just isn’t going to happen. It never has in the past—not consistently.

People, many of them, simply don’t care. It seems like the more wealth a person has, the less they care about the poor and the ruined. Providing parity to teams, countries, and ordinary people who are challenged by adversity seems to be an impossible endeavor; a pipe-dream of weak-kneed liberals who lack common-sense.

But why? And is Colin right? Is it true? Are hearts as hard as Jesus implied; are people so cold, so ruthless, that no one has the will to make parity work; to make life a fairer process for everyone who lives it?

Is parity in sports and in life a fool’s goal?  Is the situation hopeless for the vast majority of people who find themselves living in squalor, in ill-health, and in hopeless despair?  Does anyone care enough to search for an answer; and if they find it, is anyone strong enough to set things right?

Well, I have an answer. I do. The problem is that I’m weak; I’m an anonymous blogger; I pontificate in a pile that is 7.4 billion humans high. Most don’t blog. Most don’t own IPhones or computers. It doesn’t matter. The pile is a teeming mass of screamers. Only a few voices at the very top of the pile are ever heard by the crush of misery that groans beneath their weight. I live somewhere very deep in that mass of misery. I broadcast from inside the pile.

No one in the pile cares what anyone thinks, or even what the facts are. The top of the pile is covered by a slime of celebrities whose value is that they mollify the mess beneath them; they entertain and distract; they bring a flicker of pleasure to a miserable land-fill of very uncomfortable humans who have no more chance of being heard or noticed than does a sea mollusk dying in the Mariana Trench on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

This layer of celebrity slime is green, because it lives closest to the sun. The dark mud of humanity that nourishes it lies beneath; the mud never sees the sun; many in the pile don’t believe the sun exists. During their lifetimes, they will never see it; they will never know anyone who lives green under a warm sun and gentle breeze. For them, the top of the pile is an unknowable, unreachable destiny; an incomprehensible fantasy.

The rewards for being clever are astronomical. There are no limits. The clever can hide behind walls and gates—beneath radio-frequency shielded domes of invisibility, hidden from the eyes of GPS and governmental surveillance; they live on the best land, in the best climates, among the most exclusive people; they dress well; they flash beautiful teeth, skin, and hair; they possess the most exquisite material possessions—luxury homes, cars, planes, boats, and art.

The last thing the green-slime people on the top of the pile want is to share their space with the organic mud that holds them up; that supports them; that pays them homage. It’s the very last thing they want.

Right now elites are reasserting their control over the entire earth. Billionaires are taking control of governments around the world and securing their advantages at a frenetic pace. Any idea of governance that even hints at equality, of parity, or fairness—any idea of sharing advantages—is ridiculed, suppressed, and ignored.

Old political ideas designed to bring fairness, like socialism, are laughed out of consideration. Simple solutions, like progressive tax policies and estate size limits, are never mentioned.

Only morons and losers would ever espouse something as unworkable as parity; it’s as unfair to the worthy-wealthy as equality, right?  Billionaires control media and education. They teach the pile, they mold and shape it, and the pile learns.

What do the mud people learn? The sun is out of reach; it’s not attainable; forget about it. Get on with life and forget, forget, forget. Hang your head, mud person; shuffle your feet, look down, not up. Ignore the obvious. Give up. Surrender to the weight of the pile above you.

Sleep. Doze. Ooze. Despair. In this life, abandon all hope, all who live in the pile. Go blind. No one above is going to reach down to help. Love is cold. Hope is dead. Forget what you think you know about what life should be. Give up on what you think is right. It’s not going to happen. Not in this life; not ever.

John D Rockefeller, 1839-1937. Portrait is a section from the John Singer Sargent painting of 1917.

Capitalism is just a modern word for slavery—surely everyone must know by now that it’s true. So is Oligarchy. So is Republic. So is any system anyone can name that codifies privilege and denigrates any form of compulsory sharing. Because—can we face unpleasant facts?—the wealthy don’t share well. Old man Rockefeller used to throw dimes to the kids who chased his Model T down the streets of New York City. That’s not sharing. It’s nothing more than throwing peanuts to monkeys at the zoo. 

Billionaires don’t share well. Not really. It’s why they are billionaires.

Those of us who live in the pile are slaves. Who can admit it?  Who can bear the shame of humiliation that crushes anyone who finally understands that the green slime is pushing them down. It ruins them; it sucks them dry; its roots grind like jackboots against their heads to keep the slime on top; to keep itself green, to keep itself in the light of the sun, which it worships like a god.

I don’t know much about professional sports, but I know about salary caps. The billionaire owners of teams have no qualms about limiting the amount that teams spend on their players. It has the effect of limiting what players can earn, while doing nothing to prevent team owners from squeezing as much money as their greed and clever machinations will allow.

No limits, no caps on owners. OK… agreed. On players?  Of course not!  Caps are for everyone; everyone who lives in the mud pile, anyway. Pro athletes might not believe it, but they find out soon enough, after a career-ending injury, retirement, or replacement by a more talented player. They too live in the pile.

The pile is a vertical column of filth which, if only it could be flattened like a pancake, would provide a huge surface area of exposure to a greening sun; a sun that will shine parity and hope and pleasure into the lives of the vast swarm of suffering humanity, which desperately deserves to experience good things.

It’s possible that people have one shot at life. We have to admit that it’s possible. This life could be all there is. This could be it. When it’s over, it’s over. The end comes quickly.

The wealthy won’t live among the poor. They won’t fix any injustice, unless the pile becomes restless; unless it shakes like an earthquake, nothing changes. The green slime believes it will live forever, that the sun will keep it alive, but in the end mud and slime share the same fate—certain death.

Then again, maybe people live more than once; maybe they live twice. It might improve the odds that life will be better the second time around if people reshape the pile. Forge the pile into a shape more favorable to the majority of folks who will live in it or perhaps on it, someday. Make it better all around for the people who will come later, who might be—can anyone imagine it?—ourselves. Does anyone know anything at all about their own future for sure?

I believe that limits to income, estate sizes, and inheritances are the only effective way to flatten the pile and expose more people to the pleasures of life, which our creeds assert are these: every individual has a God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Success by any reasonable measure is making $20 million per year; not a dollar more. Success is accumulating $500 million; not a dollar more. No one should ever be permitted to inherit more than $5 million during their lifetime.

Caps like these encourage both innovation and the sharing of advantages. They force the successful to invest their excessive wealth in the lives of their employees, their communities, and their governments—federal, state, and local. Why? Because they can’t keep the excess. Caps prevent individuals like our current president, for example, from seizing power, because his enormous and unbalanced financial advantages made his presidential run unstoppable.

One more way to bring parity and fairness to real people: make segregation a felony. America segregates itself by both race and income. I can’t think of a more vile way to live.

Outlaw gated communities. All neighborhoods, all housing, all apartments must be compelled to provide living spaces for people from all income groups; from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. The problems we have understanding one another and living peacefully have the best chance of being solved for the well-being of everyone, including the wealthy, when people of all backgrounds live together, interact with one another, and share their unique understanding and experiences of life.

One more thing, and it’s important. The minimum income should be no less than one-thousandth of the maximum income. It means that no person, working or not, makes less than $20K per year. Businesses will have to pay higher wages to encourage people to work; that’s a good thing. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Free health care can remove a lot of stress from a population. We can provide it, if we lower the salaries of doctors and health-care administrators. It’s counter-intuitive, but lower salaries will, over time, attract better doctors and more patient-centered administrators. People who want to be rich can work in other professions. Why not?

Have I answered Mr. Cowherd’s question? Maybe not. Not yet. The dynamics of groups is complicated. It’s much easier to evaluate talent in individuals and distribute it more or less evenly into groups or teams.

It’s impossible to know in advance which players will become force multipliers on any given team. Where does the personal chemistry lie that can be identified and measured; that can transform a pack of randomly selected players into world champions? If the owners knew, they could find it and use what they learn to create parity, where any given team has a 50/50 chance to defeat any other team on any given day. 

How many times have winning coaches traded away a seemingly less talented player, only to stand by helplessly as their team suffers a melt-down? It happens a lot—more than some people might think. Sometimes a great player on a losing team is benched due to injury. Mysteriously, the team starts winning games.

Too many unknowns and variables make the task of predicting team performance based on individual performance evaluations impossible. When people run in packs like wolves, success or failure in the hunt can depend on the interplay among alphas, betas, gammas, and only God knows what other variables. It’s not easy.

People are not equal. It’s true. Teams are even more unequal, no matter what anyone tries to do to strike that balance and get parity right.

But I want to make a larger point, which involves society and how people are punished and rewarded. Isn’t it obvious that less capable people are happier and more productive when they aren’t mistreated and humiliated? Do we mistreat our dogs and cats, because they can’t spell their names or perform basic addition and subtraction? I don’t think so. Do we deny them health care, good food, and a comfortable place to live? We do not. 

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) wrote the classic novel Atlas Shrugged, which portrays fictional inventors and industrialists as Christ figures.

Most billionaires won’t give the time of day to regular folks. They are predators, every one of them. They know it. They want to think well of themselves, but being pigs they have to work hard, many of them, to convince themselves otherwise. Many find solace in the books of Ayn Rand who preached when she was alive that selfishness is the highest virtue of humankind.

I hope that someday soon it will be a felony for an individual to possess a billion dollars—in the same way that possessing pain-killing narcotics can lead to the incarceration of Les Misérables.  

I pray that someday life will change. People will learn to love and share. Does anyone believe it is possible? 

Billy Lee

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JESUS, THE CHRIST

Micah 7: 3-6
Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.
Quoted by Jesus in the book of Mathew 


For whatever reasons (a few are mentioned in the Bible) Jesus’s parents, their families and close friends, thought that his birth was going to be important. Like most devout Jewish couples two-thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph hoped their child would become the Anointed One—the Messiah promised by the prophet Isaiah—who would rule ancient Israel and the world with a righteous sword. Despite their hopes and plans, things went wrong from the start.

For one thing, their Roman occupiers decided to conduct a census, which disrupted everyone’s plans, because the Romans required that every Jew return to their ancestral towns to be counted. 

The family lived in Nazareth; now they would have to travel to Bethlehem; Mary was full-term pregnant. Worse, when they arrived, no place was available to birth the baby. They ended up bedding down in a stable for farm animals. It was a place unfit for human birth, by modern standards.

For whatever cause—gossip, religious fever, hysteria in the displaced population, hatred of Rome, whatever—more than a few people believed that this birth might have a political upside. Roman spies became aware, and Herod, the governor, decided to nip the hysteria in the bud. He ordered an infanticide; his agents assassinated every male child under the age of two.

Fortunately for Jesus, some wealthy people found the Joseph and Mary family before Herod; they gave them the resources they needed to flee Bethlehem; the family traveled to Egypt; they did not return to Nazareth, Israel, until Jesus was eight years old.

Egypt was the ancient birthplace of Judaism.  Moses (of the Exodus) and Joseph (of the coat of many colors) were historically prominent; the details of their lives were the tapestry on which much of the Torah was written. 

Joseph enabled free Jews to come to Egypt in ancient times, mainly to help his extended family avoid a famine emergency in Israel. They settled and eventually became slaves of the pharaoh. Hundreds of years later, in 1311 BCE, Moses led the exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt. When Jesus moved there almost a millennia and a half later, Egypt had evolved to become a sanctuary Roman province for a sizable Jewish population. And it had become a safe harbor for both libraries and intellectuals.

No one knows for sure if Jesus lived in cosmopolitan Alexandria or some other city, or what exactly happened in Egypt, but after Jesus returned to Israel, he knew things. He wasn’t just skilled with his hands like his father, Joseph, who according to tradition made a living in carpentry; most scholars today believe he was a builder, certainly, but more likely a stone mason.

Jesus learned to read and write Hebrew and probably hieroglyphics (almost certainly), and perhaps more. Modern people might use a term like child prodigy. The things he said and did proved not only to his family, but to the rabbinical class in Israel that he would likely become, some day, a force of nature.

When Jesus was twelve, his parents caught him studying secretly at the Temple in Jerusalem. It seems likely to me that Temple leaders already had their eyes on him; he had come to them from out of Egypt, after all. They knew very well the Bible prophesy, Out of Egypt I have called my son—a reference to the MessiahThe rabbis may have been working with Jesus for some time, perhaps even before his bar mitzvah—perhaps soon after his return from Egypt some years earlier. It’s possible.

Jesus of Nazareth had a special way about him that set him apart, even as he matured into adulthood. According to one gospel writer, people saw and liked it.  Luke wrote in his little book that …Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Enough said.

People hoped that Jesus might become the promised military leader who every Jew yearned would rise up to throw the Romans out of the Holy Land. At the end, Jesus would do much more than that, but not in the way people thought.

His life fulfilled the ancient Scriptures in every way possible. Bible scholars know that, now.  Seminaries offer courses on the many hundreds of passages from those ancient Scriptures that describe and predict every detail of Jesus’s life and mission.

But back then—in year zero—the problem was that no one in Israel really understood the prophetic texts upon which they were betting their future. It wasn’t clear to anyone that the Messiah was not going to be a military commander. The truth of life was much different and more satisfying than anyone then could imagine.   

Billy Lee 

Comment by the Editorial Board: As is Billy Lee’s custom, he sometimes collects sayings by famous people and makes essays out of them. He did it for William Shakespeare, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Blaise Pascal; he even did it for himself in two collections of his own tweets first published on Twitter.

In this essay Billy Lee has collected many (not all) of the sayings of Jesus as remembered by four of his followers who wrote the tracts that modern people call the four Gospels. In these tracts Jesus tells a lot of stories, which religious people call parables. They make up big portions of the Gospels.

Billy Lee decided not to include these stories—these parables—in his collection, because they not only take up a lot of space, their meanings can be difficult for the uninitiated to figure out. It takes effort to work through them.

For the purposes of this essay Billy Lee has chosen to focus on the easier to understand admonitions and warnings of Jesus—uncut, unfiltered, and uncensored; no hidden meanings; everything in the open; everything in plain site for any serious person to read and ponder in wonder, because it is these things that seem to border on the miraculous; these are the words that have compelled and comforted believers for centuries.

The words of Jesus are known to have broken down some of the cruelest humans who have ever lived; His words have dropped more than a few hardened haters to their knees, many of them in tears.

Through his words Jesus assures the poor and the ruined (the neglected refuse of hurting humans, which is almost all of humanity) that a reckoning is coming. They will be rescued by love—even as justice rolls down from the mountain-tops like a mighty river.

History and experience tell those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear that it’s true. Jesus is the way. He sets things right.

from Mathew’s Tract

It is written: People will not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Stop doing bad things, for the kingdom of heaven is nearby.

…follow me, and I will send you forth to fish for people.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

…until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

 It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

 All you need to say is simply yes or no; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your father in heaven.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.

You cannot serve both God and money.

So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 

Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.

…learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard…

…when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

…the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

…you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Come to me, all you who are weary and overly burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

If you had known what these words mean, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.

Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined…

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…

 …whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

…the deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, making it unfruitful.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When someone finds it, they hide it again, and then in their joy sell all they have and buy that field. 

the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away

every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. 

 whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan…

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?

 …forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

...it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

with God all things are possible.

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. 

…prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 

…many are invited, but few are chosen.

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

…you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.

…on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog…

…you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

…the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done…

…all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

 

from Mark’s Tract

whoever is not against us is for us…

No one is good—except God alone.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

  

from Luke’s Tract

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

…no prophet is accepted in his hometown…

I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…

…whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

…for whoever is not against you is for you.

Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

…everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

…you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them…

Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.

This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. 

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

I have come to bring fire on the earth… Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

…unless you change your evil ways, you too will all perish…

What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…

…those who humble themselves will be exalted.

…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

…remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, I am sorry; I will change, you must forgive them.

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, Here it is, or There it is, because the kingdom of God is within you. 

…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

What is impossible with man is possible with God.

…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…

The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

…pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. 

…today you will be with me in paradise.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

 

from John’s Tract

…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. 

…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…

…just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 

…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

…as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself…

You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study  the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me… 

…the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

…my father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.

…the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

…where I am, you cannot come.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

…you have no idea where I come from or where I am going…

I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.

you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  

whoever obeys my word will never see death.

…before Abraham was born, I am.

I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. 

I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

I am God’s Son…

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

…you will see the glory of God…

…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.  

The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.

I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

I am the way and the truth and the life.

I am in the Father and the Father is in me…

Because I live, you also will live. Someday you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 

…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

…apart from me you can do nothing.

Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no person than this: to lay down their life for their friends.  

You did not choose me, but I chose you…

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

They hated me without reason.

the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

I came from God. 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.  

…your word is truth.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

My kingdom is not of this world.

my kingdom is from another place.

…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth hears my voice.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

Post Script

Isaiah 6: 8-10
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?

And I said: Here I am! Send me.

He said: Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Acknowledged by Jesus in Matthew; He was the one who was sent.

Billy Lee

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Afterlife

To readers who cling to religious beliefs and ancient scriptures to keep themselves sane and inoculated against despair, I caution—please avoid this essay, if anyone can; if faith is fragile and belief not deeply rooted, why not watch a YouTube video or play a computer game?

What sense is there in exploring ways of thinking (and being) that might push the personality to unravel; that might introduce dissonance into the deepest recesses of the mind; that might, for example, induce lunatics—like  suicidal lemmings—to throw themselves off cliffs of certainty into the swarming froth of oceans that want only to swallow them whole, to drown them in unfamiliar worlds of sea monsters and dark, incomprehensible dangers; to flood their lungs with the knowledge that every true thing they’ve ever learned is a lie?

Some of the smartest folks who have ever lived believe that we cannot die. No one dies; everyone lives—forever.

Some of these people would say that every person reading this essay right now is living in an afterlife; it’s an afterlife that began a very long time ago and will continue, in one form or another, forever.

OK. I warned you. Let’s get on with it.

First, some caveats. Paragraphs of caveats. The evidence seems overwhelming: all scripture in all religions was written long ago by savants who lacked—by today’s standards—education. Scripture writers knew almost nothing about almost everything, except for those experiences unique to their personal histories, which they sometimes wrote about. Old texts written by ignorant (but smart) men are the parchment-scrolls that religions always use as the foundational pillars of their creeds, doctrines, and world views.

It turns out that almost all religions promote the belief in an afterlife; the problem is that their ideas about afterlife make no sense; they don’t stand up under the scrutiny of a dispassionate examination by scholars using the methodology of science.

The Jesus of Christianity said He was God—imagine that. He was born to save the world, not judge it (as so many haters hoped he would), and to demonstrate to all the earth the sacred truth of the Bible, which says plainly that God is love.

The problem is, Jesus didn’t write anything down. A few of his male friends quoted what he said in short tracts they wrote, which were gathered together decades later into a collection that is now referred to as the Four Gospels of the New Testament.

We have to take their word. They were ordinary people; working people. They lacked credentials. Their little books, from a scholar’s perspective, are primitive and clumsily written. Their stylistic errors give their writing authenticity to a modern eye, but their understanding of theology seems confused, child-like, and kind of messy.

The value of the Gospels comes from the effort of the authors to quote from memory the amazing things Jesus said. Given the ignorance of the writers, their quotations have a miraculous lucidity, which adds weight to what they left to history.

The person who saved the New Testament for the scholar’s ear is the apostle Paul, a contemporary of Jesus whose letters make up the largest part of the volume of the New Testament; they delivered the credibility demanded by the cynical eyes of intellectuals and sceptics of all eras. Paul was a bona-fide biblical scholar—he trained under Gamaliel—and was arguably the greatest theologian who has ever lived. He met Christ only once—on the road to Damascus; it was a few years after the resurrection; Paul was, in fact, planning to arrest and kill Christians.

Paul’s encounter with Jesus left him blind. When his eyesight returned, he directed his training and skills to the spread and growth of the new religion (then called THE WAY). Under his leadership, Christianity became a spectacular success during his lifetime. It remains the world’s largest religion.

Since for me, Jesus is God, I don’t take any other religions seriously, though the non-Christian scriptures I’ve read are interesting—much of the writing is intelligent and enlightening. What is unique about Jesus is that he said he had a personal knowledge of the afterlife—it was real, at least for Him.

What is also true—his friends and family didn’t grasp fully what he was talking about, most of the time. His inner circle (the Bible calls them disciples) followed their shepherd around like a flock of sheep, by most accounts. His reasons for doing the things he did were incomprehensible to them—right through to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Even after His resurrection, they remained mystified. During meetings they expressed a joyful disbelief. After all, no one ever survived crucifixion. Once the process started, it was a one way journey into Hell.

Survival was something that just didn’t happen. Jesus’s friends didn’t understand. Modern folks can’t help but garble what they think they know about what His friends thought they heard and saw.

If those closest to Jesus couldn’t grasp His Truth, why should modern people expect to do any better? Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect a modern person to have more insight than Jesus’s closest confidantes—his family and friends—who lived with him for many years and knew Him best?

Anyway, this essay is about the afterlife; it’s about what some discerning people think about it, how it might work, how people may want to plan for it, and how to protect ourselves from the terrible consequences of not understanding it properly; of not taking it seriously.

This essay is going to shock some readers; especially Christians who are under the mistaken impression that they have everything figured out, because they once read and memorized John 3:16, for example, and they pray everyday.

I am probably going to take some readers into an unfamiliar landscape—one that Jesus could not have described to primitive people. I don’t want to alarm anybody. Some readers might experience fear; a few may wobble off-balance as they feel the ground shake beneath their feet.

My intent is to strengthen the resolve of believers to make whatever changes are necessary to secure the future of humankind. Jesus said that he was sent by God, His Father, to save the world, not judge it. He suffered on the cross, so that those who belong to Him won’t burn in Hell, which is our destiny apart from the love of a friend who had the desire and courage to rescue us.

Jesus said that God is love, and that all people are evil. Humans—everyone of us—are haters, whether we are able to admit it or not. Wherever it is that God lives, it is no place for ordinary people; it’s off-limits to haters. People can’t live where God lives, unless they are born again into a new life that remakes who they are at their core.

People, many of them, hate the very idea of God. They have no fear of the consequences of God’s love for the orphan and widow, the oppressed and downtrodden, the crippled and the malformed, the prisoner and the tortured, the blind and the deaf, the possessed and the mentally tormented; they have no fear of hell—though the reality of hell lies on every side, they don’t see it. It doesn’t exist. It’s not something they feel compelled to fix. In modern minds—most minds, probably—the idea of hell is an absurdity; it can’t exist. 

To be literally true, what Jesus is quoted by his friends to have said must make sense and be aligned with the reality that we observe when we look up into a night sky full of stars or gaze into a drop of pond scum teaming with microscopic life. It can’t be any other way. His words will always align with the facts we know to be true, which we sometimes discover by doing science; by living life; by suffering; by knowing people. If they don’t, then we’re missing something—I would argue that it’s always something important.

Jesus spoke truth to people who thought that stars were the light of Heaven shining through pin holes in a tarp that covered the night sky; to them, mental illness was demon possession; ailments were caused by sin. Jesus cured the anguished; healed the broken; he spoke gently, with compassion and loving sorrow in his heart; but it was frustrating, possibly exasperating; it wore him out most of the time.

In AD 30, truth sounded like lunacy to most people, because everyone was ignorant and worse; people were evil—every single one. No one knew what was real and what was pretend. Everyone was crazy, by modern standards. Rulers executed people for speaking truth, and today, some still do. Every thinking person knows it’s true.

OK. Enough caveats, already. I want now to move away from the religion of two-thousand years ago and move boldly toward the understanding of reality that the disciplines of the sciences provide. I want to explain what very smart people (some of whom do not think of themselves as religious) imagine is the afterlife, how it might work, why it’s important, and how culture and society might be better fashioned to give every person the best chance to live lives free of despair and suffering.

Although this part of the essay will abandon religion and embrace science, the intent is not to cause believers to stumble; it is to wake believers from a slumber that threatens to make them impotent before the challenges to faith that are devouring America, certainly, and many other parts of the modern world.

I want readers to think about how these ideas resonate with the words of Jesus—with His Truth—which is at odds, as often as not, with the religions of today, which by their works alone war with God’s love for human beings; war with the earth where all people must live; war with the plants and animals that God gave to folks for their comfort and good stewardship.

This essay offers a speculative view of science that aligns with the words of Jesus as quoted by the people who knew him best. It is very possibly dead wrong.

How could it not be? The smartest people not only don’t know what exactly is true, but truth itself, some humans have argued, might be unknowable. To his friends Jesus said, no, that’s not quite right—you will know the truth; and the truth will set you free. Set us free from what?  Well, maybe religion, for one thing—and, hopefully, the fear of death, for another.

Speculation about truth by a pontificator? Well, readers can believe it or not. If faith is fragile, my advice is to stop right here. Hasn’t everyone read enough? Does anyone really want to learn anything new?

Who would ever endeavor to move out of their comfort zone? Does anyone believe that fate is certain; that the future of humankind might depend on how people behave, how they organize themselves, how they treat the most miserable among them, how they lift up the lowest rung of people, who Christ loves?

Some of the smartest psychologists, philosophers, and scientists—Noble Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger, who discovered the quantum wave equation, was among the first—agree that it’s possible that consciousness might be a fundamental and foundational property of the universe. The smartest human ever, John von Neumann, wrote technical papers about it. Taking this view helped him to resolve many of the most aggravating paradoxes of quantum theory. Follow-on research by other brilliant scientists revealed that the problems of understanding consciousness seemed to become less daunting, as well.

I have written several essays about conscious-life and the sciences, which take readers on wild rides into the weeds of knowledge. These essays, some of them, are mind-blowing masterpieces. Click on the links at the end of this essay to take in more background and deeper understanding. Trust me. It will be fun.

This essay will gloss past the technical details of the science of life (because they can be found in related essays on this site). But I can begin by reminding readers that Schrödinger (and now others) believed that conscious-life was something that people plugged into, much like folks today plug their televisions into a cable box or connect their computers into a wireless modem for internet access.

People who think like Schrödinger are convinced that consciousness is imbibed by life forms; it’s something life-forms drink like living water; it isn’t located inside brains, although it is most likely processed there, possibly by dedicated but as yet not understood structures like the claustrumor maybe in tiny, sub-cellular structures called microtubules. No one knows.

When a computer breaks down and is dumped in the recycle bin, the internet doesn’t stop broadcasting. Cable news doesn’t stop when a television breaks down, either. People buy a new computer, a new television; they keep watching; they keep playing.

Consciousness doesn’t stop when a human body dies. It keeps broadcasting—from its source. When a baby is born, it is thought by some to be hooked into this foundational consciousness that the universe itself depends on to exist and continue; like a child connected to her mother by placenta and umbilical cord, life continues uninterrupted; conscious life continues; life goes on.

Another way to think about it: imagine that people are swimmers in an ocean of consciousness—the ocean doesn’t depend on them. Swimmers who submit to the waves and the undertow and the currents—which together are too overwhelming to be controlled by anyone—find themselves floating along; sometimes they are tossed by the waves; sometimes the current pulls them in a direction they don’t want to go; sometimes the undertow sucks them under. Those who don’t fight the ocean do its will—automatically.

Whether they are living or dying, joy-riding or hanging-on terrified, the drowning swimmer rides the ocean and does its bidding. Those who fight—who depend on their own strength and will—exhaust themselves against the surf and drown in a frantic fit of futility, washed up on a random sandbar like rotting seaweed, separated from the sea and baking into dust under a blazing sun.

What happens when we die? Jesus said that our bodies count for nothing. If I’m understanding Him and properly applying the views of Schrödinger (and others), then our bodies have no value except as temporary storage devices for a piece of consciousness that is not, it turns out, entangled at birth with the foundational consciousness of the universe. Getting entangled might be a physical process that can preserve our lives and tie our destiny to that part of reality that is eternal and foundational. The Apostle Paul called entanglement reconciliation in his second letter to the Corinthians.

People who aren’t accustomed to thinking this way, might find it unnatural and unusual. Take a few on-line courses in quantum mechanics to absolve these notions, anyone who is experiencing them. Read some of the related essays in the list at the end of this post.

When Jesus said to people more primitive than us that he was the way, the truth, and the life—that no one can come to God except through Him—maybe he might better have described a concept like entanglement to a modern audience. Who really knows? Even modern people don’t understand physics; not most of them anyway. Jesus did say this: Because I live, you also will live. Some day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

I know this: If consciousness is foundational to the physical reality of our universe; if—as Neumann argued in a technical paper—process operators he named I, II, & III are required to bring forth the universe we observe, then the consciousness that makes us feel alive must be entangled (or reconciled, as Paul put it) with one of these operators to enable anyone to survive and persist past the death of their body.  

Can anyone imagine a scenario where tiny bubbles of conscious-life that were never able to successfully entangle themselves to God might be regurgitated at death into new persons, as some eastern religions profess?  It would be a better fate than going to Hell, right? Maybe not.

In a world where most people live in deprivation and physical suffering, it is almost certain that a bubble of conscious-life that once occupied the body of a billionaire, for example, would by chance alone come to rest more often than not in a body debilitated by malnutrition, parasites, and disease.

If people thought that they were going to be born again physically into circumstances dictated by the statistics of a random distribution, they might not be so enamored by the privilege and prerogatives of power and wealth. Laissez-faire systems, capitalism and oligarchy, might be feared like the ancients feared Hell.

Maybe people—if they knew that they were going to be regurgitated into the world they expended their lives to build—would take more time to think seriously about what to do with orphans and widows, the oppressed and downtrodden, the crippled and the malformed, the prisoner and the tortured, the blind and the deaf, the possessed and the mentally tormented, because, after all, in that universe—in that place where there is no Christ—it’s who they will be someday, chances are, in the afterlife.

Billy Lee

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REASONS

This essay is Billy Lee’s rewrite and revision of a politicaldig.com blogpost written by Ron Delancer, which circulated widely on social media and Facebook.

Billy Lee used it with permission it turns out—the post ends by encouraging readers to copy, paste, and share it on their Facebook timelines—but he revised it extensively, mostly for formatting, but also to make it readable for his thin slice of the web-reading public who, it seems, suffer from, among other things, personal problems related to the understanding and processing of complex ideas.

In defence of Billy Lee (who pays our salaries), he claims that his version is a parody of the original; a satire, really—a controversial satire at that. As parody and satire, his essay is sufficiently differentiated and is not intended to infringe or undermine any copyright protections of the article it satirizes.  

The last ten paragraphs are original work by Billy Lee aloneWe sue people who copy, duplicate, publish, or possess hard-copy of Billy Lee’s original work, so don’t do it. Links that take readers to our site are fine. In fact, we encourage it.

Here is a link to the original article: Poor Suffering Trumpsters

The BillyLeePontificator Editorial Board


A Trump supporter told a Hillary/Obama supporter whose initials are S. M., We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.

S.M. wrote a brilliant response asking how exactly his “friend” suffered under Obama. Our readers will find below Billy Lee’s fractured mess—his version—of S.M.’s reasonable and respectful inquiry. It is satire, people. Supporters of our nation’s newest president can click on the word satire to learn the definition. It’s fun to learn new words; especially those with more than one syllable.  The Editorial Board


Dear Trump supporter,

I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. You know, you always hurt me deeply when you are mean and insulting. Of course, it is your right under our Constitution, I suppose. I’ve never wanted to hurt anybody. I really haven’t. You seem to hold an “US verses THEM” mentality. Do you like to fight?

The election is over. Isn’t it time to put the political campaign behind and look for ways to work together as fellow Americans instead of lunatics?

There will never be a president who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and, on the other hand, I can point to some stuff that President Bush did that I actually agree with. Notice I said “some.”  Bush destabilized the Middle East and almost bankrupted our country. I didn’t much care for that part.

If you’re like me you owned a 401K retirement account in 2008. I lost about forty-grand bailing out Wall Street bankers. How did your 401K do? I lost my job when my company was forced to downsize; they couldn’t borrow to make payroll. How did your employer do? Did you keep working?

The United States was hemorrhaging close to a million jobs a month when Obama got elected. A person would have to be strung-out on meth not to remember. You do remember, don’t you? It was an economic free-fall for everyone. Billionaires did OK. That was the good part. For them, anyway. They not only survived, they prospered. 

So let us recall that almost ALL of America was suffering at the beginning of Obama’s presidency. You get that, right?

Of course you do. But I wanted to look back over the last eight years and ask you a few questions. The hayseeds in your pant cuffs and pig manure on your rubber boots tell me that you might not know much about economics, but you do know what pig-shit smells like.

Well, here’s some shit. People said Obama was a Muslim from Africa who lost his birth certificate. He was gonna impose Sharia Law, Take Away Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and worse—his wife was a terrorist. Some evangelicals insisted he was the anti-Christ.

Does your wife allow you to track pig poo-poo into your house? I didn’t think so. You have too much class to track yucky-stuff everywhere. So I was wondering: Why do you always say that you suffered so much under the Obama presidency?

I’m going to guess why and ask you some leading questions, you know, to sort of help you think up some answers. Maybe you’ll do me the kindness of answering a few of them, so that my readers can better understand why you choose to think and act like a moron. Hope you’re ready. Here they come:

Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits of freedoms long denied. Has this caused your suffering?

When Obama took office, the Dow was $6,626. When he left, it had tripled — to $19,875. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama gave us eighty-two straight months (nearly seven years) of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Think about the economy when Obama took power. The economy was in free-fall. President Obama created 11.3 million new jobs (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?

Obama dropped the unemployment rate from 10% to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?

Homelessness among US military veterans dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama shut down our overseas black-site prisons, where people were tortured—in some cases to their deaths. Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama started the policy to pay travel expenses for the families of fallen soldiers. Grieving families, for free, can meet the returning planes that carry the remains of their loved ones. Has this caused your suffering?

We landed a rover on Mars and expanded our exploration of the cosmos. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Has this caused your suffering?

The percentage of folks with no health insurance has fallen below 10%; 90% now have it-–an increase of 20 million people. Has this caused your suffering?

People are now treated for pre-existing conditions. Poor people with heart disease or cancer can buy good insurance at discounted rates. Has this caused your suffering?

Insurance premiums increased 58% during the Bush administration. The growth of premiums was far lower during the Obama presidency. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama added billions of dollars to mental health care for our veterans. Has this caused your suffering?

Consumer confidence grew from 38% to 88% during Obama’s tenure. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Has this caused your suffering?

His bi-annual Nuclear Summit helped to convince sixteen countries to dispose of their loose nuclear material, so it could not be acquired by terrorists. Has this caused your suffering?

He saved the USA auto industry. American per-year car sales doubled during his presidency (to nearly 18 million vehicles). Has this caused your suffering?

The deficit as a percentage of the GDP (gross domestic product) fell from about 10% to 3%. Has this caused your suffering?

The total deficit dropped $800 billion. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Has this caused your suffering?

He enacted credit card reforms so that your interest rates can’t be raised unless you are warned first. Has this caused your suffering?

He outlawed government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons. Has this caused your suffering?

He doubled Pell Grants. Has this caused your suffering?

Abortion is down. Has this caused your suffering?

Violent crime is down. Has this caused your suffering?

He protected Net Neutrality. Has this caused your suffering?

Obamacare extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund (it will be solvent until 2030). Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Has this caused your suffering?

He banned torture. Has this caused your suffering?

He negotiated with Syria to destroy their chemical weapons. Has this caused your suffering?

Solar and wind power usage is at an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

High school graduation rates rose to 83% – again, an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

Corporate profits are up. Bankruptcies are down. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama started the process to normalize relations with Cuba. We share embassies now. Has this caused your suffering?

Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low. Has this caused your suffering?

US exports are up 28%. Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama appointed the most diverse cabinet ever. Has this caused your suffering?

He dramatically reduced the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He avoided war with Iran and stopped their nuclear bomb program. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama decimated Al Qaeda and recovered a treasure trove of intelligence during the raid in Pakistan, which he directed and approved to apprehend its legendary leader. Did this cause your suffering?

Enough questions, already. Reasonable people should be able to agree that Obama pulled the USA out of a financial collapse and kept our country safe from attack by foreign terrorists.

Things are not perfect. A few dozen Americans went postal and shot up some places with weapons of war that no civilians should ever own. A lot of children got killed by crazy people.

It seems to me that our newly elected leaders are bonafide lunatics. I heard one psychiatrist say, no; it’s unfair to people who struggle with mental illness to equate their suffering with the behaviors of wicked people. Bad people don’t suffer. They are not debilitated by hurting others. They are energized.

It seems to me that people didn’t suffer during the Obama years; they hated, some of them; there’s a difference. Nasty people posturing as patriots hated on a black man who managed to become president of the most powerful slave-state in human history. He won a Nobel Prize for it; no one believed a country with a reputation for racial-cruelty would ever permit such a thing to happen. But it did.

I was twenty-years old before a black man could sit at a counter and order a soda at a drugstore. Because of Barry Obama, most twenty-year olds today don’t remember a time when a white man was president. They were twelve years old and not paying attention, many of them.

Our new president is white and rich. He has over 5,000 times as much money as Obama. It’s one reason why he doesn’t respect our former chief executive. Lack of respect is one reason his family won’t live in the White House.

It’s not the only reason.

If he and his family colluded with foreign crime bosses to take control of our beloved America, well, everyone is going to suffer except those who choose to become collaborators.

When the nightmare ends, maybe years from now, the collaborators will suffer too. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave—remember it, people—despite the low opinion some of our leaders might have of us. We will find new leaders.

We will find a way to save our shining city on a hill.

Billy Lee

Posted in Culture, election 2016, Humor, Opinion, Politics, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on REASONS

RESURRECTION

So much to say; so little time. And dangerous. Imagine. When my essay is done, God will know for sure, should I get it wrong. What are the chances my essay will get it exactly right? Not good.

Jesus, before he died, said he had much more to share, but the ancient people he messaged couldn’t handle it. We know it’s true. Two thousand years ago people were more ignorant and intolerant than even today. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would lead modern people into all truth, but it would be done gently, gracefully, and in God’s good time. 

Jesus said that he came to save the world, not judge it; the last thing he said before crucifixion took him was this: It is accomplished. 

Greek: τετέλεσται (te-TEL-es-ta)
Hebrew: זה נעשה (ze NA-a-sa)


What was accomplished?

I’m not a theologian; I’m a pontificator. It means I have no credentials. Readers will not find a single group of humans anywhere on earth who will vouch for me.

I know this: people are scared to die. Most feel like Otis Redding, who released his version of the soul classic A Change is Gonna Come during Christmas season 1964:

It’s been too hard living, oh my
And I’m afraid to die.
I don’t know what’s up there
Beyond the clouds.

Jesus sweat blood; he begged God to find another way. It wasn’t to be.

My dear wife, a geriatric nurse, gave care to hundreds of people who died as she comforted them. I’ve watched three people die—my mom and dad and my wife’s dad. Beverly Mae will disagree, but the word that describes death for me is horror.

Death has a finality to it that seems to rob life of all meaning. My dad was a heroic figure. His life as a Navy pilot was an adventure. People loved him. In death, it counted for nothing. Death robbed his life of context. That’s how I experienced it. Total loss. No redeeming virtues; no comfort.

My mother’s death was worse. Her mouth dropped open. When I leaned over to kiss her goodbye, I smelled death. It ruined memory. For a few moments I hated God.

Beverly Mae’s dad collapsed in his downstairs bathroom. We slept upstairs during a visit. He fell on the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck. It pierced his chest; he bled out before we reached him. My poor wife spent hours cleaning up her father’s blood. Some of it seeped into the floor boards beyond her reach.

When I looked into the faces of the dead, one thing was sure. People, once they’re gone, don’t come back. Death is final.

Jesus died in a storm during an earthquake. The violence and damage done terrified people. 

One of the military commanders insisted that Jesus must be the “Son of God”, because the geologic violence that occurred during the execution proved it. To tamp down hysteria, Pontius Pilate, the governor, blocked access to the grave with a huge rock—which he ordered sealed—and he posted a guard to protect against gawkers and grave robbers. During an inspection a few days later, the tomb was found empty. Linen burial-strips lay in a pile.

Jesus eluded capture but was able to speak to hundreds of people, including members of his family. His brother, James, wrote a short, adulatory book about him, which was included in the canon of the New Testament many years later. In it he cautioned people to never doubt—something he did during his brother’s life. Until the resurrection, he didn’t know what to think about his famous sibling.

Pastors sometimes say that people who don’t believe in the resurrection are not really Christians. The Bible says that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved, so what difference does it make? Jesus said it is accomplished before his resurrection took place—days before. It seems to be impossible for a modern person to believe that a dead person can be brought back to life by any process anyone can imagine.

What amazes me is that folks don’t believe the simple things Jesus said, which are counter-intuitive, perhaps, but easily demonstrated by anyone who lives life to the fullest. Rich people don’t enter heaven, for example, unless God arranges a miraculous intervention. One might think Christians would be shedding their money like dead skin. Yet some pastors preach that prosperity and wealth are an indicator of God’s favor for anyone who makes a confession of faith.  

A pastor’s wife once told me she had never visited anyone in prison. Jesus advised people to visit not only prisoners, but the sick and the shunned, the poor and disabled—even the lowest rung of people in society—to show God’s love by sharing their lives; by being with those who are beat down by times of trouble. Who does this?

I’ve met Christians who home-school their kids and live in gated, sometimes all-white neighborhoods, where they wall themselves off like nuns in a convent; they do mission trips, yes—highly organized and scheduled; usually once each year for a week to ten days. It doesn’t seem quite right, at least to me.

Christ said that men who look on women with lust are adulterers; the punishment for some forms of adultery during Old Testament times was death. It’s not unusual to hear Christian men complain that they are trapped in a web of pornography, which some feel helpless to resist. How can anyone obey Jesus and honor his suffering, they reason, while they themselves spend hours each day committing adultery on-line, or however they manage it?

I can go on. The list is endless. Christians want to be good, but they can’t. No one avoids guilt; no one sidesteps shame. People contort their minds to think what they want. The easy stuff they ignore, when it’s inconvenient. The difficult stuff—like grounding their faith in the resurrection of Christ Jesus—they take on easily, because it doesn’t involve suffering to tell other “believers” that they believe it too. Suffering is what everyone is trying to avoid.

Jesus bled-out on a cross; I won’t have to, they imagine. But Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us. What did he mean by it?

The Bible says most of his followers deserted him after he said it. But Mathew—maybe the most prominent disciple; the New Testament begins with his book—quoted Jesus to say that followers would find in Him rest for their souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light, Jesus said.  

Folks whose heads are above water—who once suffocated in the quicksand of sin and were rescued—know exactly what Jesus meant. To live, they sometimes find themselves suffering to do what’s right. It’s inconvenient, but it leads to a better way of being. Poverty, not wealth, is a sign of the cross. It is a seal that binds us to Christ and his destiny.

Suffering along side of Christ, even in the midst of our own self-inflicted carnage, is a path that can lead to resurrection; to a life that lasts; to a life that has meaning. Suffering to help set the world right—to set ourselves right—can be a reminder of God’s promise to rescue us; to place us into a life that will last; a place that Jesus called Paradise

Folks who hold fast to the cross of Jesus; who drink His blood; who share His agony are never alone. Jesus said he came to save his own from the ruin that comes from dying evil. It’s a promise He doesn’t break. All other paths lead not only to suffering, but separation from God.

Loving people; aligning our aspirations with Christ’s destiny—which is to love others; to stand ready to die to ourselves, should it ever become necessary—are among the things Jesus might have meant when he said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God except through me.

Billy Lee

There’s a time I would go to my brother, oh my.
I asked my brother, “Will you help me please?”, oh my oh my.
He turned me down and then I ask my dear mother, oh.
I said “Mother!”
I said “Mother! I’m down on my knees.”
            ————————
So tired, so tired of standing by myself
And standing up alone.
A change has gotta come.
 
(excerpts by Otis Redding)
Posted in Culture, History, Opinion, Religion, Speculation | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on RESURRECTION

Nightmare

I lived as a teenager and young adult during the 1960s in an America where abortion was illegal in every state. Ten percent of women got abortions anyway. The technology of abortion is not complicated; many people did them for pregnant girls and women for small fees.
 
Birth control was something new. Many girls and young women did not yet understand how it all worked. They suffered shame and ignorance. Many got “in trouble” who never imagined it could happen to them—learning about their pregnancies, some of them, long after their boyfriends had moved on.
 

In junior high—it was 1961; I was thirteen—Thursday was Queers Day. Anyone who wore green was queer and could be harassed—no mercy. God help the wearer of green on Queers Day. I had no idea what being queer meant; I knew it was bad. Queer folks went to prison, some of them. They couldn’t get security clearances, not in the military, not in the Navy, dad told me.

 Blacks couldn’t vote until 1964. I was sixteen. Until the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 (I was twenty), businesses like hotels, drugstores, theaters, and realtors could choose not to sell their products to anyone they hated—usually Negroes
 
Yes, a few companies sold to black people, but not many. After King was murdered, 125 cities erupted into racial violence. Some say more. Congress, fearing the unraveling of America, passed the Fair Housing Act and other legislation to make racial discrimination by business owners illegal.
 
I never saw a black face on television until 1965. Black musicians and singers entertained on the radio and in night clubs in most large cities. On the radio it was not possible to know always if the singer was black. The link at the top of this paragraph is to an Otis Redding song released during Christmas of 1964. When Otis died in 1967, I did not know what he looked like. I’d never seen a picture of him—one of the most popular singers of all time.
 
By the time I graduated from college I did know what all the different brands of cigarettes looked like. TV forced me to watch thousands of cigarette commercials. Viewers back then couldn’t pause or mute programs. Remotes didn’t exist. Of course I smoked. Who can resist sophisticated advertising? I couldn’t.
 
On television news shows, I watched the USA fight a genocidal war in Vietnam. I signed up to serve—as an infantry officer, no less. I learned that war is bad; much worse than I imagined. I protested and the army stripped me of my pending commission. I got arrested at a demonstration and even spent a few hours in jail before some good lawyers set me free.
 
Some modern historians have argued that 1952 (I was four) was the year when the USA dropped anthrax munitions on Chinese troops stationed in northern Korea—an act of bio-terrorism. In 1976 (I was twenty-eight), a “rogue” CIA employee blew up a plane carrying the Cuban Olympic fencing team. The bombing was the world’s very first act of aviation terrorism—a form of terror our enemies would one day turn against us.
 
I lived in America under President Nixon, the closest thing to a Nazi we ever elected to the White House. I was twenty-six when Congress impeached him and he resigned. As a high-schooler I lived in Virginia, where white people went coon hunting to find and execute random black people. I lived a half mile from the headquarters of the American Nazi Party, which was led by a retired Navy Commander.
 
Can things get worse? Of course. Government leaders lie. Many are hypocrites. It’s often not possible to know what’s true. A lot of people who wear suits and ties are haters and power-trippers. It’s true.
 
We are a slave state. Slavery was a hundred years old in America when our nation established itself under a constitution in 1776; it’s a hundred-and-fifty years, if indentured servants (who were white and made up two-thirds of the population) are included.
 
Slavery is the fertile soil out of which the thorn bush of capitalism spread its vile branches of greed and exclusion. The institution of slavery makes getting rich easy for those who own slaves.
 
I love the roses of capitalism. But its spines can grow long enough to wound and even kill the unwary. Unlimited incomes and estate sizes turn capitalism into a predatory exercise; without limits people get hurt; democracy is devalued; economies stall; recession and depression follow.
 
The disadvantaged poor are as often as not sent to war by the rich and powerful to further maximize their enormous advantages. Threatening another war to take the oil of Iraq is an example—recently advocated by our new president. Since the beginning of time, every thinking person has known that greed—unchecked and unrestrained—destroys civilizations. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of every kind of evil. It’s true.
 
Almost everyone in the world today lives under authoritarian governments run by men, usually, who don’t give a care about freedom. It’s always been this way. Even in America with its Statue of Liberty, its Bill of Rights, its wide open spaces and fast cars, most people find themselves trapped in jobs they hate and working for rich folks who can ruin their lives with two words: You’re fired.
 
To put things into perspective: unless our new president decides to arrest and execute dissenters, or drops nuclear bombs, we will get through what seems to some like a living nightmare. It is not. Not really. Not yet.
 
We’ve been down this nasty road before. It leads to upheaval, yes, but if my generation survived and prevailed, then our kids and grandkids—some of whom I suspect think old people are stupid—will as well.
 
My advice is to be smart; dignity and love demand that each person resist evil as best they can. My experience is that the brave people who resist will lose every battle. We can’t close our eyes to the reality that the USA targeted and killed resisters in both Asia and the United States during the Vietnam debacle, to use just one example out of many.   
 
We war resisters lost every fight; every argument; every skirmish; every battle. People still ridicule the baby boomers who said no to war. I saw an ad on TV news that claimed that many boomers suffer from hepatitis C.  Imagine—the generation that said no to war is the newest leper colony—according to the pharma pigs who are always pushing imaginary cures. 
 
Like everything else billionaires tell us, it’s fantasy. I don’t know a single person from my generation who has hepatitis C. Yes, some boomers have hepatitis C; that much has to be true; it’s simple statistics; and, yes, some voters cheated during our recent presidential election. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.
 
Powerful people can paint the people they despise in any colors they want. Crooked Hillary. Lying Ted.
 
Slander is not new. The ninth of the Commandments of the Bible forbids slander. Powerful people increase their power by violating this commandment regularly. It’s the way they roll. It always will be.
 
It’s why Jesus said—except in the case of a miracle by Almighty God—the rich have as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has to squeeze itself through the eye of a sewing needle.
 
Despite the harm that billionaires do, they can’t change the reality that Martin Luther King Jr. described eloquently and frequently during his short life of suffering for the cause of freedom and equality: The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
 
We, everyone of us, should share Martin’s hope: non-violent resistance is not futile. Not yet. Not ever.
 
Billy Lee
 
 
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Merry Christmas

Babies are little miracles; gifts given in love.

What’s interesting to me about Christmas is that the man who saved the world from sin started life as a helpless baby. He slipped into history unnoticed and overlooked, I suppose, but his anonymity didn’t last more than a few hours.

According to the Christmas stories in the Bible, he was visited by both angels and people; Herod, the Roman administrator of the town where he was born, when he couldn’t locate him, gave orders to kill all boys under two, because the stories visitors were telling scared him.

People are afraid of babies. It’s not unusual. Sometimes—from ancient history until now—people kill them; who knows why? Everyone has their reasons. An ex-girlfriend once called to tell me she was pregnant. At the time, it seemed like the worst news of my life.

Yesterday, the child she carried—the baby who changed everything in everyone’s lives—won an amateur golf tournament in Florida. He will be celebrating Christmas with us in a few days.

The first time I saw Billy Lee Junior—a few months after he was born—I knew he carried my genes. The love I felt—in a doctor’s office of all places—came close to killing me; my heart pounded almost out of my chest when first I saw his beautiful face; his perfect feet; his tiny toes.

Jesus lived into his thirties before the prejudices and hatreds of his era coalesced to destroy him. He told us why he was born; he came to save the world, not judge it, he said. He came to bear witness to the truth—that God is love, as the Bible says.

Somehow, by some miracle, I know it’s true.

Billy Lee

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