Tag Archives: Lent

Knowledge v Information

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Can Be Taught!.”



“There is a book that gives the answers to 281 zen koans.”
“What good is that?”

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to think and he will always be hungry.

Give a man a book of zen koans with answers if you hate him.

Data is data, not knowledge. If you just give someone the answers, you specifically teach them not to think. But, we have rational souls, and the best teachers teach you to think. And why should we think? To know truth.

onehandclappingThe value of a zen koan consists in the relationship between the master and the student. It’s not a test, per se. It is a challenge to one’s mind. The right challenge at the right time is the genius of the master. One may never be asked if they can describe the sound of one hand clapping because the master may not find that particular koan useful for this particular student. That a book exists with the “answers” is both funny and sad.

In some traditions, a student is given one thought to ponder for the rest of his life. It makes sense, if everything is in fact interrelated. So, what does he do for the rest of his life if he finds the answer one day in the stacks at a library?

Not all koans are questions. One koan goes something like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Such a statement may yield the desired results with one student, and not another.

I will wager that some of the best and most productive koans have been lost to history because they were developed on the spot by the master for a specific student, and then were set aside.

And probably many glimpses of truth simply go unrecognized, or are just ignored. Here is a koan:

“I am to be crucified. Follow me.”


State Religion

How We Get One by Default

BY Frater Bovious

It's either something, or is nothing.

It’s either something, or it is nothing.


The curtailment and violation of religious freedom are in contrast with  man’s dignity and his objective rights…It is therefore difficult, even from a “purely human” point of view, to accept a position that gives only atheism the right of citizenship in public and social life…

Redemptor hominus, JPII

The current excesses of the principle of separation of Church and State, wherein one’s religion is becoming restricted from the public square and relegated behind the closed doors of church and home (making of religion essentially a private hobby) have the de facto effect of raising atheism to the status of state religion, or at least state philosophy.

Just a little something to think about during Lent.


Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals

Accumulating a Power Base that Will Implode

BY Frater Bovious

Power Base Politics Have No End, Only Means

Power Base Politics Have No End, Only Means

Saul Alinsky was a Community Organizer, or as some have styled it, a Rabble Rouser. Basically, Alinsky recognized that, for example, a bunch of folks living in a tenement house owned by a distant slum lord had no power. The reasons for lack of power are beyond the scope of this post. However, the basic physics principle involved in the difference between a grain of sand and a dump truck full of sand grains was not lost on Alinsky. There is an inherent power in numbers.

But, how do you get a bunch of disinterested and despairing individual people who feel powerless and unconnected to operate as a unit for the common good? Alinsky figured out how to create a power base from almost nothing by uniting folks against a common enemy.

If you read the below rules I think you will begin to see how these rules have become the handbook for American Politics today. You can see the tactics in the debates, in the news headlines, in soundbites and bumper stickers. It clearly works. There is however a problem inherent in these tactics. Read and see if you can identify the core issue. (I don’t believe the parenthetical statements are  part of the original rules. They seem to be editorial comments by, I think, Glen Beck.)

* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
* RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
* RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
* RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
* RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
* RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
* RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
* RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off-balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
* RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
* RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
* RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

One problem that I see with the tactics is they don’t create a self-sustaining organization based on recognition of the innate dignity of all humans. To the contrary, the rules specifically require demonizing your opponent, and making the participants feel good about it. This is basically bullying.

The other problem is that once you have toppled a bastion of power, such as a landlord, or maybe a political opponent, you become the new power and you are subject to the same tactics. When you make of your opponent the rabble, and you have become the establishment, the cycle simply repeats. Meaning there is no long-term progress resulting from this method of gaining power. And that’s because whatever the point of trying to gain power was, it has been lost in the overarching need to be in power, and then to defend being in power. Nothing is left for actually doing whatever you wanted to do.

The solution is to be found first in recognizing the inestimable worth of every single human being, from womb to tomb, and resting in that reality. From there, dialogue between persons of equal dignity can happen. It’s not as quick or as flashy, and will at times seem like you planted a seed and nothing is happening – but that is how real growth and development always transpire. (cf Mark 4:26-28)

Rules for Radicals give false and temporary power – something worth considering this Lent as we contemplate our ultimate end.


“Sometimes I don’t even know who you are…”

Said one of my best friends (Frater Cowculus, to be explicit) when I told him I really liked the movie “Purple Rain”.

BY Frater Bovious

(CARROLLTON, Tx – Cradle of Civilization) So, yeah. Purple Rain. Prince. And, oddly, Truth – as in “I Would Die For You.”

The first time I heard this song I was watching a VHS tape of Purple Rain on my TV. What with Prince’s overtly sexual gyrations, it was pretty easy to miss the lyrics of this song. Then one day, many many years later, I heard the song on the radio, and became intrigued by the lyrics – went home, used the Internet as Al Gore intended, and found the lyrics. Oila! here was a song that, for me at any length, appeared to be about Jesus, whether by accident or design, I’ve no clue:

I’m not a woman
I’m not a man
I am something that you’ll never understand

I’ll never beat u
I’ll never lie
And if you’re evil I’ll forgive u by and by

U – I would die 4 u, yeah
Darling if u want me 2
U – I would die 4 u

I’m not your lover
I’m not your friend
I am something that you’ll never comprehend

No need 2 worry
No need 2 cry
I’m your messiah and you’re the reason why

‘Cuz U – I would die 4 u, yeah
Darling if u want me 2
U – I would die 4 u
You’re just a sinner I am told
Be your fire when you’re cold
Make u happy when you’re sad
Make u good when u are bad

I’m not a human
I am a dove
I’m your conscience
I am love
All I really need is 2 know that
U believe

Yeah, I would die 4 u, yeah
Darling if u want me 2
U – I would die 4 u

Yeah, say one more time

U – I would die 4 u
Darling if u want me 2
U – I would die 4 u
2 3 4 U

I would die 4 u
I would die 4 u
U – I would die 4 u
U – I would die 4 u

So this is my own odd introduction into the season of Lent – to consider the truth that Jesus died for me. And you.

Sometimes, I don't even know who you are - or, to put another way, "Truth? What is that?"

Sometimes, I don’t even know who you are – or, to put another way, “Truth? What is that?”

Question with brief intro: Ever heard someone say, “Well, I’m not a theologian…” I would like to say that at one level, we all are theologians to the extent that we are interested in, or seek, the truth. I have no idea what Prince’s intent was with this song. I think I recall reading he was a Jehovah’s Witness or something. Nevertheless, while not a rigorous theology, I found some truth in his song. Have you ever been riding along in a car or sitting at home listening to the radio and suddenly realized the song had an unsuspected depth? Or presented a truth, however flawed in its presentation, that for some reason that day was the first time you noticed? And it made you stop and consider? If so, then you may have come across an accidental theologian. Please let me know in the comments.

On another note, some may wonder at Frater Cowculus, and note that I am Frater Bovious, and wonder all the more. Keep on wondering. Muhuhuwahahahaha.

A Bird in the Hand

Is it worth two in the bush?

Maybe not

BY Frater Bovious

I choose "Now!"

I choose “Now!”

CARROLLTON, Texas — If you offered your dog a biscuit and said “You can have this biscuit right now, or you can wait 15 minutes and I will give you two biscuits,” assuming no prior training, what would your dog do? Having tried this experiment with my dog, Coco, I have learned that he believes a biscuit in the mouth is worth two in the bush, every time.

The iconic version of this experiment with humans is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment of 1972, you can look it up, it’s interesting. Basically, kids ages 4 to 6 were presented with a marshmallow and told that they could eat it now or wait 15 minutes and have two. Only 1/3 of the kids managed to get two.

In general the experiment is thought to indicate the amount of self-control a kid has, as demonstrated by the ability to delay gratification. As an added bonus, follow-up studies seem to indicate that those that could delay gratification were more successful in life as demonstrated by career, spouse selection, lower incidences of addiction, etc.

Follow up and additional experiments have raised questions regarding whether or not self-control was the factor in play. Instead of self-control some have argued that the ability to reason and predict outcomes impacts whether or not the kid opts for the immediate marshmallow. And further experiments showed that kids who had been lied to or otherwise disappointed by a failure to keep a promise tended to immediately eat the marshmallow.

As if all the above are not inter-related.

First relevant point is that age is a factor. It is a biological fact that our brains develop over time and become more and more capable of rational thought. Just like I can’t simply say to Coco, “Do you want this now or would you rather have two in 15 minutes” and have him understand the question, the Stanford Marshmallow experiment was not done with one and two-year old children. Please note it was also not done with 30-year-old adults either. It seems self-evident that the ability to reason plays a role in self-control.

Also note they did not put a line of coke in front of an addict in withdrawal and say, “You can snort this now, or you can wait 15 minutes and snort two lines of coke.” It also seems self-evident that severely altering brain chemistry with addictive drugs impacts one’s ability to reason and that also plays a role in self-control.

The ability to delay gratification then is not an innate trait present in some and not in others. It is an ability that some learn and some do not, or that some have short-circuited.

So, what about this bit of folk wisdom that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? It’s rather situational and conditional. The Marshmallow experiment would seem to indicate that a bird in the hand is not worth two in the bush, if one can be reasonably certain one can get the two in the bush. The key word being reasonable, that is able to be reasoned out.

A dog will choose the bird in the hand every time because they cannot reason to a future potential good. And, in the wild, this is behavior that has immediate benefit. And in uncertain situations where one cannot reasonably predict the outcome of behavior, it is reasonable to get what you can when you can get it because you just don’t know if you will have another chance.

But, we are not dogs. We have abilities, and therefore options, that dogs simply do not have and never will have.

So, let’s talk about concupiscence! Yeah, I’m tying this into Lent again. I talked about concupiscence in an earlier post here. Simply put, as a summary of the above, a Lenten observance of delaying gratification is an opportunity to be fully human, and to realize our potential as children of God.

As a quick aside, I link to an article below that links to an article by a person that writes a lengthy article about her dismay at how 2012 worked out for her. It is a long and interesting read about how her life has kind of fallen apart and which she ties to her refusal to delay gratification but that it’s all good in the end mostly because she gets to write the truth about herself.

You Are What You Eat

Concupiscence, Lent, and Mind Obesity

(CARROLLTON – Cradle of Civilization) “You are what you eat” the saying goes. I have found this to be false since I am not yet a Wheat Thin (my favorite since I was a kid). Of course I’m not an anything thin at this point, and so maybe that’s the point. Obesity, in fact, has become the health issue of our day – and the reason is pretty simple – we eat a lot of crap – stuff that didn’t even exist 100 years ago makes its way into our bodies and presents challenges that our systems don’t really handle well.

We Become What We Consume

We Become What We Consume.
In this case, Cheetos.

But, what about what we feed our minds? If you look around these days, you will generally see two things in people’s hands. Cheetos (or some other form of junk food) and a cell phone. I know I have eaten Cheetos when I am not hungry, and I certainly read articles when I am not really interested. I think we have become addicted to junk information. And, like junk food, our minds don’t handle junk information very well. Tension, anxiety, a general sense of nervousness, inability to concentrate, no patience for deep conversation or thought…

"What am I missing?!"

“What am I missing?!”

Think about the time spent going from Facebook to Gmail to ChooseYourNewsPlatform and back again. Ever done that? Check Facebook 5 minutes after you looked at it to see if there was anything else? Go back to Yahoo news and read the same headlines as 10 minutes ago? It’s like junk food, or soft drinks – notice how soft drinks don’t really satisfy? Ever met anyone that was nearly continuously drinking a Coke? Or a Diet Coke? Or, had that moment when you were trying to talk to someone, and their “smart” phone chimes, and you are forgotten in the immediate urgency of the need to see what happened? And you ask, “What?” and are told “Nothing”? And then your phone chimes?

Junk information is making our minds fat and destroying our potential.

Fat, Dumb and Happy = Contented? Or sub-human?

Contented? Or sub-human?

All these things, junk food and junk information, satisfy something called concupiscence. Big word that simply means, at its core, appetite. We all have appetites – and in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with having an appetite – it keeps us from starving to death. And from remaining ignorant. We also have an appetite for knowledge. But, since The Fall, our appetites are disordered, subject to passions not controlled by our intellect or our will. And, just like the insatiable need for empty calories, we have developed an insatiable need for empty information. Yet, knowledge and information are not synonymous. We pour empty calories into our brains – information that you can’t really use for anything.

And so, we have Lent – an attempt to, among many things, control our desires rather than have our desires control us. An attempt to reconnect with the source of knowledge, and the goal – God.

A worthwhile Lenten observance then is to do what some have done – give up Facebook, or otherwise “unplug”. And what do we get out of this effort? Well, let’s tally:

  1. Time – time to do something else, like pray.
  2. A Stronger Will – concupiscence saps one’s strength – turns us into slugs. Passing up the donut on the way to the gym or passing up some mindless “news” story on the way to the Bible – both have a return on the investment.
  3. True Relaxation – the frenetic pace of information flow is taxing – and void of value. Most of it is useless or even meaningless out of context. Stop watching the news for three days and note your anxiety level. It will drop.
  4. Opportunity to Reconnect – with spouse, family, friends.
  5. Time – time again for God.
If it was good enough for Jesus...

If it was good enough for Jesus…

The Devil is the Great Distractor – I am convinced that his weapons of choice today are Facebook, iPod, and The Bachelor. Mind Cheetos. Take this Lent to stop eating mental junk-food and replace it with food that has fiber, vitamins and essential minerals. Pray daily, even if it is just first thing in the morning, “God, I give this day to you, guide me”, and in the evening, “God, thank you for this day.” Crack open the Bible you have and, beginning with a short supplication to hear God’s word, read, even just a little. For us Catholics, take the time you would be watching some mindless movie on Saturday afternoon, and go to Reconciliation.

Get mentally and spiritually fit this Lent. Deny yourself.