Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Iconic Theologian or Methusaleh of Numbskulls?

  Recently  an associate of mine forwarded to me an interview with 'legendary' and 'iconic' theologian Harvey Cox.   I think the context in which I received this is  important.  This article was  forwarded to my associate by his pastor as a sort of gentle intellectual rebuke, since his  position on the issue of marriage does not line up with the official position of his denomination . My associate had taken the  comparatively hard-nosed stance that things forbidden in scripture shouldn't be allowed or encouraged by people  who claim to believe the scriptures.  Crazy, huh?
  It's worth mentioning that Mr Cox taught at the Harvard School of Divinity for longer than I have been alive.  I'm sure he's a nice guy and if I saw him broken down the side of the road, I would probably  do my best to stop and help him.  However, Mr Cox is a perfect example of the mess in which modern biblical scholarship finds itself . Mr. Cox teaches the Bible, but doesn't produce Bible believers, he produces Bible critics. The critics he has trained have gone on to  pastor churches or write books and lead whole denominations astray. Only at the  judgement seat of Christ will the full extent  of  the soul-wrecking damage done by Mr. Cox and his ilk be revealed.
  I say this without reservation, even though  I am  significantly younger than Mr. Cox and have less academic accomplishments. In this interview, Mr. Cox makes some statements with shattering implications,  those statements must be examined in light of the scriptures.
  The interviewer asks him ;You talk about reading the Bible as narrative. What does this mean and how is this different from the way most people read it?.  Mr. Cox responds:

Most people do read the Bible as a collection of narratives – legends, stories, history, parables – but some read it as a compilation of moral exhortations and doctrines. Some enjoy its poetry. There is no single “correct” way to read the Bible.  This is, in part, because it contains such a variety of literary genres. Many believe, as I do, that God speaks through the Bible, but the message comes to us through many different voices.
     I for one would be interested to know what parts of the Bible Mr. Cox considers 'legends' and 'stories'. I enjoy the book Huckleberry Finn. I consider it probably the  greatest America novel ever written. I , however wouldn't bother spending  40 years or 4 years or 4 minutes 'teaching' people about Huck Finn because it's  just a story.. The Bible says, in regards to itself, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables..." and "Thy word is true from the beginning". Having a man teaching  theology who disbelieves his subject is akin to taking medical school lessons from a man who doesn't believe there is an appendix.  His disbelief  naturally taints the  subject.
 Later on in the interview, Dr. Cox is asked what advice he would give to 'lay people' who have never been trained how to read the Bible in a 'historical context'. His reply is as follows:

Knowing something about where a given biblical text was first written, and by whom, and to whom it was originally addressed immensely deepens our appreciation of it. For many centuries this information was just not available. During the past century, textual analysis, archaeology, the comparative study of original documents, and knowledge of the secular history that surrounds and suffuses the biblical texts is now readily available in standard encyclopedias and through search engines.
  The mindset that the poor unwashed  'lay people' are simply too stupid to understand the Bible without scholars ( like himself) coming to the rescue  is an old ,tired argument.  It displaces the Bible as the authority and replaces it with  lexicons and  dusty tomes written by even dustier men who don't believe the thing they are studying.  By contrast, the Bible says " are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:" and that "..the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Furthermore, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments:"If a man lives right, God will give him insight into the scriptures without any bible-rejecting scholar being involved.
  After giving some trite (and scholar-exalting) homilies on feminism and the Bible, the  interviewer finally gets to the question that, as they say , is on everyone's mind; is the  Bible a reliable opinion source on sodomy?
The term “homosexuality” was also unknown to any of the biblical writers. In the current debate, certain verses are often cited without reference to their original social setting or to what the words used meant at the time. In the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, given the hardship of living and high infant mortality, any sexual activity that was not reproductive was viewed with suspicion. The Apostle Paul is mainly concerned with the misuse of sex by the powerful (mainly men) as an expression of domination and inequality. As for Jesus, he says nothing whatever on the subject. Here again careful historical study helps clarify what was at issue when a text was originally written and to what extent that context differs with or overlaps with our own. This kind of careful examination, even if it does not produce an unequivocal solution to current arguments, might cool some of the overheated rhetoric often deployed. 
  As far as I can tell, Mr. Cox's position is that books like Leviticus or Deuteronomy aren't commandments given by God that are eternal in nature, but rather  a collection of superstitions held by ignorant folks fearful of a shortage of babies.  Presumably there was no shortage of babies in Jesus' day (despite the murder of most of his generation), so he  neglected to mention it ,yet Paul felt the need to bring it up again in Romans 1 (which has nothing to do with 'powerful men') and Peter  felt obligated to address it in his writings. I personally have to wonder if Mr Cox has ever even read the verses he dismisses. By  'iconic theologian' standards we, with a world population in the billions, should now be free to commit all manner of abominations.  Mr Cox, why should we pay any heed to Biblical warnings against bestiality, incest or murder?  
  You see, that's the real  business Harvey Cox is in; providing a scholarly  alibi for the sins of Bible-rejecting church members. Here's how the game is played; apostate church members find that the Bible goes against their sin.  Unwilling to turn from their sin, they search around until they find someone of scholarly authority willing to tell them that the Bible means this when it clearly says that.  These reprobates  congratulate themselves on having shed themselves of  old-fashioned ideas and praise each other for how open-minded and scholarly they are in their rebellion. "Professing themselves to be wise, they  became fools" is the Holy Spirits take on it. Now unfortunately one day they  will stand before God who, as it turns out, is way more old-fashioned and closed-minded than the idol they have constructed in his name.  As a great  man once said, "Some people's minds are so open their brains have fallen out. Their mind needs to be closed for repairs."
  Mr. Cox doesn't teach the Bible, he teaches idolatry, with the idol being smart guys like himself who stand in judgment of God's word, adjusting it to the political climate of apostate churches in exchange for a paycheck.  Mr. Cox is 85, and I hope for his sake that he really has trusted Jesus for the pardon of his sin.  I also hope that he  realizes the horrible injustice he is doing to the body of Christ and repents. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Signs and Wonders

I recently saw a video where  a man , who was a former Muslim claimed to have been both saved and healed of his deafness while at a revival meeting of some kind in  north Africa. I obviously  don't know this  gentleman in the video, and all I have to go by is his own testimony, which I accept at face value since I have no  occasion to think him a liar. I have no reason to doubt that he  used to be deaf, and now can hear. I have no reason to  doubt that the man  genuinely came to  a saving faith in Jesus. Youtube is full of videos like this, and out of all the ones I've seen, this probably was the best one as far as a testimony of salvation is concerned.  So he is not only  saved from the wrath of God to come, but he can also hear, and I am very happy for him. In the video he says he has plans to  become a pastor, start a church and preach out in the streets about what Jesus did for him. I'm in favor of all that.
  But here's what's  troubling.  If this really is of God, then why doesn't it happen for everyone?  Christianity is full of the blind, and the crippled, the  deaf and the dumb. And if it doesn't happen for everyone, what does that mean?
  The Bible is clear on this; we are one in Christ. Romans 12:5 says "So we, being many, are one body in Christ and every one members one of another." Ephesians 1:10 says "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:" Philipians 1:27  beseeches us to
"stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;" Colosssians 2:10 tells us "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:" Galatians 3:28  declares  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." 
 There is not, scripturally, degrees of  salvation or degrees of being 'in Christ'. No one that is in Christ is any more in Christ than anyone else, and nobody in Christ is in Christ any less than anyone else.  You're either in or your out. You're either saved or you're lost. You have either "passed from death unto life" or you are still "dead in trespasses in sins". And being in Christ, you are complete, and have already been given "all spiritual blessings", according to Ephesians 1:3.  The inheritance you have in Christ, which is called 'incorruptible and undefiled', is according to Acts 26:18, received "among them" that   are already saved. Nobody gets anything  when they get saved that nobody else hasn't already gotten. In true biblical Christianity, there are no  high saints and  low saints, and nobody receives a benefit or blessing that was somehow unavailable  to some other saint.  All the blessings, all the victories necessary to live for Jesus have been  bought, paid for and made available by the high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ, and are freely available, without cost or reservation to anyone who is sanctified by faith in him.
  If that's true, and it is, and  physical healing is part and parcel of this inheritance, as some have claimed, then why doesn't everybody get it?  The pat answer is that the  man who continues on deaf or blind or halt doesn't have enough faith. Somehow, according to this theory, a man can have enough faith to have all his sins  washed away and cast into the depths of the sea. He can have enough faith to believe that he  is joint heirs with Jesus and has a home reserved for him in a land where there are no sorrow, nor tears, nor pain, nor death.  He can have enough faith to endure the persecution and afflictions of living for Jesus, but somehow, can't get rid of his arthritis or his back pains.  That's an interesting theory, isn't it?
  Now we could delve into the particulars of the healing ministries of Jesus and explain the significance of it.  We could cover the Acts of the Apostles and put those events in their proper Biblical scope, but I want to submit to you that there is another  player on the stage of this  drama, and this player specializes in  counterfeits.  Those that promote  healing ministries also , whether they intend to or not, downplay the Bible, and having been robbed of the only offensive weapon in the  armor of God ( Ephesians 6) they are unprepared for the attack when it comes since they have forfeited the "light" necessary to see this intruder.
 According to scripture, powers opposed to God are able to counterfeit the miracles of God, and will do so to put the emphasis on themselves and away from the word of God. The Bible says in Matthew 24:24 that we are to expect "false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders;" According to both Matthew and Mark, the purpose of these signs and wonders are to "seduce" and to "deceive".   This capacity,  seen in Exodus when "Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses" seems to be limited only to the creation of life from nothing. Healing is even  possible using Satanic power according to Rev 13:12   They might even do so in Jesus' name, because after all, "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached , or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received , or another gospel, which ye have not accepted , ye might well bear with him. "( 2 Cor 11:4).  All of this  deception is simply laying the groundwork for "him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders," 
  Do I think it's possible that this man in Africa was saved?  Absolutely.  Do I think it's possible that his spiritual growth was derailed by a 'miracle'. Absolutely.  In fact, where I the devil, that is exactly the tactic I  would  use. I would  immediately shift the focus from written scripture to experiences. I would run to and fro throughout the earth ( Job 1)  seeking whom I may devour (1 Peter). I would gobble up baby Christians all day long by distracting them with the visible, and taking their focus off of the invisible.  I would distract the  church and before long, the gospel would be preached, but it would be a gospel of miracles, not a gospel of the grace of God towards sinners. That isn't a huge shift, but it's a vital one, and one you will not see unless properly equipped with  the scriptures.. After all, the very first thing the Bible tells you about Satan is that he is subtle (Gen 3).  If this African man does not get grounded in the Bible, for the rest of his life, the proof of his ministry will not be what God said, but rather what he himself experienced.  He will also be used as a proof for other people's ministries and  he will be cited as evidence that God is doing this or that God is doing that. He will  lead people astray with the absolute best of intentions, evaluating the scriptures in light of  his own experiences.. That is an extraordinarily dangerous spot to be in.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hanging Out

  As anyone who knows me can tell you, I don't hang out well.  I don't know if I've always been this way, but I feel compelled to stay busy and am always subconsciously looking for one more thing to try to get done. I guess the good news is that I've never claimed to be a balanced individual, and I  know my hang-ups.  Leisure time or down time isn't something that appeals to me. I have an 'off' button, but it  gets wedged beneath the 'duty' lever. I'm always on the mission, so to speak. To borrow a phrase from the old hymn "At home or aboard, on the land, on the sea" I've always got to be doing something.  There's just so much to do that taking an afternoon to go fishing or play baseball almost physically grates on me, even though I acknowledge the benefit it seems to hold for other people. If I've ever spent  any time with you where there was no definite purpose, take that as the highest compliment I can offer. And yes, I'm talking about you, Doug and Rachel.
  In 20 years I've never been part of a church retreat (what exactly are we retreating from?) and I've attended maybe two  mens fellowship breakfasts or similar venues. I just frankly, can't stand them.  I've been invited, but I don't go. My wife has compelled me to attend such things, but I  beg out.I'm not saying that's right or healthy or normal. I'm just saying that's how it is.
  You might ask then, how do you get to know people? How do people get to know you?  How do you build friendships? I do all of those things by labouring in the ministry.  I have a partner in the ministry named Darnel.  Darnel and I have worked together knocking doors, passing out tracts and preaching on the street for  almost 13 years.  We've probably walked hundreds of miles and definitely  knocked thousands of doors. I know that man better than I know my own wife, it seems.  I know his  interests and his affections and his reactions as well as I know my own. By contrast, I've attended services with some people for that same length of time, and they remain  virtual strangers to me.   Admittedly, some of that is my own fault, but part of it is the very nature of laboring together.
  After all, the biblical definition of fellowship isn't hanging out out at the fellowship hall wolfing down doughnuts. The  biblical definition of fellowship is established in Leviticus 6, which says   " If a soul sin , and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship , or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth , sinning therein; Then it shall be, because he hath sinned , and is guilty , that he shall restore that which he took violently away , or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten , or that which was delivered him to keep , or the lost thing which he found ,  Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering."
  The context is something that  two men have in common, in this case a piece of property.  That definition holds true in Psalm 94, and   continues on  into the book of Acts, with references in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and 1 John. The context is always the same; two people that have joint ownership or joint possession of something, usually the  gosepl or the  minstry , at least in the New Testament.  People that evangelize together or edify together form a  bond that  supersedes and  amplifies the bond they already have in Christ.  The  van rides on the way to  labor, or on the way back are precious times where fellow warriors can either give each other courage for the battle ahead, or  swap stories about what they encountered on the way back.  To me, that  surpasses insipid conversations about what  was on TV last night or what some sports team has done or will do. I mean, who really cares?
  Once again, I am not saying this is balanced or normal or healthy, but I suspect that it is not unique.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mark Twain Loves Ron Paul

The Bible says "There is nothing new under the sun" and   over a hundred years ago before a soft-spoken Texas Congressman was making waves in the GOP because of his non-interventionist ideas, it turns out the most celebrated American author in history was saying the exact same thing.
  Samuel Clemens, or as he was better known, Mark Twain, had  enjoyed the  success and fame of his literary achievements. By the late 1800's, he had circled the globe giving speeches and readings from his books.  By his own admission, visiting   almost every continent on earth, and seeing  first hand the effects of an increasingly belligerent  foreign policy changed his mind on how the  American government should treat its neighbor nations.  Since he had the ability to speak his mind and be applauded for it , and the skill to illustrate absurdity while doing so, he spent the last years of his life speaking out against  interventionism, or, as it was known back then 'imperialism'.
  He arrived back in America after a 9 year abscence just as the Philippine-American war was cresting. The  American government had commited  itself to liberating the Philippine Islands from the Spanish, and  had committed troops to the same.  As Mark Twain stepped off the boat in 1900, the  press was anxious to know his thoughts on the events of the day.  He told the New York Herald:
   "I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with the Rockies. Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? And I thought it would be a real good thing to do.
I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.
But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.
We have also pledged the power of this country to maintain and protect the abominable system established in the Philippines by the Friars.
It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."

  He was  quoted in the  Chicago Tribune as saying, when asked if he was an anti-imperialist:

"Well, I am. A year ago I wasn't. I thought it would be a great thing to give a whole lot of freedom to the Filipinos, but I guess now that it's better to let them give it to themselves. Besides, on looking over the treaty I see we've got to saddle the friars and their churches. I guess we don't want to."
 The Missourian who wrote Huckleberry Finn had seen up-close and personal what this particular export of American interventionism was doing to  the world opinion of the United States.  A year later, at a meeting of the Anti-Imperialist league of New York, Mr. Twain referred to  the 'uncivilized' people of the world and what they thought of our 'freedoms' exported at the point of a gun.  Mark Twain  had figured out early on that war is a racket;

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it -- they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More -- they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light.
  Mr. Twain cited a specific example where the slaughter of  some missionaries had given the  Kaiser an excuse to interfere in Chinese politics.

He lost a couple of missionaries in a riot in Shantung, and in his account he made an overcharge for them. China had to pay a hundred thousand dollars apiece for them, in money; twelve miles of territory, containing several millions of inhabitants and worth twenty million dollars; and to build a monument, and also a Christian church; whereas the people of China could have been depended upon to remember the missionaries without the help of these expensive memorials. This was all bad play. Bad, because it would not, and could not, and will not now or ever, deceive the Person Sitting in Darkness. He knows that it was an overcharge. He knows that a missionary is like any other man: he is worth merely what you can supply his place for, and no more. He is useful, but so is a doctor, so is a sheriff, so is an editor; but a just Emperor does not charge war-prices for such. A diligent, intelligent, but obscure missionary, and a diligent, intelligent country editor are worth much, and we know it; but they are not worth the earth.
  Over a century before Dr. Paul made his historic "Armed Chinese Troops in Texas " speech, Mark Twain  put forth a  similar scenario for his audience.:

Would Germany charge America two hundred thousand dollars for two missionaries, and shake the mailed fist in her face, and send warships, and send soldiers, and say: 'Seize twelve miles of territory, worth twenty millions of dollars, as additional pay for the missionaries; and make those peasants build a monument to the missionaries, and a costly Christian church to remember them by?' And later would Germany say to her soldiers: 'March through America and slay, giving no quarter; make the German face there, as has been our Hun-face here, a terror for a thousand years; march through the Great Republic and slay, slay, slay, carving a road for our offended religion through its heart and bowels?' Would Germany do like this to America, to England, to France, to Russia? Or only to China the helpless -- imitating the elephant's assault upon the field-mice? Had we better invest in this Civilization -- this Civilization which called Napoleon a buccaneer for carrying off Venice's bronze horses, but which steals our ancient astronomical instruments from our walls, and goes looting like common bandits -- that is, all the alien soldiers except America's; and (Americans again excepted) storms frightened villages and cables the result to glad journals at home every day: 'Chinese losses, 450 killed; ours, one officer and two men wounded. Shall proceed against neighboring village to-morrow, where a massacre is reported.' Can we afford Civilization?"
  As a parting shot towards America policy,  Twain put forth  words that sting almost as if they were written yesterday.:

The Person Sitting in Darkness is almost sure to say: "There is something curious about this -- curious and unaccountable. There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive's new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land."
  Mark Twain's anti-imperialist sentiments were  suppressed a bit by the inheritors of his estate, who  wanted the world to remember the  clever, witty bard of the Mississippi in light of his less controversial  works.  Recent years and fresh scholarship have revealed  more of the whole man though, including the introduction Mark Twain gave to a young Winston Churchill in 1900 when  Churchill was to speak before a group of New York businessmen.  No doubt Twain had been brought in to lionize the younger man, but Twain was old enough, rich enough and  opinionated enough to take this opportunity to address what he saw as  poor British foreign policy that was being emulated by the United States. He told the assembled crowd;

For years I have been a self-appointed missionary, and have wrought zealously for my cause--the joining together of America and the motherland in bonds of friendship, esteem and affection--an alliance of the heart which should permanently and beneficently influence the political relations of the two countries. Wherever I have stood before a gathering of Americans or Englishmen, in England, India, Australia or elsewhere, I have urged my mission, and warmed it up with compliments to both countries and pointed out how nearly alike the two peoples are in character and spirit. They ought to be united....

...yet I think England sinned in getting into a war in South Africa which she could have avoided without loss of credit or dignity--just as I think we have sinned in crowding ourselves into a war in the Philippines on the same terms.

Mr. Churchill will tell you about the war in South Africa, and he is competent--he fought and wrote through it himself. And he made a record there which would be a proud one for a man twice his age. By his father he is English, by his mother he is American--to my mind the blend which makes the perfect man. We are now on the friendliest terms with England. Mainly through my missionary efforts I suppose; and I am glad. We have always been kin: kin in blood, kin in religion, kin in representative government, kin in ideals, kin in just and lofty purposes; and now we are kin in sin, the harmony is complete, the blend is perfect, like Mr. Churchill himself, whom I now have the honor to present to you.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Techno-Hermit Blues

  My reputation as  techno-hermit ( a word I still claim  full credit for inventing) is  pretty well-established among those that know me, and is  a bit of a sort of amusement to some.  Some make the  case, partly in jest, that a man who has a blog, and a youtube page can hardly be classified as a techno-hermit. These folks  say that  not having a cell-phone doesn't qualify you as a techno-hermit, it  just makes you backwards on purpose.  That's fine, and into each life a little inconsistency must fall.  The truth is, I am  bereft of cell-phone on purpose.  Our desktop is ancient, having been built by me out of  spare computer parts that were laying around. I have no tablet, no laptop, no android.  My car doesn't have a radio, or a GPS. I have only sent one text message in my entire life,  and that was done on somebody else's phone, and under duress.  I will openly confess that most of this is by choice, and I will also openly confess a certain amount of smugness towards other people as they  scurry along, more enslaved to their little devices than they probably realize.  I take note while in a restaurant or an airport whole families  communing with their  tiny glowing rectangles instead of each other.  I  take a certain amount of (perhaps wrong) pride in my situational awareness as compared to the oblivion of the techno-saavy.  I  enjoy the  fact that I can hop in my car, and drive across country, and for most of the trip, literally nobody on the planet can find me.
  But I must also admit; I don't know how much longer this  will last.  You see, in my life I have owned two Ipods.  Both were purchased  used, and both were gifts to me. The first was about the size of a pack of cigarettes and was so old I suspect it was steam-powered.  My current one is significantly smaller, but easily 6 or 7 years old. So while I roll along in my  GPS-invisible car, I listen to  music or preaching  or audio books, and life is good. I am  not connected to the cloud,  I am not broadcasting  to the world; it's good.
  However,  in a trait that I believe is  planned obsolescence, both of my Ipods have experienced battery issues after a couple of years.  They simply wouldn't charge back up.  The  remedy for this is to reset the Ipod, which is a temporary measure, and also involves reloading all of your content.  It's hassle and fixes it less every time.  They really do want you to buy a new Ipod, and my problem is this; all the new ones are wireless, and with their  battery issues,  the Ipod people are doing their best to   connect me to the rest of the world, and I don't want to be connected to the rest of the world.  I don't want my device syncing up with  the wi-fi every time I walk into a Burger King.  My current solution is to keep my Ipod perpetually connected to a power source, but that obviously limits the whole idea of having portable music.  Eventually even that isn't going to work, and I will  probably find myself at a techno cross-roads.
  I know, I know, you're thinking, what's the big deal?  After all, the rest of the world is  connected, and it hasn't harmed anyone.  That's debatable, but not the point. The point is, if the technology is there to  meet my needs, and one of my needs is not wanting to be 'jined' up, why isn't there a niche market for folks like me who are just cranky or contrary or stubborn ( all terms my wife uses regularly to describe me) and don't want all the features?  Why isn't there a niche market, for example, for people who want a phone that simply makes phone calls?
  As it turns out, I have a theory about that. I think there are more of us techno-hermits out there than  people realize, but because we're not outside the Apple store queuing up for the last smart watch or   gushing about the newest app that counts their calories, nobody knows how many of us there are.  Our techno-resistance marginalizes us, but it also makes us a little invisible.
  So on behalf of techno-hermits everywhere, I am putting the  tech folks on notice;  if you make  devices that simply do  what we need, we will buy them.  If you don't , well I suppose I  could equip my car with a turntable and an old dairy carton full of LP's.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Batman As A Career Move

It's a common observation that , if given a choice of plausibility and attainability between Batman and Superman, Batman is entirely the more  attainable. The idea is that it is impossible for me to  be an alien born on Krypton and rocketed here from birth with a unique physiology triggered by the Earth's yellow sun. It's too late for that. I was already born here, to human parents, as far as I know.  So 'Superman' isn't really an option for me, and never was.  But to a young boy, there does remain the  remote possibility that somehow he will amass a fortune and a mansion and a cave and from there will be free to train  his body and mind  to become a razor-sharp weapon in an endless war on  crime.  It's remote, but it's possible.
  Of course there is  a lot more to Batman than just a big pile of cash and a cave under your house.  Comic characters are relatively ageless ( Peter Parker spent almost two decades in high school and Archie never has graduated)  so it's hard to  really  know Bruce Wayne's age.  But  just think about this. How long would it take you to  master  (and I do mean master)  every form of unarmed combat that you might encounter? It takes , according to some 3 1/2 years to get a black belt in karate, and a black belt is just the beginning of that discipline. But Batman isn't just a wrestler, or just  a boxer, or just a martial arts guy. Batman is betting his life, night after night that he can physically  outperform every  thug or costumed clown he might encounter.  It would easily take 10 years of constant training to  reach that level of proficiency.  If Bruce Wayne started training the night his parents were killed, he would still be in his 20's before he was ready, and that's only if he dropped out of school in the  5th grade and did nothing else.
  Batman isn't just a musclebound guy though. He has invented, out of whole cloth, an entire arsenal of weapons, gadgets, tools and vehicles that he has had to either design  himself or hide the origins.  Leonardo da Vinci has got nothing on Bruce Wayne because Waynes also have to function out in the real world.  Assuming he's  a natural born genius, it would still take Bruce Wayne at least a decade in the engineering field to acquire the  skills necessary to build his bat-ensemble, which puts him in his 30's before he can  really begin his crime-fighting career.
  Batman is also arguably the  world's greatest detective, with observational skills that are  second only to maybe Mr. Holmes.  He is a master chemist, able to easily analyze any number of  clues left behind and deduce their sources. He can't afford to outsource any of this work or rely on anyone else for knowledge. He is a world-class scientist. He maintains  a computer system (which he built himself, no doubt) housing  complete dossiers on every criminal he encounters,  plus an encyclopedic  trove of information on any available topic, all of which must be constantly updated. He's a master mechanic, able to repair all of his specialized equipment and vehicles. He is a master thespian and a master of disguise, with his most impressive acting job being that of  goof-off layabout playboy Bruce Wayne. He designs all of his  costumes. He has a matchless knowledge of the city, being familiar with every skylight, alley and abandoned warehouse. He knows how to pick locks, and how to hack computers.  Any of these skills require years of constant practice, and yet Batman maintains  spot-on proficiency in them all without a hiccup.
  Then there's the  Batman presence. This guy regularly  rubs shoulders with  heroes that can lift planets, and they are intimidated by him when he is basically just a guy in a suit. He is so good at what he does that nobody notices he has absolutely no powers.  Acting on that level  requires its own training and upkeep.
  Assuming that his vast fortune left him the free time to  study all of these things, and assuming he is a quick study, Bruce Wayne still falls prey to the same thing everyone else falls prey to; the clock.  He is an least as good a shape as Michael Phelps, and Michael Phelps trains 6 hours a day and  consumes about 10,000 calories a day to keep that behemoth  physique running.  That gives Bruce Wayne 18 hours in his day to do everything else except train. His training regiment has to be designed by him and has to include flexibility, speed and strength exercises.  After all he isn't training for just one thing, he's training for whatever may happen.
 It  probably takes  at least 2 hours a day of eating to wolf down 10,00 calories, so that leaves him 16 hours.  He has to go on patrol, and assuming he  patrols from dark to  dawn, that leaves him with 8 hours.  But he has to  keep the money rolling in as Bruce Wayne to pay for all this.  I'm sure he has competent management that takes care of  most things, but he still has to show up occasionally and do something. Even if he  did  'Bruce Wayne' stuff ( including expensive dinner parties with gorgeous starlets to keep up appearances) for a mere 2 hours a day, that only leaves him  6 hours.
  Of course there is maintenance on the Batmobile and assorted gadgets,  research on the latest threat to Gotham,  showers, upkeep on his  topical knowledge, meetings with  Commissioner Gordon, counsel with  Alfred, instruction with Robin, designing gear and testing gear, recovery from  beatings, probably more showers, and pretty soon  his 24 hours is gone, with  no time really alloted for sleep.  Without sleep, your brain cannot process the knowledge you've accumulated, your  muscles quake, your coordination goes and you begin to hallucinate. The next day it starts all over again.  It would take the most dedicated and focused ( to the point of neurosis) person in the world to accomplish this, and long before they got there they would collapse in a smelly, babbling heap.
  Yeah, maybe I ought to examine that 'Superman' option again.