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Why We Should Think for Ourselves

Why We Should Think for Ourselves.

Since the inception of this blog, I have asserted that independent thinking and action is one of the most important facets of our humanity, and one of the defining functions of personality. This is because I understand a very old (and yet very true) adage that states that “….the best ideas are common property.” Stated another way, the best principles/maxims/rules of living are understood by a great number of people, and not by a select few (those in today’s society who consider themselves the “elite,” or the so-called “intelligentsia”). Of course, in today’s America, the exact opposite is the prevailing vision, and teaching in modern schools and universities reflects this to a great extent.

It is thus refreshing to see a real-life experience–a direct antithesis to the prevailing vision–documented that proves (yet again) the truth of this ancient maxim.

The best ideas truly are common property–common property of strong-minded individuals who understand the power of independent thinking and action.

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Where, Oh Where Has “The Southern Voice” Gone?

For several weeks, I’ve been hearing from followers on both WordPress and Facebook, wondering where in the world I’ve been, and why I haven’t been blogging more often. I would like to take a moment to update all my followers with a long-overdue status update and outlook for the blog.

Most of the folks who follow this blog have been with me long enough to know that I’ve been in school on and off since the end of 2008. This past semester proved to be the busiest yet, with a full class load and a full-time job for the last month and a half of the semester. Nothing new for a self-financed college student, but this semester has been different.

The truth is, Facebook followers of The Southern Voice have an advantage over those who stick to WordPress. They’re in on the secret. And it’s a good one. That’s why I’m grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

Grinning like the cat that ate the canary
Grinning like the cat that ate the canary

There are many things that are cause for rejoicing. In the last year, I’ve gone from being unemployed, limping on a strained ankle, and without transportation to unrestricted ambulation (a medical professional’s term for walking normally, lol), owning a dependable, fuel-efficient vehicle, and working, not one, but two jobs.

But that’s not all.

After breaking my hip last June, I had to drop out of two summer courses at the school where I was enrolled. During the six months that followed, I spent a large amount of time reading, thinking, and pondering the ins and outs of life. It was during this time that a great number of this site’s post were written, including the series entitled, A Refreshing Pause. Instead of going off to Kings Point, New York, as planned, I stayed home, found work, and went back to school during the spring semester of 2013.

There are times in life when time seems to stand still, and nothing seems to be happening. The most amazing part of it is that these times are almost always directly followed by a time when life accelerates to a fever pitch, and everything begins to happen at once.

At the beginning of the semester, I re-enrolled in the math course I had been forced to drop, determined to follow through and finish the job this time. After sitting through the now-familiar orientation class period, I lit into the coursework with a vengeance. This time, I vowed, I would track the math down and kill it.

Okay, I’m becoming overzealous with my metaphors. Moving on…

I couldn’t help but notice that one of the tutors was a young lady about my age, but at first, I really didn’t think too much about that. I was fairly sure that she had a person of interest in her life, and I was preoccupied with school anyway, determined not to get distracted from my goal of finishing the educational course.

However, after two or three weeks in class, I began to notice that the young lady in question was not attached to anyone, as it were. Still determined to stay focused, I merely noted that fact and went on about my business. I could never have expected what happened next.

About two weeks after school started, I went into the math lab early to make up time for an absence. As I was sitting at the desk, with my nose in a book, I couldn’t help but overhear this girl telling another tutor about a “stalker dude” that was giving her trouble.

This “stalker dude” (he shall remain nameless, to protect the guilty) was nearly twice her age, and making all sorts of stupid comments, such that Hannah was feeling quite uncomfortable–indeed, threatened–while at her workplace.

At this point, I knew that I should do what I could to help, even if we never became more than acquaintances.

Having determined to do something, I “happened” to encounter Hannah in the hall later that evening. After a few nondescript pleasantries, I observed, “It sounds like you’ve had a rough day in the math lab today.” Her face fell. “Every day’s a rough day,” she said despondently. “I feel like I’m doing something wrong to draw that much attention to myself.”

(I should mention here that Hannah never did anything indiscreet that would have drawn attention to herself, and was always professional and modest, both in demeanor and attire.)

“No, not at all,” I told her, “It’s guys like that that are the problem. They paint targets on whoever they want.” She brightened a bit as she looked at me and asked, “Do you really think so?” I nodded, adding without hesitation, “I’m a guy, so you can take it from me: you are not doing anything to attract undue attention to yourself. Ok?” She nodded, and a smile crept onto her face as she answered, “Okay.” Then, just as suddenly, her face fell again. “That still doesn’t solve my problem…”

I nodded. “I know.” I knew that now was my only chance to take the plunge, so I drew a deep breath and bailed off, “If you want, I can walk you out to your car after work tonight.”

Her eyes widened; clearly, she was surprised I would even offer. “Really? That would be great!” “All right,” I said, “It’s settled then.”

If you have stuck it out thus far, thanks for your patience. I’ll move more quickly now.

Since my math class was the last one on the schedule for the two nights I was there, it fell perfectly into both our routines for me to escort Miss Hannah to her car, and for a week or two, that was the extent of our contact with one another. As time went on, we began to spend a few minutes together before my class (it just so happened that was when her break fell in the schedule). One day, about three weeks after we had begun talking to one another, her father and brothers walked into the hall where we were talking. They said they had come to “talk to” the other fellow, the one who was bothering their daughter/sister, but Hannah later told me they had come to meet me, too.

I don’t remember much of what we said that night, but for some reason, her dad took a liking to me, and told Hannah that if it worked out that we became more than friends, that was fine with him.

That was nearly seven months ago. Not only is she my best friend, but she is the one person in the world I feel like I couldn’t live without.

Hannah and Me
Hannah and Me

Today, I am thankful for the way that the Lord worked in my life, orchestrating circumstances and locations so that I would meet Hannah just when I did, and be in the frame of mind that I was when I met her. Although I didn’t set out to find a “person of interest,” I firmly believe that the Lord moves people as He sees fit, and that He had more than just a wonderful friendship in mind for the two of us, long before last semester.

All that being said, where does that leave The Southern Voice? Well, there are other things afoot. My work situation is still in a bit of a flux, so I’m sometimes pressed to find time to post. At the moment, however, it looks like I’ll be able to post at least once a week. As time permits, I’ll continue to post on a more regular basis.

I would like to conclude this rather lengthy post by thanking my readers who have stuck with me throughout the course of the last year, through both showers and droughts of writing. It is your patronage that encourages the heart of this writer, and helps to motivate him to write posts for your reading enjoyment and mental provocation (After all, one of the things I strive to do is stimulate thoughtful contemplation of life.). Although I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, it is even more enjoyable to know that other people are reading what I write, and enjoying–and perhaps profiting–from what I have written.

Here’s to many more years of blogging together! Long may reading–and writing–continue in this forum!

For writing’s sake,

David

The (Happily Taken) Southern Voice Writer

Planning for Success in Difficult Times

Government intervention, the President and current administration tell us–daily–is the way that we will achieve our goals for the future.

There are many reasons to take exception to this statement. Some of the more obvious (at least to me): First of all, what happened in the years before the modern government existed? How did people even survive, let alone thrive, in the absence of the vast resources available from the current government programs? Second, why so many people telling us, to the point of shouting down any dissenters, that this is THE ONLY WAY to do business in today’s world? Third, toward whose goals are we pressing, again? Fourth, what makes you (the progressives) so sure that “everybody” wants what you do?

Just a Thought: Independent men built this country...not bureaucrats.
Just a Thought: Independent men built this country…not bureaucrats.

One of the email newsletters to which I subscribe is titled “The Morning Jolt” and features bold headlines and news that will “set your blood to simmer[ing],” as the author wrote in February 13, 2013’s edition. This daily imprint features Jim Geraghty’s thoughts on a number of subjects, and he is usually dead-on in his analysis of current events. He is committed to combating the pervasive influence of the lovers of the “progressive agenda” (read “retrogressive suppression of independence”) for America.

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Jim Geraghty is a conservative political pundit and a contributing editor to The National Review

(photo credit)

One of the subjects he addresses head-on in the 2/13 edition of Morning Jolt is the rising cost of employing full-time workers here in the US. Written by Charles Hugh Smith, this article is worth reading because it addresses several factors (one of which is the return on investment consideration for employers [woefully under-discussed in the current climate]) influencing the economic stagnation which is so prevalent, and because it does so in such a well-written format that there is no need for this author to reinvent the wheel. 😉

Geraghty quotes extensively from the article cited above, and then offers a few words of his own on this subject:

“In short, the unemployed, the departed-the-workforce, the just-entered-the-workforce and soon-to-enter-the-workforce cannot be sufficiently productive to justify the expense of hiring them. And we know this pretty much has to be true, because corporations are sitting on roughly $1.7 trillion in cash right now [according to a recent article from one of the blogs of the New York Times, apparently. I (Dave here) was not able to follow this link to research it.]. It’s not that they don’t have the money to hire people. They just don’t think that hiring people would generate more money than having it just sit there in their accounts, which is a phenomenally depressing conclusion.”

That’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty clear, too. Excessive and punitive regulation has driven the cost of adding new workers so high that it has exacerbated the underemployment of the younger and (usually) less-experienced members of the workforce. Why do I say that it has made this problem worse, rather than “excessive regulations have caused underemployment of the young?” Because this underemployment is caused by the understandable predisposition of employers to hire more experienced workers, rather than younger workers who require more investment (time to train, money to pay minimum wages, benefits, etc.) and less return for said outlay.

In other words, the employer is made slightly worse off by being forced to be more choosy in who he hires; or, alternatively, by being forced to buy machinery to automate what a minimum-wage worker would otherwise do. The potential minimum-wage worker, however, is made much worse off: not only is he robbed of the opportunity to work for minimum wage, he is also (often) denied the opportunity to work and gain experience that would qualify him for more appealing, better-paying jobs.

As one of the young and underemployed, I know whereof I speak. A six-month job hunt–during which I have aggressively sought employment by repeated phone calls, in-person submissions of my resume, and face-to-face introductions–has resulted in only one interview.

Am I complaining? No, I’m simply pointing out that I understand (from personal experience) how tough it is to find a job in today’s depressed economy.

While punitive (from an employers’ perspective) regulation is certainly a key factor, to say that it is the sole variable in this complicated problem would be to commit an unforgivable oversimplification.

I cannot in the scope of this article address every economic factor that contributes to the high unemployment rate among young workers; however, I believe there are two surpluses, surpluses that go largely unaddressed in the current discussion on the unemployment rate, that play a critical role in this phenomenon.

The first surplus is the result of education. More and more, we see students entering liberal arts colleges pursuing majors such as Twelfth-Century Poetry, Ancient Literature Interpretation, and Underwater Basket-Weaving. (Ok, I made the last one up, but you get the idea.) Even students in fields that, a few years ago, featured robust demand are seeing a dramatic drop in employment opportunities. This decrease has affected not only “soft” majors such as the ones above, but “not-so-soft” majors like liberal arts, communication arts, art, and others. Geraghty wrote a very insightful paragraph in his February 13 “Morning Jolt” column:

“Folks, the art world and publishing world are fiercely competitive even in the very best of times, so you’re going to need a backup career just in case things don’t work out. This also applies to those who aspire to fame and fortune in journalism, professional athletics, the music industry, most of the entertainment industry, and most of the jobs that the world covets. You’ve got to be really talented, and really hard-working. And yes, lucky. I realize I’m very, very, very, very lucky to have a job that I (usually) enjoy and that allows me to make a living. Of course, I suspect those outside those fields overestimate the role of luck. My buddy Cam — now on the Sportsman Channel! — will periodically hear from someone, ‘Boy, you’re really lucky to find a job where you get to host a radio show!’ and he has to bite his tongue and refrain from mentioning all the years he worked as reporter and assistant news director, driving all over the state of Oklahoma on any assignment he could get, long hours, lousy pay, and so on.”

He also makes a very pithy, observant statement: “Nobody just hands you a plum job in journalism.” Truth! It may shock some college students to realize that nobody “just hands you” any plum job. Most of the plum jobs in the world go to those who have busted their behinds for it.

Is that fair?

Before you answer that, stop and think about how you would feel if you spent ten years of your life working at any job you could find in your chosen profession, striving for that “dream job,” only to see it handed to some fresh-faced newbie fresh off the education assembly line because they “deserved it.” How would that make you feel?

Yeah, you’re right…there are two sides to every coin.

The second surplus is the result of a lack of practical education. Increasingly, college graduates are sorely lacking in portable skills that can only be obtained by personal contact and interaction with people. Why is there such a deficit of ordinary, everyday interpersonal skills? Again, the answer is too long and complex for a post of this length, but some contributing factors are the increasing obsession with screen media, the widespread revolt against traditional values, and the epidemic, not of illiteracy, but of a-literacy.

According to Susan Jacoby’s book The Age of American Unreason, published in 2008, only 57 percent of the American public has ever read a non-fiction book. Making a logical assumption that some people’s only non-fictional exposure is from required reading for school, the number of people who read non-fiction books from personal desire is quite possibly substantially smaller. This is relevant to the discussion at hand, precisely because readers are better equipped than non-readers to follow, evaluate, and process a complex train of thought in a logical fashion.

In education, as in many other areas of life, many Americans have forsaken personal responsibility for the convenience of “pre-packaged” curriculum. Some seem to think that if it’s not taught in school, or required reading for one of their classes, it’s just not worth the time it would take  read about it.

It’s heartbreaking to see education of all types going to ruin here in the States. It’s particularly sad when one considers the historical successes of the “self-made man,” the man who educated himself–outside the scope of the marbled halls and manicured lawns of the university–at great expense of time and effort, and built a business, a trade, a living, and (for more than a few) a fortune. The current scoffing at those who have made their living in this way reflects the near-idolatrous regard many hold for the “almighty college degree.” Current disdain notwithstanding, self-education–as with many other forms of self-reliance–is a phenomenon that is disproportionately represented in the United States. Freedom to keep the proceeds of one’s efforts truly is the greatest encouragement to innovation and initiative.

In short, government intervention of all sorts into employment contracts is fraught with examples of stagnation following efforts taken for the (expressed) purpose of producing greater economic growth. In every case, more government intervention and regulation resulted in LESS growth, not MORE as the politicians predicted. The brighter tomorrow our elected officials pay lip-service to will only come about by a return to the truly American principles of independence, self-education, individual choice and liberty, personal responsibility, and self-governance.

 

A One-Verse Blueprint for Meditation: Part II

Two weeks ago, we began looking at Philippians 4:8. In one verse, the Apostle Paul gives us seven tests through which to put our thoughts. Last week we looked at four of them:

1.   “Whatsoever things are true…”
2.   “Whatsoever things are honest…”
3.   “Whatsoever things are just…”
4.   “Whatsoever things are pure…”

Even with only those four qualifications, we can significantly narrow down the field of acceptable subjects on which we should meditate. There are many things in the world about us that are true, but are they honest? Have all the facts been presented justly? More importantly, is this a topic which is pure and should be the focus of large amounts of our thoughts and our time?

In this culture in which we live, there is no way that we can possibly avoid everything that would perhaps give offense to us or violate the terms of this list. However, while we may not be able to keep ourselves from incidental, momentary exposure to such things, it is a huge leap from admitting this to stating that we cannot possibly control our thoughts. If you cannot control your thoughts, as a pastor I know used to say, then someone needs to lock you in a padded room and take your shoelaces and any sharp objects away from you! In fact, we can control our thoughts, and we can choose on what subjects we will think (or meditate, if you will). Here in this verse Paul gives us a blueprint…a one-verse blueprint for meditation.

We’ve examined the first four qualities in detail. Now we turn to the latter half of the verse, and see three more characteristics of the things on which we should think:

5.   “Whatsoever things are lovely…”

The word “beautiful” is often used in today’s culture, and so is “appealing,” but “lovely” has been trivialized, it would seem. This is a pity, because this word denotes much more than an external beauty, although that is certainly included. “Lovely” also carries the idea of a “beauty that appeals to the heart or mind, as well as the eye; [something that is] charmingly or exquisitely beautiful; of a great spiritual or moral beauty…” The Old English root from which this word derives is luffic, which means “amiable.” Perhaps this is how the custom of describing an amiable person as possessed of a “lovely” temperament. How much meaning can be wrapped up in a single word! How instructive to the man seeking to order his thoughts according to the template for meditation! Whatsoever things are possessed of a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind, as well as the eye, of great spiritual and moral value, toward these subjects ought our thoughts to tend! How often do our thoughts (I include myself) tend in exactly the opposite direction? This is powerful; it is revolutionary for our thinking.

6.   “Whatsoever things are of good report…”

Ah, this qualification changes the dynamic in a new and powerful way. Previous requirements state truth, honesty, and justice as tests through which our thoughts should pass; but, here is “of good report” standing behind them to halt still more traffic, as it were. An even better picture is of stringent standards in a quality assurance lab at a manufacturing plant. If a product doesn’t meet all of the requirements, it doesn’t make it out to the consumer. Is it true? Is it honest? Is it just? Is it pure and lovely? Yes? Good…but now, is it of good report? The word translated as good report is the Greek word euphemos, from which we derive our English word, euphemism.  This word also carries the idea of something that is well-spoken of, and therefore reputable.  To break it down still further, the prefix eu-, to speak or speaking, is attached to a derivative of pheme, (fay-may–from whence we get the English word “fame”), a saying, or a rumor. So this means to think on those things which are well-spoken of.

Why would it be necessary to include an instruction to think on things of good report in this list? Let’s pause for a moment to evaluate this. Does this just mean that we should only speak of those things that are “happy ,” or “positive?” To adopt such a position may seem logical at first, but in fact an examination of other verses from the Paul’s writings will show us that truth is the preeminent concern.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Ephesians 4:14)

Two quick thoughts here. One, I’m breaking into the middle of a paragraph, so I beg your indulgence there. Paul is speaking of the goal of unifying and perfecting the body of believers, and states that this is one of the end results of the maturing process through which that goal will be accomplished. Two, notice the ways in which men seek to use words to lead others astray. This passage is rich in parallels to be drawn, but we’ll continue to the next verse, which illustrates the importance of truth:

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (4:15)

There is power here. Paul tells the Ephesians, and by extension us, that our words should be truthful and loving. In other words, we should be willing to say those things that may be hard to hear because they are necessary, but we should always do so out of a heart that desires the best for the other person. With how much grief and strife and hateful speech would following this simple command do away? Furthermore, how much gossip, slander, and backbiting would vanish overnight if we simply followed this blueprint?

Just a few verses later, Paul clarifies,

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor…” (Ephesians 4:25)

If I obey the command of Christ to love my neighbor as myself, this will follow as a natural result of that obedience, because I desire that people be truthful in their dealings with me. Even so, telling the truth can be painful at times, and Paul urges us to remember to speak the truth, but to do so lovingly.

There are many other verses in the writings of Paul that speak of the preeminence of truth, and this is a word-study to which we shall perhaps return in future. For now, let us return to our text, Philippians 4.

Paul wraps up this incredible list of qualifications for our thoughts with two more tests, stated almost as one:

“…if there be any virtue…” “…and if there be any praise…”

Virtue: Moral excellence; goodness; righteousness. Conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles. Uprightness. These are high standards to which to hold one’s thoughts! Indeed, as I have learned, it is impossible for a man to do this, and it is only by dependence on Christ in me that I can claim the victory and live in obedience to these principles.

Praise: extolling (by others) of the worth of one’s actions or character, the act of giving due credit to someone for a worthy action or virtue of character. These are things on which I should think, according to this verse.

Paul ends this verse with the simplest of commands:

“…think on these things.” <—— This is the emphasis I have often seen and heard put on this last phrase (and there is no doubt that such emphasis is proper), but stop for a moment and consider ——> “….think on these things.” Paul is not just recommending a five-minute session of thinking on such things–in the morning as you drink your coffee, perhaps. No, Paul is advocating a fundamental transformation of your thought life to include only those things that pass these tests. He’s talking about a consistent pattern of thoughtful, intensive contemplation on these subjects that will revolutionize your thinking, your speech, and your way of life. The truth here is powerful, for those who will believe and accept it.

There is much here to ponder. It is indeed

Something to think about,

David

The Southern Voice Writer

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Obama to the People: Get Humble…NOW!

At the National Prayer Breakfast this year, Obama called for more humility in our great democracy, stating that this is what we need to accomplish many of our goals.

“In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours,” he opined, “we will encounter every opinion. And our task as citizens—whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word—is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action.”

(Collin Garbarino posted an interesting article on this subject over at Reflection and Choice. Read the full text here.)

Really? The President insulates himself from the real world, refuses to play ball on spending cut deals with Congress, sends his children to one of the most exclusive schools in the country (one with its own security staff of 11 armed guards, no less), and then preaches to the populace that they should be more “humble” in order to further the end of democracy in America.

Really?

This is completely ridiculous, much like a parent instructing his child to “do as I say, and not as I do,” and then punishing the child for committing an indiscretion  of which the parent is also guilty. It’s akin to a father having an acces de colere because his son uses 45% of the trust fund to make a down-payment on a Ferrari, when the father is concurrently spending 90% of his income on cruises on a casino ship. It’s like a father chastising his son for being an arrogant pain in the rear, when he holds his nose so high that he needs umbrellas for his nostrils so he doesn’t drown in a rainstorm.

Honestly, it also seems rather foolish for the President to so urge the nation to be more “humble.” What is that supposed to mean? Are we supposed to cave in to your every demand, Mr. President? He sneers at us from the bully pulpit of the White House, and though his words are always couched in the language of deference to democracy, behind them is the arrogance of the elitist, the pompousness of the monarch, and the inflexible will of the despot.

"Listen here, America, ya better get humble....NOW!"
“Listen here, America, ya better get humble….NOW!”

His message is clear, “Get humble, America, and bow to my will….or I’ll make you do it.”

Well, Mr. President, I humbly suggest that you begin to lead by example. All you have to do is look at the past history of this nation to see that its greatest leaders were those who lived out their ideals for all to see. I would agree that you have done so as well, but your rhetoric is far afield of the ruts in which you’re driving. If you want people to be more “humble,” how about showing us what that means? No more hiding behind buzz words, bully pulpits, and massive bills written behind closed doors, rushed through Congress, and rammed down the nation’s throat before they’ve had a chance to read it. No more executive orders to help you perpetrate end-runs around the Constitution and the Congress, two of the most important institutions in our governmental system. No more petulant refusal (reminiscent of a two-year-old who can’t get his way) to broker deals with Congress because they won’t give you what you want.

Mr. President, perhaps you should get humble…now!

What do you think is the significance of President Obama’s declaration? Why would he say we need to have more humility? Do you think he really is interested in promoting greater cooperation, humility and dialogue?

Something to think about…and discuss!

–David

The Southern Voice Writer

Friedman: Greed, the Free Market, and the Constitution

Having recently finished the excellent book, Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman (and at the further urging of a good friend), I was spurred by my insatiable curiosity to hunt up more of what Friedman had to say. In the course of obeying this impulsion, I found this video on YouTube of the late Dr. Milton Friedman answering the three-part question of an espousee of the progressive mindset. Very informative, and I thoroughly agree with the title: Friedman does indeed crush this man’s doubtful disputation with the facts.

Incidentally, near the end–where he speaks about using the Constitution to control the government–is particularly telling.

And this video, though brief, demonstrates Friedman’s ability to totally disarm an opponent’s entire method of attack by addressing, in a series of questions, the inconsistencies in the underlying ideology. Also notice how he turns the very same questions the host asked around and requires him to answer them (or try to do so). This is from an interview on Phil Donahue’s show, from 1979. Fascinating!

A One-Verse Blueprint for Meditation: Part I

Regular visitors to this blog can tell you that the guiding principle behind everything I write is the non-negotiable fact that the Bible is true from beginning to end. While I understand that many do not agree with me, this is the position from which I write.

Our ongoing series, A Refreshing Pause, deals with meditation and has been based since the first post on Biblical principles, which I have sought to draw out of various passages contained in the Scriptures. For some time now, I have hinted at an upcoming post dealing with the content of meditation, but put it off until completion of the posts dealing with specific examples of those who learned the power of a pause to think and rest.

Recent events, however, have caused me to change my plan and revisit this matter of content. Just a little over a month ago, the Newtown, Connecticut shooting rocked the nation as another man with a gun burst in on helpless children and school employees, killing 26 before taking his own life. There are hundreds of articles on the Net concerning the man’s mental state, etc., so I will not revisit that here. What I would like to point out is the fact that many–if not all–of the reports state that he spent hours in front of a television screen playing exceedingly violent video games. While this cannot be cited as the only cause of what he did, I propound that it most likely contributed.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my definition of meditation was not the transcendental, “clear-your-mind-of-conscious-thought” variety espoused by so many Eastern religions. I most definitely believe that there are certain things one should think about while meditating. However (and I shall prove this point in this post), that does not mean there are not things that should be purged from our minds as we meditate. By necessity, the things about which one thinks mandate that there are other things about which one should not think.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. As with his other epistles, the letter contains a variety of information, advice, and sound doctrine to encourage the church to stand fast in the good work begun. Even a casual reading will reveal “rejoicing,” to be the key theme of the book. A concurrent theme is “pressing toward the mark.” So Paul is encouraging these believers to rejoice, stand firm, and press forward.

In the midst of the fourth chapter, Paul includes a verse that holds an important truth for us in our current study. In verse 8 of chapter 4, Paul writes:

 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (1)

Paul lays it out in plain and simple language: here’s the types of things that should dominate your thinking.

“…whatsoever things are true…” There are so many things this condition rules out. Gossip, slander, backbiting, libel, fallacious reports circulated as truth, lying, shading the truth…all these things are to be purged from our thinking.

Imagine how much pain and suffering would be avoided if people really grasped the importance of sticking with just the truth, just the facts, in their daily conversations. What a difference it would make!

Paul’s list continues:

“…whatsoever things are honest…” Ok, so he just mentioned truth…why throw honesty in there as well? A good definition of honest is as follows:

honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair: an honest person. Showing uprightness and fairness: honest dealings. Gained or obtained fairly: honest wealth. S

incere; frank: an honest face. G
enuine or unadulterated: honest commodities. (2)

This definition shows us that there is a lot more to honesty than we might at first think. Even the first sentence, “honorable in principles, intentions, and actions…” can help us narrow down significantly the scope of  things to ponder.

Paul’s list goes on.

“..whatsoever things are just…” To be just is to be guided by truth, reason, principle and fairness; or, in keeping with truth or fact: that is, true or correct. So, not only are we to evaluate our thoughts based on truth and honor, but now factual reality is brought into the equation!

Wow…that’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?

Paul’s list goes on, but we’ll hold off on further enumeration until next time. Here’s a challenge for you: for the next two weeks, strive to consciously evaluate your thoughts based on the three principles outlined above. Ask yourself: Is it true? Is it honest–does it pass a smell test for genuineness? Is it just–is this guided by reason, truth, principle and fairness?

I imagine you’ll be surprised at the results.

Something to think about,

David

The Southern Voice Writer

Kintergarden Revisited: The ABC’s of My Political Education

Recently, Jeff Rutherford–a follower of my blog and manager of Necessary and Proper Government–asked me from whence I’d gained my political and economic knowledge. After a moment’s thought, I realized it was a question I’ve never answered. So, how did I come to the place where I am now, politically and economically?

I could say “On my own,” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

I was born into a conservative home; furthermore, both my parents were devout  Christians. From my earliest recollection and before, I was in church each time the doors were open. Even though TV had been around for decades by the time the early ’90s rolled around, I spent the first ten years of my life with almost no time in front of a television screen. There wasn’t one in the house, so what little exposure I had was at friends’ houses, and then it was usually a movie that my friend’s mother had cleared with my mother.

I mentioned in my post, Cliffs, Fences, and Ambulances that the poem was a great jumping-off point for this explanatory post of where I am today. If you haven’t yet, I urge you to use the above link and read the poem in its entirety. It probably won’t take you more than five minutes.

Are you back? Great! Let’s continue.

The crux of the matter in the above-referenced poem is the question of whether we should build a fence round the top of the cliff (pre-crisis intervention), or place an ambulance down below to clean up the mess (post-crisis intervention). From the moment I was born, my parents agreed to set up certain boundaries in my life that would prevent me from going in a direction that would inhibit their desire to see me grow in the knowledge of the truth. They did their best to protect me from the “one-off” mistakes; you know, the ones where you make a mistake once, and they kill you. In other areas, they allowed me to make mistakes, waited for me to pick myself up and dust myself off, and then used that real-life experience to illustrate a principle that carried over into countless other areas of life. By allowing me to suffer the consequences of small mistakes in a controlled environment, they were educating me on the principles of reaping what you sow, without allowing me to invest so much that I’d destroy myself in the downfall.

Contrary to popular philosophical and psychological counsel, my parents understood that leaving someone free to choose does not mean allowing them to have their own way from birth.

At the young age of four, in the church I had attended since birth, God used a very special Book to change my life. On a Sunday evening in October of 1993, I realized that being in church with my Christian parents wasn’t enough. I needed a personal relationship with Christ. I met Him that night, and I’ve never been the same since.

As I continued to grow and mature, my parents used their influence to guide me into the way of analyzing every philosophy against the framework of real life. Contrary to the common method of “If it sounds good, it is good,” my parents invited me to critically examine and weigh the evidence from both sides of the issue.

When I was about sixteen years old, my dad brought home another book that changed my life. Somehow, somewhere, he’d heard of the writings of one Thomas Sowell, a prominent conservative black economist. After reading a few of his columns online, my dad had purchased his book White Liberals and Black Rednecks.

As I read the book, it struck me how much Dr. Sowell’s message backed up what my dad had told me for years. Although my understanding was imperfect at the time, and I was mainly rejoicing in the fact that someone was willing to attack the liberals so forcefully in print, I was also absorbing and storing information and principles that would stick with me for years to come.

As I grew still older and entered the workplace, I began to see the message behind the message in Dr. Sowell’s books. By this time, my dad owned three or four, and I’d purchased four or five with some of the money I was earning from my first real job. I’d also bought several books by Dr. Sowell’s contemporary, Dr. Walter Williams.

By the time I was twenty years of age, I’d spent three years in the workforce, and nearly as long digesting the books by these two preeminent economists. Though I never would have been able to phrase it so at the time, I was amazed at the difference between their words and the words of my fellow workers of African-American heritage. In the back of my mind, tension was growing. Who was right? The fellows I worked with spouted words that sounded so good…they made people feel good about themselves, they removed a lot of the responsibility for bad choices from the individual and placed it on the collective shoulders of society, etc., etc. Where had I heard this before?

The answer came to me, not in a single, blinding epiphany, but over the course of years of reading news articles and editorials, observing current events, spending hours contemplating the inconsistencies between people’s words and reality, and prayerfully searching the Scriptures.

Gradually, it began to dawn on me that the philosophy espoused by my coworkers–appeal to the emotions notwithstanding–was the faulty one that left countless nuances of reality unexplained. It’s difficult to put into words the hundreds of events and factors that came into play as I wrestled with this complicated issue.

Although I was now at the point where my parents had set me free to draw my own conclusions, I had by no means completely discounted their opinions. Other adults at church who shared my father’s views on many issues solidified the growing regard in which I held those same views. And for nearly a year, my father printed off hundreds of articles by conservatives from across the nation, brought them home, and just left them lying where I’d be sure to see them.

I mentioned earlier the fact that for ten years of my life, we had no television in the house. Thus, I was from an early age completely engaged with books. I learned to read at the age of five, and developed early a love for reading that has never departed. Nearly twenty years later, I’d still rather read a book than watch a film, and even radio is preferable to television in my eyes. Because of this love for reading, I devoured every printout my dad brought home, and the constant exposure to factual, logical analysis of the current events and policies in Washington took root in my mind.

All of these things have contributed to my current position. I stand behind statements I’ve previously made: reading is the single most important element in teaching a child to think critically, logically, and linearly. A good reader is a good thinker. Reading properly promotes memory, because it forces the reader to remember and track arguments and trains of thought across pages of printed matter, and to gather up the loose ends and tie them all together at the close. True, a well-written book or article will aid the reader in this process; but, without memory, reading is a pointless and frustrating endeavor.

So, the answer is that my knowledge of politics and economics is largely from self-education. I know more about politics now than I did three years ago, and it is my desire to continue to learn more about politics and economics for the rest of my life. Although I don’t feel led to pursue a career in either field presently, I know that everything I learn will have value in enabling me to make sense of the world at large. It will also make me a better-informed and more productive participant in the political process, which I firmly believe was what our Founding Fathers had in mind.

I realize this explanation isn’t complete, but it’s a start. As you’ve read it, I hope some of your questions have been answered. Perhaps some have not. Perhaps other inquiries have come to mind. If so, please share them with me. What else would you like to know about the way my education shaped my thinking?

A Real Problem, A Real Solution

Shootings are a real problem in America. I’ve never denied it, and I don’t want to risk alienating readers–current and potential–by acting as though there isn’t a problem.

However, when it comes to solutions, men and women who are out of touch with reality are everywhere to be seen.

For starters, the men and women the President has tapped to provide answers to the knotty problem of how to solve this dilemma are firmly rooted in the prevailing vision of government as savior, solution, and supreme. They refuse to admit that the federal government could be the problem.

Also, the “solutions” these people loudly acclaim and proclaim are not solutions. They are non-solutions.

Stricter gun-control laws. Universal background checks. Tighter restrictions on handgun and ammo sales. More numerous gun-free zones.

None of these measures, enacted in cities across the country, has reduced gun-related crimes in those jurisdictions. In fact, almost universally, crime has gone up in the wake of these measures.

In keeping with my recent decision to speak my mind, to add my voice to the debate surrounding current issues, I have come to the table today with an alternative solution to this very real problem. A very real, workable solution. A very simple solution.

Let’s bring guns back into schools.

We’ve seen conclusively over the past several years that the only thing removing guns from schools does is ensure that criminals like Adam Lanza are capable of maximum damage when the shooting begins.

So, how would guns in schools prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook?

Well, they wouldn’t. Before we go any further in this discussion, we need to establish once and for all that guns do not kill people. People kill people, and they use many things to do it: guns, knives, hammers, baseball bats, letter openers, tire irons, and a host of other objects that have other purposes, but become lethal weapons in the wrong hands.

Another truth you won’t hear from those lusting after absolute power is that criminals don’t always use guns to kill large amounts of people.

Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer, gasoline, and box trucks. The terrorists who created the major disaster of 9-11-2001 used airplanes.

Yet no one is screaming for fertilizer to be banned. No one is suggesting that gasoline be eliminated because it can be used as a weapon. No one is decrying the widespread distribution of airplanes throughout our nation.

Furthermore, in the great debate surrounding guns and their availability to criminals, what many people fail to admit is that often, “…the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

Wayne LaPierre, the president of the NRA, had it right.

So, let’s put guns back in the hands of those who are closest to the children: the teachers.

Teachers already have to pass a pretty stringent string of tests before they can begin their career in a classroom. They have to have a degree in education from a qualified institution. They have to pass a criminal background check and drug screening. In many states, a person convicted of a felony cannot receive a teacher’s license.

When looking at the above requirements for a teacher, something should be pretty clear.

The people who qualify to teach also qualify to acquire a concealed carry permit.

My thoughts on the concealed carry issue will be forthcoming in a subsequent post, but for now, let’s go with the above line of reasoning.

Licensed teachers qualify to be licensed concealed carriers. Let them carry their firearms to school. But don’t stop there: let’s start a program that offers training in counter-terrorism tactics, similar to that which police and SWAT team forces receive. There’s no reason to expect these people to be as highly-trained as those in the military special forces. Then again, there’s no reason to expect them to go to work unarmed every day, bound hand and foot by government regulations that leaves them as defenseless as sheep before a butcher.

We’ve seen the result of that sort of legislation. It’s time for some [healthy] change.

If a person contemplating a shooting of the type that happened in Newtown knows that he is likely to be met with a hail of well-placed bullets from armed teachers instructed in the proper use of deadly force, it’s almost a guarantee he’ll call off the operation. If he further knows that these same teachers have been instructed in unarmed combat techniques that enable a person to use his or her own hands as a lethal weapon, the probability of his abandoning the scheme increases exponentially.

I would not be so naive to expect schools across the nation to universally adopt this type of policy overnight. However, as more and more schools implement a plan similar to the one outlined above, criminals will adapt. It is possible that school shootings will continue, but only in those places where the retrogressive system remains in force. Before long, however, people will catch on to the simple truth:

If we put guns back into the hands of trained personnel in school zones, criminals will stop targeting these zones. The ease of access and guarantee of a successful massacre will be significantly reduced.

Do I think this will work? Yes, I do, but not simply because I came up with the solution. The truth is, criminals prefer unarmed victims. That’s why all of the mass shootings we’ve experienced over the last year have occurred in places where federal regulations stipulate that no one–not even a concealed carry permit holder–is to have a gun.

Criminals are dangerous. Not all criminals, however, are stupid. Taking guns from the hands of those who obey the laws is a non-solution, because we all know that criminals are considered criminals because they do not obey the laws of the land. Continue to take guns away from law-abiding citizens in certain jurisdictions and situations, and you may be certain that gun-related crime rates will not go down in those places.

As we’ve seen already, the rates will only go in one direction: up.

Meditation Is Necessary: Content Is Important, Too!

Over the last couple months, we have covered a lot of ground in our series on meditation, A Refreshing Pause. We’ve studied incidents in the lives of several men from Scripture, learning important principles concerning meditation at each turn.

From Elijah, we learned that taking a moment to stop and rest can rejuvenate both body and soul.

From King David, we learned that stopping to meditate can help us be encouraged in times of darkness and distress.

From Joshua, we learned that failing to stop and meditate can lead to rash decisions that will have life-long consequences.

In all of these discourses, I had purposely left out an important element of the meditation equation, fully intending to address it a later time. Although I will not address it fully now, I offer a brief starter course to you so that you may mull it over for a week or two. Perhaps you have noticed my omission?

In all the talk of meditation, I have omitted the issue of content.

What we think about is just as important as taking time to stop and think. I would have waited to address this issue more fully, but the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary offers a perfect backdrop against which to raise this point. As the investigation continues, more and more facts reveal that this troubled young man who shot these people spent much of his time contemplating dark games, music, and movies. While there are those who argue that these types of media have no effect on a person, there can be no possible way that one could spend that long in front of an interactive device that simulates violent situations and leave unchanged.

The Bible offers succinct advice to those seeking to know what sort of things to contemplate. Philippians 4:8 sums it up: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

By thinking on these sorts of things, one will find body, soul, and spirit refreshed, and in time will see that patterns of thought affect patterns of life.

Look for another post on this issue of content soon. As always, thanks for reading!

Something to think about,

David