“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.”
- Arno Penzias (Nobel-prize winning physicist)
Today the world lost a wonderful man who was so influential in forming the lives of so many people. I owe a great debt to Jim Gonzales and the Gonzales family for helping bring me to God and for showing me what it meant to be a good man when I was desperately in need of such a role model. My prayers go out for Mr. Gonzales, his wife and his children. For Mr. Gonzales as he journeys deep into the heart of God, may his guardian angel and the sweet voice of Our Lady guide him there swiftly. For the Gonzales family as they transition to forming a new relationship with their father and husband in prayer, that they know that in Christ and through Christ we are people of the resurrection. I take consolation in the fact that when Christ was on his cross, he didn’t see the cross and yet it was holding him upright and bringing about our salvation. Though we can not see those we have lost, in our suffering they hold us upright and Christ is there as a bridge between heaven and earth keeping us together.
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor from Boston College and King’s College New York. To structure his lecture, he had us each write down a word that we associated with beauty. The first word that popped into my mind was truth, which seemed cliche. So, I thought about great art and realized that beauty is in the frame. That the boundaries defined what is beautiful and directed our attention to it. But, then I thought about the actual object of beauty that was framed and felt that the object, like a frame, directed us towards something else. It seemed to me that beauty needs to open a new world to us. It needs to get us thinking, to show us something beyond the object itself, something beyond ourselves - much like a window. So that was it, I wrote down window.
Here is what Dr. Kreeft had to say:
Window is quite profound. What is beautiful about window is that you don’t see it, you see through it. You see something that is much more beautiful than the window itself.
You see, there are two types of consciousness: you can look at something, or you can look along it like a sign. And, they are both good. But, if you look at somebody, all the good and beauty in that person can be seen. It is finite. There is a limit to it. But, if you look along somebody as a sign, a sign points in a certain direction, and you never have to stop - you can keep going and going and going. If you look at all the things in the world as signs and not just as things, that is like looking at windows. You look through them, not just at them. And, if you do that, you will see all sorts of beauty that you could have never seen before.
-Dr. Peter Kreeft, July 2012
In This Tremendous Lover, a Trappist monk speaks clearly and perceptively about God’s plan for our happiness, and how we are each called to participate in this divine plan as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
So far, it is blowing my mind.
There are limits to the scientific method and the limits to this method, do not coincide with the limits of the universe. Science currently and will only ever be able to show us that which is observable by man. We exist in a very limited place when we make science our religion or our personal ethos. If we wait for physical evidence, we cage ourselves within the limitations of our senses and the tools we create to enhance them. Just because something is currently unobservable or may always evade observation, does not mean that it does not exist. There are numerous things we have never observed that we hold to be true through seeing their effects. It is by definition impossible to observe a black hole, we only observe the effects. We will never observe the big bang but we are comprised of and are surrounded by its effects and those effects tell the story of our cosmological beginning. The point of origin is absolutely unobservable, but that does not negate the fact that there was an origin. God’s signature is all around. He has given us more than enough to rationally seek him out. In doing that with persistence, he discloses himself to the individual seeker. God looks to our hearts before he makes himself known. So, we need to step outside our egos and limitations and believe. In doing that, and following the footsteps of the saints and mystics who have gone before, we find that God so loves us that he personally meets us within our limited human form. And, in doing so, he pulls us into the realm that transcends all physical limitations. By becoming flesh to encounter us, we have the opportunity to encounter him and be divinized.
About a year ago I adopted two dogs. In the past year, these dogs have taught me a lot. The most profound being a theological lesson in human nature and our relation to God. When I adopted my dogs, they had unique personalities but for the most part were wild animals. Within a year, they are now trained and beyond that, I catch them trying to be human. One walks on two legs to mimic me and they even try to sound like they are using words when they want something. What I realized is that through recognizing me as their master and the provider of good in their lives and my love for them, my dogs take on human qualities. I then thought about how powerful God’s transformative love is with us. Through recognizing Him as our master, the provider of all that is good in our lives and his love for us, our nature is transformed into the divine. When we meet God as our master and enter the school of the Holy Spirit, God fashions us into other Christs. He joins us to the mystical body - to Christ himself.
Knowing that, why am I so stubborn? Why do I fight his transformative love so often? My dogs are more loyal than me, they are happier than me, more forgiving… Sure, they get into trouble, but they run every time I call them. If only I ran every time God called my name. They are so excited every time they see me. If only I had such enthusiasm. If only I were so good to my master. Lord, make me a dog.
In order to give you a full understanding of what is currently taking place across North Africa and the Middle East, allow me to first give a brief background on why the Middle East is politically the way it is today. The history may seem boring but stay with me and it should hopefully pay off.
It has been theorized that in order for a nation’s citizens to live at peace together they must have at least two points of commonality with each other. In the case of the United States, while we are of different races and different religions, we have a shared language and shared ideologies and values — honoring the self-made man, promoting tolerance, rooting for the underdog, a desire to right our wrongs, etc.— which has created a shared culture and makes each of us American. While I feel this is eroding and will present future problems for our country, I will have to save that for a future blog post.
In the Middle East and across much of North Africa, until roughly 1920, the vast majority was of the same religion (Islam), everybody identified themselves as part of the same nation or empire and the key differentiating factor was that of tribal and cultural differences. Suffice it to say that for the most part, everyone got along very well and the Middle East was a world power under Ottoman rule.
However, a faction of Arab (non-Turks) from what is present-day Saudi Arabia felt that they should be the rightful rulers of the Arab lands and should be autonomous. And why shouldn’t they? The Hashemite Sharifians had ruled Mecca and Medina since 1201 and the Muslim holy book, the Koran, is believed to have been divinely given to the Prophet Mohammed directly from the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Arabic language. To make the case even stronger, Sharif Hussein bin Ali who was the ruler of Mecca and Medina (the two key locations of the Muslim Hajj and thus the two biggest tourist destinations and wealthiest cities in the middle east) did not like the Ottoman’s constantly looking over his shoulder. To his credit, his bloodline had done a pretty good job keeping it under control since 1201.
So, to speed things up a bit, the Ottomans formed an alliance with the Germans during WWI and thus became an enemy of the French and the British. Sharif bin Hussein conspired with the French and British to overthrow the Empire and found very willing accomplices. In 1916, the Arab revolt began and with the help of their new found western allies was very successful. King Hussein requested a single unified Arab state and asked the French and British to help him establish it. This was not to be the case.
Fearing such a powerful unified force and desiring access to spice trading routes. The British and French divided the Middle East into the countries that exist today. When Sharif Hussein protested, the Saudi Tribal leaders were approached to plot his overthrow. He was taken out by the Saudi tribal leaders and they were given control of Mecca and Medina which has made them extremely wealthy as a result (they are now the current Saudi Royal Family).
The final loose-end for the French and British was figuring out what to do with the sons of Sharif Hussein. Their family had been the rightful rulers of those lands since 1201 and desired their father’s inheritance. So, in lieu of giving them Mecca and Medina and fighting the newly formed Saudi Royal Family, the British and French gave his sons the countries they had newly drawn up. Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi became the ruler of the Arab Kingdom of Syria and later the Arab Kingdom of Iraq. Even today Hussein’s sons’ legacies can be seen in King Hussein of Jordan and the legacy of Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
So, now that we have run through that long history, what does that have to do with Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia, etc. today? The answer is a lot.
The current populace of the Middle East desires a return to its Ottoman past, not under Ottoman rule but under one Muslim/Arab banner. They wish to have the commonality that they once had and they desire strongly for the reunification of the Middle East. [I can’t blame them. In my opinion, they deserve it as much as we deserve a unified United States. However I have to clearly and emphatically state that I do not agree with the tactics that have been used to date and I do not agree with them targeting specific ethnic or religious groups as enemies of this process. This also needs to be a slow process that respects the new state of the world and respects the rights of each nation state.] In getting back to the history, the fingerprints for this desire to be a unified Arab nation can be seen all over any major event that has taken place in the Middle East in the past 80 years: this led to the six day war in June of 1967 (a lot of Arab leaders wanted to be seen as the first to kick out who they viewed as the imperialists and thus be the leaders of the reunification), this is why Saddam Hussein attacked Iran and later Kuwait and this is the motive driving Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and countless other political groups.
The problem is that from the very beginning arbitrary country lines were drawn to create a nation of people that had already formed an identity as something else. As soon as Tunisia or Egypt or Libya was created, these people had to ask themselves: Am I Tunisian? Am I Egyptian? What is the Kingdom of Syria? What does that mean? Am I still Arab? Am I still Muslim? Am I still loyal to the Ottomans? Does my tribe matter? All of these questions become very difficult to figure out in a world that doesn’t draw the same boundary between religion, culture and politics that we do. As a result, people lost their points of connection and began quarreling. Despotic regimes took over, profited off their populations and kept their people at bay out of fear.
Enter Wiki leaks: Corrupt economies are exposed, people realize that they are poor because their government is profiting off of them, their leaders are dirty dealing and thus we have revolution.
Is this revolution good? My initial instinct would be to say yes. Yes in the sense that it may be good 100 years from now. But, is this good for their people and for the world now? I don’t think so.
The toppling of these regimes, the nostalgia for a unified Middle East and the poverty and lack of infrastructure that is to come will create a deep need for support and rule from the people in a power vacuum that will most likely be filled by the current powerful parties: Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. As these organizations with money, resources and a violent agenda step forward, we will not see the Middle East grow into the Intellectual light that it once was, we will see it descend into very dark times: dark times for its people and for our global economy.
In my mind this is something to be concerned about and something to be prayed about. I honestly hope we all take some time to offer up our prayers for the individuals in these countries, for the soon to be leaders of these countries and for the world’s leaders trying to make sense of a very messy situation. Let us hope that as was the case with Eastern Europe, the Orange Revolution and others that saw leaders pulled directly from their populace to work towards peace and economic renewal, we see the same thing across the Middle East and North Africa.
Hey all, I posted this on the IAWTV forums in response to a question someone asked and thought it would be of use to everyone…
As a potential candidate for the IAWTV board and an economics minor in college, I wrote my thesis on the institution of the FCC and an economic analysis of wireless spectrum allocation. The paper landed me a job at a wealth management firm and emerging markets hedge fund right out of college. The issues learned from that study have many parallels to the current Net Neutrality debate.
As things stand, the internet pipeline is privatized (different from spectrum, wherein bandwidth is allocated for government, non-profit, private and public use). Spectrum is allocated based on frequency, which in spite of certain difficulties is easier to allocate because nobody can claim to have built a frequency as it is a scientific term that ascribes value to how radio waves operate and radio waves were eventually deemed to be a public good. Cable systems are comprised of pipeline that took decades to develop, bury, connect and maintain. Because we live in a free market system where legal entities are allowed to own property without fear of the government seizing it from them, we are now faced with an issue. The cable companies have invested billions to build out and own these pipelines. It is their property. So what we are really faced with is an issue of eminent domain.
In order for the government to give us a free internet, they basically have to seize the cable companies rights to their property if not their property outright. Herein lies the problem. This is against the general ethos of the American people and capitalism itself (though, i don’t know if I can honestly state that the American people operate from a capitalist ethos any longer, there is still a substantial segment of the population that understands the value in protecting ones right to property). In addition, The cable lobby is huge. Independent content creators are not. Finally, cable is soon to lose money as TV transitions to the internet. It knows it will lose money from the programmers and subscriptions and it plans to increase revenue from the internet or from charging premiums for bandwidth (To be completely transparent, I did PR for a technology company that enabled cable companies to allocate bandwidth from the head-end back in 2003 - so I understood this issue, before it became an issue). This is why the cable companies are currently hedging their bets. Comcast purchased NBC and through that has a stake in Hulu. Canoe (some of the top minds in the industry) are working behind the scenes to make sure this all works out in cable’s favor. So, it goes without saying that cable is investing substantial amounts of money to make sure that they maintain control of this revenue stream. Needless to say, the cards are stacked against independent Web creators.
If you are an independent content creator, get educated! Wearing ribbons helps but needs to be more focused in supporting a free internet. As a board member, I would suggest we establish an open internet working group. The goals of this working group will be two fold. First: education (panels with economists, cable execs, and web creators) - This is something we can get substantial PR around. Second: tactical plans for getting the word out. We need to educate not just web creators but tax payers as well. In the end it is the tax payers who will have to pay the billions of dollars to tell the cable companies what to do with their property and we need them to understand the expense they may have to stand behind.
Anyway, that is my two cents on this. And, in light of everything, the goal should be education and evangelization towards an equitable solution that serves the greater public good.