Best of Spirits

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Best of Spirits

Charge Forward

Wait for the enemy to come to you or take the fight to the enemy?

The gunman who killed at least 80 people at an island youth camp northwest of Oslo used his disguise to lure in his victims, then shot them twice to make sure they were dead, survivors said in the village of Sundvollen, where they were taken after the massacre. … Elise said she hid behind the same rock that the killer was standing on. … Several victims "had pretended as if they were dead to survive," the 21-year-old said. But after shooting the victims with one gun, the gunman shot them again in the head with a shotgun…. Emilie Bersaas… said she ran inside a school building and hid under a bed when the shooting started. … "I laid under the bed for two hours and then the police smashed a window and came in…."

Comments from the Ace of Spades blog article on Oslo terrorist

I heard 90 minutes. Not to minimize the tragedy in any way, but WTF? Some of the people there were in their high teens and early 20's. I'd like to hear more about how this went down. There wasn't one person there who could have run up behind the shooter and smashed his head with a rock or something? I want to hear if someone tried to step up in any way. It makes no sense to me that someone, armed but seriously outnumbered, could walk around for 90 minutes or so and just keep firing without anyone trying to jump him and subdue him. Any 'let's roll' moments that didn't quite work out? I really want to know…

Not to be cold but they were mostly kids, probably young Commie peaceniks who are taught to hug trees, not engage in violence. They were easy targets.

The guy had a machine gun. If someone was able to organize and coordinate many people it might have been feasible, though I'm sure it was pretty difficult to organize anybody after the shooting started. After people started splitting up, running up to him while he was shooting with that would have been just plain suicide.

AD, he had (according to the Norwegian police) an automatic rifle and a handgun. He had to stop to reload. One girl hid right under him, and I still think these young people had been so indoctrinated that they never even thought to pull together to get him. 90 minutes is a long time. I can buy panic for the first five minutes, but after that, I cannot imagine why they didn't pull themselves together and fight back.

Maybe. I just choose to believe that the natural reaction is to just hide and hope it will just go away. That's what makes Flight 93 so heroic.

I saw other reports saying had had a machine gun. Link (The Daily Mail isn't the best place, but I saw it at other places.) If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Without it, yeah, it would be more feasible.

Maybe. But, many jumped in the water and started swimming, which made them floating targets, which also smacks of suicide. At some point, this guy had to stop and reload. Maybe I would have done the same thing and ran like hell, I don't know. But the die running vs. die trying thing has been nagging me since yesterday. Like I wrote earlier, I want to know more details. I want to know if someone at least tried…

How many stories did we see out of Iraq about busloads of army/police reqruits marched off buses and executed? Those were by and large adults. I can't blame the kids for not mounting a defense. I would blame the organizers of the event for having no security precautions whatsoever (how do the local police not swarm this island after the bombing earlier within minutes of the first shooting).

Grand Prairie, Texas — A shooter opened fire at a skating rink during a private family event Saturday night, killing five and wounding four before turning the gun on himself. … a family member… pulled a pistol and started shooting after getting into an argument with his wife. … Including the gunman, six people were killed. Three were wounded… fourth victim arrived at a hospital by themselves [sic] … witnesses reported seeing individuals fleeing the skating rink, some of whom still had their skates on. …

A fight at a crowded Kent car show escalated Saturday afternoon, leaving 10 people shot as cars sped away from the scene and frightened spectators ducked into the safety of nearby businesses. … At least one shooter fired from the front of the shopping center into the crowd. … Patrons and employees in nearby shops and restaurants locked the doors and crouched in back rooms … Police said they don’t know how many shooters there were. No arrests had been made by Saturday night. … eight people — six men and two women — were admitted to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. … ages of the wounded ranged from 14 to 32 … a fight broke out just before the shooting … About 10 people rushed into the back restrooms of the nail shop after locking the front door….

He ordered all the men out of the room, then systematically began picking off the women who were left.

Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989
(I tried to find how many men were culled from the room. One source said there were 26 students. If the two professors were male, and there were nine women, 17 men left them behind. Wikipedia's article says the killer "separated the nine women from the approximately fifty men and ordered the men to leave." [my emphasis.])

Hearing the gunshots, gym coach Jon Lane entered the classroom. Loukaitis was holding his classmates hostage, and planned to use one hostage so he could safely exit the school. Lane volunteered as the hostage, and Loukaitis was keeping Lane at gun point with his rifle. Lane then grabbed the weapon from Loukaitis and wrestled him to the ground, and assisted the evacuation of students.

In 1903, the great poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, was sent to report on the Kishinev massacre of Jews in Russia. Bialik was shocked by what he learned of the men's passivity, as their women were raped and murdered before their eyes. … once again, here in America, too many Jewish men are crouching "in that dark corner," while Jewish women are attacked.…

While I always appreciate expert advice and soak it up as much as I can, I have been struck by one commonality that I have heard and vigorously disagree with. I have been told over and over again that the first thing one must do when a combat theater unfolds is to seek cover. I'm sorry, but that is wrong. … Any adult with any degree of physical capability, regardless of armament, upon seeing a shooter should immediately RUN AT THE S.O.B. as hard and as fast as possible. If you have a gun, you draw it and start shooting as soon as you can. If you have a knife, draw it and brandish it and then go for the face and neck as soon as you are in range. If you are unarmed you can still tackle him and beat him into submission or death, if necessary, or gouge his eyes out (ladies). … Let's say that I rush a gunman. In the time it takes the gunman to see me rushing him, aim, fire and drop me, other people have advanced four or five steps closer to him. Each person he has to kill buys the other people four or five steps. This is war, writ small. What do you think D-Day was? …

BearNow, if you're an average person in approximately the first scenario, your first instinctive response will probably not be to charge forward, screaming in rage, straight at the bear and lunge for his eyes or jugglar with whatever was in your hand. … No, you're probably going to do something like run away screaming in high-pitched terror, faint, freeze, or muss your underoos. You were, in a word, unprepared.

Best of Spirits

Space still beckons

Eras end. New ones begin. Space still beckons and humankind will answer the call.

2011 July 8, Atlantis launches, NASA's 135th and final space shuttle launch
(h/t to Sister Toldjah for the inspiration)

SplashdownFirst, the awful price:

Columbia raining down on Texas.
Columbia's crew

I will never forget sitting down with my daughter to watch Mr Rogers, turning on the tube, and seeing Dan Rather with a model of Challenger and feeling suddenly sick to my stomach before he said a word.
Challenger's crew

Hearing that three heroes burned to death on the launchpad.
The Apollo 1 crew, Grissom, White, and Chaffee

Boot on the moonAh, but, that first flight of Alan Shepard. John Glenn orbiting the globe. I used to know all the names of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts. It was not a bad thing when space travel became so frequent, so common, that I lost track. The first space docking, the first EVA. Circling the moon for the first time, and that tremendous thrill of hearing the light-seconds of delay in communications. Armstrong's bootprint in moondust! Watching men bounce along in 1/6th G.

And that was just the Americans. Despicable Communism aside, from Sputnik to Laika to Gregarin and on through the rest of their accomplishments and disasters, space-age kids like me thrilled to all advances in the exploration of space. Even the first (mostly) scientifically accurate cinematic portrayal of a space station, docking, false gravity, moon base, and planetary travel portrayed in 2001: A Space Odessey was a thrilling part of the ride.

Rockets and space shuttles had two sides, though. Rocketry, disappointingly, supplanted the original space plane program, allegedly because of military interest in developing more accurate bomb delivery (a la ICBM). The space truck was a dangerous, complicated, cumbersome vehicle. So, it was not all as glorious as it was painted, nor as elegant as it might have been. Taxes aplenty were wasted.

And now that we have no future in NASA, is it a bad thing? Might we now see true space planes again, or even seemingly crazy ideas like space elevators? Might we see private investment replacing tax expenditures, rapid entrepreneurial innovation instead of elephantine government plodding? Well, not if O'Bama has anything to say about it, of course, but if we survive him, we may see a greater day than ever in space. Our satellites, and our primitive robots have paved the way to Mars, the farthest planets, and beyond the solar system. In time, human footprints will again mark the dust of other worlds.

Eras end. New ones begin. Space still beckons and humankind will answer the call.

Best of Spirits

Readiness is All

We cannot possibly be perfectly prepared for every possible contingency. But we can be ready.

Scene #1. You're one of several young urbanites at a campout with a few friends, after a long day swimming, hiking, and now after a fine meal, joking, laughing. You're mellow; relaxed; right? feel it? (No, Reader, now you're not relaxed because you're looking at that big type in the next sentence.) SUDDENLY A HUGE SNARLING BEAR COMES CHARGING OUT OF THE WOODS AND STRAIGHT AT YOU!bear

Scene #2. You're out hunting with a few friends. (Just go with me on this, PETAfans.) You're armed with a high-power rifle. (Knowledgable gun person insert brand and calibre.) You're hunting a bear that's been known to attack and kill people. You and your friends are highly trained hunters and you are on his trail. (Good old cut-and-paste:) SUDDENLY A HUGE SNARLING BEAR COMES CHARGING OUT OF THE WOODS AND STRAIGHT AT YOU!bear

Now, if you're an average person in approximately the first scenario, your first instinctive response will probably not be to charge forward, screaming in rage, straight at the bear and lunge for his eyes or jugglar with whatever was in your hand. Ew. Sorry. I just thought of that as I was writing. No, you're probably going to do something like run away screaming in high-pitched terror, faint, freeze, or muss your underoos. You were, in a word, unprepared. Or in another word or three, unready, inattentive, inalert. Wait, is that a word?

If you're an exceptional person in the second scenario, you kill the bear. Readiness is all.

You're hanging out with folks and someone you thought you liked but weren't sure about repeats an ugly rumor about you that you've resented for a long time. You're enjoying driving your Kia on a winding country road and suddenly in your rear-view mirror, there's a six-wheel extended-bed, extended-cab, jacked-up Ford pick-up right on your tail. (Oh, sure, why not:) Driven by with those four hunters who just killed the bear. They're really the nicest men you'd ever want to meet, and no they haven't been drinking, not one beer, but all you see is their truck, attire, and all those guns. Or, you're absorbed in reading an article that's witty, well-written, informative and casual, and someone comes and interrupts you with an urgent phone call from the IRS.

Readiness is all.

Being perfect in your personal realm as God is in all of creation, means readiness. Are you superman enough to charge back at the bear, armed with two pieces of plastic cutlery? Can you be the soul of graciousness when surprised by a harsh spotlight being placed upon you? Can you have completely confident calm control in the face of potentially threatening situations? Are you able to easily migrate your whole consciousness from that absorbing article to deal with your remarkably upset spouse?

We cannot possibly be perfectly prepared for every possible contingency. Sometimes you're hunting the bear. Sometimes the bear hunts you. Sometimes the bear kills you in your sleeping bag and there's not a whole lot you can do about that, so we're talking about the other times.

We can develop a spirit of readiness.

To be ready is to be unsurprised.

You may not know when or even if the killer bear is going to come charging at you, but you know it's out there.

Graciousness is not the natural hallmark of Ego. Tame the animal mind's vengeful impulse, translate its emotional surge into the desire, not to return an eye for an eye, nor even merely to turn the other cheek, but to respond with a practiced dedication to returning good for evil. In love of your fellow child of God, Supremely desire to de-power the unpleasant making everyone both comforted and uplifted.

Regardless of what you face from the material world's agencies, if you remain centered in complete honesty with yourself and with the judges of the world, even in the face of the gravest injustice, you can be confident that your soul is innocent.

Best keep those books and records up-to-date, keep your powder dry, and know where the exit doors are. Get in some target practice if you can, just in case. Practice turning your whole intellectual consciousness and full emotional attention away from that almost-finished article to embrace that screaming spouse the way you would in love of a beloved small child weeping over an owwie.

We cannot be perfectly prepared for each and every thing. In spirit, however, we can be ready. Practice being fully prepared by keeping the mind clean, maintaining focus on the lessons learned from inspiration, and keep acquiring the skills of life through perspiration.

One time driving along a narrow gravel road in the mountains above Pecos, New Mexico, we saw a bear cub, its muzzle nuzzling in a hole, right there in the upsloping side of the road-cut, as we passed by a few feet away. We wanted to stay longer and watch the cub. But we drove on. No need to worry Momma Grizzly.

She charged the bear and punched it in the nose to rescue her dog. "I wasn’t in my right mind at the moment but I would never think of doing it again." Even her boyfriend charged the bear!

Charge Forward — companion Best of Spirits Mindful Webwork

"It was just me between my family and the bear. ... The father said he was able to successfully fend off the aggressive beast because he and his family were mentally prepared for such an encounter in the wild and did not panic."

Best of Spirits

Pride versus Progress

There's nothing wrong with being corrected to what's right.

"You can do important work if you do not become self-important; you can do several things as easily as one if you leave yourself out." —An Archangel of Nebadon (Urantia Paper 48)

I recently encountered another episode which demonstrated in a small way the affliction of overmuch self-consciousness. A young friend, in an effusive text reply, clearly mis-read what I had written. I corrected the error. My friend then apologized profusely. No problem, I said, but just take things slow, read twice, I recommended. The reply to something I wrote the next day was a noticably more reserved "OK," which actually didn't even make sense in the context. Knowing this individual's character, I suspect that the reticence of the second incident was in response to the earlier correction, a self-conscious over-reaction to having been found before to be wrong.

Mere correction should be cause for thankfulness, really, but all too frequently the one being corrected feels chided, put down for being in error, and this in turn generates defensiveness, and defensiveness severely complicates learning.

We are all imperfect, while being commanded to be perfect. In this world of "trial and error," wisdom often can only be achieved through learning from error. When one is instructed on what is right, there is intrinsically, inevitably, a certain emphasis upon the fact of having been in error. Correction should be celebrated, as one more step of growth, but the Ego gets in the way. The Ego doesn't want to be wrong, or more correctly, since Ego alone does not have a value system to discern right and wrong, Ego does not want to be found out as being wrong. Being wrong, the Ego imagines, means shame, and invokes guilt, as if one should already have mastered something the first time out, as if mere error were conscious sin.

Pride may be the most insidious of the "deadly sins." Most folks can admit that wrath or sloth are unwelcome traits, but Pride defends itself proudly. The reasons for error are essentially irrelevant to correction, but when pride stands in the way of correction, the focus is not on the goodness of correction but on badness of the error, and the Ego, feeling belittled, becomes engaged in defense. "I was only…" "I just meant…" "All I was doing was…" This thoughtless defensive posture not only de-emphasizes the correction, but reinforces the error in the gestalt of the subconscious. Even though the correction may be intellectually acknowledged, rather than the grateful "Aha!" of honest truth-recognition, the emotional memory is more of a disingenuous "oh, yeah?" of self-justification. And all such defensiveness stems from Pride.

Pride thwarts learning, and thus hinders growth. Growth is our goal, with perfection our destiny. Thus, defensive and misplaced Pride stands athwart our path, and threatens us with the opposite of eternal life.

Seven Enemies of Man (C.C. Beck's Captain Marvel)

Best of Spirits

Determinism vs Free Will

When I began pondering the question of determinism and free will, I found myself, philosophically and theologically, going back and forth.

Many years ago, we read this, upon which we've often reflected:

In the question of nature v nurture:
Parents of one child believe it's all environment.
Parents of more than one child understand, it's all genetics.

I'm sure you get it, but to belabor the point anyway because I suffer from prolixism: the former take all credit or blame, depending on the results, the latter recognize that given the same approximate upbringing, one can get radically different results.

Certainly has been something we think about a lot as parents of fraternal twins! (If other parents have yet to fully appreciate this, so far having nothing but wonderful darling little ones, wait until you've shepherded all the offspring to adulthood. But then, it may be God's will all yours will remain trouble-free and you can take all the credit. While thanking God of course. Lest my humor be misunderstood due to deadpan delivery, please note: :-^ tongue in cheek.)

There are determinists among scientists and determinists among religionists. There is room for free will in quantum physics, though, and some religionists hold that we are the free-will children of the God of free will, even that free will may be the primary way in which we are created "in His image."

When I began pondering the question of determinism and free will, I found myself, philosophically and theologically, going back and forth.

On the one hand, the omnipotence and omniscience of the Almighty, that God knows the end from the beginning, that God cannot be surprised, augers for the theologies which favor election (and rejection). On the other hand, if there is no free will, how are we aught but automatons? That the Creator is in absolute control of the entire Creation can't be questioned, yet if the Creator chose to grant to the creature true spiritual liberty, full and free choice regarding eternal destiny, that also can't be questioned. (The limited time-frame of the earth-life for the full presentation of the eternal choice has incited ameliorating possibilities, reincarnation in the East, purgatory in the West, but merely extending the question to one type of after-life or another does not affect the basic dilemma under consideration.)

We are raised — in the modern West at least — with the rejection of old conceptions such as the divine right of kings and with the acceptance of the right of personal liberty. We recognize that one may be mentally incapacitated, truly incapable of recognizing right and wrong, but we assume, socially and in our courts, that, otherwise, people are freely choosing. (Otherwise, we would be like those tyrannies where both the thief and the political dissident are considered "insane" and are alike sentenced to "re-education.") However, in religion, such libertarianism and individualism might seem truly the endowment of our Creator as the revolutionary wrote, or could be construed to be more like the diabolical rebel angel who contested the God-centered universe. A philosophically distressing dilemma to ponder.

Perhaps the best clarity I've had on the matter is this simple comparison with the mortal parent: A mere human parent may know the child well enough to predict what choice the child will make. This in no way abrogates the free will of the child, but it does acknowledge that we choose according to our nature and training. If we as material parents can be so foreknowing, we can extrapolate that our divine Parent can, indeed, grant us true freedom of choice, yet foreknow how we will choose. In the end, I can't do better than that, except to confess that the divine power and prerogative makes such conundrums practically beyond our comprehension.

Therefore, I have long since concluded — not too surprisingly considering my own sometime artistic bent — that I am…

…a Calvin & Hobbesian.

Michaelangelo's Creation Calvin & Hobbes Remix
A Mindful Original Remix