Diary and Commentary
One year ago today I was somewhere in the jungles of northern Guatemala. I was walking from one Mayan ruin to another, in search of...what, exactly? To this day I do not know and I cannot understand why I do such things, why I have spent the last 18 years of my life venturing forth at every opportunity (usually) alone into the wilds of South and Central America. It was---it is---some sort of hunger that can only be sated, and even then only temporarily, by loading up the backpack and heading out to some forsaken place, the more forsaken the better. It gnaws at me still, today, at this moment, yet I have not the ability to feed it. And it cannot be ignored. What to do?
Easy answer: There is nothing to be done about it. I sit in my oh-so-comfortable room here in Oklahoma City, surrounded by the toys and accoutrements of life in these United States. My life has never been more full of things, yet that damned (or is it blessed?) hunger calls me. But there is no way to satisfy it. And so it remains inside, unappeased.
It is now 15 years that I have had a life that has given me whatever nobility and grace I possess. It is the life of a teacher. And like everything good and noble it is a gift from God. Being a teacher is not what I do, it is what I am. But this year is the first in my career where I cannot plan on spending every vacation wandering the wilds of Latin America. Yes, one year ago I was in Guatemala, and one year before that I was in Chile, and one year before that I was in the Argentine Andes, and one year before that I was in the Venezuelan grasslands. And so on all the way back to 1989. I could both practice my vocation and feed the backpacking creature that lived and flourished inside me. And now?
I knew this morning that if I looked the travel diary of my 'Year of Living Dangerously' that something like this would happen. (Imagine a man on a diet who salivates while reading a restaurant menu.) It is all there: the adventure, the excitement, the danger and the wonder of solo extreme backpacking. And even though I just spent an entire year of walking the wilds of Latin America---something most men can only dream about---yet I need to return to it, somehow. And soon.
My first chance comes in July when I will have at least 6 weeks free. Already my thoughts turn to the there and then, making it hard to remain in the here and now. And so I plan...and am reminded of a park in northern Chile called Lauca. I went there before, but could not complete the adventure because of improper equipment. And I absolutely hate failure. So to Lauca it will be, and not nearly soon enough. But oh well.
Miller Time Long Ago and Far Away
I am going through all of my photos taken over the last 21 years or so. A couple of them need to be seen here and now. In 1983 I was trying to enter northern Guatemala in a rather interesting way. A border guard accosted me and began a series of intrusive questions. As I could come up with no good answers, he pointed his rifle at me and demanded that I go with him to the local police station. I had no desire to spend time in any sort of jail, and so propositioned him with this idea: instead of him taking me to jail, how about if I bought both of us dinner and all the beers we could drink? It took only a moment for the guard to come to his decision. He slung the rifle over his shoulder and we sauntered over to the nearest cantina. The result is below.
My new best pal
A few days later, enjoying my freedom.
Yes, I was younger then. And wiser now, probably.
It still astounds me that of all the things crazy and sane I have done while backpacking, I have only suffered one debilitating injury. But as these photos show, once was quite enough.
In the Spring of 2001 I was taking a bunch of Lincoln students for a 4-day hike through the Argentine Andes. On the third day we were climbing a scree slope to a ridge that overlooked our final campsite, the refugio at Laguna Jakob. I was walking about 30 feet behind a student. Her foot loosened some small rocks, which then allowed a slab of slate the size of a card table to cascade down the slope. It crashed into my leg right above the kneecap. Had it hit that bone I would have been crippled for life, and my backpacking days would have been over.
I yelped in pain, but still managed to make it to the ridge only a minute away. The pain seemed manageable. Unknown to me that rock had crushed tissue, nerves and blood vessels. The wound left only a small exterior mark, but under the skin the damage was extensive. Blood spilled out into the surrounding tissue and began to press beneath the skin, slowly ballooning my leg into a nightmarish shape.
The refugio was one hour away straight down. Most of the students headed down as I followed behind. After ten minutes it was clear that I could not go on. The pain in the leg had immobilized me. To put any pressure on it at all was to feel something like an electric jolt course through my body. It was the most intense physical pain I had ever experienced. I had a walkie-talkie and used it to call the students already at the refugio. A group headed back up the mountain and brought me down with a stretcher. The next day I arranged for a horse to carry me off the mountain and into the town of Bariloche.
A doctor in town told me that the bruise on my leg was the largest he had ever seen. Well, yes.
The best kids in the world, Vippin, Nico, Boaz, Justin, Nathan, and Ryan, haul me off the mountain.
To this day I have little sensation where that rock crashed into my leg. The flesh beneath the skin there feels weird and bumpy, but there is no pain. I shudder to think what I would have done had something like this occurred during my 12-day hike to and beyond Choquequirao. Truly, Jesus saves.
Shadows and Dust
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!
If there is one truth of our earthly life, it is the utter worthlessness of worldly glory, power and fame. But do not believe me. Ask those who have had it. Their stories speak of woe and waste, of ashes and dust. The advice they give is older than The Wisdom of Amenemope (1000 BC):
Better poverty than riches, better one loaf when the heart is joyous than riches in unhappiness.
Read the words of Tabi-utul-Enlil, king of ancient Nippur who ruled 4500 years ago:
Pollution has befallen me, my eyes see not, my ears hear not.
My body grows dark with death. Like a net trouble has covered me.
Two thousand years later Ashurbanipal (d. 626 BC), the mighty Assyrian king whose 'war chariots crushed man and beast,' cried out from his death bed:
Why have sickness and misery befallen me? I cannot do away with strife in my country and in my family.
Illness of body and mind bow me down. With cries of woe I bring my days to en end.
At his death (138) the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the most powerful man on earth at the time of his empire's greatest wealth and prominence, left behind this poem:
My Soul, pretty and flitting,
the Guest and partner of my clay,
Where will you now go?
Never to play again, never to play.
Another emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius wrote this amid the horrors of the Second Marcomannic War (167):
Observe how fleeting and worthless human things are! Today a man, tomorrow ashes.
The whole s pace of a man's life is little, but yet it is filled with trouble
...and with what a wretched body it must be passed!
Abd-er-Rahman II was the most powerful man of his time, yet right before he died (961) he wrote a summation of his life:
I have ruled 50 years in victory and peace.
Riches and honors have waited upon me;
all earthly blessings have come my way.
I have counted all of those days that I have been happy,
they number 14.
Oh man! place not confidence in this world!
Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II had as much power over his kingdom as any modern potentate does over his own. Yet even as Cortez began his march to Tenochtitlan (1519) the Aztec would write
I am to pass away like a faded flower,
My fame will be nothing,
My fame on earth will vanish...
Was all the gold and finery but dew on the meadows?
Homer had already answered the Aztec 2300 years earlier. In his Iliad Achilles says to Lycaon before he kills him
Why do you cry? Your tears are in vain. Look at me! Am I not beautiful and tall, sprung from a goddess?
Yet, Death looms over me. A day is coming when an unknown hand will lay me dead.
And so it did.
My conclusion to all of this? By all means do not be afraid of money and fame and power, but if you do not feed the hungry and clothe the naked and comfort the widow and orphan all this 'getting' will be a colossal waste---of your time, of your life, and not just on earth but for all Eternity. Ask those experts who thought they had everything, yet in the end it all amounted to nothing but shadows and dust. Listen to Shelly's anti-hero and take heed:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Trust not in earthly awards and praise. Be as Aristides who, when publicly acclaimed in the Athenian Assembly, wondered to himself what evil he had done.
Better yet, take the Carpenter's advice and put your treasure where moth and worm cannot go. And do not despair. For He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end. Unlike all those kingdoms mentioned above.
Herod Among Us
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men, was exceeding wroth,
and sent forth, and slew all the male children...
Herod (d. 4 BC) is known for his scandalous family life, for his multiple murders, for his succession of marriages, and for a rather careless attitude toward children---his own and those in Bethlehem especially. He was overly solicitous to what the Gospels call the worship of Moloch---that is, state idolatry, the blasphemous adoration of political power, of rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to God. In Herod's case the state was Rome, what the Book of Revelation calls 'Babylon.' Herod first bowed to Mark Antony, then Augustus. Tradition and Scripture has it that Herod died a particularly unpleasant death which befitted the nature and number of his crimes.
Christians hold a special place for Herod, of course, as he ordered the slaughter of every male child two years old or younger in Bethlehem. Why? What possible harm could a baby cause for a king? In Herod's case he was fearful of losing political power. All Jews believed that one day a King would arise out of Bethlehem.
`And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.'"
In Herod's mind this meant that if this king showed up then he, Herod, would be unemployed and broke. He became quite agitated when he heard rumors that indeed such a king had just been born---and in Bethlehem, no less, in fulfillment of prophesy. What to do? Herod was well-practiced in the art of political murder. Victims included his wives and offspring. So he chose a typical 'Herodian' solution and sent his child-killers to Bethlehem. Of course, the object of his wrath was already on His way to Egypt with His mother and father. The Child escaped Herod and survived to be nailed on a cross. The results have been momentous.
The Massacre of Innocents (1869-72)
I thought of Herod when coming across this, umm...'holiday card.' Innocuous enough, so it seems.
The card is from Planned Parenthood, and is for sale on its site. This organization is almost giddy this Christmas season:
'Tis the season to share with family, friends, colleagues, and loved ones the message of "choice on earth."
your orders now for the 2004 Holiday Card.
These glossy print cards come in packs of 25 cards and 25 envelopes. You have a choice for the inside of the cards:
(which you can customize for an additional fee)
or our special message imprinted inside:
Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season
For a look at the 'choice' in which Planned Parenthood exults, please click on the card. But do not do so if you are at all squeamish.
You clicked on the card as I knew you would. (We humans are more curious than any cat.) Disturbing photos, yes? They are the work of Gog and Magog. And now you can see---or you certainly should see---that this card is blasphemous. It uses the Christian phrase 'Peace on Earth' to recommend something a little different, something called 'infanticide.' Though the phrase 'infanticide on earth' does not have a pleasant ring to it. The card celebrates the slaughter of children while tomorrow the entire world will celebrate the birth of One.
You do know of course that every picture you saw was the result of acts legal in all 50 states. More than likely your tax dollars paid for them. Similar things could have been seen---they were seen---on the streets of Bethlehem 2000 years ago. At least our friend Herod restricted his massacre of the innocents to one little town, and only for a few hours. Planned Parenthood has worked hard to bring the work of Herod to every corner of God's country, my own US of A. It has been quite successful indeed, as 42,000,000 innocents have met the knives, vacuums, scissors and saline injections of little American Herods---42,000,000 actions wholeheartedly supported by Planned Parenthood, those people who send us 'the warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season.' Let's call this group 'Herod's Club.'
Of course Herod's Club certainly could not be at all successful without the support of the American government, and even then only one political party stands behind it. That party is the Democrat Party. It so supports the activities of Herod's Club that no Democrat can rise to national prominence unless he firmly and wholeheartedly supports abortion on demand, up to and including 'partial-birth' abortions---what reasonable folks call infanticide. The entire Democrat establishment---the Kennedys and Pelosis and Clintons and Kerrys and Gores and Reids and all of their ilk---have made absolutely clear time after time their enthusiastic support for abortion.
Of course, the Democrat Party loses elections time after time. Part of the reason is its support of abortion. The powers in the party certainly understand this.
"All these issues that put us into the extreme and not the mainstream really hurt us with the heartland of the country,"
said Donna Brazile, a Democratic Party leader who managed Al Gore's campaign in 2000.
"Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies."
But "killing babies" is exactly what abortion is, Ms. Brazile. How can you hide that fact? Well, you cannot really hide it but you can change the language and pretend.
Howard Wolfson, a Democratic consultant and adviser to abortion rights groups and Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign,
said the party had to rethink how it talked about the issue..."Either we're going to begin talking about this a different way
and making our arguments effectively, or we're going to keep losing."
Oh, that will work! Support abortion but pretend you don't. Remember that you beleive the American people are stupid---they re-elected an idiot after all---and will never figure this out. But a dose of reality here: you cannot make an effective argument in favor of abortion, and so you will keep losing.
Not so fast, says abortion apologist Gloria Feldt, president of Herod's Club:
Democrats "need to stop allowing the extreme, anti-choice right wing of the Republican Party to paint them into a corner
where all they talk about is abortion. We have the high ground here if we focus our policy and our discussion
on the prevention of unintended pregnancies."
Ms. Feldt believes that the Democrats should embrace abortion as really the 'moral high ground' of American politics. But more and more Americans are coming to view abortion as something else entirely, as part of a 'culture of death' little distinguishable from the child sacrifice of the ancient Canaanites. And we all know what old Yahweh had Joshua do to them!
Ms. Feldt and her club might have another incentive other than a 'right to choose' or 'the prevention of unintended pregnancies.' According the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research wing of Herod's Club, each abortion costs an average of $400 or so. Let's see: $400 multiplied by 42,000,000 abortions and we have the tidy sum of $16,800,000,000. That is 16 billion dollars since 1973, or around $400 million per year. (And this does not count the sums earned by selling these aborted babies. This grisly practice is called 'harvesting.') So Herod's Club is quite the going concern. In fact, Herod's Club is merely the marketing arm of a huge industry, the abortion industry. Like old king Herod it is fearful of losing its political power, and thus its comfortable income. So it does what all industries do, it lobbies the US Congress for favors and tax breaks. It also makes large donations to the Democrat Party, no surprise there. Herod acted similarly, lobbying the Senate of Rome and donating large sums to the emperor. In return he was granted a large amount of political freedom to satisfy his wishes---like murdering children in Bethlehem.
But these goings on between Herod's Club and the Democrat Party are coming to an end. Part of the reason is the Roe Effect, another is that Americans are increasingly disillusioned with the big government largesse promised to them by the Democrat Party. Like Herod this party glorifies the state and wishes to see it increase in size and power. Witness the programs sponsored and supported by it, all of which necessitate a growing state: Social Security, Welfare, public education, Medicare and abortion on demand, to name only a paltry few. And this Moloch State like Moloch of old demands in return that living children be thrown into its brazen jaws. And Herod's Club and the Democrats gladly comply, one for money the other for power. (Please see here for the value of these.)
To know the future of Planned Parenthood, open any page of Dante's Inferno. To know the future of the Democrat Party, open up any dumpster in the back of an abortion clinic.
Too late for those 42,000,000, but none too soon for the next 42,000,000.
A more accurate 'Holiday Greetings' from Planned Parenthood
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