Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Christopher Hitchins at ISU

Gus, (A young man sitting next to me with a camera took this picture at the event. I add it to the entry today (Friday) and thank him for sending it to me.
Christopher Hitchins spoke to a packed Sun Room at the Iowa State Memorial Union this evening. I read his column regularly in Vanity Fair magazine so when I saw he was coming to speak I decided to take advantage of it and I went out.

Hitchins is the author of the book. God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

He spoke about mobilizing our society against the forces of theocracy. He asked us to see what the parties of God are doing to Iraq, to look at the way religions behave toward each other. He said that it (all religion) is poison giving theocracy power and that it wants our world to end. It is a cult of death. Religion wants a dictatorship of ignorance. He said that it attacks us in our core of integrity. It assumes that we could not tell the right activity without it as an ecclesiastical dictatorship. He says that Christianity is immoral; the barbarous childhood of our race.

He mentioned Iraqi Christians and how they have been attacked without one word said in their defense. He said that the "divine is a man-made construct" and it shows. He also spoke of the way Muslims destroyed ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. He does not pull punches with any religion. At least two times he mentioned that man is 1/2 chromosome away from a chimpanzee.

He spoke for about 35 minutes and then took about an hour answering questions. There was one person there who was obviously religious. He (at one point) said he was happy because he had a relationship with Jesus Christ, that he had been praying for Hitchens and that Jesus loved him.

Hitchens was also taken to task for the 1/2 chromosome remark -the person mentioned that on that chromosome were countless genes which made us different from the chimpanzee.

In response to one question Hitchens said that his doubt is that anyone who has to tell you about his belief doesn't really believe in it himself. When asked about "life after death" Hitchens said that "you are not going to know your are dead." He also mentioned that the idea of sitting around all day long praising a God was not his idea of Heaven.

He spoke of how politicians use religion and mentioned how Putin had brought back the Russian Orthodox Church into the Russian life and was using it to further his political agenda.

Most of the audience was very supportive and there was spontaneous applause at several places. You could tell, however, that some of the audience was not in agreement with his views. To give him credit Hitchens was able to answer all of their questions from his perspective. All in all it was an interesting evening and it gave me a lot to think about.

Hitchens has a little motto he uses - "Mr. Jefferson, Build up this wall."

Refreshments were served following the lecture by the Atheists and Agnostics Club. I didn't have any but I am sure they were heavenly.

By the way. I print these postings off as they are posted and have been putting them in three ring binders. I have filled two 2-inch binders and have just started on the third one. Hope they will be of use to someone sometime. Hugs, j-bear

Where is our Sacrifice?

Wayne and I had coffee this afternoon at Chocolaterie Stam in Ames. As I sat there looking at all of the wonderful chocolates and gelato which they sell I asked Wayne about the fact that the average American citizen seems to have sacrificed nothing for this war in Iraq. This is not meant to belittle the sacrifice which our young people who have served there have made with lost lives and maimed bodies.

I am referring to the sacrifice that you and I have to make because of this war. When I was younger my grandmother had a beautiful antique desk in the living room. In it were ration cards from WW II. Some were for sugar others were for butter, etc. I know gasoline was rationed as were other things.

I was watching some kids in the mall the other day and they didn't even seem aware that we were in the midst of an expensive war. This war has not slowed our travel down. Sure we pay a little more for gas but I have not curtailed my driving because of higher gas prices. Have you? I can still purchase all of the things I need at the grocery store in whatever quantity I desire. Can't you?

Wayne mentioned that he was reading that most households today require two incomes to keep them going. I pointed out that one of the reasons for the necessity is that most of these households have dishwashers, washing machines, High Definition TV's (sometimes more than one) and at least two cars. Of course it takes two incomes to pay for this. One advantage of women working is that they can feel like an equal partner in the home. No longer do they have to feel dependent on some man to support them.

But back to the idea of sacrifice. The question I have is would the American people be better off if they were making some sacrifices for this war? Would it be better to pay for some of it now rather than putting the cost of it off on our children or our children's children? America has the potential to be the greatest nation in the world but not if we continue on the path I keep hearing about - More war. This time with Iran. We must rein our "leaders" in and let them know that we are unhappy with this new path and we must make sacrifices while we conclude this foray into the Middle East. It is time.

No Comment Needed

Blessed Samhain

Samhain is one of the eight annual holidays, often referred to as 'Sabbats', observed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It is considered by most Wiccans to be the most important of the four 'greater Sabbats'. It is generally observed on October 31st in the Northern Hemisphere, starting at sundown. Samhain is considered by most Wiccans as a celebration of death and of the dead, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness and death, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the spring festival of Beltane, which Wiccans celebrate as a festival of life and fertility.

Among other things, it is the beginning of the Winter Half of the Year and is known as "The Day Between Years." The day before Samhain is the last day of the old year and the day after Samhain is the first day of the pagan "New Year". Being a day "between years," it is considered a very magical night, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.

Samhain marks the beginning of the pagan year and is considered a time when the separation between life and death becomes thin. Accordingly, it is set aside as a time to honor ancestors and remember the dead. This is the third and final harvest of the year.

Originally the "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's A Halloween Moon!

Masonic Jurisprudence

"Masonic Jurisprudence is not the invention of new laws, or the procuring of their enactment, but the knowledge of the ancient usages of the Craft, and of the Landmarks and Laws of the Institution. Our laws are in many cases the usages of the Craft for many years, and it is only by a careful study of our history, policy and customs, that knowledge of these laws is obtained."

So tell me, how does the Jurisprudence Committee voting on whether on not they think a piece of legislation should or should not be enacted by the Craft fit into the above definition?

It seems to me that a Jurisprudence Committee should, through " a careful study of our history, policy and customs," determine whether or not a law should be enacted and then explain why or why not in context of those parameters. They should also see that any said legislation fits into the Code with all other legislation already enacted and in force. If they are not in conformity with the Code then changes should be suggested, either to the current Code or the legislation being proposed.

And I don't think that this committee should be composed of only Past Grand Heads of the bodies either. What expertise do you gain because you have served as a Grand High Priest or a Grand Master? It makes me wonder. Any thoughts? j

Don't bother to read it - bored.

I have no candy to give out. Will sit here in the dark and hide out. Dogs barking is too much to deal with. And why should they be locked up just so I can give out candy to stranger's kids.

This is me waiting for inspiration. There seems to be nothing I can get fired up about to write today so you can browse some of the old posts if you want or just check back later to see if I got inspired.

Hugs, j-bear.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Site

I just found a new site which is called Despair, Inc. They have posters like the one on the above. (I love it)

Click on the poster to go there. Their merchandise is hilarious.

They have a T-shirt I am thinking of getting. It says "more people have read this shirt than have read your Blog."

Hugs from j-bear

Eastern Star Memories

We used to say that O.E.S. stood for "The Order of the Eating Sisters."

I know a lot of Brothers who used to eat (myself included) after the meetings and many of us carried around those extra pounds.

What it does stand for is the Order of the Eastern Star. A fraternal organization for women and men that was founded in 1850 by Rob Morris. Rob Morris is an interesting character and worthy of a post all his own but not today.

I got to thinking about this organisation because I just returned from Grand Chapter (See pictures below) and caught up with a lot of friends and was thinking about some others. I thought I'd write about some of my OES memories. Just some of them. There are too many to write them all.

I joined the Eastern Star in October of 1966. 41 years ago for those who count. My mother had suggested that I "might enjoy the Masons." I had joined in the spring of my first year of teaching. So in the Fall of my second year I took a personal day and drove back to Ames to join Laura Chapter. I could have joined the Chapter in Marion, Iowa where I taught but it would be special to become a 4th generation member of Laura Chapter. My great grandmother and grandmother were both Past Matrons of the Chapter and my mother was an officer.

Mother was the only officer holding her own station that night. It was a Friendship Night and Mother held the Station of Ruth. I can still bring to mind her giving me the lecture. I could see the pride on her face as she told me the story of the humble gleaner who had been the ancestress of Jesus. Virginia and Hugh Hossle were the Matron and Patron that year and they became close friends as we worked together in York Rite and the other Masonic Organizations.

There are five points to the Star emblem and at each point there is a story (lecture) told about a real (and one imagined) woman which can be found in the Bible.

Adah was Jephthah's daughter.
We don't know her real name but Brother Morris chose Adah to use when he told the story of this woman who "freely sacrificed her life" to preserve her father's honor. I'm not to fond of this story - I don't like human sacrifice at all. Actually I read somewhere that by the time this story took place the Hebrews did not sacrifice and she may have simply been dedicated to the Temple and the service of God and thus would have to remain a virgin and poor old Jephthah's line would die out. Tragic.

Ruth, was a Moabitish Damsel who accompanied
her mother-in-law back to Israel and became a gleaner in the fields of Boaz. He thought she was pretty special and had his men drop handfuls of barley so she could pick them up and thus feed herself and the aged Naomi. Eventually they got married and that in and of itself wouldn't have been much more than a bump in history but she wound up having children who had children and eventually one of the great- greats was a guy known as Jesus of Nazareth and we all know who he was.

Next we come to one of my favs, Queen Esther.
She was a Jew living in a Persian Kingdom who weren't really very nice to Jews. You know the Jews have been persecuted all over the world. I don't understand it. I think the Jewish religion is a beautiful one (much like Queen Esther who was quite a looker - She won the beauty contest as the most beautiful in the kingdom, after all) and Every Jewish person I have met I have liked. Well except for one and I won't tell you her name. Anyway these old coots were going to destroy the Jews and the Queen heard about it and she went to the King and claimed a promise he had made to her thus saving her people. It was pretty risky for her because the king could have had her killed along with her people. The Jews have a pretty neat holiday to celebrate this event in their history. It is called Purim and I have been told that you are supposed to eat drink and get a little (or a lot) tipsy to remember this event. Pretty neat.

Next we come to Martha. She is one of the
Christian points to our star. She was the sister of Lazarus. The guy who died and they put him in the tomb and he lay there for days while Jesus took his own sweet time getting there. (To be fair I think He knew there was no hurry) Once he got there Martha confronted him. In no uncertain terms she told him that if He had been there her "brother had not died." Jesus told her that her brother would rise again and proved it to her. Thus giving us a beautiful story to retell around the star point and the lesson of a trustful faith. Pretty neat. If he were around today they would probably make a TV show about him.

Now we come to Electa. (She is the one who is made up.) She is (we are told) the "elect lady" that II John is addressed to her. She is supposed to represent the Christian Martyrs who were persecuted (like the Jews) under Rome. She had courage and her "totem" is the Lion. (I actually don't know why we think of the lion as courageous. Maybe the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz would be more appropriate. I know if someone told me I was going to be crucified I'd run like Heck (it's a family blog). So she is the last story told and then they bring the candidates up to the Worthy Patron who has a rather long lecture which basically retells all the "stuff" (I love that word) and makes these poor folks stand there for fifteen minutes while he shows just how good he is to remember his lecture.

While they walk from point to point the Worthy Patron (or the Associate Patron) gives some scripture from memory. The Scripture after Electa is the longest and the most beautiful. It teaches the lesson of Love.

All kidding aside. I have been Worthy Patron 9 times and I love the Order. We used to have a lot more fun. We traveled all over the state and went to meetings (sometimes 2 or 3 a week) and the friends we made while doing so are still friends. They are the greatest people in the world.

One of our Past Grand Matrons went to Washington, DC to become the (get this) Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. She lived in the International Temple while she was there and she and her husband left the place much better than it was when they moved in. They were gracious hostess and hosts and I visited there several times during their tenure.

I could go on for a long time about this Order. As I said, I love it. I love being a fourth generation member of the Star and I am enjoying being able to work for Star by being a member of the Eastern Star Masonic Home Board in Boone. (I just got elected Secretary, Treasurer and will have to write the minutes from now on. - at least for this year) The people you meet are warm, friendly and the heads of the body are super nice. (Aside - The only thing I don't enjoy is being "PRESENTED"  That is when they drag you up to the East and introduce you. I used to get a kick out of it but any more I just try to skip that part.)  I recommend all those eligible to investigate and join. I'll even come and do the Worthy Patron's part if you want. Hugs, j-bear.

Oh yes, One more thing. My sister is not as enamored of Eastern Star as Mother and I. One time she heard a siren going by after Mom and I had gone to a meeting. Someone wondered what was on fire. "I hope it is the Masonic Temple." was Ginny's reply. I think she was jealous that we spent so much time there. When she joined Star she spent most of her time helping out in the kitchen or dining room rather than attending meetings. Doubt if she could work her way in now but she still belongs. 


I can't wait to share these from Tammy.Sending Halloween Wishes your way!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Eastern Star Grand Chapter

OK folks, I had a horrible time trying to put these picture up and finally had to just put them up centered and plain. I did my usual Buffet of Grand Chapter and did not attend every session. I will say this that what I attended was well handled and went quickly. I tried to get out of being presented but a certain Past Grand Matron came over and told me I had to and what ever Diane says I will do. I didn't get her picture nor did I get Brother Wade's picture. He and I sat next to each other and attempted to be good. (The key word there is attempted.) Enjoy the pictures. Hugs, J-bear.

The Grand Chapter Room was beautifully decorated.

The General Chairman did an outstanding job!
Selling nuts and chocolates. Not on my diet.
Lots for sale. It looks pretty good.
Grand Chapter is really a family reunion. Some of these folks haven't seen each other for ages or at least since the last Eastern Star Meeting last week.

Worthy Grand Patron, Ed
Our District Instructor
Nancy said I had to take a better picture of her than the one I took at the office.
Pretty Good right!

Worthy Grand Matron, Connie
My President, Dorothy (on left)
The last line up for the last march in.

In Our Hearts There Rings A Melody! - A Beautiful One.
New Grand Officers being led into Installation

Donna Walther (Laura Chapter, Ames) is the new Grand Chaplain. Congratulations, Donna

Saturday, October 27, 2007