Buddhism, Secularism, and Socialism

 

Two weeks ago, I decided it was time to give away the meditation mats and cushions that I had originally purchased for the meditation group I led. (As many of you know, I practiced Buddhism for over 20 years, and broke with my teacher several years ago. I also re-discovered my love for Judaism, and that is where I find myself now.)

I remembered that there was a Zen center about an hour away from here, and wrote them an email, asking if they would like my cushions and mats. They were delighted. When the representative came to pick them up, he asked if I knew a fellow at their center. As it happens, this fellow, a very nice man, had practiced at the same center in San Diego where I had practiced. We’ve agreed to have a phone conversation.

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Middle East Players: Iran

 

The latest news about “Iran” comes across as more irritation from a region that seems to always be in conflict. Moreover, the news and commentary tend to be divorced from actual history, allowing vague hand-waving, finger-pointing, and shoulder-shrugging. What follows is an attempt at a bit more definite hand-waving over the map, placing Iran briefly in their own historic context, touching on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey as the other centers of power over the centuries.

It is not “those people.” It is not “that place.” It is not even “Islam.” Don’t take my word for it:

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Hat Talk: The Rest of the Story

 

While my night on the town began, as related here, at Starbucks, it didn’t end there — nor did it continue in precisely the same vein of tolerance and understanding.

A few hours after I left the iconic cafe with my bag of free coffee and attended a family dinner, I ended up in a local bar doing what I do in bars: acting as designated driver and herder of tipsy friends. I am widely valued for my public temperance, my modestly imposing physical presence, and my capacious vehicle. (I drink, but only moderately and always at home. )

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Taking Things for Granted

 

Today I was reminded of how lazy I am about paying attention to life. The ordinary falls into a morass of the mundane, and I take many things for granted, even though at some level I know what a gift life is. Still, it’s so easy to trudge through a day, not noticing or enjoying those events and relationships that bless our lives. When I gave my life a bit more thought, I found I could divide my existence into two categories: the everyday and the sacred.

What everyday conditions do I take for granted?

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I’m not saying it’s the hat, but…

 

I ran out of coffee at home yesterday, so last night while I was in town I stopped at the local Starbucks to pick up a bag of dark roast. As I pulled into my parking spot, I noticed an Obama-Biden sticker on the car next to me. I figured that meant overt displays of political affiliation were allowed, so I grabbed my Make America Great Again cap from the dash where it lives, popped it on my head, and went inside.

My favorite gay bartender/barista was on duty, so after nodding a quick hello to him, I grabbed a bag of Verona and walked up to the counter, where a young fellow I didn’t recognize, a bearded college-age kid, was waiting to take my order.

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How to Build a Computer 33: Atomic Force Microscopy!

 

Atomic Force Microscopy is a refinement of that long and hallowed scientific tradition: poke it with a stick and see what happens. Picture, if you will, a blind man walking across the street. He taps the ground with his cane, profiling the height of the surface. That tells him where the curbs are; he doesn’t trip because he knows when to step up and step down. Now picture that blind man in a skate park, full of ramps and contours. He could, by painstaking effort, tap his cane up and down the entire area of the skate park and build up a picture in his mind where all the half-pipes lay, even though he can’t see ’em himself. Now picture him in that same skate park, doing kick-flips and grinding like a pro. Because that sounds awesome.

Three square microns of (highly ordered pyrolitic) graphite. A friend of mine measured this as part of a school project we worked on. This is after a metaphorical baseball bat to the head of mathematical smoothing.

Atomic Force Microscopy builds up a portrait of the surface of a thing by rubbing a tiny, tiny needle across it, and reading it like you’d read the grooves on a record. Heck, you could probably play it like a record too, only it’d sound all staticky because nobody bothered to lay down music on that spot to begin with. (Although…)

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Holocaust Survivors Speak to AOC

 

A staggering thing:

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The Jussie Smollett Show Lives On

 

Jussie Smollett / Shutterstock.com

Jussie Smollett’s acting career may not have ended after all. No, he will not be appearing in the final season of Empire, the show whose cancellation is due at least in part to his misbehavior. And no, he has not been cast in any new productions coming to screens large or small. But, owing to a Friday ruling by a Cook County judge, the Jussie Smollett Reality Show, which was far more compelling and widely watched than Empire on its best day, and which came to an abrupt and bizarre conclusion with the dismissing of all charges against him, will continue.

Recall that the saga began last January when Smollett, who in the small hours of a frigid Chicago night was walking home after purchasing a sandwich, was set upon by two men, both wearing MAGA hats, who beat and poured noxious liquid on him, verbally assaulted him with racist and homophobic epithets, and, in a final gratuitous insult, placed a noose around his head.

Or so he claimed.

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Draining the Swamp: An Impossible Task?

 

The administrative state, also known as the Deep State and The Swamp, has been with us for a long time. Recently, however, I heard Professor John Marini talk about his work in “unmasking” the administrative state and I realized the future of the Republic is precarious, if not endangered. I learned about his work when he appeared on Mark Levin’s Sunday night Fox News show, Life, Liberty & Levin.

Professor Marini is one of the few writers who talk about the attack on our constitutional system by the workings of the administrative state:

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Quote of the Day: Mucking About

 

A recent podcast from “The Mark Davis Show” quoted one of the founders of the Dallas Cowboys:

“Money is like manure. If you spread it around it does a lot of good, but if you pile it up in one place it stinks like hell.” — Clint Murchison, Jr.,
(As quoted in: Time, Volume 124, 1984, p. 96)

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The Rent Is Too Damn Low

 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the grandly titled “The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019” into law last week. Its extensive amendments to the earlier law passed with lopsided majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly after progressive lobbyists stormed the legislative beaches in Albany. They pitched their campaign as a fight between good and evil—between rich landlords and strapped tenants. They emphasized the precarious position of some tenants facing eviction, but ignored the huge windfalls given to those fortunate tenants who occupy stabilized units that rent for only a fraction of their market value.

The implicit economic assumption behind the reforms was that the protection of tenants under the Act would result in a simple wealth transfer from rich (or undeserving) landlords to poor (or deserving) tenants, with no collateral consequences to the quality of housing stock or the rate of new investment in rent-stabilized units.

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ACF Critic Series #33: Citizen Kane, Part 2

 

This week, Telly Davidson and I wrap up our conversation on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane–the tyrannic soul who wants to be loved by everyone, erotic longings that slip the bounds of nature, and the failure of friendship to limit madness. We talk about the problems of love and friendship, but also about politics and media, or how tyranny shows up in the age of Progress.

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AOC: The Holocaust Is Not a Prop for Your Trump Hate

 

The argument holds that personal attacks against New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are a terrible idea. On policy and commentary, however, she’s fair game. Her continued love of the Green New Deal, her irrational view of the minimum wage and belief in the mythology of the living wage, her horrific associations with world-renowned anti-semites like UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – and then bragging about it! – and her defense of antisemitic up-and-comer Rep. Ilhan Omar: all fair game. All worthy of comment and, yes, derision.

Just six months ago, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was Teflon to criticism. Six months later, the slick coating has worn thin. Everything sticks now. And it’s all her fault.

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The Americans Finale and Input from Herbert Meyer

 

(Author’s note: I wrote most of this article last year, but events interrupted its publication, as I will detail)

It’s been just over a year since the series finale of FX’s excellent Cold War drama, The Americans. I’ve written about it here before and sung its praises at length, but a brief recounting of the show’s gist is worthwhile: Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, deep-cover KGB agents who pose as red-blooded Americans while committing espionage for their nation. As much as I would like to talk about it, the finale of the show brought me to a different place, which I think is far more interesting.

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Juneteenth: Emancipation Day

 

On June 19, 1865, Union Army Major General Gordon Granger read General Orders, Number 3, to the people of Galveston, Texas. It was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, but at last the words of freedom came to African-American slaves in Texas. This day became known as Juneteenth, and eventually became first an unofficial holiday and then a holiday recognized by some states.

General Granger wrote, in part:

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Still Cooking with Fire After All These Years

 

Happy Birthday to Ann Wilson of Heart, born 19 June 1950. She and her younger sister, Nancy, are the heart of Heart, a band that burst onto the world stage from the Pacific Northwest in the mid 1970s. They were part of the soundtrack of my youth. Wait a minute. 2019-1950= . . . 69. That just can’t be right.

Ann Wilson was the distinctive lead vocalist, while Nancy provided great harmony and kicking guitar licks. Their debut album, Dreamboat Annie, was released in America our bicentennial year, with “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” propelling them up the radio play charts. They struck while the iron was hot, releasing Little Queen in 1977 and Dog & Butterfly in 1978. These women did their own thing, playing neither the tough girl nor the pop tart. They did not need an image manager, as they actually had musical and songwriting talent.

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Promises Made, Promises Kept; More Promises Made.

 

President Trump kicked off his reelection campaign with a rally in Orlando. VP Pence was the opening speaker, doing his usual polished job. First Lady Melania Trump spoke beautifully:

It has been my honor to serve as First Lady of this incredible country for the past two years. And I’m excited to do it for six more. I am proud of all my husband, this administration, and the whole family have done on behalf of the American people, in such a short time. He truly loves this country, and will continue to work on your behalf as long as he can. All of us will. Thank you all again for being here tonight. And now, I want to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

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Red-Green Alliance and Concentration Camps

 

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (socialist) called the facilities where our immigration service detains illegal immigrants “concentration camps,” and made it clear that she meant to compare the detention centers and the American civil servants to the Nazi concentration camps and guards. She did so by invoking the post-Holocaust battle cry “Never Again,” claiming that we were violating that moral imperative. Never mind that the new masses of illegal immigants, including the children, crossed our southern border because her party has conspired to use them as hostages and golden keys to subvert our laws for permanent ruling advantage.

AOC is comfortable expressing her loathing of America and trivializing the actual Holocaust, to say nothing of the gulags. She will pay no more price than her comrades, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. She is operating safely within the interests of the red-green alliance. The radical left and political Islamism are both served by simultaneously demonizing American defense of the constitutional republic and diminishing the public perception of real eliminationist totalitarianism.

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Don’t Ruin the Internet Over Flukey ‘Bias’ Incidents Like the One on Pinterest

 

What passes for “evidence” of Big Tech bias against the right tends to be of the anecdotal variety. A piece of content gets blocked or hidden. An account gets suspended or banned. And then conservative media goes crazy, charging that Silicon Valley is suppressing conservative thought and thinkers.

The latest controversy involves a Pinterest employee sending a series of internal documents to the right-wing political website Project Veritas. The documents supposedly prove flagrant discrimination against pro-life groups and religious conservatives. This whistleblower claims the documents show that Liveaction.org — a pro-life informational website with more than 3 million followers on social media — was unfairly added to a domain blacklist reserved for porn domains, which are prevented from being pinned by Pinterest.

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A Tale of Two Tales Following Morsi’s Death

 

Mohammad Morsi, who was elected president of Egypt leading an Islamist party, died in court late Monday. He had been deposed by the military after imposing an Islamist constitution and showing his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood more clearly. The military acted after a second wave of popular unrest showed people wanted change, but not quite the change Morsi seemed to be delivering.

France24 reports Morsi was buried Tuesday, in keeping with the custom of burial as soon after death as possible:

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Life and Death: A Balancing Act

 

Death, or the specter of death, has been weighing on my life lately. It feels like a weight that I am able to carry, but one that is sometimes oppressive.

I first noticed it around D-Day. Normally I try to take these events in stride. After all, life and death are inextricable partners, no matter how difficult they may seem. But the thought of soldiers dying in huge numbers, and their leaders knowing that they would likely be sacrificing their lives, was a sad awareness that still lingers.

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Pride Month and Father’s Day

 

Sunday was Father’s Day and June is Pride month. Until a few years ago, I’d have found nothing particularly incongruous about that conjunction: there is nothing about the celebration of one’s sexual preference, however odd it may be to call that “pride,” that precludes, obfuscates, or undermines an appreciation of the role fathers play in the lives of their children and their value to society.

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Where are the Whistleblowers?

 

As high-tech companies prepare to help the political Left dominate pre-election rhetoric, they will likely ramp up their efforts to silence the Right, especially on controversial issues like abortion. One young man decided not to stand by and immediately lost his job as a result.

Eric Cochran was a technical employee at Pinterest. He contacted Project Veritas when he saw that a staff member of Pinterest had listed an anti-abortion site, Live Action, on the Pinterest pornographic list:

I did this because I saw wrongdoing and the normalization of censorship within Big Tech companies right now is downright un-American. And I saw this as the fight for abortion. I saw a Big Tech company saying … behind closed doors that they believe that Live Action shouldn’t have a platform to speak, and the big thing is: I want them to have to … say this publicly instead of behind closed doors.

Cochran shared his thoughts with Tucker Carlson after Carlson learned that Cochran was fired without notice and escorted from his office.

Facebook and Twitter have already been called out for censoring posts from people on the Right. We’ve seen our own Ricochet members suspended or removed from those sites without explanation. Twitter won’t sell advertisements to Live Action, who apparently has experienced “detrimental treatment” from Google and YouTube.

After Project Veritas contacted Pinterest regarding Live Action’s being placed on their porn list, they were removed from that list. Hours later, though, Live Action’s Lilah Rose got an email saying it had been suspended:

‘Your account was permanently suspended because its contents went against our policies on misinformation,’ said the email provided by Rose. ‘We don’t allow harmful misinformation on Pinterest. That includes medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence.’

I realize that Eric Cochran has made a personal sacrifice. We don’t know how difficult a time he will have finding another job; I doubt that he’ll find one in the tech companies who are politically Left, or any company that might be leery about whistleblowers. I hope that there are other courageous people in the tech world who are seeing these attacks on free speech and acts of censorship who will be willing to speak up. If enough of them took action, it would be difficult to fire all of them!

Cochran called out to his colleagues who might be willing to speak up:

Cochran said he believes this is a ‘watershed’ moment,’ and that he hopes other pro-lifers at tech companies will come forward, forcing their employers to explicitly say they are pro-abortion so the public knows their political stances.

‘Now they are in full cover-up mode as they try to protect their pro-abortion stances,’ he said. ‘Now with YouTube doing Pinterest’s bidding by removing the Project Veritas video, you’re seeing that they are going to do whatever it takes. They are 100 percent in to protect the abortion lobby.’

I’m skeptical about companies’ willingness to show their true stripes, but I still hope that their employees will call them out.

Let’s hope that others answer Eric Cochran’s call.

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A Hot Mess: Climate of Confusion

 

Our betters had better get a grip on their narrative. We have been assured that the science is settled. Wicked men have offended Mother Earth and she is getting hot under the collar. To deny this is heresy. Heretics must be cast out, silenced, deplatformed, unpersoned. We must unite to denounce and deny the deniers…at Newsweek!

Newsweek is certainly a member in good standing of the church of correct thinking. So how could it possibly be that they would blaspheme Anthropogenic Global Warming? Yet here is the evidence that they have transgressed [emphasis added]:

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An Individual Outstanding in His Field

 

My father sent me this photograph some time back. It must be from late 1964 or early 1965. The smaller young fellow is a very young me. The lean young man is my father. Mother must have taken the picture. It is a good place to start in reflecting on my father. As his story on this earth is not yet done, any account must be limited by some organizing principle. What follows are snapshots of early days, family, fitness, and faith.

We are obviously on an Army flight line. My father joined the Army after medical school, took the old direct commission charm school, learning to wear the uniforms, march, and talk basic Army speak. Then he went off to Fort Rucker, Alabama, then and now the home of Army flight training. He qualified as a flight surgeon, preparing him for his assignment at Fort Riley, Kansas. Fort Riley was home to the First Infantry Division, the “Big Red One.”

I have no memory of those first few years, but the family story over the years is consistent. Dad had bought a pair of sturdy steel frame Schwinn bicycles. His daily task, on getting home from the day’s duty, was to strap me into the child seat mounted over the rear tire and take me for a ride. This gave my mother an hour’s quiet and break from a small boy’s energy. Reportedly, I would often arrive home asleep, clutching a stalk of bottlebrush grass in my little fist.

My first memories with Dad come from the early years after he left the Army, having done a three year tour, and began his residency. The two things that most impressed a young boy were one day at an outdoor gun range and a visit to a near-by naval air station. Now, we made multiple visits to both, but I carry two impressions.

The range:

Dad was deadly serious about gun safety. We children would sooner have grabbed a cottonmouth than touch one of his firearms without his immediate permission and supervision. So, there I was with him, sitting at a shooting bench on an outdoor rifle range. The range was “red” with people down range finishing up changing or marking targets. A shot rang out. I saw a man frantically duck for cover behind a large old tree part way down the course. The entire firing line erupted in men, including my father, shouting “CEASE FIRE!” I assume that the offender was cashiered from membership, never to return.

We did not stop going to the range. When we moved to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Dad took both me and my eldest sister up into the hills, where he would supervise selection of a safe shooting site. There he encouraged our development of rifle handling skills and an enjoyment of shooting.

With all the slightly damp and rotting deadfall, there was no real risk of ricochet. So, after we had, between us, expended the first little cardboard box of .22 ammunition, we would set the first empty box on top of a log. We were shooting an already well-used pump action rifle, fed by a tube magazine under the barrel. The drill was to shoot just under the box, kicking it up into the air. As the box flew, we would pump the action, while following the box, and shoot under it again, just as it landed. The game was to see how many hops in a row you could get before you missed or the box disappeared behind something.

Through the years, Dad taught us, by example, an ironclad commitment to gun safety as well as a basic appreciation and competency with long guns and handguns.

Willow Grove Naval Air Station:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c1/First_F-8D_Crusader_in_flight_in_1960.jpeg/1024px-First_F-8D_Crusader_in_flight_in_1960.jpegWhile I do not recall the early Army days and helicopters, I do remember the cheap entertainment, which a medical resident with children could afford, of going to watch Navy jets take off and land. We would be standing just outside the chain-link perimeter fence and wearing hearing protection, always wearing hearing protection.

Dad has always been deadly serious about taking care of your hearing and sight. I took that seriously enough to wear foam earplugs to loud parties in college. As a consequence, I still have more of my hearing than most of my peers, and perhaps only a hint of tinnitus in one ear, despite many an evening in loud country dance clubs and the occasional rock concert.

So there we were. The big grey Navy F-8 Crusaders flashed by with a roar. These early supersonic-capable jets had a large air intake under the nose, like a giant gaping mouth. The early engines, relatively inefficient, were all raw power and noise. It was glorious fun.

Family:

The stories of Dad coming home to get me out of Mother’s hair, and the memories of time spent with him shooting or enjoying watching aircraft, are pieces in the mosaic of his commitment to family. A few years after residency, he found himself consumed with work in a hospital, where his department juggled two specialties at the same time. He had spent many evenings after work and supper studying to qualify for the new field. Now he was not getting home for dinner regularly.

This was an important factor in his decision to rejoin the Army. If that seems odd to you, understand, as his Army friends always said, “you’re not in the real Army.” That is, he was coming back into service as a field grade doctor, who would usually work a regular clinical schedule. Sure, there was a schedule for on-call evenings and weekends, but it was just that: a schedule.

It was always expected, enforced by my father and mother, that dinner was family time. We all were expected to be there, to bow our heads in prayer, then to pass the food around before diving into our plates. Our parental unit was a real unit, a team at the two ends of the table. Dad made the decisions, throughout his working life, to put family ahead of chasing status symbols that would demand hours, days, months and cumulative years chasing the things we cannot take with us when our bodies go back into the ground.

At the same time, he certainly stuck to work that was not always a joy to him, steadily providing material sustenance and a consistent example. My father was not silent about work but made clear that it was only a part of life. We had music, art, gardening, and generally a well-rounded life. Dad made a point, with Mother, of not having parties filled with shop talk. Friends were cultivated in a life beyond the thing that paid the bills, while Dad steadily practiced medicine with quiet competence (such competence as to draw unsolicited compliments from peers).

Fitness:

When Dad left his rural childhood home for college, he made the decision that he needed to stay in shape and that a college student of modest means could best do that by lacing up a pair of tennis shoes and running. This was two decades before the running fad, and long before real running shoes. He ran, rain or shine, through the years until wear and tear led to him downshifting to a daily walk. We all kid him about wearing shorts year round, yet he has a point: he still has cannonball calf muscles. No old-man chicken legs there!

For many years we lived on a large military base shared by a Ranger battalion. Dad always ran after work and before dinner, except on weekends when he tended to run in the afternoon if memory serves. He would put in 3 or 4 miles a day. You could always tell when he, a man in his forties, had encountered a young Ranger. Dad would arrive home flushed and a bit out of breath, as he just could not resist running the younger man down. After all, Dad had been running for more years than that kid had been alive.

While his friends kidded him about the medical corps, he took exception to knuckleheads who thought they were in MASH. He shined his low quarter shoes each day and wore the uniform properly. He also insisted on meeting the Army standards for physical fitness, not expecting any slack for doctors.

The Army had a three-event periodic physical fitness test, with push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run. Now we have already established that Dad was going to smoke almost everyone on the run, even if they were half his age. When it came to push-ups and sit-ups, he took a certain old-fashioned officer attitude: do the number required. Every morning, when he got out of bed, he dropped to the floor, did his push-ups, rolled over and did his sit-ups, then went about his day.

Dad never had to think about the periodic test, and never had to prepare, as he was always maintained the standard. All of us children carried this lesson with us, to one degree or another, so have not had avoidable cardiac health or related fitness problems so far.

Faith:

Mom and Dad met in the context of a church, and have lived their lives in the Christian faith. I mentioned prayer before dinner. Actually, prayer was something practiced before every meal. Aren’t you grateful for this food? Then say thanks. It was so ingrained that I was startled when a college classmate asked what I was doing when I sat down at the cafeteria table. Was I not feeling well? No, I was just giving thanks, despite the lousy cafeteria food.

Besides prayer, Sunday mornings were worship and bible study. One evening a week would be a home bible study, rotating around homes. There was usually some Bible reading after dinner and before we got down to noisy family talk over a big pot of tea. When I went off to college, I was sent out with my father’s college pocket watch and a finely bound Bible printed on India paper. On a flyleaf in the front, Dad gave me fatherly advice, quoting poetry and scripture.

These days, Dad has taken to writing sonnets to my mother. Yes, that is quite romantic and a fine example to us younger folk. He also carefully set pen to quality paper and laid out his personal statement of faith, a credo in his own words. A day may come when I will have the duty to read them aloud. For those who have seen my father’s life, who have known him through the years, the words will not be surprising.

The title of this reflection evokes a classic Sandra Boynton cartoon, captured on this coffee mug. As it happens, my father has always liked cows, incredibly large yet peaceful creatures. He retired from the Army after over 12 years as a “full bull” colonel. Through all the years, and life’s endeavors, he has indeed been an individual outstanding in the field.