Posts tagged " Creation "

Harvey and Montgomery

October 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

If you’ve never seen the delightful 1950 movie in which Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd whose friend is a six-foot invisible rabbit eponymously named Harvey, you might enjoy it.  I too have an invisible friend, though I don’t know how tall he is because he is, well, invisible!  He happens to be a highly intelligent Martian named Montgomery, who is entirely and utterly unfamiliar with everything on earth.  I find it ever so useful to be able to solicit his opinion about, or his reaction to, various earthly events.  Some people dismiss my friend, and insist that all I am really doing is conducting thought experiments but to each his own.

Let me give you an example.  I introduced Montgomery the Martian to two very different families.  The first, residing in Beverly Hills, California, presents their children with the keys to a new BMW car on their sixteenth birthdays and engages a small army of housekeepers and gardeners to free each child from any onerous household chores.  The children address their parents by their first names and receive lavish allowances with very little supervision and few rules.

The second family lives in a small town near Nashville, Tennessee.  Each child carries the responsibility for some aspect of the family’s smooth running.  Each child also has a job outside of school and is expected to say, “Yes, Sir” or “No, Ma’am” to his parents.  The family attends church each Sunday together and dinner times are also family occasions.  The children take turns mowing the lawn and tending to the flower garden.

My questions to Montgomery were this: Which set of parents is more likely to raise children with an enduring respect for parents and siblings? Which set of children are more likely to grow up into young adults who will endlessly complain to expensive therapists about how their parents ruined their lives?

Montgomery weighed it up and concluded that the parents who gave so much to their children, asking nothing in return, were surely the parents who would enjoy enduring gratitude and honor from their children.  As his earthly friend, it was my duty to inform the Martian that he was wrong.  In families where frugality is a fact of life and children are expected to behave like responsible family members and to carry their weight, family relationships are far stronger.


Crime Doesn’t Say

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 36 comments

On news broadcasts and interviews I have noticed something scary.  Boys involved in violent crime are largely illiterate.  This chilling correlation has been confirmed to me by friends in criminal justice and law enforcement.  You’d think that just by the laws of probability, at least some assailants and murderers when caught would have more to say than just meaningless gesticulations and obscenities.  I have been looking for just one carjacker who, upon being apprehended, told the policeman, “It’s challenging to understand, officer, I know, but while taking my afternoon constitutional, I was seized by an irresistible desire to inflict physical harm on an innocent citizen and to transfer his motor vehicle to my possession.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom suggests that the desire to communicate is present from birth and that parents who neglect this most crucial of their responsibilities may be complicit in their children’s later lack of socialization skills.


Slip Sliding Away

August 31st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Elegant laws of faith and physics link the mysteries of the universe to the banality of human behavior.  For instance, they explain why I find it so hard to keep my desk neat, my body thin, and my business profitable. 

If I shake a jar containing green and red marbles arranged in alternating layers, they start moving around the jar until all signs of the original layered pattern have vanished.  No matter how long I continue shaking the jar, the marbles will not return to their original layers. 

Returning to a Buick that was left in a field for a century or two, all I’d find would be a heap of iron oxide, some powdered glass and some rubber residue.  No matter how long I waited, these ingredients would never reconstitute themselves back into a car.

We are so accustomed to this one-way direction of deterioration that we accept without question that rooms get cluttered automatically but never tidy themselves.

Entropy is our word for explaining this mysterious force that tends to pull everything down to the lowest state of order.

A car is an ordered arrangement of glass, iron, plastic and other things.  Like the marbles, once disarranged, those ingredient parts will never come together again by chance.  This is the key to understanding entropy.  It is hard to create order out of chaos.  It is just as hard to maintain order in the face of the gravity-like tug toward disorder.  It requires vast energy to create order, and maintaining it consumes vast energy.  A car, a body, a family, a nation, or a corporation all take energy to maintain.

God points us in the right direction as early as the second verse of the Torah. 

And the earth was chaotic and disordered…
(Genesis 1:2)

God’s first act of creation was to convert chaos into structure. 

And God said, “Let there be light,”  and there was light.
(Genesis 1:3)

Later in putting Adam to work in the garden, God shows the importance of our human role—bringing order into the world.

What is natural?  Natural is how things would be with no infusion of intelligent energy.  A stagnant swamp is natural, a harbor is ordered.  A wild forest is natural, a factory is ordered.  Obesity and lethargy are natural, a lean and lithe body is ordered.  Selfishness and destructiveness are natural while courtesy and civility are ordered.  A gang of marauders is natural, a profitable corporation is ordered.

In each case, converting the natural to the ordered and keeping it there takes considerable human energy.  Carving a harbor out of a swamp is hard to do.  Keeping a marriage thriving and raising upright children takes great exertion. Maintaining an honest and accountable government takes constant focus.  Forming and operating a profitable business is incredibly challenging.  And in each case, any time the humans involved cut back or cease their efforts, their project slides back toward natural chaos.

When that happens, don’t ask what has gone wrong.  When the Buick lies rotting in the field nothing is going wrong, it is actually all going right.  Nature is reclaiming the car because its owner stopped caring for it.  When the weeds grow through the long grass, when the paint peels, when budgets get bloated, and when your business loses customers, this is all natural.

We humans do better when we convert the natural to the ordered.  We feel better when the lawn is mowed, when our families are flourishing and when our business grows.  Constantly projecting energy produces order. Injecting even just a little light into darkness, tidying a corner of a cluttered room, or exercising civic responsibility makes us feel fulfilled, content, and upliftingly human.

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