My favorite singer/songwriter is Bruce Springsteen. His lyrics capture feelings and ideas and tell stories of regular human beings better than anyone I’ve heard (and I’ll argue ’til blue in the face on this point). One of my absolute favorites is the following entitled “Devils and Dust“.
Originally published as The Sentinel newsletter by The Cause of Liberty
Our modern world is infatuated with the ends we have in our sight, the goals we want to accomplish, and the changes we want to see. Most people have the same needs and desires: liberty, happiness, security, prosperity, and peace. Why do we consistently find ourselves so far from where we want to be? The problem is two-fold: 1) we mistakenly believe that if we focus on the end we will attain it; and 2) we are using means that are inconsistent with those ends.
I read The Essential Gandhi by Louis Fischer a few months ago. But until a 10-day work trip to Africa and the Middle East, I didn’t have time to write down all the passages I had underlined. They are many. I had a hard time delineating his ideas into categories because they are so (not to be cliché) transcendent.
This book and the ideas of this man have greatly changed my personal point of view. He was a significant force in the thinking of the 20th Century. But, like Christ and many other great teachers, many of his ideas are ignored or ridiculed simply because they are too darn hard for us “modern” people to implement. We justify this to ourselves by calling them quaint and outdated, but really we’re just too lazy to act on them.
Below are some of my favorite quotes (believe me; I could have made it longer). Continue reading “Book Review: The Essential Gandhi by Louis Fischer”
In a book I recently read (that I wish I had read 20 years ago), A Thomas Jefferson Education, the author speaks of national books. “A national book is something that almost everyone in the nation [note the use of “nation” rather than “country”] accepts as a central truth.” Each nation has its own books, although in some cultures the national “books” are (or were in the past) oral traditions. These books have much to do with the establishment of a national identity and culture. They can be good (War and Peace) or bad (Mein Kampf), religious (Bhagavad Gita) or secular (Shakespeare).
The book cites Allan Bloom’s assertion that America’s national books through its first 150 years were the “Declaration of Independence” and the Bible. But somehow in the 1950s and 60s familiarity with these national books dropped off dramatically. The problem this causes is immense—we no longer have these essential works as the foundation of our culture. This begs the question: What has replaced them? Continue reading “Our National Books”
“This war against terrorism will succeed only if we fight it from a higher platform of morality,” he said in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Asked later to clarify, Karzai said, “We must be conducting this war as better human beings,” and recognize that “force won’t buy you obedience.”
The above is from an Associated Press article about the manner in which the U.S. is fighting the Taliban (again) in Afghanistan. And although I agree with Pres. Karzai to a degree, the only way to conduct the war against terrorism “from a higher platform of morality” is to not resort to violence in that war.
“What? A nonviolent war?” That is exactly what I mean. Two of the most effective warriors in the “war on terrorism” are Mark Siljander and Greg Mortenson (I hope both win the Nobel Peace prize at some point). Their methods of conducting this war, however, are very different from those methods being prosecuted by the Pentagon, the CIA or the Department of State.
In order to be effective, however, these methods need to become as widespread as the violence that is currently being used to battle terrorism. The current methods employ as much fear and intimidation to eliminate terrorism as the terrorists themselves.
Are you more willing to villify Muslims, or love terrorists as human brothers? Are you more willing to turn a blind eye to torture, “collateral damage”, and religious bigotry, or are you willing to vocalize your distaste for such practices, even in the face of ostracization in your community?
Unless We the People enact these changes of attitudes and practices in our lives, the elites who run the country will continue to justify their violent and force-filled actions in the name of “national security” and “national interest”.
If we persist in using the cowardly, fear-engendered weapons of violence, hatred, and justification, the war on terrorism will be an abject failure.
Our means determine the end. Encourage those around you to embrace the means that bring about the ends they truly desire…Oh, and do it yourself.
The critical nature of virtue, both public and private, for the preservation of freedom is fundamental for conservatives and those who venerate the founders and read their writings. I would like to ask the inverse question: Is it Freedom that is essential for attaining Virtue? Continue reading “Freedom Precedes Virtue”
Here follows the weekly (as promised) lyrics/poem from the Fearless Path, this time from early LDS poet and songwriter, Eliza R. Snow, from one of my favorite hymns:
Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.
Blessed Savior, thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In thy praise forevermore.
Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.
Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.
If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!
Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.
Only through the pure love that Christ demonstrated, taught, and can give to us are we able to judge rightly. It is the only thing that heals, the only thing that changes. “Charity never faileth.” To judge without that “charity” is to judge unrighteously and hypocritically, injuring others and ourselves. The fearless path is to withhold condemning judgment of others, recognizing that the only method to change others is to change ourselves.
I know this is an incredibly easy target, but I’m going to take a shot. With the recent publicizing of the CIA and White House memos regarding torture, part of the conversation has been whether torture works or doesn’t. Another aspect of the question has been whether it was legal or not. These shouldn’t even be the questions we ask about torture.
Every other week or so, I will post lyrics to a song or words to a poem that exemplify the ideas of the fearless path. One of the most out-spoken Christian songwriters of the last half of the 20th century was Johnny Cash. His life story is fascinating, demonstrating weaknesses, wild success, failure, loss, and most importantly, redemption. His anthem of “why” is found in the following words: