Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cheap Land

As I thought, there is a reason land here is so very cheap.  Thorns and rocks.  Yeah, that about sums it up.  :-)

Thorns


Rocks.


Lots of sunshine, of course.  :-)

Serenity said "I don't think so Papa."


I agree Serenity!  I don't think so.


Well, the search goes on...

Here is Serenity in the lobby of the Gadsen Hotel :-)


Road Trip

I'm near the border of Mexico in Arizona, currently in the Gadsen Hotel, a Historic and allegedly haunted hotel in Douglas. 

Our trip to get here has not gone as planned.  :-)  We had intended to either visit the Grand Canyon or some Indian ruins up near Flagstaff on our second day, but instead we found our selves in the midst of a snow storm, hiking in the snow did not sound very fun so we skipped on to our next spot which was St. Johns where I wanted to look at some property at Sierra Highlands Ranch

On our way to St. Johns I saw this great rainbow, very pretty.



As it turned out the road leading to Sierra Highlands Ranch it is a bit questionable just after rains... especially if you are driving a low to the ground Toyota Corolla. We went about 15 miles on a fairly good mostly graveled road until we got up to the top of the mesa where the 36+ acre plots I wanted to look at were, it was actually quite lovely, lots of trees and great views.  The road had quite a few muddy spots that I avoided by watching where the previous vehicle tracks had gone and staying on the high parts.   I was doing fine up until a big Pit Bull came trotting down the road toward us and got in my way.  I stopped the car and waited for him to move and when he had gone to the side of the car I started forward without really looking and drove right into a mud hole.  Ack!  I rocked back and forth, getting more and more stuck.  I got out of the car, and talked to the friendly Pit Bull who was curious as to why I had driven straight into the mud hole.  I put a branch behind one tire and managed to get a little traction, then with several attempts backing up and then going forward I finally escaped the mire!  Whew.  That mud was both slick and sticky at the same time.  Mud on the hood and roof...


Mud on my shoes...


Mud everywhere!


I was really scared that I would have to hike on out to the nearest house and ask for help, there was no cell signal that far out in the hills.  After that I scratched the place off of my list of possible properties to buy, but now, the next day when I'm calmer, I'm putting them back on the list because they are actually quite nice.  With the proper sort of vehicle they would be more accessible.  The only thing that sort of gets me is the fact that it's a good 30 miles to the nearest "town" and that is St. Johns which doesn't amount to much really. 

Today we are going to look at some very cheap land in the vicinity of Douglas Arizona, not quite as pretty around here so far but I'll try and stay off of the side roads and not get stuck.  More in a day or two after our explorations for today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Livermore Quakers





Last night Serenity and I went to the Quaker Worship Group in Livermore.  Because of traffic we drove over the back roads on the way there, we left Tracy early so we had time to stop off at Mr. Pickle’s and have a quick sandwich for dinner before the worship time.   

When we arrived there were two women there, one was sitting down in a circle of chairs and the other was putting out some pamphlets and books and cookies on a table for after the meeting.  We said "hi" and mentioned we were new and had never been to a Quaker Meeting before and sat down.  Eventually there were 4 women along with me and Serenity.  After we said hi on our way into the circle no one said a word, each additional person just came in and sat down quietly in the circle.  We could hear crickets outside and an occasional car going by on College Avenue.  There was also the sound of a ticking clock somewhere behind me but I had no time keeping device visible to me to track the passage of time.  Very quickly I began to relax into the silence, breathing deeply and trying to be open to the Spirit, whatever that might mean.
 
The silence went on and on, occasionally someone would cough or clear their throat and I thought they were going to speak, but no, no words were spoken then.  There was a bit of rearranging of feet and hands that made slight sounds but no words.  Finally one woman began to speak of having come across the Prayer of St. Francis that begins “Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love…”  She said that she put it in her purse and had been meditating on the first lines.  She especially liked the idea that you had to sow love, that love doesn’t just happen but you must actively work to plant and grow it.  After that the silence returned once more and not another word was said until finally the person who had spoken stood up and then we all stood and held hands for a moment before sitting back down.  At that point they went around the circle and introduced themselves, then it was cookie time and chatting about different things.  I was amazed to look at my phone then and realize we had sat in silence for an hour, the time had not seemed to exist.  I know from experience trying to sit in silence alone the time seems to drag, it didn’t here, very strange and cool.  

I think that we will be going back, Serenity said that she enjoyed it as well... plus... there were COOKIES!  

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Following Jesus

I am going to go to a Friends (Quaker) Meeting tonight.  I'm going because over the last couple of weeks I have finally admitted to myself that there is more wrong with Catholicism than just the "War" issue.  In addition to that there is the issue of acceptance of people who are not in the mainstream sexually, gay and transgendered etc.  I've tried very hard to just go along with the church on these issues "because the bible says so" but I really can't do that any longer.  The bible says a lot of strange and untrue things I ignore or reject outright.  The bible says the earth is flat with a solid dome over the top, but it's not and there is no dome.  But that's OK because we know not to take the words literally and out of the cultural context.
 I think the same can be done with many other things in the bible like stoning adulterers and homosexuals.  Obviously these things were superseded by the law of Love that Christ proclaimed.  The myriad rules and laws promulgated by the Catholic Church are intended to guide people along the path of Love, but I think they just make a bunch of list checkers out of Catholics. 

Other Christian churches have much the same issue for me, even those that proclaim you are "saved" by grace alone.  Right now I am in a moment of transition within my mind and spirit, all I know for sure is that God is Love.  I know that I have experienced directly that love in my life in ways that I cannot deny.  I also know that a God of Love probably is not less tolerant of annoying children than I am!  I'm not really buying the imagery of "hell" as it is normally presented.  Don't ask me to explain what I believe right now because, like I said, I'm in transition, moving away from things that are clearly error and following Jesus on the path of nonviolent Love.  We will see where I wind up.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pax Christi

https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/


For the last few days I've been pondering the ideas of nonviolence as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.  As a result of this recollection of what I knew once I've been looking online at some websites of the traditional "Peace Churches."  These are the Mennonites, the Brethren and the Quakers, among others.  I looked at them because of my dissatisfaction with the teachings of the more mainstream denominations, especially the two that I have most recently worshiped with, the Lutherans and the Catholics.  These groups use something called "Just War Theory" to identify which wars are "Just" and which ones are not justified.  Supposedly this puts some major restrictions on when nations could go to war and have it be considered OK for a Christian to participate.  The problem with Just War Theory, as far as I am concerned, is that it can be, and has been, used to justify virtually every war ever fought.  Pretty much the only "unjust" wars are those that are waged against your country, but be assured your enemy will be able to explain why, using "Just War Theory" his attack against you is "just."

Of course nonviolence is not the only thing to consider is it?  There is also the question of authority, or to put it another way, why should I "follow" this particular religion or denomination in the first place?  As everyone who knows me is well aware, I take these thing very seriously, maybe too seriously but hey, I can't help that, it's how my brain works.  I'm always trying to figure out both what is true and how to do what is right.  Many years ago I realized that Jesus taught nonviolence and I tried to fit that understanding of his teaching into my own Christian faith.  What I encountered from church teachers, pastors, priests and one rabbi, was a lot of hand waving and ripping things out of context and trying to make war a good thing, at least when our country does it, instead of the horrible evil that it obviously is. 

Lutherans, it seems to me, and to a lesser extent Catholics, are far too eager to go along with obvious evils perpetrated by their own governments.  I suppose they don't want to be seen as "disloyal" or something, I don't know.  The Peace Churches on the other hand are vanishingly few in numbers and dwindling rapidly these days.  That alone would not keep me away from them, but there are other things about them that make me hesitate to embrace them.  For example, the Quakers are no longer even remotely Christian in many meetings.  I understand there are some "evangelical Quakers" but the ones that I've been able to find on the West Coast are not evangelical at all.  Even that is not a total deal breaker necessarily but when I looked into them almost all were advocating government programs for the poor and oppressed, looking to convince governments to "do things" to help people.  It's possible I've misunderstood them but they really sound like plain old socialists with a dislike of of war.  For me nonviolence implies and demands purely voluntary interactions, government is nothing but violence and coercion, a Christian ought not to be involved in such things.  I've found similar issues with the Mennonites and Brethren as well.  Not only that but they tend all to be very accommodating to the larger culture, accepting many things I have doubts about such as LGBT (and whatever additional letters they've added on to the thing this month) "rights."  I'm sort of open to being convinced on those things but so far I've found the arguments and reasons to be unconvincing.

All of which brings me to the actual point of this blog post, bet you thought I'd never get there didn't you?

As I was searching the peace churches I decided to look once more for a Catholic group that was seriously working for nonviolence and peace.  That was when I came upon the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. This is something sponsored by Pax Christi that is far closer to my understanding of what Jesus taught than any previous group I've found, even older Pax Christi writings.  I was actually pretty thrilled to see it.  Best of all they are working to have the Roman Catholic Church repudiate the horrible "Just War Theory!" 

Especially exciting to me is the wording of An Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence.  

Some excerpts from the appeal:

"The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model."

"In his own times, rife with structural violence, Jesus proclaimed a new, nonviolent order rooted in the unconditional love of God. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5: 44), which includes respecting the image of God in all persons; to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil (Matthew 5: 39); to become peacemakers; to forgive and repent; and to be abundantly merciful (Matthew 5-7). Jesus embodied nonviolence by actively resisting systemic dehumanization, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3: 1-6); when he confronted the powerful at the Temple and purified it (John 2: 13-22); when he peacefully but determinedly challenged the men accusing a woman of adultery (John 8: 1-11); when on the night before he died he asked Peter to put down his sword (Matthew 26: 52)."

Best of all is this:

"Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.
We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict."

I urge you to read the whole thing and explore the main web page as well.  For the moment I remain open to such things as Quaker meetings, I may try one in Livermore that is an "unprogrammed" meeting, but I may well simply get involved with the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to satisfy my need to spread that badly neglected part of the gospel message of Jesus.  I am not sure where I'll go from here but I'll probably post about when I know :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Voluntary Society



So, at long last the bitter election for President of the United Sates is over.  Around this part of the empire the vast majority of people are sorely disappointed by the results, to the point of anger or depression.  I try and let them know that the POTUS doesn't have all that much influence over the things they are upset over, domestic policy is not really that easy for a POTUS to change.  It's only in foreign policy that he can directly impact things in any way, he is the Commander in Chief after all and can rather quickly pull troops out of our wars if he so chooses.  Of course I'm under no illusion that he will do this any more than the last man who occupied that office and promised to get us out of all of our wars of conquest around the world, and he even got the PEACE prize just for saying he'd do it, and yet we are still in every spot we were in then and then some.

Peace does not come from governments.  Governments are nothing but violence, it is the only tool they have to use.  If they are not using or threatening violence then they are not being a government, instead they have become a Voluntary Society.  :-)  It's really pretty simple when you think about it. 

Peace comes from peaceful people interacting with other peaceful people each and every day.  Already the vast majority of all of your interactions are voluntary and peaceful.  Only your interactions with criminals or the government involve violence... and those two are really the same thing.

The world will be much better off when most people realize that violence is never the answer.  Even when opposing violent and evil people, meaning governments, nonviolence is the more effective tactic.  This has been proven over and over, yet because violence is so ingrained into our minds as the solution to every problem it takes a major effort to see it.

Check out this article from Forbes for some details:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2014/07/24/the-proven-superiority-of-nonviolent-resistance/#2b8cbeb01c27

The Proven Superiority Of Nonviolent Resistance

 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The PEACEFUL Gnome?


For many years I've been here as "The Angry Gnome."  I suppose for the most part I've lived up to (or down to?) the name.  Recently I have written here very seldom, not being quite sure what to do with a blog these days, most of my Angry Rants went straight to Facebook and I pretty much never bothered with more than a line or two of introduction to material written by someone else.  I will readily admit to having a quick fuse and a pretty angry demeanor, but inside I'm not like that at all! 

Really :-)

Obviously the name Angry Gnome had a nice ring to it and aligned nicely with the way I tend to present to the world at large.  I am under no illusions about changing the name of my seldom used blog having any real significant impact on my cranky nature... but it certainly couldn't hurt. :-)

I'll tell you what has brought this on, it's the recent regrettable election for president we've all had the misfortune to experience for the last year and a half or so.  This has reminded me that, yes, I am most certainly an anarchist.  But not the stereotypical bomb throwing chaos inciting type of anarchist.  I'm an anarchist only because I was first a pacifist and because, as Leo Tolstoy wrote, "Government is Violence."


But I was a pacifist because I read the New Testament and took it seriously. 

Over the years I've allowed myself to drift from that understanding of the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of love and nonviolence especially.  It is easy to go along with the crowd on things, but I've always retained a core belief that violence is wrong, especially for a follower of Jesus.

But then many wise men and teachers have claimed that "just war" is OK with Jesus, that he certainly never intended for us to be pacifists... and even though I didn't agree with the logic of it I went along.  Both the Lutherans and the Catholics are OK with war and violence in general, though naturally they claim that it must be restricted to "just wars" and "legitimate governments" whatever those terms might mean.  When you look at history what you find is virtually every war and every act of every government has been "justified" by Christian theologians on one side or the other or even both.

This election has reminded me of how very evil governments and their wars, both external against supposed enemies in other lands and internal against their own people through "laws," really are.  I've been venting and ranting about it on Facebook with abandon.  But this morning when I woke up I remembered my pacifist side, the side of me that drives my need to be an anarchist in the first place.  The side of me that hears Jesus preaching on the mountain and says, "Yes Lord!" 

I wanted to believe that Jesus founded a church, the Catholic Church, and I wanted to believe too that maybe Luther was right and it needed to have the errors that had crept into it over the centuries "reformed."  I wanted that and I went along with teachings about evolution and war and other things that I really didn't agree with at all, because who am I to say what Jesus really meant when he said "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."  How do I know he didn't mean to insert, well unless you are a government worker, then it's just A-OK?  Who am I to say what Jesus really meant when he said  "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,"?  Maybe he meant that loving your enemy involved ripping him limb from limb and burning his house to the ground!  Who knows?  Maybe I am just dense.  

Obviously I don't buy that, I really have always thought, since I was 19 years old and serving in the United States Army, that Jesus actually meant what he said and managed to say what he meant.  When I was in the Army I applied for conscientious objector status.  They thought I was nuts of course.  I stopped carrying a rifle though and since I was a clerk it wasn't all that noticeable.  I had a poster in my barracks room that showed a young boy in an Army uniform with a toy gun sitting in a military cemetery with 1 Corinthians 13:11 as the caption,  "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."  My first sergeant tried to make me take it down but I claimed religious freedom for it. :-) They never granted me the status but when my time was up I didn't re-up.  :-)   


Somehow along the way I kept going back to liturgical churches, although I briefly went to a Mennonite church in Idaho.  I suppose it has been a matter of familiarity, I was raised in a Lutheran church and liturgical forms are very enjoyable and comfortable for me, even though I've had major issues with the theology of pretty much every liturgical church I've ever gone to, Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic.  So now, here I am, having been reminded by the particularly unpleasant election process of 2016 that I don't have to go along with this stuff, I can stand aside from it and follow Jesus in my own way.  No, the Catholics and the Lutherans don't have a monopoly on "Truth" in any way, there are other paths that are closer to the path Jesus both walked and told us to walk after him.  I'm not at all sure where I'll end up, but I'm not going to betray my conscience on this any longer.