hedonism

“Men in the vehement pursuit of happiness grasp at the first object which
offers to them any prospect of satisfaction,
but immediately they turn an introspective eye and ask,
‘Am I happy?’
and at once from their innermost being a voice answers distinctly,
‘No, you are as poor and as miserable as before.

‘Then they think it was the object that deceived them and turn precipitately
to another. But the second holds as little satisfaction as the first…
Wandering then through life restless and tormented,
at each successive station they think that happiness dwells at the next,
but when they reach it happiness is no longer there.
In whatever position they may find themselves there is always
another one which they discern from afar, and which but to touch,
they think, is to find the wished delight,
but when the goal is reached discontent has followed on the way stands
in haunting constancy before them.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


(ripening persimmons / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wonder where it started…this hedonistic nature of ours.
History certainly speaks of the Roman’s thirst for all things sensual and soothing.
An insatiable appetite of all things of pleasure.
With a never-ending quest for the wanton.

And yet we know of other societies, other cultures that were equally focused on
a hunger for lusty tastes.
So does this mean that this hedonism of ours is an innate quality or
is it rather a learned trait?

Oftentimes we of the present feel a smug sense of superiority to those people
of the past.
We believe ourselves to be more knowledgable, more sophisticated,
better educated…
so therefore we grow overtly confident and even pompous believing ourselves
better than.

And yet current events are appearing to indicate that we may not actually be
better than…as in better educated, better controlled or even a better people…

Take the following observation by our friend the Wee Flea….

“As an international chaplain I find it a source of constant embarrassment that many international students are bemused and offended by the banality and stupidity of a monolithic hedonistic culture, which seems to be encouraged by the University.”

The Rev Robertson offers us his latest observation in a posting concerning the recent
start to Dundee University’s school year with the welcoming of the new freshman class.

University Challenge

Pastor Robertson raises concern over what appears to be an ever increasingly
pleasure seeking college population.
Our western college and university campuses are now rife with a generation of
youthful learners known as snowflakes…meaning they rapidly melt at the
slightest hint of uncomfortableness…all the while the majority busy
themselves imbibing in any and all earthly and sensual pleasure…
with their mantra being “you only live once.”

Pastor Robertson recalls that “I once spoke to some third and fourth year
male students who had returned early for Fresher’s week.
“Why have you returned so early?”
“Fresh meat!” was their sickening reply.
They had come back to see how many new female students they could sleep with.
This is how in our ‘PC’ culture women are treated.”

University officials however, as we have witnessed throughout this country
in most recent weeks, appear not to be in control of their youthful charges
as they turn blind eyes to the raucous and even violent behavior.

Most college educated adults know first hand about the difficulties of balancing
both faith with what is known as “the college experience.”

Newly found freedoms, a plethora of choices, liberal academic thinking,
accented with open sex, alcohol and drugs…makes keeping the faith an often
difficult task for even the most ardent of Believers.

All the while administrations and educators are turning a blind eye, or even worse,
offering words of encouragement for experimentation…coddling and indulging a
growing generation of self indulgent narcissists.

That is until various troubles hit the news circuits…
Think Penn State’s current legal woes over the death of a college freshman at
the hands of his drunken fraternity brothers or the costly destruction to property following the riots at Cal Berkeley and Evergreen College in Washington.

In his most recent post, the good Pastor reflects on the backlash a school
administrator faced when pushing back on the young charges under her leadership.

The former principal of St Andrews University, Louise Richardson (now of Oxford),
has been told to apologise after she upset some students by claiming that they
have no right not to be offended.

Predictably they were offended by her remarks.

She claimed that she had been approached by several students who
are uncomfortable with the views about homosexuality expressed by some professors
and lecturers.
“they don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with these views.
And I say, I’m sorry but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable.
Education is not about being comfortable.
I’m interested in making you uncomfortable.
If you don’t like his views, you challenge them,
engage with them and figure out how a smart person could have views like that.
Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind.”

Her sensible and mature attitude surely would not in almost any other age in the UK,
have needed to have been said–but in today’s censorious,
dumbed down and intolerant culture they were deemed to be highly controversial.

Oxford University student union president Kate Cole, said
“Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia”.
In other words forget freedom of speech if it is deemed across our absolutist line!

Oxford City Councillor, Tom Hayes added;”
it’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudice tutors who will
propagate hateful views and pass of discrimination as debate”.
Doubtless Mr Hayes will tell us what hateful views are
(presumably anyone who disagrees with him)
and will ensure that no debate takes place at all.

In another sign of the irrationality gripping some sections of academia,
a student Latin course (Reading Latin by Jones and Sidwell)
was outed by an American PhD student because the text featured three goddesses,
each confidently stripping off, determined to win the golden apple from Paris,
and two rapes.
Such ‘offensive’ choices, she said, did not help the cause of Latin,
‘or make the historically racist and classist discipline of
classics more acceptable”.

Meanwhile back on planet earth normal students face their own University Challenge.

Rod Liddle – “The idea that she might subordinate her feelings for the good of
some higher purpose did not sit easily with Diana.
Because according to this new mantra, there is no higher purpose than
simply what one feels”

LED 8 – Yemen – The Proms and the EU Cult- Jacob Rees Mogg – Religious Decline in the UK – Canadian Immigration – Irma, Climate Change and Lovelock’s Change – University Principal takes on Snowflake Students – John Knox’s Transgender Toilets – Don Williams.

And so I will close our look at the new fall term taking place in our Western society
with words both thoughtful and prayerful offered by the good Pastor on behalf or our
students, those Believers amongst them and of the adults charged with their care and education.

Let us pray for, encourage and seek to serve those who have begun the new term this week. Especially those Christians who go against the flow and are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the face of an increasing hostile culture. As our Universities forget their Christian roots and market themselves as monolithic academic businesses.
They are becoming places where a diversity of views is not encouraged.
In such an environment Christians are the real radicals!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

Battered yet undeterred

“Out of defeat can come the best in human nature. As Christians face storms of adversity, they may rise with more beauty. They are like trees that grow on mountain ridges — battered by winds, yet trees in which we find the strongest wood.”
Billy Graham

How nice to meet someone so undeterred by things like. . .reality.
The Lorax

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(the first post freezing quince bloom–looking worse from winter’s wear / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Psalmist cries. . .
“Hear me oh Lord. . .”

Cries of anguish, pain, sorrow, emptiness, suffering. . .

The Psalmist also speaks of joy. . .
Joy is longed for and joy is infectious. . .
Praise and alleluias are easily multiplied. . .
Everyone wants in on happy, joy, uplifting, good, glad. . .

It is, however, to the other. . .
to those deep groanings of the suffering soul and spirit. . .
the laminations, the cries, the wailing, the tears, the sorrow. . .
of which, alone we will all eventually find ourselves.

It is a dry place of solitude, oneness, singleness and loneliness
It is a place that is gritty, dirty, uncomfortable
It is the furnace ready to refine. . .

Yet this place of isolation,
this place of misery,
this deeply troubling place of peril
and of anguished sorrow. . .
is also the place in which character is forged.
It is the place where the knowledge of self is realized–
for good or for bad. . .

Crisis crashes down upon crisis
Weary roads traversed
stop and go, stop and go
wills are battered
hearts are bruised
bodies fail
sewage spills forth in a torrent of rage
as money flees through the broken glass

Personalities clash,
while the like minded work in tandem
Step by step, one foot forward
Sinister lurks in the shadow, composing its agenda
Controlling, one way, the only way
Demanding will not yield its way
Selfish will not have the last word

Having been hit broadside. . .
Blindsided by mayhem, confusion and hatefulness
Caught in a place of no control and no return
Nearly broken, battered, hurting. . .
yet decidedly undeterred. . .

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

Psalm 37:10-15

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Watch out for the stump holes

“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.”
Heraclitus

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(image of a “stump hole” or the remains of a decayed tree / rural west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

And no, this has nothing to do with moonshine.
There.
I knew that’d get your attention.

A stump hole, by best definition, is the hole which forms once a tree has died and decayed.
Legend has it, as there is probably more truth than myth to this story, moonshiners / bootleggers would use these “stump holes” to hide their jars and bottles of illegal liquor–resulting in what is known as stump hole whiskey.
The woods are full of such.
They are not easily seen, hiding under the leaves and debris, and can be the bane of anyone trekking though the woods.
I should know.

It was mid afternoon, just the other Sunday.
Finally a decent day–no rain, snow, ice or howling wind–simply a nice day to be outside.
It was still chilly as it was the end of February, but the sun was in its full regalia and I was happy.

Traipsing behind my husband, as he was surveying some property in the middle of nowhere Georgia, I was following close behind as we made our way through some uncharted woods. Of course I had my trusty camera in hand, snapping images as we dodged the thorns of sticker bushes and saw briars, all while ducking under limbs and vines— suddenly, and rather violently, I found myself knee deep in a stump hole.

The hole, which was covered up with the remnants of years of fallen leaves and sticks, was just waiting for an unsuspecting victim. The hole was about 8 inches in diameter, just big enough for my boot to rapidly descend downward–or sucked downward if you’re into that whole middle earth thing with creatures lurking about in order to pluck downward unsuspecting earthlings, but I digress.
With one leg suddenly sunk to my knee as the other leg remained firmly planted on terrea-firma, my entire body violently lurched forward, with me now being oddly askew, as my face planted nicely in the leaves and muck.

My husband, hearing a muffled yelp, turned only to survey his wife sprawled face down flat on the forest floor. Knowing the danger of such holes, which have left many a would-be woodsman with a broken ankle or leg, he was relieved to see no protruding bone.

Aggghhhh, I moaned as I pulled my leg out of the hole. My jeans muddy with a now widening area of red moisture seeping down my pants.
I brush myself off.
As I pull up the leg of my jeans, I see that most of the skin is no longer on my shine bone.
Great.
Otherwise I quickly surmise that I am in one full piece. Lest we forget our little broken cookie last spring, eh?

Since my husband is old school, he reassured me, as he called out over his shoulder while he continued onward, “you’re okay, let’s go.”

Are you kidding me!?
My jeans are not only muddy but now bloody, plus I have a gash on my shine and a giant goose egg growing out of my leg.
“No broken bones, you’re good”
“You’re lucky you know, those holes can be nasty. . .”
“Ya think” I simmer in my head.
“Humph” I snort as I continue to bush myself off.

My husband is of the school of thought that one should just “get up, rub a little dirt on it, spit on it and go on”
This coming from a man who played high school and college football, in the late 60’s, with a helmet whose padding consisted of stings and rope.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with him to this day, but I digress, again. . .

Long story short–
My jeans washed up nicely, no rips thankfully.
My leg is now turning a lovely shade of yellow green from the black and blue of two weeks ago and there is of course a moral to my tale. . .

The moral of the story is first– one should indeed be cautious and watchful while out walking in the woods, but secondly and more importantly, we must all be mindful that when we least expect trouble, trouble will usually find us.

As inconvenient as it is to be blindsided by most anything, it is the fiber of our inner being which will always see us though such moments. Life does not promise us anything but death and, for most of us law abiding folks, taxes. The pitfalls along the way, and there will always be pitfalls, are the fires to the furnace in which our “metal” is tried, tested and forged.

If we breathe, we will eventually find ourselves stepping in, or even being pushed into, a stump hole.
It may be an accident, it may be an illness, it may be a job loss, it may be a death, it may be a divorce, it may be a break up, it may be a move, it may be devastation—but no matter what it is, there inside each of us lies an inner strength. We may never have known the strength to be there, but there it is—simply waiting to be called upon to do battle with the crisis at hand. It is how we handle landing in the stump hole which eventually defines us as a person. The politically correct among us will call this character.

To have faith in something greater than ourselves, indeed helps in those times of crisis–as we find ourselves knee deep in the stump holes of life.
God, the Creator of the Universe, does not promise an easy path free of stump holes as we, simply put, live in a fallen world.
This fallen world of ours is marked by a sea of stump holes, which often seem more like deadly land mines, scattered strategically throughout our journey.

What God, the Creator of the Universe does promise us however, is to always be by our side, to love and to care for us as long as we travel this earth. He does not say that it will be a painless or easy walk.
And much like my husband, He’ll tell us to pull our legs out of the hole, to get up, to brush ourselves off and to hurry along in order to continue our walk with Him.

No, we are not guaranteed a neat clean journey, nor will it be free of trouble, but it is a journey never taken alone.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Perspective

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Image of the Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Helen Keller