Can a human being really remain neutral?

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,
in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri


(photograph of Carl Lutz, Swiss Ambassador to Hungry, as seen from the cellar
where he and those he protected waited out the battle of the Soviets over the Nazi occupation)

I promise, really I do…..
I’ll get back to my focus on what I took away this week when watching our friend the
Wee Flea but first—- I have to share this story.

It’s a story I saw day before yesterday and it begged me to stop and
read further.

I did and I was glad that I did.

The story is a story with a back story….
and I believe it will be beneficial for us to first read the
back story in order to fully understand the front story….
of which is an end story…. which is really just a story about humankind.

How’s that for a story about a story??!!

I would think that most of us who know any little something about nations,
countries, Europe wars, etc, knows that that tiny land locked country of Switzerland
is and has always been known for being fiercely neutral.

It has watches and clocks.
It has the Alps and skiing.
It has snow and the Matterhorn.
It has Heidi and cows.
It has chocolate.
It also has neutrality.

As in it maintains a fierce state of neutrality.

The words ‘fiercely neutral’ almost rings of an oxymoron…..
because when one thinks of the word and notion of being neutral and of neutrality,
one would naturally think nonchalant, laid back or indifferent…
not seemingly to care one way or another as to what’s going on around
say, in the neighboring countries.

Think of it like “we’re neutral, we’re not getting involved with that…”
sort of mindset.

Switzerland is globally recognized as a Neutral Nation.

Meaning Switzerland doed not engage in wars nor will it get involved.
Despite having a military requirement that all young Swiss males serve two years in
the Swiss Army.

My husband has a life long Swiss friend who has shared his tales of committal to a
military inscription as a young man. He marvels that I would love to have had his
Government issued Swiss army blanket as those original blankets now command a
pretty penny.

According to a story on the BBC Travel section, the Swiss have not always been
a neutral nation. I found this to be quite interesting.

Their past, it turns out, might actually appear to be a bit more unsavory than
gallant as they started out not so much as indifferent as they did fortuitous mercenaries.

According to Merriam Webster a mercenary is of a person,
or the behavior of said person, which is primarily concerned with making money
at the expense of ethics.

That doesn’t sound too much like someone interested in being a
humanitarian or neutral now does it??

And even currently found on the Swiss government’s website it states that not only is
the nation to focus on the country’s humanitarian bent
(think Red Cross on flag for a reason)
it lists some of the rules: The country must refrain from engaging in war,
not allow belligerent states to use its territory and not supply mercenary troops to belligerent states….

Hummmmm…..

According to Billie Cohen the author of the article,
even the way the country is set up seems like the epitome of peaceful
coexistence. Politically it’s a direct democracy;
culturally it recognises four language groups;
and as you crisscross the cantons, you feel like you’re visiting four countries:
Italy (in Ticino), Germany (in Zurich), France (in Geneva)
and a unique descendant of the Roman Empire (in Grisons).

I’ll let you click on the link below for the full story of Switzerland’s neutrality
as it is rather interesting but suffice it to say that being a mercenary nation
became no longer advantageous nor profitable as the Swiss were militarily routed
by both the French and Venetian forces in 1515.

Selling out then to France, as acting bodyguards to the King, became the path of least resistance and least painful….that was until a certain French Revolution
rolled around, as heads were also rolling, so thus a rethinking,
or more like a redo or makeover, was in the works.

Neutrality it would be.

But then the World Wars happened, and that reputation was sorely tested,
especially during WWII when Switzerland controversially bought Jewish gold from Nazi Germany and refused Jewish refugees.
“From a Swiss perspective, [neutrality] was successful in so far as Switzerland
wasn’t involved in fighting,” Goestchel explained.
“There have been many debates if Switzerland was really neutral,
especially in WWII, but it wasn’t involved in fighting activities.”

( http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170717-the-country-that-cant-choose-a-side)

And so it helps for us to understand Switzerland as a whole before we can fully
appreciate the story a certain Swiss diplomat…..

All of this—this particular story, makes me wonder….
It makes me wonder as to how is it that I can still be amazed??
How can there continue being tales of such goodness and quiet heroism that just
seem to keep popping up out of the blue during a time of such horrendous darkness?

Just when you’re pretty certain you’ve read or heard all there is in the way of
the positives during the World’s greatest time of negative…
something else is uncovered, unearthed and brought to light…

One of those still hidden, yet rare tiny gems.

And so is the story of Carl Lutz.

Mr Lutz was a Swiss diplomat who had served his diplomatic time in the 1930s
in Palestine.
(Remember Israel was not yet a nation…that was after the war in 1948)
He was up and transferred to Budapest in 1942—a rather precarious time
for a transfer during what was shaping up to be a full blown European war.

Upon Lutz’s arrival it became most apparent quite quickly that Hungary’s Jews were in
grave peril and Mr. Lutz realized that in his position,
that of a lone diplomat in a country that no longer had an American or British embassy,
it rested upon him and a handful of others to do something drastic.

Dubbed Switzerland’s Schindler, Lutz got to work.

As one of a few remaining diplomates Lutz was to act as “diplomat” for those
countries no longer represented in Hungry. He was to represent the interests of those countries who had removed their staffs due to the war.
So Lutz went about the task to create a slew of protective passports under the guise of various countries….and not for just individuals, as he had lead German authorities
to believe, but rather passports to entire families.

He also fudged his number counting hoping that the Germans would not notice.

For those Jewish families and individuals who he could not spirit out of the country,
he found and created 76 safe houses and places that he could hide them away—
away from the Nazis seeking to deport all of Hungry’s Jews to the Death Camps.

It is estimated that Lutz saved the lives of 62,000 people.

“It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War,” says Charlotte Schallié.

Other diplomates still living in Budapest did the same. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish envoy did his share to assist the Jews. But it was Lutz who made the decision to use
his own Embassy as a safe house.

After the war, when he finally returned home to Switzerland, it was not to a
hero’s welcome as one would imagine. Instead Lutz returned across the border alone.
There was no congratulations from his colleagues or Government but rather a
stinging rap on the knuckles, a reprimand for overstepping his boundaries and
for being what was thought to be careless and foolhardy.

Yet Lutz’s selflessness and humanitarian bravery has not gone totally unnoticed.

Over the years Lutz was awarded honors from Israel, Hungry, The UK, The United States
and slowly even Switzerland has made a few memorials to one of their own who
when push came to shove chose to take a stand rather than to stand by in neutral
watching thousands of men, woman and children being sent to certain death.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42400765

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

Hungry?

There is a spiritual hunger in the world today –
and it cannot be satisfied by better cars on longer credit terms.

Adlai E. Stevenson

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(a disgusted jackdaw surveys a tossed aside apple core / Blarney Woolen Mills / Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

God will fill the hungry because He Himself has stirred up the hunger.
As in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray,
He prepares His ear to hear (Ps. 10:17).
So in the case of spiritual hunger,
when God prepares the heart to hunger,
He will prepare His hand to fill.

Thomas Watson

If you saw someone who was hungry,
would you in turn offer them a piece of rubbish or rotting trash?
Would you hand them something discarded and already eaten upon?
Would you toss them a mere rind or core?
Some sort of afterthought, something less than…?

Chances are that you would not.

You wouldn’t feed a hungry person with trash or previously eaten and picked over food.
Rather you would most likely offer them something fresh, preferably warm and cooked.
Something that you yourself would wish to be offered…something you yourself would enjoy.

So we can safely assume that if someone stood before you physically hungry,
you would most certainly feed them or help provide a means for them to be fed…right?

So now, if someone was standing before you spiritually hungry, lost, angry with their life’s lot,
searching for that elusive satisfaction and happiness…
Why then would you not share the word of God?…
offering them the bread of life, the endless waters of salvation,
the body and blood of the only One who can satiate the real and true hunger of man?

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 107:9

Haste

“Gentlemen, why in heaven’s name this haste?
You have time enough.
Ages and ages lie before you.
Why sacrifice the present to the future,
fancying that you will be happier when your fields teem with wealth and your cities with people?
In Europe we have cities wealthier and more populous than yours, and we are not happy.
You dream of your posterity;
but your posterity will look back to yours as the golden age, and envy those who first burst into this silent, splendid nature, who first lifted up their axes upon these tall trees,
and lined these waters with busy wharves.
Why, then, seek to complete in a few decades what the other nations of the world took thousands of years over in the older continents?
Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts?
Why hasten the advent of that threatening day when the vacant spaces of the continent shall all have been filled, and the poverty or discontent of the older States shall find no outlet?
You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before,
and may never have again.
Your work is great and noble;
it is done for a future longer and vaster than our conceptions can embrace.
Why not make its outlines and beginnings worthy of these destinies,
the thought of which gilds your hopes and elevates your purposes?”

Lord James Bryce

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(Autumn in Cade Cove / Julie Cook / 2015)

Lord Bryce was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1907-1913.
He witnessed first hand the advent of the American Industrial Revolution.
A time of almost unchecked growth and development by an overtly zealous people.
The seemingly vast natural resources, which for a time appeared to be almost limitless, were in actuality, being gobbled up at an alarming rate.

Timber, land, crops and even animals were not to be spared during the boom of American growth and development.This was the time when the passenger pigeon, a bird that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, was hunted to extinction. Buffalo were well on their way to the same fate as were thousands of ornately feathered birds of the Everglades which provided the plumage for the day’s high fashion of ladies hats.

If it was there, we felt it was ours for the taking.
Our appetites were ravenous as it became impossible to satiate our hunger.

Thankfully wise men such as John Muir, Stephen Mather and Theodore Roosevelt, to name but a few, saw the dangers of the Nation’s maddeningly rapid growth and appetite for all that it saw.
Lands which were directly in harm’s way began being designated as National Parks.
Animals that were on the verge of eradication were granted protection.
Laws were enacted to put the brakes on our quest of all that was in sight.

Yet it seems as if Lord Bryce’s observation is as telling today as it was over one hundred years ago.
As we are continuing to sacrifice the present for the future.

The photo above is an image of Cades Cove taken last fall.
Cades Cove is one of my most favorite places…yet I am not alone in my love of the Park.

The Cove, as it is so lovingly referred to, is an area of great historical as well as environmental significance within The Great Smokey National Park. Located just outside of Townsend, Tennessee, it boasts being on the “quiet side of the Smokies” as it rests in the shadow of the mega busy and ultra touristy Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Yet it is said that the 11 mile one way loop within Cades Cove is one of the most heavily visited sections of the National Park—more so than that of any of the other great parks.

An estimated 2 million people visit the Cove annually (with an estimated 9 million visiting The Great Smokey Mountains Park as a whole) with the heaviest onslaught being late Spring through mid Fall.
With 2 million annual visitors, how many cars do you imagine drive that 11 mile loop?
If you have ever been caught in the often 3 to 4 hour traffic jam nightmare of too many cars trying to make an 11 mile loop at once, then you know it is far too many.

But the question of what to do with all those cars and all those tourists has plagued Park officials and Government leaders for years. The Park, the Cove in particular, is one of the heaviest air polluted parks in the country…

What to do will all those cars and all those people is indeed vexing.

It should be noted that this sort of problem is not indicative only to the Great Smokey Mountains alone…

Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, the Everglades… these parks know all too well the repercussions from the growing onslaught of tourism—the true love / hate relationship of our national parks.
Yet these areas, these lands, these parks with their vistas, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, their crystal blue lakes, their truly wild animals and their wide open spaces are our legacies to ourselves…they are our reminders of what this country was in its rawest form. They are our gifts to ourselves…yet it appears, for better or for worse, we very much enjoy these gifts…maybe if not a bit too much…

So yes, we are indeed a hungry people as we continue living our lives in great haste…
With this being the 100th year of the National Park Service, we are aptly reminded that we have a handful of precious gifts scattered throughout this great land of ours which are in desperate need or our thoughtful care and consideration.
In our often zealous nature, we sometimes have a tendency to love a good thing to death…

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world –
the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
The galling harness of civilization drops off,
and wounds heal ere we are aware.

John Muir

Need and want

“The art of our necessities is strange
That can make vile things precious.”

― William Shakespeare

“What people need and what they want may be very different.”
Elbert Hubbard

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(a hungry squirrel, Colonial Cemetery, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me

Lyrics by Cheap Trick

Need verses want
Want verses need

Once upon a time mankind knew that what was needed
was far more pressing than what was wanted…

However…as time passed and lines blurred, the hype was on…
Needs took a back seat to wants…

But there always seemed as if something was there…
something we just couldn’t put our finger on…
There was a gnawing, a burning, a hunger of sorts…
but yet it wasn’t necessarily for food…

And it only grew, and kept growing to an almost insatiable level.

We weren’t hungry because we had all the tasty and trendy food we could want.
We weren’t cold because we had all the coats, gear and warmth we could want.
We weren’t exposed to the elements because we had all the nicest shelters we could want.
We weren’t sick because we had all the best medicines we could want.

We were simply without…
Without something we couldn’t understand.

And so we felt…
empty…
lacking…
pained…
disjointed…
incomplete…

We had everything we thought we needed and everything we thought we wanted…
But…
But we were wrong….

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Psalm 55

The pleasure of your company is requested

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
― Baltasar Gracián

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(Compliments of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the UK Dailymail / Windsor Castle State dinner preparation)

The table has been lovingly set
The finest linen and china are on hand.
Your invitation was printed eons ago.
It’s an open invitation of sorts.
There’s no RSVP so no worries as to your response.
Nor is there any particular dress code, no black tie or formal wear required.
Come as you are. . .
It’s one of those sorts of events that will go on with or without you,
Yet the hope is that you will indeed attend.

It isn’t a fancy sort of fete.
Not a jovial or raucous party, but rather a somber sort of affair.
It’s a yearly gathering, a remembrance, of a time long ago.
The yearly marking of hardships and struggles of a different era.
A special dinner to recall what was with a slight nod to what may be. . .

Yet on one such annual occasion,
One of the yearly gatherings, something was unnervingly different.
There was a deeper heaviness than usual.
There was a sense that things would never really be the same.
Year in and year out the words, the ceremony, the food, had always been the same. . .
But not so on this one particular evening.

Everyone had gathered as requested.
All were present and accounted for.
The food and beverages were to be the same,
The ceremony the same,
The words, the prayers all the same. . .and yet, this time, it was different,
It was all very different.

Sorrow had already taken his seat at the table,
along with Betrayal who was dressed to the nines.
Whereas Sorrow was often mentioned as a past participant, this year,
he had actually arrived earlier than expected.
Betrayal seemed almost excited to be included this year.
Sitting off to the side, Denial and Questioning were in deep conversation.
Thankfulness took his rightful seat.

Humility arrived fashionably late, as he had been detained washing up.
Kindness, Graciousness and Empathy sat together, offering a gentle smile to all who entered.
Anxiousness paced around the table, as Doubt visited with each guest.
Greed rubbed his hands while Treachery made excuses for an early departure.
Love’s warmth filled the room
Sadness began to sing.

Each guest was offered new bread and wine,
as a parting gift before departing—
It was a taste of the labors and fruits that had been gathered by both Glory and Hope. . .

Only the Wise,
The Needy,
The Poor,
The Castaway,
The Forgotten,
The Humble,
The Mournful,
The Peacemakers,
The Hungry,
The Meek,
The Penitent,
The Sinful,
The Lonely,
The Obedient,
The Hopeful,
reached in to take the Gift. . .
as the others hurriedly raced off to the shadows. . .

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-30