We are now in another season of Lent-- a time when we are reminded of our mortality and our need for redemption. You wonder why we need to be reminded of our inevitable deaths? Because it seems we continue to do everything possible to keep death at arm's length. A whole industry has arisen over electively chosen cosmetic surgery. We do everything we can to stay looking young-- hair color, botox injections, and tanning beds. None of this stops the aging process. We grow old and we die. Of course, not all are so fortunate enough to live long lives. But no matter how much we desire to keep it at bay, death will come. The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our inevitable demise, and our hope that there is One able to reverse the decay which is signified by the ashes.
Speaking of memory, recent research has discovered that chimps have a much better memory than human beings. I am not sure why, but this does not surprise me.
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world this week when he announced his retirement at the end of the month. The last time a pope did not die in office occurred in 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resigned to settle the schism in the Western Church in which two Popes were claiming legitimate papal authority.
A list of all the popes that did not die in office can be found here.
Speaking of Pope Benedict XVI, I find it interesting that some of the same people who are criticizing Benedict for retiring citing his inability to do the job because of his age, also wondered why his predecessor John Paul II did not resign considering his very poor health from Parkinson's Disease in the last few years of his life. There are some people who will not enjoy heaven as there will be absolutely nothing to complain about.
In a bizarre coincidence yesterday several hundred people in Russia were hurt when a small meteor shower reigned down upon them from a meteorite that exploded just above the earth. This happened a few hours before a larger meteor was to pass with 17,000 miles of earth. Yesterday was a reminder to us that the universe is a dangerous place.
The Carnival Cruise Ship, Triumph finally reached land after being stranded at sea for almost five days. Conditions on board became unbearable as the food supply became scarce and human waste had nowhere to go but in the cabins and stowed in plastic bags. There is no way I would want to experience such a thing, and what the passengers went through was a terrible ordeal indeed. It does bring to my mind the truth that millions of people in the world exist everyday without adequate sewage and waste disposal; and there doesn't appear to be any rescue for them on the horizon.
The Silly Season in Politics: The State of the Union this week in which the president and the Democrats revealed that they are not serious about necessary spending cuts, and the Republicans who refuse to consider any more revenue increases. The Republicans insist that we don't have a revenue problem, but a spending problem.(What they agreed to in December will raise enough money each year to fund the federal government for five days.) The Democrats, on the other hand, are now claiming the reverse-- we don't have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. (The CBO projects that within twenty years, 100% of the GDP will be spent on entitlement programs. We can talk about cutting the salaries of Congress and stopping foreign aid all we want, but both hardly make up 1% of the federal budget.) Both sides are only partly right-- we have both a revenue problem and a spending problem. It seems to me that both sides need a refresher course in simple arithmetic. Moral leadership requires courage. Such courage is sorely lacking in our nation's capital.
Quotes of the Week (Possibly, but
Not Necessarily Said This Week):
"Well, let's put that in perspective. Katrina was a major devastation. We're on a friggin' cruise ship, and we're just out having a good time… two different things."--Rob Kenny, a passenger on the cruise ship Triumph in response to a CNN reporter comparing conditions on the ship to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"Those were not meteorites, it was Americans testing their new weapons."--Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Russian politician suggesting that the United States was behind the "meteor shower" that injured over a thousand people yesterday.
"It lives forever. It's worse than cockroaches."--Christine Quinn, of the New York City Council on Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on styrofoam cups.
"The cross, with which the ashes are traced upon
us, is the sign of Christ's victory over death. The words 'Remember that you are
dust and to dust you shall return' are not to be taken as the quasi-form of a
kind of 'sacrament of death' (as if such a thing were possible). It might be
good stoicism to receive a mere reminder of our condemnation to die, but it is
not Christianity."--Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
"There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow."--Martin Luther (1483-1546)
A cockroach can live for nine days without its head. It then dies of starvation.
I Love Irony; It's So Ironic:
Edwin Booth, the brother of Abraham Lincoln assassin, John Wilkes Booth, once saved Lincoln's son, Robert from being crushed by a slow moving train.
This Week in
On February 15, 1898, an explosion aboard the Battleship, U.S.S. Maine docked in the harbor of Havana, Cuba leads to the Spanish-American War. It was initially concluded that a mine caused the explosion. Many decades later, experts change the likely cause to a fire on board the ship that caused an ammunition explosion. Sabotage was not the cause.