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Why The U.S. Navy Drills…And Why We Should Too

The one routine to be counted on in the Navy was drilling over our ultimate purposes.  We drilled to ‘fight-the-ship’, to do those things that were meant as our purpose.  I worked in the engineering spaces as my part in the crew.  Drilling on propulsion casualties, loss of electric generators, flooding from seawater cooling, and failures in reactor plant monitoring were conducted two-or-three times each week.  All sailors drill in fire-fighting and the duty sections drilled nearly every duty day, that is two or three times a week.  General Quarters is the ultimate mission and these we drilled once a week to every ten days.  The Captain needed to know whether the entire symphony of divisions on his ship could operate in unison, practicing for full-up capabilities and whether those divisions could manage casualties together; after all, the loss of a generator means somewhere a fire pump won’t pump water and a missile launcher won’t target or shoot.

We drill.  We learn what it is to be under stress by putting ourselves into situations, making mistakes, and practicing how to recover from those errors when we can tak take time afterwards to break down actions and review what might have been done better.  There is no time to ‘guess’ or ‘wing-it’ when lives are at stake.  That is a fantasy.  A crew must be prepared to take calculated action when the real battle takes place.

The purpose of studying moral principles, philosophy or theology, is the same as those Navy drills.  The time to prepare for moral testing is when there is no moral dilemma to work through.  Asking the questions about what marriage is, about legalizing or restricting the broader uses of narcotics or other drugs, wondering about who we are and who controls our lives are topics that need careful consideration routinely.

“Why do we ‘have’ to go to Church on (Friday/Saturday) Sunday?”  We don’t, of course, unless we wish to continue our discussions and our training in moral philosophy.  Within the boundaries of “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice” lies the opportunity for our desire to seek our own ultimate ends, our own purposes.  Beyond our parents’ upbringing (whatever that may have been) lies the community of those seeking an end beyond the material lives we live.  This is the ‘drill’ of moral philosophy and theology.  It is not to be left to the instances when we are challenged, but to be prepared for, planned for, and studied, that we may make sound decisions toward our own ultimate ends, within communities which support the same moral boundaries we share.

Choose to go to ‘church’, to go to that place where people gather together to remember, to learn, and to practice as community those moral principles by which to guide and live life.

 

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Thanksgiving takes on another reason to be grateful this year.  Like the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, we too have a new home this year.  It’s in a new town, one we’ve only ever passed through, in a part of Florida we’ve never explored.  That means new people to meet, new avenues to travel and explore, and a new Church community to contribute to.

Even so, for myself, I am bound to recall those past holidays that were spent away from the homeland, deployed across the oceans near other lands not so fortunate as ours.  A fire aboard ship is the worst of catastrophes as it leads to other, worse conditions.  USS Enterprise suffered a fire from paper fibers and dust in a shredding room.  The aluminum ventilation ducting in the space melted and the smoke went through out the entire aft end of the ship.  This same ducting ran through an ammunition locker.

5000 men and women are grateful today that the damage control teams lead by the ship’s Chief Petty Officers extinguished the fire before the ductwork failed in that locker.

The disparities of the days create a stark comparison in my memories.  I remain grateful to God for his mercy on us, both at sea and at home.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas as we begin the Advent season this 2017.

We kneel and we Stand

We stand to honor the Star-Spangled Banner. We stand to honor it because it represents us,…all of us. The Stars-and-Bars represent the best of what we are, what we hope for, what we dream for.
 
We also kneel to pay tribute to some things, to recognize those things that are greater than ourselves. We kneel in the face of the Divine, holding to a faith that the Divine is so powerful, so perfect, that we have such great fearful respect so as to have it force us by the weight of the encounter we humans are forced to our knees. We kneel in churches and temples, in prayer and in awe.
 
When the music starts, when the proclamation of the ideal, the greatness, the power of unity calls to us, … then we stand. So kneel if you wish to protest your perceptions of anger and frustration, the reality of life that says, though we are created equal in stature, our own abilities and capabilities determine so much of who and what we become. Be angry and frustrated.
 
But stand when the time comes, when the music begins, to honor the effort to work toward the ideal, to chose to be interdependent and accomplish together what we cannot accomplish individually. It is in this action, with this principle, that we stand and honor the flag of the United States of America.  We stand to honor ideals and dreams.Bergen County Register
photo credit Bergen County Register
Firefighters find the flagstaff of the World Trade Center after 9-11, raising a flag in the middle of the rubble.

End of Life Options – A Profession of Faith

(photo collage subjects drawn from Internet searches using Google Images)

It’s so different, writing for a research paper for university work and writing a story about the same topic.  As I sit here at my desk, surrounded by books about Conscience, about morals, about conflicting topics of the duality and the intimacy of body and soul, as I find myself buried in trying to understand the competing philosophies of a Saint and Pope and the denial of the existence of God, the One or the many, or any at all, I’m made to realize by a simple story of a man and a church how much differently stories about lives tell about Truth.  This short essay is written to illustrate a Truth about end-of-life faith.

Randy Pausch was an outstanding computer scientist and professor.  He lead the team that created a computer programming called Alice, helping to teach computer programming to students.  He used an interdisciplinary approach to his work, including skilled members from across the academic and business spectrum in his work.

August 2007 was a pivotal month for Randy.  He learned his pancreatic cancer had reemerged and his time remaining in our material world was very short.  What did Randy do?  Randy wrote and delivered an inspiring lecture, and collaborate with a partner to write a book following the same theme.  “Really Achieve Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University.  It was recorded and delivered in video format on YouTube.  Randy’s work became known as “The Last Lecture” and received world-wide acclaim, inspiring millions.  Read more about Randy and his work at www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.

Brittany Maynard was a wife and desired to be a mother.  Professionally, she took her psychology and education degrees and taught overseas in orphanages in Nepal and southeast Asian countries.  Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 2014, and despite treatment, the cancer was not suppressed.  Concerned with her prognosis and expectations of a painful death, Brittany chose to move from California to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal.  On November 1st, 2014, Brittany committed suicide.  Read and watch more about Brittany’s story at http://thebrittanyfund.org/.  The Brittany Fund is her legacy, established by her husband to support the cause of ‘death-with-dignity’.  Brittany herself is recorded providing her reasoning.

These days, ‘fake news’ makes the rounds on the Internet rather easily, highly promoted through social media.  Who knows what we might and should believe verse what is simply rubbish.  However, in this case, the story seems well vetted.  The video comes to us via WAVY-TV 10, my favorite local news station when I was stationed in Norfolk VA during my Navy career.

Consider the story of Greg Thomas, who happens to be my age as well, so this one hits close to home with me.  Greg was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer.  He was given only three months to live.  Greg took long walks with his dog through Minnesota farmland, and found in his treks a small country church that was abandoned.  Greg cried numerous times on the front stairs of that locked church sanctuary.  One day, Greg decided (or was he ‘inspired’?) to begin restoring that church.  Greg’s story finds him completing the refurbishment of the church while restoring a local community.  And, yes, Greg finds his cancer in remission.  Read and see more of Greg’s story at http://www.littlethings.com/greg-thomas-church-miracle/?utm_source=kaz&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=miracle.

Finally, let’s take a tandem case of Jewish men from Austria in the 1930’s, as Germany expanded its empire and conspired to destroy the Jewish race.  Most of us are familiar with Sigmund Freud.  His impact on our society is remarkable, no doubt.  Fewer of us are probably aware of Viktor Frankl, once a student of Freud’s.  For all Dr. Freud’s accomplishments, he decided to commit suicide when he contracted cancer on his tongue.  Viktor Frankl chose to stay in Austria to care for his parents, and all were taken to concentration camps.  Facing death, Dr. Frankl fought a daily battle to stay alive in Auschwitz.  He witnessed the martyrdom of Father Maximillian Kolby.  He lost his parents in those camps.  Yet, his daily struggle helped to save many lives.  Following the war and his release from the camps, Dr. Frankl continued his works, writing and lecturing on “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  One may read about Dr. Freud’s death with a simple Internet search.  Dr. Frankl’s work can be found at www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.com.

Randy Pausch, Greg Thomas, and Viktor Frankl showed us one way of facing certain death.  Randy received no reprieve.  Greg and Viktor did.  Yet, all three continued along a path of giving of themselves and inspiring others while they continued to walk the path of their lives.

Who knows what Dr. Freud and Brittny may have accomplished had they chosen differently?  I’ve read some of Dr. Freud’s philosophy outside of his professional work.  I felt I was sitting on the floor listening to a grandfather’s wisdom.  What more could he have shared with us, how else could he have inspired generations had he chosen to live?  Brittny’s efforts and success at committing suicide inspired a law for California, one which was passes and now allows others to terminate their lives at will.

We do not know what our lives will bring nor whom we may affect and in what way.  What is certain is no one will know when we chose to cut them short of our own choice, rather than to live through whatever pain and struggle we may face to a natural end.  It is evident in these examples of those who have lived to each of their ends, there are differences to be noted, differences that illustrate a faith in God and in the gift of an embodied Spirit given to each of us to serve Him and our brothers and sisters.

Siphoned Off

It’s been three years since I began a formal program of study in theology.  The longer I have engaged in it, of course, the deeper and more involved the work has become.  It’s not that I’ve written less, rather my concentration and activity have been drawn away from the whimsy and self-expression of this web log to more detailed and directed works.  Some of those I posted here early on, however I have been sparing any followers from the fifteen- and twenty-page theological works of the last couple of years.  The reading for these alone has stretched my mind to limits I didn’t know I had and coming closer to completion (in May ’17, with some hard work) these limits are being pushed back further and further.  All this reading and research precedes that which will accompany an eighty-page thesis.

Sailing ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake has also been affected.  Classes have been held on Wednesday evenings at the same time the boat club races are held.  As I’ve been attending school year ’round it has meant missing race night for the second year running.  And this year, I haven’t trailer’d ‘Lifeline’ out of the lake to the larger venue of Lake Erie.

All this to say the experiences that have driven half of my essays on FaithandFlag.Wordpress.com have been siphoned off to other efforts and for the foreseeable future will continue in the same manner.

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, just posting shorter works on other venues.  If you’re interested, you’ll find professional commentary in a series of fifty essays at www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll where I’ve been sharing both industrial notes and managerial content.  Also, By-Dawn’s-Early-Light at www.facebook.com/By is a site dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.  The recent posts there include comments on the controversy of whether our National Anthem is a racist poem, with links to CNN stories concerning the same.

(photo credit to the author.  1812 National Ensign is signed by the National Park Ranger who hoisted it over Ft. McHenry in June 2014.  Signal flags are Charlie Mike and Bravo Zulu, welcoming grandchildren to our annual summer camp)

ByDawnsEarlyLight

Foreshadowing

foreshadowingA west-southwesterly breeze graced the water this evening, though I wouldn’t know it until I left the slip and the inlet.  It was stifling there, on deck, as I tightened the rigging.  My stays were still loose from stepping the mast.  An earlier sail in light winds showed the severe slack of the steel lines on the lee’ side.  None of that this evening.  The predictions were for winds up to ten, gusts above that.  These lines need proper tending.  A small crescent wrench and a screw driver, and ten or so turns on each turnbuckle are made.  I tightened down the jam nuts on each.  Pools of salty water formed on the deck where I worked.  There, now, they are taut.  Not tuned for racing, but taut and safe for sailing.  Time to get under way.

The mains’ l cover removed, the ‘Donate Life’ foresail hanked on, the motor purring and pouring out its necessary stream, I loosed the lines and motored out, around the end of ‘B’ dock from the back-side, past my neighbors across the pier, then down past ‘D’ and ‘C’.  ‘Dolphine’, ‘Penguin’, and dozens of others remained at rest this Friday night.  I suppose most were still resting from the holiday on Monday.

The channel markers looked oddly placed, and I wondered if the higher water or the rise and fall of it over the summer to now had pulled up some anchors.  One red marker is showing the strain, as the inner foam ‘popped’ the top off.  I zigged, then zagged out to the lake and noted the wind on the water.  The calm of the small bay to the south invited me to raise my sails there.  I steer to starboard, come nearly full about into the drafts coming down off the trees.

Now, I have yet to install a tiller minder on the new tiller handle, so as I move about the deck Lifeline is rocking, and the tiller therefore shifting.  A sail-slide popped out of the track and I had to step up to make the adjustment.  Lifeline fell off the wind to starboard, what sail was up caught what little draft there was, and I was sailing before I was ready.  I let that slide go, stepped back down, adjusted course, and finished raising the main.  Underway!  Rusty and rugged, for the second time this summer, Lifeline is riding the wind.

I fell off to starboard, rounded away from the outer marker I drifted down to while raising the canvass, and ran down wind.  The promised breathe for the evening matched the predictions, and more.  A few other sails dotted the water.  Three were working toward the Cheshire causeway. Another two beating about the south end toward the dam.  Someone was reaching across Galena inlet on a fluorescent pink sailboard.  Only two power boats broke the silence of the wind.

‘Round the compass I sailed, studying the sheets, cueing on the tell-tails, watching the rig as well as the water.  Only seven sailing events last year and only the second in this one, my muscles aren’t tuned to Lifeline any more than the steel of the rigging was.  Take it slow, take it easy, test each maneuver.  Listen to her.  Are the sails singing?  Is the keel board haul humming at 2kts like she used to?  What new creaks and groans are coming from the hull?  What is the symphony Lifeline is playing this year?  ‘Round the compass again, tack over and away from the boat adrift, tack over again away from the on-coming sail, tack over again toward the dam and into the wind.  Each movement, each motion shakes cobwebs off the mast and the stiffness from my arms and legs. Breathe…………

An hour of beating upwind and exercising Lifeline and I was ready to run back up the lake and down with the wind.  The main and jib out to starboard, the ‘Donate Life’ now on the backside of the foresail couldn’t be helped, I took a broad read on a port tack, steered for the middle of the lake, and slid back to rest and ride with a steady pouring of air over my left shoulder.  Breathe……..

Riding up the lake as the sun was coming down shown the orange and yellow and red of the evening light.  I came about to return to port, and that light shown on the sails the shadow of Lifeline’s rig.  It was the perfect light to show a perfect shadow, and a chance to imitate art Jeff Benedict created once.  I trust Providence is foreshadowing more breathing for the remainder of the season.

foreshadow wave

Boat Chores 2016 – Before I Splash!

It’s harder to move around the boat this year.  Changes in meds and I find myself carrying an extra 25lbs.  Add the heat climbing into the eighties this week and I’m beat after a few chores; and, I have more than a few chores to do on Lifeline.

Pressure washing came first.  I don’t know what it is about fiberglass that it just seems to absorb dirt and grim.  I thought I found a ‘chip’ out of the bottom and thinking of how I was blasting that spot with the wand made me sick at how I was forcing moisture into it.  Turned out that ‘chip’ was just a chip in the paint.  OK, another chore to do before I splash.

Went to get the battery and it was gone.  OK, how does a battery just disconnect itself and ‘walk away’ from a charger.  Things are getting weird in my basement.  I checked the hull.  Did I leave it in the boat?  Nope….  Did I leave it in the garage, where it would have frozen over the winter?   Thank God, no…  Did I put it in my father-in-law’s boat, in his garage, ninety miles away, where it would have frozen as well?  Nope….  Where is that battery?    Oh, yea, ….the sump pump back-up power system…didn’t come with a battery.   Add another errand to the list.

Mindy says, “You’re not going far with the new tiller handle standing in the corner.”  Holes to drill and a tiller to mount.  Sand and paint the rudder along with the bottom…another two chores.

Sept 19th 2012 LLS

Mount the anchor roller.  I’ve had this for three years now and never put it on.  Always in a rush to get into the water, and doing this on the water is just asking for the frustration of dropping the hardware.

Bought new dock lines, put the new spreader boots on, inspected the rigging on the mast and retaped the cotter pins.  The old layers (and layers, and layers) were congealed into paste rather than vinyl tape.

The paint is awfully oxidized.  Let’s see what this Nuvinyl will do…  ok, looks like I’m rubbing out the hull and the deck.  Now, how to get rid of those stains in the fiberglass while I’m at it.  Well, those are on the deck and that I can do on the water.

Inspect the sails, the running rigging, install the new back-stay and traveler lines, test the motor (with new gasoline), check the mast lights before stepping…

Maybe I’ll put the FJ in the water first.

Sailing Instructor

(for my non-sailing readers; Lifeline is a 22 ft Catalina that has carried as many as fifteen passangers and crew while the FJ is a 14 ft two-person boat for daytime ‘fun’ )