(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.
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)
A 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.
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.
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.
(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’ )
Impressed? Excited?! Do you feel shivers up and down your spine??!! (ok some may ‘feel’ good, others not so good) Arriving aboard Enterprise in June ’96 I brought sixteen years’ experience to what was a brand new platform for me; the aircraft carrier. I arrived with trepidation (not so good) when she just left the shipyard. She was already 35 years old and the dirtiest ship I’d ever served on. I left with more pride in her and my own abilities, for she was a formidable national asset with more engineering versatility than any other ship in the fleet. I learned this reading her story, through history books, technical manuals, and damage control prints. I became part of her story. To bring fantasy and reality together “Part of the ship, part of the crew,” we are one in the same (from Pirates of the Caribbean).
So what? Likely most of you are not running a ship or nuclear reactors. Likely most of you are either running your part of someone else’s business (labor or management) or running your own business. My ‘so what’ today is whether you as the manager or laborer are reading about the company you are working. If it is your company, am I able to read about it and learn what you do? ‘Reading’ today isn’t necessarily an involved activity, though as I wrote in my last post, the more detailed and complete the concept in print, the more time spent reading, the stronger the bond to the intended program.
Most websites have an ‘About’ the company tab these days. Do your employees know the company/department ‘story’? Can they tell others or share between themselves the mission they work toward? Do you emphasize this mission when you ’round’ and talk with them? Do they know who your key people are and how to interact with them? What are the policies for sharing ideas? …for customer interaction, including phone and email protocol? What would I learn about your company/department by just making a short visit by any of the above means?
We, as a people, are more committed to that which we believe in, and we believe in those entities we know best. Make sure you and your people invest time in reading the ‘story’ of your company, and the policies that perpetuate that story. Immerse yourselves. Become “Part of the ship, part of the crew.”
[this story is a follow-on to last week’s (5/15/16) LinkedIN post concerning the difference between reading 140-character tweets and studying lengthy character building stories. I thought it appropriate to share in this format as we. For more management related commentary, see my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll%5D
For Our Mother, for my mother, for my wife, and for all our daughters on Mother’s Day 2016
I wrote “The ‘Hail Mary’ – An Example of Focus for Committed Professionals” for my LinkedIN weblog (www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll). It is a not-so-discrete manner of exposing business people to the prayer and Catholic faith in our Holy Mother. I have a more detailed project in mind for later this month and this essay outlines that idea. This idea is prompted by a year-long search concerning how the rosary points to Jesus as opposed to being a worship of Mary. This is important for Catholics and all Christians, and any others curious about our Marian devotions.
Catholics need to do more than say prayers by rote. Doing so in the beginning of learning involves us and gives us practice in learning to pray. Stopping at this point makes the prayer nonsensical words and brings us to what becomes the great criticism of Marian devotion – we might fall into exactly the accusation made of worshipping her in place of God.
Our Christian brethren have a valid criticism if we fall into this routine. Worship of Mary becomes a violation of the first commandment. The tendency quickly becomes an easy accommodation if we allow ourselves to be lazy and look no farther than the words we repeat. Learning where the words come from and what the intent of these words is critical learning veneration of the woman who is the Ark of the New Covenant and worship of the New Covenant himself.
The ‘Hail Mary’ has iconic roots. Born of Christian scripture, invoking the presence of God, and praying for intercession, this prayer thought to ‘worship’ Mary the mother of Jesus actually points directly to Jesus, and then asks for Mary’s help in this moment of invoking His name and when we stand in front of Him at our death. In our family, asking Mom for help has always been the blessing example of what our Holy Mother will do for us.
I break down the prayer into five parts;
- Recognition of Mary as Heaven recognized her
- Recognition of our Mother’s service and the gift she carried
- Invoking the Name of Jesus, the real purpose of this prayer
- Mary’s immediate support of our prayer
- Mary’s support for us when we stand for judgement
Recognition – “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” The angel, Gabriel, calls upon Mary in Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:26) “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Heaven acknowledges this young woman as someone special, someone ‘favored’, preferred, selected, singled out. Mary is offered the opportunity to bear the Messiah of God. She is asked if she will participate in salvation history. Catholics call this “The Annunciation”.
Service – “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, appreciative of her visit is excited with anticipation as well. Luke accounts these words of reception; ““Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Note here, “blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Our God lives! His being is eternal. This is not simply a recitation, but a recognition of the ‘I AM’.
We are told in the gospel Mary goes to help Elizabeth. Are we intuitive enough to see that Mary goes to learn as well? Anna, her mother, was well along in age. Where was Mary to learn of her own effort to give birth except from in her family? Elizabeth’s miracle of carrying John was just that family connection. Catholics call this event “The Visitation”.
Invoking God’s presence – saying the name ‘Jesus’ –Dr. Scott Hahn is a highly educated theologian and prominent teacher in the New Evangelization. He reminds us of the importance of ‘naming’ in living the Judeo-Christian life. Naming someone is to invoke their presence, to call them into a physical presence or to recall memories of them. To a child, his/her name is the sweetest sound they will hear all through their lives. In salvation history, we call this event “The Nativity”. Joseph and Mary performed their Genesis duty, their God-given gift. “So the Lord God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name’’(Gen 2:19). God named ‘Man’, ‘Man’ named the creatures of the earth, parents name children. When we say the name of ‘Jesus’ in our prayer we are invoking the presence of our God. We should do this with a pause of great respect and humility. Remember, the Israelites were forbidden to say God’s name, so great was their concern to avoid blasphemy. Saying the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer we invoke the presence of our God. Saying one part of the Rosary we invoke our God’s presence fifty times. Say an entire four decades and we invoke God’s presence two-hundred times!
At this point, in only twenty-four words we have recollected the beginning of the Incarnation and invoked Him, opened our hearts to him. This short and yet incomplete prayer brings to memory the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the Nativity of our Lord God. We are walking through the beginning of Jesus’ life and asking Him to be present with us as we do so. It is all important that we recognize how the recitation of two lines of scripture brings us to the point of asking Jesus to be with us.
Yet, should the full power of God indeed come upon us, we would be meeting our Maker. We cannot comprehend this event without an advocate, one who knows the relation between heaven and earth.
Mary’s Support of our prayer – “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now”. Note that I change the tambour of the prayer as most have learned it. We want Mary to support us, to stand by us, to intercede for us with Jesus as a mother does with the father of her children. We have invoked the presence of Jesus, of God in just a moment, and in that moment and given we are all sinners we want our advocate present. Don’t pause after ‘sinners’, ask for her help immediately! Remember how Jesus obeyed his mother at the wedding feast in Cana?! Her presence in this moment of invocation is a powerful gift of intercession.
Mary’s intercession at ‘trial’ – “and at the hour of our death.” The bible is full of covenants, contracts, and trials, from God’s covenant with Adam and Eve in Genesis to the opening of the seals and the judgments brought forth in The Book of Revelation. We cannot know what our own judgment will be like. So important in our Western culture is the concept of an advocate in front of the judgment bench our law provides for anyone who cannot afford counsel to have counsel assigned. Lawyers have been given a ‘bad rap’ in our society, yet we would not want to be before a Judge without one. Is Mary our ‘lawyer’ before God, or maybe just a favorable witness? Possibly she could help us guard our ‘tongue’ as our own mothers might remind us. The last line of this prayer is one asking for her presence and whatever gift she might afford us at that moment in our lives.
Forty-one words of praise and intercession spoken at a normal pace takes fifteen seconds. It is a bit longer than the Sign-of-the-Cross and not quite as long as the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer reminding us of the beginning of the Incarnation. It is a prayer that invokes the presence of our Lord, our God. May you who profess it be blessed. May you who do not, or will not, also be blessed now with an understanding of what we Catholics find within it.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now,
And at the hour of our death.