Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.


Friday, March 12, 2004  

Absolutely Brilliant Department: Have you ever watched a roomful of kids playing, marvelled at the energy they expend just having a good time, and thought "If you could bottle that energy, you'd make a fortune."?

Maybe nobody will ever figure out how to bottle it, but at least they've figured out one way to harness it without destroying the fun.

Kids run in a circle and push a merry-go-round faster and faster. Those who are seated on the ride, get dizzy from the speed...laughing and giddy from the force of gravity.

These kids are having so much fun, they don’t seem to realize they’re working. Then again, that’s the idea behind the Play-Pump…a merry-go-round with a mission.

The children push the merry-go-round again and again. As they run, a device in the ground beneath them begins to turn. With every rotation of the merry-go-round, water is pumped out of a well, up through a pipe, and into a tank high above the playground.

A few feet away from all the fun, students in uniform turn on a tap. Clean, cold drinking water pours out. This is Motshegofadiwa Primary School, 15 miles north of Pretoria. It’s in a town called Stinkwater; locals say there’s a good reason for that name. The water around here used to smell. School Principal Peter Banyana says the water supply was also erratic before the Play-Pump arrived.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 3:23 PM
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Now, Where Were We Department: As I said earlier, Jon Henke and I have been having a lively conversation in the comments of the Perfectly Pellucid Department post down below. My latest response was getting too long for the comments box, so here it is:

Jon stated that “Government does not - or should not - make law to engineer "proper" behaviour.” But that simply is not true. We have instituted governments and written laws for two basic reasons: protecting individual rights and promoting the common good. Both of these aspects of law "engineer proper behavior." For example, there is nothing inherently moral about driving on the right side of the road, or driving below a given speed. However, for public safety reasons, we have laws that govern driving, laws that define what is proper behavior behind the wheel of a car.

Jon also raised the issue of childbearing: “Childbearing is not the basis for marriage. We allow couples to marry when they cannot conceive, or have no desire to do so. “

Childbearing is not the basis for marriage, but it is absolutely a fundamental part of it. Yes, there are exceptions to that (couples who either cannot or choose to not bear children), but these exceptions result from something interfering with nature. Marriage is by it’s nature procreative. Same-sex relationships are by their nature sterile. And society does have a vested interest in childbearing and rearing, because society can’t survive without it.

If you consider the evidence dispassionately, it is abundantly clear that children raised in traditional two-parent families (that is, with a mother and a father) are far more likely to become productive and law-abiding citizens, individuals who contribute to society, enriching all our lives. Thus, on a purely practical level, it is in society’s interest to encourage traditional families, and the foundation of traditional families is the traditional union of a man and a woman that we (well, most of us anyway) know as marriage.

Jon said “It is not for the government to decide which bit of social engineering it would like to propogate. It it offers legal benefits, it should not be able to discriminate.”

I call “Bullshit!” Whole departments of our government exist for the sole purpose of social engineering. Federal, state and local governments engage in social engineering in a myriad of ways: welfare, social security, education, energy regulations, national parks, county agents, etc. (I will grant that many of their efforts are ill-conceived, poorly executed, or both, but that seems to be the nature of human activity, not just government bureaucracy.) It is nigh undisputable that rampant illegitimacy is the root of a whole host of social ills. Is it not in the public interest for government to not encourage it through liberal welfare programs?

In the case of rights, no the government should not discriminate. But in terms of “legal benefits,” the government can, does, and should discriminate all the time. Corporations have legal benefits that individuals do not, and vice versa. Full-time students have legal benefits not available to others, as do minors, and adults have legal benefits that minors do not. In the area of marriage, siblings, parents and children, and first cousins do not have the "legal benefit" of marrying each other (whether they would seek heterosexual or same-sex marriage).

In one comment, I asked Jon if he wanted to discuss the theological implications of this issue. He replied “Of course not. In a legal discussion, it has no place. That, though, is the disconnect. You see marriage as a "theological and sacred" institution. But we're not talking about the theological institution of marriage...we're talking about the LEGAL institution. “

Why then did you bring up the theological aspect of it? (It was you, by the way.) I’d be more than happy to discuss it, as I don’t think there’s a disconnect between the “theological and sacred” institution and the legal institution.

Regarding the legal institution, throughout the history of the U.S. – and to the best of our knowledge, throughout human history, in every country and culture, marriage has been understood to be a formal (and sometimes sacred) relationship between a man and a woman. As far as I know, there are no laws preventing any unmarried consenting adult from entering into marriage with an unmarried consenting adult of the opposite sex (with the exceptions I noted above: siblings, first cousins and parents or offspring).

Also, as far as I know, there are no laws barring a same-sex couple from entering into a contractual agreement for any or all of the following issues: inheritance, joint ownership of property, power of attorney, rights of survivorship, etc. So what is it about marriage that same-sex couples want so badly that they're willing to subvert the democratic process to get?

More importantly, how would society benefit from changing the definition of marriage and what evidence is there to support that contention?

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:28 AM
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On This Day In History Department: The Internet is still reeling from the impact of an amazing phenomenon that began two years ago today: Dispatches from Outland.

<crickets chirping>

Well, Happy Birthday to my little blog, anyway.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:15 AM
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004  

Just A Little Post Department: OK, I said real life has trumped blogging just a minute ago, but I had to post this little quote:

"I just think that, if God wanted telephones to be cameras, he wouldn't have given us separate eyes and ears. OK, maybe that's not the best analogy." -- David Coursey

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:30 AM
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Please Stand By Department: Jon Henke and I have been having a lively discussion down in the comments section of the post "Perfectly Pellucid Department," and I told him that I'd be responding with a full post. Well, real life has once again trumped blogging, so I'm going to have to pone that post.

<FoghornLeghorn>"It's a, I say, it's a joke, son: the post will be poned. Postponed! Get it? Come on, son! Laugh! It's funny. (If the kid, I say, if the kid was any slower, he'd be run over by a glacier.)</FoghornLeghorn>

Feel free to toss in your two cents in the meantime.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:11 AM
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

Take A Quiz Department:
Schroeder
You are Schroeder!


Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This wasn't quite the result I expected, but I can see it.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 1:26 PM
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Monday, March 08, 2004  

Noteable Quotes Department: "It's so much easier to love God when he doesn't let us hurt." -- Tony Woodlief

Go read the whole post. This is not a suggestionl, people.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 3:32 PM
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Rememberance of Things Past Department: Mark Butterworth had a good meditation recently on suffering, and it -- coupled with reading and hearing about Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" -- led me into some meditations of my own on the meaning of suffering.

The root of "passion" is pascho, "to suffer."

A few years ago, I was a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. (My illness is a long story in and of itself. Perhaps I'll share it here one day.) One of the tests I underwent was called an octreotide scan. It's a type of nuclear medicine, which involves injecting the patient with some sort of isotope that's bonded with a protein. The protein goes to the target tissue, and then they put you in a scanner to see where the hot spots are. The scanner itself rotates around the body part being scanned, creating a three-dimensional picture of the target.

The procedure is not painful in and of itself. The "area of interest" when I was being scanned was my torso: everything from between my neck and my hips. To get a good scan of this area, they didn't want my arms in the way, so as I lay on the scanner bed, I had to hold my arms up above my head. I also had to remain motionless. For an hour and a half.

The technician helped me get lined up, with a pillow under my head and some more for me to rest my arms on, then started the machine and left the room.

An hour and a half is a long time to lay motionless with your arms in an unnatural position. At first I thought I was going to be fine laying that way, but as time went on, my arms and shoulders began to get more and more uncomfortable. I needed the pillows to be shifted a bit so I could put more of the weight of my arms on them, but I had no idea where the technician was. I didn't know if she'd hear me if I called. (In retrospect, I'm sure that if I had spoken up, someone could have come to my rescue, but I felt like I was alone and had to tough it out.)

After about half an hour, the muscle cramps started, mostly in my shoulders. I lay there, trying not to move, trying to keep my mind off the pain, and beginning to feel rather sorry for myself. Then it came to me that this was just a small taste of what Christ must have gone through in his hours hanging on the cross.

I read an article many years ago written by a medical doctor who had studied the physiological effects of being scourged and then nailed to a cross. (You can read more about this subject here.)
One of the things mentioned in that article was that having the arms stretched out at that angle, and then having the weight of the body hanging on them, coupled with dehydration from blood loss, would cause severe muscle cramping in the arms, shoulders, and into the rib cage.

So I lay there, feeling sorry for myself, but at the same time realizing that Christ had suffered far worse on my behalf.

A few weeks later, I underwent thoracic surgery (they removed the lower lobe of my left lung, and several of the lymph nodes in between my lungs). When I was in the ICU following my surgery, I was told by the nurses that I wasn't supposed to have any liquids by mouth for 24 hours after the surgery. I was on an oxygen mask, and water was being misted into that. I was also allowed to swab out my mouth with a damp sponge. During the day, I was doing alright with those measures, but in the early morning hours, I started feeling very thirsty. Again I started feeling pretty miserable and the self-pity began. And again, it came to me that Jesus probably suffered far worse thirst as he hung between heaven and earth.

He considered the prize to be worth the suffering.

How much am I willing to suffer for the things I prize? Where is my passion?

(Update: I reposted this entry with a few typos corrected. Just thought I'd let y'all know.)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:23 AM
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