Righteousness & the Fearless Hoverboard of Faith - Part 1/3

» Happy first-day-of-summer!

Back in the day when the dome was my home .. and I served as a Minister of Radiation Safety at numerous Neutron Cathedrals nationwide  (.. as a Migrant Nuclear Worker of sorts) .. there was a guy who had performed a radiation survey in a highly radioactive space.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant | Hudson River, New YorkLater, his supervisor questioned a number that the tech had entered on the document he'd subsequently written up ..

.. because the value had exceeded the maximum capability of the meter.

The technician famously replied that he'd "estimated" the value .. based on the speed at which the needle pegged. =)

It would be like someone asking how fast you were driving .. when your speedometer was pegged hard.

Now, for the uninitiated, this is an honest mistake, and the tech was genuinely trying to report an accurate value.

The correct approach would be to merely document " > xxxx mr/hr ", where xxxx equals the maximum radiation level capable of being detected by the instrument.

An even better approach however, would be to re-survey the area with an ion chamber capable of measuring the higher radiation levels.

Nevertheless, in the weeks & months that followed, it became a running joke among the other techs .. who would perform little skits, such as, when they exited a highly radioactive space, would come out holding their wrist and wincing, as if in pain ..

Radiation detection meter / instrument.. claiming that the needle had pegged with such force that it caused the meter to torque so violently that it nearly broke their wrist. =)

I always found it interesting, if not ironic, that guys who work in such a serious industry .. could be so funny.

I mean, I can be funny myself, but these guys are downright hilarious. Highly entertaining. Often funnier than folks you might pay money to see.

Other times, guys would be sitting in the break room, writing up their surveys, seemingly talking to themselves, muttering something like, "Hmmm. Let me see now ..."

.. where they would go about estimating a "torque value" for their meter .. or calculating a "torque coefficient," as it became known. A multiplier, if you will. (As you probably know, smart techs can be wickedly funny.)

» Nuclear-Grade Military Training to Deal With Deadly Unseen Dangers

More seriously, tho .. my point here is that » I have spent many years .. studying and working in a field .. where something you can't see, something you can't taste or smell ..

Danger! Radiation Run!.. can kill you. Silently. Invisibly. Deadly.

Can't even feel it .. until you start to feel .. a little weird. With enough exposure, it wont be long until you start wishing you were dead.

This has caused me to "view" the world a little differently.

Just because I can't see something .. doesnt mean I dismiss it. Or ignore it. Or refuse to believe it exists.

No, sir. Not hardly. Au contraire.

I'm not worried about the train coming down the track. I can SEE that. I can hear the whistle blow. I can feel the ground rumble.

I can step out of the way. As can any man with even a lick of sense.

Sliver of Light Spectrum Visible to Humans

We'll return later to this invisible-but-deadly theme. But first, let's discuss something everybody is much more familiar with.

••• today's entry continues here below •••

» Mi$ery Loves Company

You may have heard about a report (« 80-page PDF) released a week or two ago by the Federal Reserve [ .. the only folks who seem to be keeping the financial markets afloat these days (read » "artificially inflated") ] ..

.. which said that the NET-WORTH of the average American family plummeted by "nearly 40%" .. between 2007 and 2010.

Note that 40% percent is close to 50%. Fifty percent is HALF. Calculating half is easy. Two dollars becomes one dollar. One dollar becomes 50 cents. Not a pretty picture, but easy enough to grasp, mathematically speaking.

While certainly "stunning," the precise numbers arent as important as the trajectory » DOWN sharply (.. like a cliff). Here's a direct quote » "The recession wiped away 18 years worth of family savings and investment."

About the time I read those articles .. I talked to a family member back East (where I grew up), who, during the course of our conversation, gave me a casual report/update on many of the neighborhood friends I grew up with.

The River of LifeI'm not sure why, but I always somehow imagined that I was the only one suffering financially .. of all my old buddies.

[ Isnt that the way suffering & misfortune work? We always feel like we're the only one.

I spent my last nickel trying to stay in the Bug's life. I even sold my car and max'ed out all my credit cards ..

.. promptly followed by our nation's greatest Economic Crisis .. since the Great Depression ..

'Timing is everything,' the say. But so are priorities.

What if I could find better-paying work far away? Should I go?

.. seeing California has the 2nd or 3rd highest unemployment in the nation.

After mom has already tried to take him away .. multiple times? Leaving no stone unthrown.

Wasnt long before all my credit cards were max'ed out .. and banks started saying, "No mas, señor." ]

Now I wont bore you with the gory details, but that phone call (.. free on the weekend, which is why I called then) made it clear that EVERYBODY is hurting ..

.. even folks who I assumed were sitting pretty .. floating down the river of fiscal life on flowery beds of financial ease.

Not so, it seems. I'm talking about today .. here in the summer of 2012. Not back in 2010.

Tho we should note / recognize that such "suffering" and financial distress is relative. One man's hovel is another man's palace. In other words, perspective plays a part.

What we might call a 'bad day' here in sunny Southern California .. much of the world would gladly trade us for.

I should also note that NOT ALL parts of our society saw such a severe decline. In fact, some segments saw no decline at all.

On the contrary, some of these socio-economic segments actually posted a GAIN in their NET-WORTH. Lucky them. (If so inclined, you can read the report yourself.)

But these facts can be upsetting, because something stinks .. and hasnt seemed right ever since the financial collapse of 2008.

Clearly a pattern has been established here .. one that Americans should recognize .. or at least be aware of. Because this trend is unlikely to reverse course any time soon. On the contrary, it promises to only grow more pronounced.

When you consider how our current economic slump [ called "the Great Recession" ] was preceded by a period of easy credit and decades of growing consumer debt ..

.. it suggests that most Americans today have lots of STUFF (.. all the things they purchased with the Easy Credit and which consequently plunged them deep into debt) .. but Not Much Money.

Moreover it seems, from conversations I've had with friends & acquaintances, that folks today are finding it increasingly difficult to enjoy those things .. cuz they're worried .. that they might have to sell them .. to get more money. To pay their bills. To survive.

Accurate or not, this is the impression I get. And you, no doubt, have a feel for the situation wherever you happen to reside.

Update - Sept 2013 (15 months later) » Seems to be a new, and even more disturbing economic-income trend. See » here. Certainly relevant and timely data .. as you will see. </update>

» The Surreal Panic of Financial Desperation

Most of the time I am able to make ends meet (.. thanks to many of you ♥). But every once in a while, it gets gnarly .. where it looks like there is no way. Real-life Mission Impossible.

Shower scene from Hitchcock's 'Psycho'I do not know if you are familiar with the feelings that accompany Financial Desperation, but they are truly exquisite ..

.. especially so for those of us who happen to live in a Capitalist society, where capital (wealth, money), more than any other thing, defines us.

Do you know this voice of which I speak? It proclaims the most wonderfully encouraging things, such as » "You're going DOWN, dude. It's gonna be ugly. Would NOT wanna be you."

Capitalism is a SY$TEM .. a Political, Economic & Social system .. that comes with its own set of values, chief of which you find on display .. advertised prominently right there in the name itself.

So it should come as no surprise that, in Capitalistic societies, those who have nothing sometimes feel like they don't exist (.. or maybe they just shouldnt). They certainly dont count. Not really.

Might not be pretty, but everybody seems to accept it. Heck, some even embrace it.

[ As a general rule, not surprisingly, the more possessions that one owns .. the more likely that person is to embrace the value-set that accompanies those possessions. Have you yourself not found this pattern to represent a valid correlation? ]

Now, there is certainly much food-for-thought here that we could discuss, but many others have already done just that .. and they've done so more eloquently and with far greater academic qualifications than I can muster.

My point here is not to reiterate what has already been said, but rather to discuss my own experiences .. in dealing with the pressure that acompanies Financial Distress .. which can be vicious.

I mean, sometimes it gets so bad .. that it feels like I drank 20 cups of coffee .. on an empty stomach .. before going to see a scary movie at the local theater ..

.. where the volume is turned up so loud that you can FEEL the bass reverberate in your gut .. and where the scary part is » YOUR FINANCES! (.. or lack thereof.)

[ Always an interesting experience to visit places that you didnt even know existed. ]

To be sure, everybody has their own problems in today's economy. But I have plenty of experience operating in a Financial No-Man's Land ..

.. where Desperation is never far from the picture .. and it always seems to be looking for an another opportunity to sink its slimy fangs into my scrawny butt.

I actually find comfort, for example, in what Paul wrote » "Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." [ Of course, I probably woulda added "and coffee," myself. ]

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)» Hemingway Weighs In

I also find thought-provoking what Hemingway wrote .. at the END of the next-to-LAST chapter in the LAST book he ever authored » A Moveable Feast ..

.. an end-of-life recap of his early days .. LIVING in Paris, during the roaring 20's [.. which, btw, preceded the Great Depression ] ..

.. and happens to be the book which forms the basis for Woody Allen's Oscar-nominated movie/film » Midnight in Paris ..

.. where Hemingway wrote (.. about life there with his wife):

"I do not know about that now but this is how Paris was in the early days .. when we were very poor and very happy."

This quote comes from page 220 of the hard-cover version of the newly released Restored Edition (copyright 2009).

Same book, different page, Hem writes » "We ate well and cheaply. We drank well and cheaply. And we slept well and warm together and we loved each other."

And like Hemingway, you know how I try to write about stuff that is not already out there .. specially stuff we might suspect .. without consciously recognizing.

» Desperation & the Financial Hail Mary

Lately however, things have become even more gnarly than normal .. to the point that I've actually begun praying .. things like, "Dear, God .. don't you see this situation I got here?"

Nothing like the terror of financial desperation to send us calling out to God .. as a last-ditch Hail-Mary. Tho my intuition here is that God does not freak out when we freak out.

I could be wrong, of course, but my sense here (from repeated entreaties) is that God is saying (paraphrasing), "Dude, what are you talking about? You got it made in the shade."

Nevertheless, desperation has sent me searching for answers beyond that usual response:

Now, having grown up Catholic, I have always been familiar with the verse that says » "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these THINGS shall be added unto you." (I've always liked that verse .. but especially right now .. cuz I be needin' some things.)

That verse popped into my head as I prayed about my precarious situation and seemed to linger there.

Except that, when I went and checked, there's actually a short clause stuck in the middle that says » "and his righteousness".

Christ the Redeemer | Rio de Janeiro, BrazilHmmm. What is that all about? What does 'righteousness' have to with the price of tea in China?

And Who is He of 'HIS'? In other words, you might say that I started 'seeking'.

» " .. and HIS righteousness .. "

This has been a surprisingly fascinating journey. I have been researching this 'Righteous' thing -- off-n-on -- the last few months.

Tho I'm not sure how to present it. Cuz I do not want it to come off as "religious" .. cuz I know how quickly that can turn people off (.. myself included, at times, and for valid reasons) .. if presented sans tact or condescendingly. Or religiously.

I myself am a sojourner here, an investigator, a seeker, a desperate investigator, searching for an$wers. And what I found is very interesting (.. or I wouldn't be taking the time to write).

Cuz .. if I wasnt truly desperate, and could see no other way (.. yes, I've even considered bribing people .. to give me a better-paying job) then I never would've thought to explore this road .. this 'Righteous' Road .. aka Desperation Alley.

But after a while .. options dwindle. (You know the deal.)

I mean, why go exploring the Ugly Unknowns of Desperation Alley when you can just cut a check? .. or bust out the plastic. "Charge it."

[ Recall again that I have many years of training & experience dealing with something you can't see ..

.. something powerful enough to kill you .. so I take it seriously. Very seriously.

So I tend to approach these types of things with a more 'technical' or analytical mind set. Questioning. And my research here is my own. ]

Now it took me a long-ass time to get there, but I've found/learned that (scripturally speaking) » Righteousness is simply having a right-standing with God. Blameless might be a good word here.

Tree of LifeAnd that righteousness COMES FROM » FAITH (.. something that most people can't see).

I was surprised to see that About.com comes right out and says this, As do many other sites.

Even Sting seems to be familiar with the concept.

Notice how this verse seems to go so far as to suggest that righteousness is ALL ABOUT faith .. from beginning to end.

This was something of a mind-trip for me, because, growing up Catholic, I always thought that you EARNED a right relationship with God .. by doing good stuff (.. and by not doing bad stuff).

At the end of your life, God has this big scale, I've always imagined, and He weighs the good things you've done against the bad things.

Long as there is more good than bad, you're golden. "Welcome aboard, shipmate" [ And if you're close, you might have to do 20 push-ups .. to persuade God to put his big toe on the scale .. in order to tip the balance in your favor. ]

Now nobody ever came right out and spelled it out for me so clearly like that. That is merely the idea that somehow developed in my mind as I grew up. So naturally, I've always tried to do more good things than bad. =)

And unlike you, my friend, I am no angel. This kept me hopping from one good foot to the other.

Now, maybe the nuns did indeed teach me otherwise .. and I just didnt get it. Sure, I admit to not being very interested in catechism .. beyond the pretty girls who came to those freezing-cold classrooms right after church every Sunday morning. =)

Coming from a Catholic perspective, tho, this righteousness-by-faith concept sounds like it's way too easy .. like it's too good to be true. How valid can be a religion that doesnt give you plenty of stuff to feel guilty about?

But scripture seems to teach that my Catholic view of entre into the Pearly Gates is not merely inaccurate, but downright wrong. How can this be?

» How Could I Miss Something So Obvious?

The picture I am seeing now .. is SO FOREIGN to my thinking that I am pretty sure that they never spelled it out for me like that.

What is so surprising is that, I can now see, the message / idea / concept is not hidden, but rather so clearly presented time and time and time again .. that I can't understand how I ever missed it.

I mean, rejecting the message would be one thing .. but never even hearing it is another. And I'm not an unintelligent man. So why did I never get this before? .. something that seems so basic and fundamental to Christian doctrine.

Because, if my reading is accurate (and I'm confident it is) » we can never be GOOD ENOUGH .. to earn a "right relationship" with God. Because righteousness is a GIFT, and you can't earn a gift. And trying to do so (.. thru good works, for example) can be insulting to the Giver.

Our best efforts, no matter how well intentioned they might be, will always fall short (.. sucky as that idea might sound).

Tolkien's Tree of LifeI mean, when I finally saw it, it was like a light came on. Kuh-lick! And it was something so obvious that I can't believe I never saw it before. Simple but mind-blowingly profound.

Anyway, there's a verse in Habakkuk [.. now there's a prophet's name, if ever I heard one ] which/who Paul likes to quote, which says » "the just shall live by faith."

If you research it out, you'll find the gist is something like » "Having become righteous by faith, the righteous, by their faith, shall live" (.. which makes sense, if you think about it).

The word justify is used very closely with righteousness. I think that justify is the act and righteousness is what you get as a result (.. of being justified). Do I have it right?

Beyond righteousness however .. uh, the topic of Living by Faith .. is actually more suited to my professional/military training .. in dealing with something you can't see/feel (radiation).

I was not planning on discussing that .. even tho the two things are intimately connected » righteousness & faith. But I can feel myself going that way.

You enter/access the reactor building of Righteousness thru the Doorway of faith. =) You access pretty much every promise that way.

Righteousness is but one of those promises (.. if my understanding is accurate) .. tho a pivotal one, for sure .. since I think all the rest are predicated on that first one.

I havent really thought about it, before right now. But I do know that many promises are made (specifically) to the righteous (.. such as » you shall not fear).

Anyway, I researched and have read/studied most every verse that has the word righteousness in it (~500).

For example, the verse that contains the word righteousness the most .. is » HERE.

But like I said, righteousness always takes you straight to faith .. with little, if any delay.

So, from my post-Catholic understanding, it appears that we lead a good life, not in order to EARN a right-standing with God .. but rather because we have one (.. thru faith). Research it yourself and see if I'm not right.

You cannot know how this blows my mind. I have since called some friends who I know grew up as non-Catholics .. and they say, "Dude, duh! We learned that in second grade."

Of all the verses I have read about righteousness, the clearest picture (.. if I had to pick just one) comes from a short section in the third chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans.

I can't tell you how many times I read and re-read that section (.. in various translations) .. over a period of weeks & months .. all the time with the nagging feeling that "There's something I need to get."

Then I got it. Like a lightbulb. Kuh-lick! Amazing how simple the impenetrable suddenly became.

The thing that made this lightbulb all the more curious .. is that it came while I wasnt even reading the bible .. or doing anything related. I was engaged in a totally different endeavor .. talking to a friend about something totally unrelated.

That definitely got my atttention. Seems like there is a lesson there. "More, please." =)

My intuition later attempted to understand this odd timing by applying the metaphor that seeds grow .. even when we're not watching.

Regarding the clearest insight into righteousness .. notice how this verse uses the word 'righteousness' 3 TIMES (.. the only such verse I've found) .. and it ends with the words » by faith.

» Righteousness, Faith & Pride

This idea .. of us not not being able to be good enough .. to EARN our way into heaven .. was difficult for me to accept (to put it mildly) .. as it seems to focus on our inadequacy. I think that is why Habakkuk mentions 'pride' in the same verse.

Gustav Klimt Tree of Life 1909So .. after studying the topic of Righteousness, my sense is that .. and my non-Catholic friends confirm ..

.. that if you arrive at the Pearly Gates .. with a homemade DVD in hand .. that contains a Boy Scout-approved showcase of all the good deeds you've ever done ..

.. Saint Peter is gonna say, "Uh, dude, hold on a sec. You got the wrong address. Lemme call you a cab." =)

This can be an offensive notion. I certainly found it offensive myself, at first. I think it offended my sense of pride .. cuz I genuinely try to lead a good, moral life. Easy for pride to get in the way.

I'm talking about the notion that » It aint good enough. That was hard [ for a person like me, anyway ] to hear. "Your best aint good enough, dawg .. not even your best Tiger-Woods hole-in-one sun-shiny day."

It that just me? Or can you also relate? Seems almost counterintuitive, in a way. No? Maybe 'counterintuitive' is not the right word.

If you think about it however, if we could be good enough, to get to where we need to go by ourselves, then no blood need have been shed. So that part makes sense to me (.. even as someone raised Catholic).

So my research into this thing called Righteousness has dovetailed into researching the notion of "Living by Faith" .. something you can't see (.. at least, not physically).

And *that* is a whole nuther story. But I'm not ready to go there right now. But I will tell you that I'm approaching it as a Geek, as a techie, and not as a religious person.

If you're a regular, then you know that I like to do my own, independent research. and that I try to think for myself, which I encourage others to do, as well.

It's no secret that "religion" can be a problem. It certainly was back in the day. Cuz it's not about religious do's & don'ts. It's more like farming in that respect. Religion focuses on outward appearances. While God looks on the heart.

Religion often, too often, takes the form » "do what I say, not what I do." In other words » hypocrites. That's why Jesus told the religious people of his day, "Dude, your traditions make the word of God of none effect." Only he didnt say, "Dude." =)

Heart» The Promises

But where does faith come from? Can you please God without it?

Most importantly, faith is how we partake of (realize / inherit) the promises.

And it's really ALL about the promises .. the "precious & magnificent" promises. That's how it works .. thru the promises .. one of my favorites being in Duet.

[ The chief promise .. far as I can tell, at this point .. is "the promise of the Spirit" .. by which comes (enables) the mystery. ]

Two of my favorite verses on righteousness are found in Isaiah. Actually, I have many righteous faves. They grow on you, ya know.

Speaking of favorites .. regulars know how much I like this one. (And by sheer coincidence the very next verse begins with » righteousness.)

I also spent much time learning about Abraham. Three different world religions claim him a patriarch. Not bad for a day's work.

The reason I studied about Abraham .. is cuz the first promise was made to him, as part of a 'contract' .. between God & Abraham (.. and his descendants).

That's the legal/contractual basis for all/most other promises .. including the New one .. sometimes called the second.

Ostensibly, the promises were made to Abraham, and his seed after him, and yes, this is true. But really, the promises were made to Christ (.. who happens to be a descendant of Abraham).

And here's God's razzle-dazzle, which is mind-blowing, on a number of levels .. that *really* the promises were made to us .. something Paul calls a secret mystery hidden in God from the ages & generations. And you already know how to "inherit" (realize) the promises (.. thru faith).

The thing to remember about the promises » he has magnified his word even above his name. And that he watches over his word to perform it. In other words, he seems serious about the promises.

The trick here is to get/realize/inherit all the promises .. without getting out BEYOND the promises. To the extent that you get out beyond the promises, you risk getting you ass kicked .. cuz you have no divine protection once you step out from under his umbrella.

Eyes are the windows to the soul» Atheists

Many of the atheists I know .. are atheists because they were screwed over by people claiming to be Christians.

And usually that screwing had something to do with money.

I only know what they tell me, and we know that there are always two sides to every story, but I found it an interesting data-point .. even tho they never came right out and said that that was the reason (for their atheism) .. but the complaint was certainly heart-felt.

The unspoken thought which accompanies this point is usually .. "If THAT's what it means to be a christian .. then, I dont want to be one."

Do your own research and I'm confident that you'll find that your average atheist has a higher moral code-of-ethics than your average self-professing Christian. And I know atheists who can quote more Scripture (chapter & verse) than many self-professing christians that I know.

Is that girl winking at me? =) She's not really an atheist, either. I just liked the way she looked .. especially the depth of eye-contact. Intimacy.

"Look into my eyes, Mr. Nuclear Man, and read my mind. Tell me, now .. what am I thinking? And would you happen to have any mascara handy?" [ Told you I have an ego. ]

In the days to come, I will update and season today's entry with supporting links & clarifying comments, but that is the gist » that righteousness, or a right-standing with God, comes by/from/thru faith, not as a result of being "a good person" or doing good works. Do your own research and I'm confident that you're findings will mirror my own.

Blows my mind. How could I not have seen that before?

Speaking of mind-blowing things .. I've also come to understand that you can read the whole Bible, cover to cover, and not really believe it (.. a fact which is itself hard to believe.)

You can mentally agree with it, or mentally ascent that it's true, historically speaking (.. in your mind/head/cranium/coconut/cabeza) without really believing it (.. in your heart/spirit/gut).

Believing is kinda like being in love .. in that you KNOW THAT YOU KNOW (.. that you know). So overwhelming and all encompassing is the feeling of being in love that (.. besides the fact that thousands of poems have been written about it) you never have to wonder. When somebody asks, you just smile.

In keeping with the tenets of web site optimization, today's entry has been broken into THREE PAGES. Part 2 is posted here » Righteousness & the Fearless Hoverboard of Faith - Part 2/3

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rad published on June 21, 2012 6:21 AM.

Geeks vs the Government | Game On - Part 3/3 was the previous entry in this blog.

Righteousness & the Fearless Hoverboard of Faith - Part 2/3 is the next entry in this blog.

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