Sunday, October 31, 2010

UPDATE - September 20, 2010

The Lord of the Rings concert was spectacular. It wasn’t perfect, but we had a great time. We gave a gift to the Swiss conductor (we also did this for the 2nd movie last year and the 1st movie 2 years ago). I was amazed at the purity of sound (and straightness of the tone) of the female soloist that follows the conductor around the world to give these performances. We’re now working on the Verdi Requiem at the Kennedy Center next month.

Last week, we had a weekly dinner at the house and the next day another gathering of guys from my church. Then I had the parents of a friend of mine visit from South Africa for the weekend; they just left this morning (Monday morning). So the house was full of guests which was nice because both of my roommates have been gone.

I sing with an a capella group, a bunch of guys who wanted to sing and therefore formed a group. I’ve decided that we will sing a Christmas concert; it will give us something towards which we can work, something that will motivate us. It’s very hard to schedule rehearsals; we can never get 100%, so that’s hard for me. But last rehearsal on Saturday, we sang a version of Silent Night and I was so excited. There was something magical about it. The arts excite me very much especially when I’m doing them, the way I have been doing them since I was a kid. I miss that. It’s hard to go through any time when I’m not doing them. I’m about to go in for a photo shoot to get headshots redone as I try again to enter the theatre scene here. We’ll see how they go.

A good college friend in the area asked me “Why don’t you be a pastor?” I thought it was a funny question but telling. I’m not the type of person who is not a pastor but feels led to be one and is running from that feeling or calling. I’m just me. . . . whatever that means. Most people think pastors are good preachers, some say great teachers, still others say strong leaders. None of those are what make a pastor. A pastor, primarily, is just that--a pastor. He or she is a shepherd. In my opinion that’s the quality that makes them best suited and most ready for the job. If you can’t shepherd or pastor or don’t do it well, the preaching, teaching, leading is probably meaningless. There was a church in Cape Town that wanted to hire me a few months before I left. I had a huge decision to make. I decided to take this current opportunity in DC. However, if I could forsee the future, I actually might have stayed.

With all those thoughts floating around, I’m in job mode. This is the second and final year of my fellowship. I can apply for another one if fitting, or apply for a job, or I can be hired on. I will say that I had my first meeting with the engineering services and urban programs team, and the team leader introduced me saying “This is Victor. He’s a AAAS fellow with us for 1-year, but hopefully he’ll be here for much longer,” and she looked at me, nodding as if to garner agreement or an acceptance of some implicit offer that she had just put on the table. I was taken aback, imperceptibly nodding my head, wondering if she was just talking.

They have a real need for engineers and they want to hire more. Funnily, I’m working with people who have the exact job that I had applied for over the internet 2 years before--engineering foreign service officer. On the other front, I handed in my badge, phone, and computer to my previous department/agency, but it was nothing like Cheers. No one knows my name; no one is ever glad I came. J I gave thank you cards to a few people (8), but all were gone except one. And she was sooo thankful. Then I got some “Cheers.”

Can I just say? Robbie Seay is one cool white brother. I don’t know if he gets up in the morning and just eats the Cool Wheaties but it oozes out of him. Regardless, it was such a blessing to have the Robbie Seay band in town to play for my church’s all-church celebration (where all 6 locations come together). He even spoke to me for a bit, and I thought maybe Robbie recognized me from Houston. There are only a few things that can remind me of Houston and Robby Seay band is one of them. My church sound guys play his music between services a lot. But I enjoyed those guys. Funny enough, they seem to write and play songs that fit in with the style of the church. He had one song whose words stood out to me very poignantly.

Oh God, may we be focused on the least
A people balancing the fasting and the feast

Wow. Unpack that.


I’m on a documentary binge, and I’m watching this documentary “Jesus Camp” which I mentioned last time. And my roommate is freaking out and saying negative things about Christians or those people in the film. And I have a church group coming to my house in 3 days; she’s repeating that they better not be like those people in the film. Ha ha! Don’t you love the tension.

I dated a girl once who introduced me to a friend of hers. This friend knew I was a Christian of sorts and the first thing she asked me was why I was a Christian. “I mean, when I think Christian I think judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous.” Man, what do you say to that? Aren’t you glad that the history of this religion of which I’m a part (of sorts) is filled with a tension, so that it’s not just known for the Crusades, witch hunts, slaveries and slave trades, wars, apartheid, Nazi movements, etc. but it’s also known for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of child labor (in many places around the world), St. Francis of Assisi, Jesus (pre-Christianity), liberation theology and Oscar Romero, redistributive principles, etc. That tension is palpable anywhere and everywhere and ever present in the religion of which I’m a part. To deny it is to cut off any chance for real dialogue for you’ve no where to start with someone different than you. Plus it probably means you have specks in your eyes. So daily, I wrestle with God (Israel) as what it means to be a Christian or Christ-follower in a world that feels hated by such and in a world that is loved by such (I won’t talk of proportions).

I have a very beautiful friend named Jeannie living in South Africa. She recently became more beautiful as she has worked to blossom more, care less about what others think of her, be embarrassed less, and just live and love. She asked me once if I was an “evangelical Christian.” The problem with the term is that there are a few meanings especially as you travel around the world, but yes. I know she probably took this to mean that I am trying to proselytize and convert people to a new religion but I didn’t bother explaining or correcting or challenging or conversing about it. I just said yes. The problem is if you try to convert me, I’m pretty resistant. I feel it when I talk with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses (ok this isn’t true; I LOVE to dialogue with these people that share a similar book with me but originally when I was younger I didn’t look forward to it always). It’s the same way with Christian people trying to convert. I have tons of Pentecostal and charismatic Christian friends who talk about who they have reached hundreds for Christ themselves on the power of their prayer or through the power of reading the Bible or through the power of the Holy Spirit when they speak. I’ve never had that happen to me. In fact, the few people who have “become Christian” didn’t tell me when they decided to do it. For them, it was a gradual process. They told me I was a part of the influence that led them in that direction. And most of them never had deep conversations with me about it (meaning it wasn’t due to my words or some deep intellectual battle). They watched me, they interacted with me, they were loved by me. I guess people talk about the Word of God so much they forget that the Word of God isn’t real or formed until it is performed; otherwise it’s just words. Anyway, actions will speak louder than your words.

What I mean to say is that I’ve never seen people repulsed by Christians who follow Christ, they way I understand his words and teachings. That’s a different thing. People always seem to love those Christians, or people are unnerved by them and unsettled from constant hate or hurt.


People always say that all religions are the same or they say “basically” the same. Some people, usually Christians, disagree (Christianity tends to be exclusive, as I have grown up understanding it). I understand both sides. There are commonalities, specifically in ethics and morals between many religions. But the framing narrative of religions is different and the goals of the many religions are different.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston professor, wrote a book by the title “God Is Not One” about 8 of the world’s religions. He says in Islam, the problem is pride, and the solution is submission; in Buddhism, the problem is suffering, and the solution is awakening; in Judaism, the problem is exile, the solution is returning to God; Confucianism, the problem is chaos and the solution is social order; in Christianity, the problem is sin, and the solution is salvation. Though I liked his realization that there are different narratives in each of these religions, I disagreed with his framing of Christianity. I think he did a great job with understanding traditional Christianity but if it’s about following Jesus, I’m pretty sure that is way more than just about sin and “salvation.” It’s a common and prevalent misinterpretation of Jesus in the West. I think Christianity, if it is following Jesus, is probably closer to the Jewish framework--can you imagine that! We don’t call it the Judeo-Christian tradition for nothing. But I would still word it differently. I’m in a story-mood during this update. So let me share one.

In a world where following Christ is decreed to be a subversive and illegal activity, you have been accused of being a believer, arrested, and dragged before a court.

You have been under clandestine surveillance for some time now, and so the prosecution has been able to build up quite a case against you. They begin the trial by offering the judge dozens of photographs that show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. After this, they present a selection of items that have been confiscated from your home: religious books that you own, worship CDs, and other Christian artifacts. Then they step up the pace by displaying many of the poems, pieces of prose, and journal entries that you had lovingly written concerning your faith. Finally, in closing, the prosecution offers your Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlinings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, read and re-read this sacred text many times.

Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that with the large body of evidence that has been amassed by the prosecution you face the possibility of a long imprisonment or even execution. At various times throughout the proceedings, you have lost all confidence and have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has plagued your mind throughout the trial, you resist the temptation and remain focused.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, even for a moment, you might deny the charges made against you. Like Christ, you remain silent before your accusers. In response you are led outside to wait as the judge ponders your case.

The hours pass slowly as you sit under guard in the foyer waiting to be summoned back. Eventually a young man in uniform appears and leads you into the courtroom so that you may hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. Once you have been seated in the dock the judge, a harsh and unyielding man, enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak.

“Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.”

“Not guilty?” your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve are swallowed up by confusion and rage.

Despite the surroundings, you stand defiantly before the judge and demand that he give an account concerning why you are innocent of the charges in light of the evidence.

“What evidence?” he replies in shock.

“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?” you reply.

“They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet, nothing more.”

“But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the long sleepless nights of prayer?”

“Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more,” replied the judge. “It is obvious that you deluded those around you, and perhaps at times you even deluded yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.”

“But this is madness!” you shout. “It would seem that no evidence would convince you!”

“Not so,” replies the judge as if informing you of a great, long-forgotten secret.

“The court is indifferent toward your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artist who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down their brush, and their life, in a Christlike endeavor to create a better world. So, until you live as Christ and his followers did, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then, my friend, you are no enemy of ours.”

Here, I hesitate to interpret or comment as I might lead you one way; there are many layers. I almost added to the story, but I know the author of the story, a philosopher named Peter Rollins, would not object. I could have added that the person, the defendant, had been a righteous (really blameless man) or that people who had been convicted had been people who had sinned (I guess we all have according to the definition). But my point is that the court (in this story) isn’t interested in personal, private piety. The judge might say, “That just shows you’re a personally good person with morals but not Christlike in that you are systematically against systems, communing with the excluded and the least of these.” Great story.

That is the first story in a book of modern-day (I call them parables) stories by Peter Rollins. It’s called “Orthodox Heretic.”


I have a friend I’m calling Sam. Sam did something recently that has bothered me. I had the hardest time putting my finger on the emotion, but last week, I realized what it was. It is the feeling of being betrayed. I feel like I’ve been betrayed. Now, normally I don’t care about such things or hold grudges, and I’m not doing so this time. I’m simply identifying an emotion which is simply an emotion whether I was actually betrayed or if I’m just framing it in my mind to make myself feel better.

But what strikes me hardest is that I can’t shake the fact that Sam’s actions were done to “help” me. Can you imagine that? Betray me to help me, to benefit me. It’s paradoxical but perhaps intention means something. Let me share a story I first heard from Pete Rollins.

There was once a small town filled with believers who sought to act always in obedience to the voice of God. When faced with difficult situations the leaders of the community would often be found deep in prayer, or searching the scriptures for guidance and wisdom.

Late one evening, in the middle of winter, a young man from the neighboring city arrived at the gates of the town’s little church seeking refuge. The caretaker immediately let him in and, seeing that he was hungry and cold, provided a meal and some warm clothes. After he had eaten, the young man explained how he had fled the city because the authorities had labeled him a political dissident. It turned out that the man had been critical of both the government and the church in his work as a journalist. The caretaker brought the young man back to his home and allowed him to stay until a plan had been worked out concerning what to do next.

When the priest was informed about what happened, he called the leaders of the town together in order to work out what ought to be done. After an intense discussion it was agreed that the man should be handed over to the authorities in order to face up to the charges that had been made against him. But the caretaker protested saying, “This man has committed no crimes. He has merely criticized what he believes to be the injustices perpetrated by authorities in the name of God.”

“What you say may be true,” replied the priest, “but his presence puts the whole of this town in danger. What if the authorities find out where he is and learn that we protected him.”

But the caretaker refused to hand him over to the priest saying, “He is my guest, and while he is under my roof I will ensure that no harm comes to him. If you take him from me by force then I will publicly attest to having helped him and suffer the same injustice as my guest.”

The caretaker was well loved by the people, and the priest had no intention of letting something happen to him. So the leaders went away again and this time searched the Scriptures for an answer, for they knew that the caretaker was a man of great faith. After a whole night of pouring over the Scriptures the leaders came back to the caretaker, saying, “We have read the sacred book all through the night seeking guidance and found out that it tells us that we must respect the authorities of this land and witness to the truth of faith through submission to them.”

But the caretaker also knew the sacred words of Scripture, and he told them that the Bible also asked that we care for those who suffer and are persecuted. There and then the leaders began to pray fervently. They beseeched God to speak to them, not as a still small voice in their conscience, but rather in the way he had spoken to Abraham and Moses. They begged that God would communicate directly to them and to the caretaker so that the issue could finally be resolved. Sure enough, the sky began to darken, and God descended from heaven, saying, “The priest and elders speak the truth, my friend. In order to protect the town this man must be handed over to the authorities.”

The caretaker, a man of deep faith, looked up to heaven and replied, “If you want me to remain faithful to you, my God, then I can do nothing but refuse your advice. For you have already demanded that I look after this man. You have written that I must protect him at all costs. Your words of love have been spelled out by the lines of this man’s face, your text is found in the texture of his flesh. And so, my God, I defy you precisely so as to remain faithful to you.”

With this God smiled and quietly withdrew, confident that the matter had finally been settled.

I will refrain from explanation as not to detract from its impact and meaning. But that’s a little of what I meant by the Fidelity of Betrayal. I got the phrase from a wonderful book by Peter Rollins. Check it out if you have time. . . .or if you’re ready.


God isn’t the different patches of meaning we all place on the wind of the unknowing; God IS the wind.

Pete is one of my favorite philosophers and theological studiers. He’s a researcher at Trinity in Dublin, and he’s written a few books. The thing I love about it him is that he understand theology as a means to an end and is ultimately more interested in working with communities that want to put some of these thoughts into action.

I was introduced to him by a great friend named April. She’s a beautiful, unassuming, sometimes self-effacing nurse with a real quiet, strong spirit. She’s increasingly more humble each day and ever so patient to let me rant and rave in my ego and arrogance while she just loves me constantly. What is most beautiful about her is that she is willing to be challenged away from the environment she grew up in, as long as it leads to what is true. So we’re searching for that together.

This first link is to a 20 minute video. There are several things on the web page...just scroll down to the video and press play.

These other three are consecutive lectures that he gave...they'll be a little longer, but if you like the video content you'll want to hear these too.

I’ll tell you why I like what Rollins says. Like Rob Bell, he’s the first to tell you it’s ok to disagree with him. In fact, Peter often disagrees with himself. This resonates with me as I’m still searching, struggling, figuring things out, trying to understand how to live in this world. I absolute love when people disagree with me because there is a chance on either side to learn and grow. And if the thing about which we disagree has a certain answer (an apple sits behind a curtain; you think it’s red, I think it’s green) one of us has an opportunity to learn what it is and maybe learn about why we thought it was something else (maybe both of us do). In fact if you disagree with Rollins, then you’ve already agreed with him (huh?).

Rollins also speaks about the heart of Christianity. I sometimes shy away from using the word Christianity because it seems useless to use it to mean what Jesus meant since it has so many other interpretations and realizations in the world, today. But Rollins doesn’t shy away from that. He calls it an irreligious religion, an atheistic theism. I understand this and try to help my groups back in South Africa understand that doubt was not something to fear. It did not have to be a hindrance to faith, but rather a necessary stepping stone. He talks about Christian atheists like Nietzsche. How cool is that?

There’s a philosopher-writer who thought about how anything can exist in our world. He said there were three ways. First, something could exist as an idea. This is the lowest level, and (to this philosopher since others would consider this the highest level) this is rubbish. What can you do with an idea? It’s not yet physically real. For example, I can have an idea of a new type of school, but if the school is not created, it’s only an idea.

Secondly, there is actual reality that was first conceived by the mind. For example, I can imagine a building in my mind (lowest level) and then I go out and build it. The physical building is now a reality that was first conceived in my mind. This is the 2nd level, a higher level.

Third, he hypothesized that perhaps there is a higher level. Imagine any type of reality that cannot be contained by the mind, cannot be understand by the mind. If something could exist in reality but be beyond the mind’s capacity to comprehend or contain, this would be the highest level, the third level. In fact, he thought if anything like this exists, it must be God.

In other words, most agnostics or agnostic atheists imagine that we don’t know God out of anonymity. If there is a God, he’s acting in a hidden, invisible way. He’s anonymous. His work, his touch is anonymous. And we can’t know God because he’s anonymous if he even exists; he may not exist.

The philosopher above is saying something different. He’s saying if God is a type of reality that is above and beyond the ability of our minds to comprehend, he’s not anonymous, but he’s hyper-nonymous. In other words, it is not that we don’t know God out of anonymity, we don’t know God due to his hypernymity. In other words, maybe he’s too much to know or understand. It’s an excess that our minds can’t handle. He’s everywhere. His imprint of excess is too much or great to take in.

This resonates more with me, personally, than anonymity due to the evidence both for a God and against a God. But this is too theoretical. Let me show how Rollins lives some of this out and how it resonates with some of the things I’ve been doing in South Africa.

Rollins has a group called IKON. Unlike most Christian churches that severely believe in man-made authority and leadership over each other, IKON operates with a doughnut structure where everyone is on the outside and no one is at the center. So there’s no membership for instance. Another example is that there is no professional hospitality or greeting team. In other words, if the person sitting next to you doesn’t reach out and say hello and love you then they’ve all failed. It’s on everyone and everyone does it; it’s not a role for some, it’s a living principle embodied by all. I could continue with more, but you can begin to see. Most traditional Christian churches feel that this could never stand or hold up, but I’ve learned that where there is love, perfect love, authority disappears. So when I tried to get my church to have a speaker about human trafficking and they wouldn’t allow it because they had a set agenda for months of sermon series and topics--that’s authority that’s not listening to the breeze of the wind through the people.

They offer an Omega course. Ha! It’s like exiting Christianity in 12 weeks. It’s like Alpha (and I like Alpha and am not knocking it as many people have started a relationship with God through it) but no answers are given in the end about anything so there is even less of an issue of saying the wrong thing or not believing the “correct” thing in Omega than in Alpha. This reminds me a little of a doubt series I did with my life/small/cell/house group while in South Africa. We did a few sessions on doubt. We had Doubt Night. People could write down their doubts about the faith on sheets of paper and enter it anonymously into a bin and we would read them out and talk about them. No answers, no resolution. Just doubt. Why? God doesn’t resolve (read “Blue Like Jazz”) like jazz music. Yes, some of those questions we had answers, but many we didn’t. It’s the tension of humanity that is our daily lot while living in the human condition.

They have atheism for Lent. They read all the big atheists during Lent, like Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, etc. I LOVE this. Why? I read atheists. I read as much as I can about people who think and believe differently than me. I want to understand. More honestly, there are parts of me that agree with them as I doubt things that I do believe. I once gave a book about love to a Christian homosexual (non-practicing at the time) friend of mine struggling with homosexuality and not feeling that he could have someone to love while being a Christian. This book is called “Sex God” by Rob Bell and doesn’t even mention homosexuality directly (Rob can be vague sometimes), but he deals with love and sex so holistically and from a place of tension and release that I love. The church bookstore keeper order tons of books because she thought it would go well with the 6-part “sex” sermon series going on at the time. The pastor saw the book and rejected and told her to return all the boxes of copies saying that it was theologically shaky. She saved a book for my friend. This happened again with a book I wanted my small group/life group to read (I was leading the life group at the time). The pastor again rejected “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell because it was theologically shaky. And it killed me because I longed to be in a place where instead of sheltering sheep from different thoughts you expose people and allow them to doubt and breathe and question and understand while not understanding. Does that make sense? So many pastors are in a protection mode from even people with different thoughts within the SAME RELIGION. Many pastors, for instance, told their congregations not to read “The Shack” which I found a wonderfully challenging book. I’d love to be a pastor and have my congregation read from Richard Dawkins. It’s good to understand, see, feel, empathize, and sometime agree (and disagree).

They have anti-evangelism. My friend Jeannie asked me about being evangelical. It’s a bit like when a person ends a long relationship, engagement, marriage and it’s quite painful. The thing the heartbroken person wants most is to get back into the relationship or to find someone else. At least that’s what they say they want. In reality, they just want comfort and security and the feeling of being loved. If you give them what they want and they quickly find someone new it can be a waste and hurtful and disingenuous. Instead, you withhold the very thing they want in order for them to find it. You tell them, “No, you don’t need to get into a new relationship. Go do something with yourself. Get a hobby, develop yourself. Work on yourself.” Once you do that, and are engaged and actually fulfilled without some elusive love, you actually end up finding that love when you aren’t looking for it. Sometimes it can be similar with God if that makes sense. I won’t go on, but they encourage doubt in their evangelism as Christianity is a type of atheism mixed with theism, in a sense.

They do other things like Suspended Space, but I’ll stop for now. I encourage you, if you want, to go to the IKON website or just check out the links above in which he talks about these things. If you don’t want, that’s cool, too. I just love talking and moreso doing some of these things.


I’m meeting with a group of friends who are reading a book called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” but we’re only discussing the book during 2 of 10 or 12 sessions. We’re mostly concerned with living a better story. Most people see life as a story. But they think you have a great story if you’ve been through some great tragedy or drama and have come out a winner. I think what we’re doing is a bit different. We and the book talk about living a better story even when nothing is wrong, in times of peace, at least on the outside. In other words, is it possible to live a great story without huge drama and why does it matter?

We’ve been giving an assignment. We’re talking about the importance of knowing what you want and wanting the right things. I have to ask people what they believe I want and see if it matches up with what I say or think I want. What do you believe I want in life? If you have an answer will you e-mail back please? You need not spend hours of time. It can be a simple or quick response. Thanks!

I’m not in the writing mood this week, so here is a story to explicate what it means to live a better story.

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller
Chapter 9 Excerpt
How Jason Saved His Family

When I got back from Los Angeles, I got together with my friend Jason who has a thirteen-year-old daughter. He was feeling down because he and his wife had found pot hidden in their daughter’s closet. She was dating a guy, too, a kid who smelled like smoke, and only answered questions with single words: “Yeah,” “No,” “Whatever,” and “Why?” And “Why?” was the answer Jason hated most. Have her home by ten, Jason would say. Why the guy would ask. Jason figured this guy was the reason his daughter was experimenting with drugs.

“You thinking about grounding her?” I asked. “Not allowing her to date him?”

“We’ve tried that. But it’s gotten worse.” Jason shook his head and fidgeted his fingers on the table.

Then I said something that caught his attention. I said his daughter was living a terrible story.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what I meant. I probably wouldn’t have said it if I hadn’t just returned from the McKee seminar. But I told him about the stuff I’d learned, that the elements of a story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. Even as I said this, I wasn’t sure how it applied to his daughter.

“Go on,” my friend said.

“I don’t know, exactly, but she’s just not living a very good story. She’s caught up in a bad one.” I said a lot of other things, and he kept asking questions. We must have talked for an hour or more, just about story, about how novels work and why some movies are meaningful and others simply aren’t. I didn’t think much of it. I just figured he was curious about movies.

A couple of months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. “She’s better,” he said to me smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story.
* * *

That night after we talked, Jason couldn’t sleep. He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence. “She’s not a bad girl,” my friend said. “She was just choosing the best story available to her.”

I pictured his daughter flipping through the channels of life, as it were, stopping on a story that seemed most compelling at the moment, a story that offered her something, anything because people can’t live without a story, without a role to play.

“So how did you get her out of it?” I asked. And I couldn’t believe what he told me next.

Jason decided to stop yelling at his daughter and, instead, created a better story to invite her into. He remembered that a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes a conflict to get it.

“I started researching some stuff on the internet,” Jason said, “and I came across an organization that builds orphanages around the world. And that sounded to me like a pretty good ambition, something maybe my family could try to do together. It sounded like a good story.”

“Right,” I said, trying to remember the elements of story myself.

“So I called this organization,” Jason continued, “and it takes about twenty-five thousand dollars to build one of these orphanages. And the truth is, we don’t have the money. I mean we just took out a second mortgage. But I knew if we were going to tell a good story, it would have to involve risk.”

“That’s true,” I said, remembering it from the seminar.

“So I went home and called a family meeting,” my friend continued. “I didn’t tell my wife first, which it turns out was a mistake. But I told them about this village and about the orphanage and all these terrible things that could happen if these kids don’t get an orphanage. Then I told them I agreed to build it.”

“You’re kidding me,” I said.

“No, I’m not. And my wife sat there looking at me like I’d lost my mind. And my daughter, her eyes were as big as melons and she wasn’t happy. She knew this would mean she’d have to give up her allowance and who knows what else. They just sat there in silence. And the longer they sat there, the more I wondered if I’d lost my mind too.”

“I actually think you might have lost your mind,” I said, feeling somewhat responsible.

“Well, maybe so,” Jason said, looking away for a second with a smile. “But it’s working out. I mean things are getting pretty good, Don.”

Jason went on to explain that his wife and daughter went back to their separate rooms and neither of them talked to him. His wife was rightly upset that he hadn’t mentioned anything to her. But that night while they were lying in bed, he explained the whole story thing, about how they weren’t taking risks and weren’t helping anybody and how their daughter was losing interest.

“The next day,” he said, “Annie came to me while I was doing the dishes.” He collected his words. “Things had just been tense for the last year, Don. I haven’t told you everything. But my wife came to me and put her arms around me and leaned her face into the back of my neck and told me she was proud of me.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“I’m not,” my friend said. “Don, I hadn’t heard Annie say anything like that in years. I told her I was sorry I didn’t talk to her about it, that I just got excited. She said she forgave me, but that it didn’t matter. She said we had an orphanage to build, and that were probably going to make bigger mistakes, but we would build it.” My friend smiled as he remembered his wife’s words.

“And then Rachel came into our bedroom, maybe a few days later, and asked if we could go to Mexico. Annie and I just sort of looked at her and didn’t know what to say. So then Rachel crawled between us in bed like she did when she was little. She said she could talk about the orphanage on her web site and maybe people could help. She could post pictures. She wanted to go to Mexico to meet the kids and take pictures for her Web site.”

“That’s incredible,” I said.

“You know what else, man?” Jason said. “She broke up with her boyfriend last week. She had his picture on her dresser and took it down and told me he said she was too fat. Can you believe that? What a jerk.”

“A jerk,” I agreed.

“But that’s done now,” Jason said, shaking his head. “No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”

Actually even if someone isn’t a Donald Miller fan, then you’ll probably still like this book. The guy leading our group discussion, for instance, is not a fan but raves about this book. The leader, a friend of mine, is a storyteller, himself; he uses film. The husband-wife relationship tugs at my heart strings more than the focus of the story (the relationship with the daughter) because of the commitment made between them and because their relationship affects the relationship with the daughter; a marriage is a creative relationship. The part in the story that gets me is that even after his wife hadn’t said anything like “I’m proud of you” in years, even though he had a bad year with her, even though his daughter was very distant from him and yelling and punishments made it worse, things changed. Things could change and they did; the relationship with his wife was redeemed . The relationship with his daughter was redeemed, and it was redeemed through a better story. Go read the book.


I’ve been delaying continuing the economic empire talks with the Middle East. We’ve been traveling geographically as opposed to chronologically. But the Middle East is probably the most significant region in this game because of one single resource--oil. And it still affects the world today. Oil, like gold, became a way of valuing currencies and a symbol of wealth and real power, quite honestly. But oil was even more valuable because it is use in most products today--plastics, composites, chemicals, computer parts, etc.

After WWII, oil company executives worked to convince the Congress and the president to save our domestic oil supplies and rather go after oil in other parts of the world. So working with UK and European companies, they obtained tax breaks and incentives to ensure they maintained domination of global petroleum supplies.

Well, at the same time, we were entering the Cold War with Russia labeled as the enemy (and vice versa). Why I bring this up is that in every geopolitical move in the latter half of the 20th century, the America empire used Communism and the USSR as the excuse or reason or threat. This is normal in most empires if you study history. So let’s look at how it plays into Iran.

The 1951 Time magazine man of the year was the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh who wanted his people to share in more of the profits from the oil companies. So he nationalized a British petroleum company. Both England and the US did not like this but thought that military action would cause the USSR to act. So instead of the marines, CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt (Theodore’s grandson) was sent in. With a few million dollars he organized violent demonstrations that overthrew Mossadegh. He was replaced by the CIA with Mohammed Rez Pahlavi, known as “the Shah,” the despotic partner of the oil companies. So a democratically elected president was replaced by a despot, but because this despot was good for big oil we were ok with it. (this will later change)

(By the way, this led to EHMs because Roosevelt was successful, but if he had been caught that would have been very bad for the US because he’s a US government agent. EHMs are contractors and work for other groups, so it’s less sticky and incriminating)

Reason #1 - Why Some Middle Easterners Don’t Like Us (there are many)
1. The Iranian people, to this day in 2010, have never forgotten this and never forgave the US. This includes other countries in the region. (I honestly believe this is why it’s hard for them or their politicians to believe the US when we say certain things. Do you blame them?) There are political scientists who believe if the US had, instead, encouraged Iran to apply oil revenues toward social services for his people and had supported him, democracy might have been encouraged to grow in the region and much of the violence in the region might have been prevented.

Well, the country’s debt increased as the corporatocracy grew, says John Perkins. Factories for our products were increasingly located in other countries. And foreign creditors (people from whom we took out loans in other countries) wanted to be repaid in gold. The Nixon administration responded by revoking the gold standard in 1971. This is a little hard to understand, but if these foreign creditors (people to whom we owed money in other countries) switched to other currencies (switched to some non-US dollar currency), the US would have to repay the loans at the value that the loan had relative to gold when the debt was incurred. But the US didn’t have the money to do this; they would go bankrupt. Or the US Mint could print a bunch of money and devalue the dollar in an effort to pay, but who wanted to do that? So the goal was to make sure the world kept accepting the dollar as the standard currency. And Nixon and Kissinger and his team figured out a way to do this.

First, Israel decided to launch pre-emptive attacks aimed at Jordanian, Syrian, and Egyptian troops along its borders; this became the Six-Day war in 1967. Many think this was Israel’s determination to protect its borders. After the week, Israel’s land holdings had quadrupled, of course, at the expense of people in the West Bank, Golan Heights (Syria), Sinai (Egypt), and East Jerusalem.

Reason #2
2. Arabs were angry by the loss and frustrated. They knew that Israel needed US financial/military and political support and could not have succeeded, otherwise. I always thought Washington’s motives were Israel, but I’m learning that Washington had more self-focused motives than that.

It’s time for Chess. Watch this.
Secondly, Egypt and Syria, in response I believe, attacked Israel simultaneously in 1973 on Yom Kippur (the holiest of Jewish holidays)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat asked Saudi Arabian King Faisal to act against the US by using “the oil weapon.” On October 16, Saudi Arabia along with 4 other Arab nations and Iran joined in announcing a 70% increase in the price of oil.
On October 19th, Nixon asked Congress to approve $2.2 billion in aid to Israel.
The next day, Saudi Arabia led Arab oil producers in a total embargo of oil to the U.S.
By January 1974, the selling price of Saudi oil was nearly 7 times its price 4 years earlier. There were long lines of cars at gas stations around the country. People thought the economy was on the verge of collapse.
And the last move belongs to Nixon and the U.S. By giving the aid to Israel, they purposely engineered a situation (the embargo) that was conducive for their next move.
The U.S. Treasury department contacted MAIN and other contractors with EHMs. Their mission was two-part: 1) formulate a plan to ensure that OPEC would funnel all the US money spent on oil right back to the US and 2) establish a new “oil standard” to replace the gold standard

And they did it. John Perkins was one of the EHMs who engineered this through trips to Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud agreed to 1) invest a large portion of its petrodollars in US government securities, 2) allow the US Treasury Department to use trillions of dollars in interest from these securities to hire U.S. corporation to westernize Saudi Arabia, and 3) maintain the price of oil within acceptable limits (acceptable to corporatocracy). Then get this: Saudi Arabia (biggest oil producer in the world) also agreed to trade oil exclusively in U.S. dollars. Now oil replaced gold as the measure of a currency’s value; the dollar reigned supreme.

Reason #3 (and there are many)
I’m quite amazed the House of Saud even agreed to this, but let’s face it. They were put in power by the British and weren’t looking after the needs of their people. But this deal which the Nixon administration masterminded quite well angered one person--Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire who would go on to coordinate and chiefly execute 9/11.

Skipping much of its history, it was the Lebanese Republic in 1926, formed by the French, but when France gave allegiance to Nazi-controlled Vichy government, German supplies moved through to Iraq to fight the British. It won it’s independence in 1944 on January 1st. A National Covenant was adopted by the prominent two leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities. The only problem is that the covenant gave power according to a 1932 census (12 years ago) in which Christians were 54% of the population. The covenant said the president would a member of the majority, Maronite Christian, the prime minister would be a member of the Sunni population and the speaker of the legislature would be Shi’a. This angered many Arabs who felt that, in fact, in 1944 the Muslims outnumbered the Christians.

Everyone was told that the atrocities committed against the Jews warranted the creation of a state. And everyone agrees, that they deserve better and should be given a state. Sadly, for the state to be created in 1948, many Palestinians had to give up their homes and people fled into Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries. This influx is why people believed there were more Muslims (there were).

Reason #4
People think or thought that Israel was sort of footstool for the U.S., a type of armed station in the Middle East for the US, and now Lebanon was being groomed by keeping the Christians in power.

A Muslim rebellion occurred in 1958. Washington accused Moscow and attributed it to communist threats even though Syria backed the rebellion more than the U.S.S.R. Eisenhower sent troops in.

Reason #5
People realize that the U.S. was willing to protect such interests militarily. This had an impact on Muslims throughout the region.

I said this already, but let me repeat this one. See if it sounds familiar. In the 50’s and 60’s there was a popular Iraqi president, President Abdul Karim Qasim. He grew more bold with the U.S. and the U.K. and wanted more profits shared with his people. He threatened to nationalize the oil. Economic hit men were sent to Iraq, but it didn’t work. So then a young Saddam Hussein was part of team that was hired to assassinate Qasim. Their attempt failed; Saddam was shot and fled to Syria. Kennedy then ordered the CIA to join the MI6 to finish the job. They executed Qasim on Iraqi TV by a firing squad. Saddam came back and placed as head of national security and his second cousin became president.

I’m skipping a lot here, but Iran was promoted as a model of Christian-Muslim cooperation, and EHM’s offered the shah’s government as an alternative to those in Russia, Libya, China, Korea, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, etc. In selling this government, EHM’s focused on the facts that the shah broke up large private land holdings and gave them to peasants which ushered in socioeconomic reforms. John Perkins believes it was subterfuge for increasing the shah’s power and creating hegemony in the Middle East. More EHM contractual work was done in Iran after 1974.

Well, the ayatollahs deposed the shah. So we now had new leaders in Iran who were not sympathetic to our geopolitical interests: they expelled our oil companies, attacked the US embassy, and took hostages. Washington supported Saddam’s war against Iraq. We gave Saddam weapons, billions of dollars. We built chemical plants which Bechtel knew would be used for chemical weapons (like mustard gas and sarin) to kill Kurds, Shi’a rebels and Iranians. We trained his military and gave him conventional weapons and tanks. We pressured the Saudis and Kuwaitis to lend him $50 billion.

The Iranian-Iraqi war ended in 1988 with more than a million dead. US military suppliers and contractors profited greatly from the war. Oil prices were high. But Saddam, with the 2nd largest deposits in the region (behind Saudi Arabia) kept refusing to accept a similar deal to the Saudis. Saddam would have received U.S. protection as well as more supplies of chemicals and weapons. But he kept refusing. So he then became an enemy (or Iraq became an enemy) and jackals were sent in. But Saddam was hired by us in the 1980s and he understood CIA methods. The way you assassinate someone is to conspire with bodyguards. Saddam screened his bodyguards very carefully and rigorously and he employed doubles and look-alikes so the bodyguards never knew if they were guarding the right one. Since EHMs failed and jackals failed, only the military was left.

Reason #6
Bush Sr. sent in the military in 1991 (remember Saddam invaded Kuwait). They didn’t want to kill him, just reduce or hurt his military thinking so he would come around. EHMs worked on him afterwards; Saddam still would cut no deals to aid US companies and economic interests. The 2nd Bush went in and deposed and killed Saddam. Islamic militants were enraged by this especially when we all saw there was no tie or link to 9/11. People understood the influence of the Christian Right and the Israeli lobby in trying control the region, oil supplies, and transportation routes.

Since Medieval times, it seems Arabs have wanted Europeans (and now Americans) to stay away and to be able to turn their government as they see fit. Many Arabs see the American empire of the 2nd half of the 20th century as something similar to the empire building of the Crusades during the Middle Ages. So one resentment feeds the other.

Time or space doesn’t permit to continue and talk about issues like the Suez Canal, for instance, or the 1978 Camp David Peace accords in which Egypt and Israel had to earmark a large portion of the money received from the US for purchasing US military equipment. Our system thrives on the manufacture of arms, a hugely profitable business (around $900 billion a year) involving France, Russia, China, U.K., and Brazil as major players. The issues are complex here, but the name of the game is quite old in time. I’d like to take a trip to Africa to see how such empire building may have ravaged the beloved continent.


If you have a minute, would you please vote for the project of my friend Josh Dugat at The sight allows public school teachers to create projects seeking out materials for their classrooms, and allows individual donors the opportunity to fund any amount of a project they would like. He is a great teacher down in New Orleans at an alternative campus for expelled high school students with the goal of getting an LCD projector for his science classroom (the school doesn't even have one). You can help make it happen with a simple click!

Sonic is offering to fund up to $600 for classroom projects on donorschoose each week in September through a campaign called "Limeades for Learning." They will provide funds to those projects receiving the maximum amounts of votes each week. Anyone can vote once a day for any project. His proposed project asks for an LCD projector for the classroom, a $900+ proposal that the Sonic grant would greatly assist in helping out. If this project is funded, he will receive "points" on donorschoose that will allow him to request materials for field trips, guest speakers, and more materials in the future.

Follow the directions to help Josh get an LCD projector for his class:

Go to
Click the link "Find a Project"
Click on "Keyword"
Type "Dugat" into the keyword search
His project is called: "Modernize Class! It's As Easy As L.C.D."

In advance, thanks and please pass on! Or just go and vote for whichever you actually

Update - September 6, 2010

It happened again. I’m beginning to think that dry cleaners should be called driers.

I go into the dry cleaners with clothes that are not dry and are not clean. We greet each other as usual.


“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“Good, good. Let’s see. What do you have?”

I put the clothes on the counter top. And low and behold she starts making noises.

“Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmmmm.” Oh my goodness.

“What is this,” she says.

“It’s a stain.”

“MMmmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmm.”

“What kind of stain is this?”

“I don’t know. It’s Barbecue juice sludge.”

“MMm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmm.” She was not hungry for breakfast. Lunch was another two and a half hours.

Then I gave her a look as if to say “Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare say that you can’t clean it. You’re a dry CLEANers for goodness sake.”

And she gave me a look as if to say “I’m not going to tell you that we won’t take the stain out. I’d rather you pay us money first and then be surprised when you come back and have our usual conversation.”

I HATE that usual conversation which goes like this.


“Hello! Phone number.”

“1-2-3 . . . 4-5-6-. . . 7-8-9-10”

“Thanks.” She goes and retrieves my clothes. A minute later she returns with it and hangs it up on a bar near the counter for my inspection knowing full well she should have hurried me out the store because---

“Wait. There’s a stain on this pant.”

“Let me see that,” she grabs it back. “Where?”

“Right there, “ I point.

She squints and doesn’t see. So she bends closer and doesn’t see. She puts on her glasses but doesn’t see. So she puts on her granny glasses, still shakes her head. Finally she calls for the magnifying glass which her partner gives her and she inspects it without the glasses. “AH”

“Ah AH” I say.

“Ah, yes.”



“There’s a stain.”


“It didn’t come out.”


“So shouldn’t you clean it again or give me my money back?”

“Oh no. Stain was there when you give it to us.”

“I know. I wanted you to clean it.”

“You gave it dirty.”

“I know, but it’s still dirty.”

“Yes, you dirty it.”

“Ok, . . . I’m ok with that. But it’s dirty now.”

“Yes, your fault.”

“Yes, but I wanted you to clean it.”

“No, but you bring it dirty.”

“But I paid you to clean it.”

“Not our fault. We clean all the clothes.”

“Except that one.”

“That one is dirty.”

“Oh my gosh. I know that. Can you clean it?”

“I don’t know. It’s dirty.”

“Yes, but if it weren’t dirty, I would have kept it in my closet.”

“Maybe your closet is dirty.”

Are you kidding me? . . . . . Wait, maybe my closet IS di--- “Wait, this is about your cleaning.”

“We did clean.”

“Ok, ok. This is working. Can I at least have my money back for the pant that wasn’t cleaned.”

“Money gone. We cleaned. You dirtied.”

“Yes, but I gave it to you to clean.”

“And we would have cleaned, but you bring it dirty.”

“But that’s why I wanted you to clean it.”

“Yes, but you bring it dirty.”

“Do you take out stains or not?”

“We do clean, but not your dirty clothes.”

“What are you saying? My clothes are dirty?”

“Maybe. . . Or maybe your closet is dirty.”

I’m staring at my closet right now as I write this.


A day is not complete in my neighborhood without hearing at least on occurrence of a police siren, a fire truck siren, and an ambulance siren each. I sometimes wonder if new emergency response recruits secretly pine over being assigned to my neighborhood because they’ll get so much action while criminals pine over working here because they know the police will be busy with other calls. But the city has done well over the past 30 years to reduce the amount of crime. And I definitely feel safer than in Sao Paolo or Johannesburg.

But that’s my neighborhood. I don’t see much of it these days. I’m currently in orientation for my program meeting all the new first year fellows. People keep asking me how the new placement or job is, not realizing I won’t start until mid-September. I’ll let you know then.

What amazes me about my program is that all the fellows are . . . . VERY amazing and impressive. If you look at their resumes they are staggering. They tend to engender feelings of inadequacy where you look at yourself and ask “How did I get here?” or for shorter people like me “Am I human?” We sometimes don’t get it. The current class even has a woman who played professional basketball in Europe. I want to play with her but I don’t know how to ask. I remember talking to one fellow about being an astronaut. Another fellow overheard and said “Oh, an astronaut. I know 3 of them. I’ll introduce you if you like.” That’s the kind of conversations we have. I’m pretty sure some of these guys don’t even need this fellowship. They’re beyond it. But it’s a nice break from industry or academia.

Two things that happened for me recently was a trip to the US Open in NYC over Labor Day Weekend. I now have a new appreciation for tennis and will try to play some this year. Those guys hit the ball so fast and could make the ball spin and fall slowly and drop to the ground---it was phenomenal. I also got to see the #2 player in men’s tennis play. It was great.

And my choir is performing Lord of the Rings. . . Again. The past three summers we’ve performed the first, the second, and now the third this weekend. A crowd comes to DC’s open air amphitheatre to either sit in benches or on the grass and watch the movie with no music soundtrack while an orchestra and choir perform the music soundtrack live. It’s quite amazing. Check it out.

If you know me well, you know that at any given time, I’m always applying for something. The nice and vulnerable side of a blog or update is that people who normally find you very successful get to see more of your failings along the way. Normally you only hear about the thousands of dollars raised for a charity, but you didn’t hear about the failed fundraisers and the solicitations which elicited a no from the potential donor. But following me along you get to see when I apply for things and don’t get it. I won’t write everything because these updates end up eliciting a mass of e-mails about people wanting to see, read, or know more details and for some “applications” or submissions, I’m not allowed. But you know that I’ve applied to the astronaut program once and my application was not accepted (notice I said my application wasn’t accepted as opposed to me); if there weren’t so many politics and budget concerns, by now I should have been able to apply 3 times, but they don’t know when they’ll open applications again. I’ve applied for a Gates Grand Challenges Exploration grant twice for HIV research, and my proposal was not accepted. I recently applied/auditioned for a reality TV show called Hitmakers, a Bravo production that is supposed to be a reality elimination show for singer/songwriters. I was not chosen. Those are just a few. Each thing I do is connected to me and what I want to do somehow and dreams inside of me. I’m not too phased by it; I just keep plugging along.

I’m not sure if you realize this, but at any given moment, I’m usually doing several things/tasks for several different people. Let me give you an example. This past week before last I was

1) writing a recommendation for a friend’s law school application
2) helping my niece with computer programming
3) helping to edit a scholarship essay for a TV, film, and radio communications student and friend
4) asked to help give a list or my opinion of the top experts in geo-engineering especially carbon capture and sequestrations (storage) and the top experts in communication science related to geo-engineering
5) asked to write a vocal a capella arrangement of Wade in the Water (I still haven’t started
6) asked to help with sports development studies and find out if there are any global studies that show the impact of sports on development in post-conflict societies
7) asked to argue the immuno-biology efficacy of a particular research idea

What amazes me is that they are not in the same disciplines at all. Some people say I do different things and that is why I am asked; I actually think it’s because I actually help people when asked or go out of my way to help. This is probably because I know I would want to be helped in the same when I don’t know the answer or have no where to turn if I’m trying to finish my thesis proposal, get an A in a course, conclude a project for my work, or help a girl grow into a woman.


I know a lot of good women, many of them are mothers. I suppose motherhood does something to you. It makes you grow up (though it doesn’t force you to do so; you’re always free to abdicate responsibility). It makes you grow as much as the young one for whom you’re caring.

Isn’t it interesting with that vague and oft ill-defined word love?
I mean you learn to love your family.
You fall in love with a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. (this is a different meaning of the word love)
But we seem to love our children instantly.

Even if you take a very high meaning of the word love and do not include emotions (or the emotional thing we call love) but consecrate its use for a chosen priority, a deep commitment, a conscious choosing, a bestowed gift, people seem to do this instantly with their children. They just . . . . Love them. And in the early years its easier to love them. When they get older it’s harder to tell if you’re loving your image for them, your desires for them, or if you’re truly loving them which may require letting go some of your dreams for them and seeking their joy in everything.

But why is that?
People love their families on the condition that they were treated well by them. They love their romantic partner on the condition that it is requited or that they are treated well by the partner (not always so). But with a child? No matter how much the child screams, no matter how self-focused the child is, no matter wrong the child does (if it’s possible to do wrong at that age), we love them.

And if you believe in God, you wonder if that’s how God feels. At least I wonder. I wonder if there is that same ability to forgive but magnified because I’m his child. I wonder.

I bet it’s one of the lessons we learn from our mothers, how to love (unconditionally by definition). Fathers are definitely important to the development of both sons and daughters but mothers provide that space, that safe place, that hearth, that security even in disability; they’re quite amazing. And growing up without one is hard. It’s not required but I bet there are subconscious things you learn from having a mother that you miss and must learn elsewhere without one.

My friends Robyn and Nhi are great mothers. Beautiful women judging by the attention they got in high school, great wives, and true mothers. It doesn’t mean they are always at their best; it doesn’t mean they’re relationships with their husbands have always been perfect or even great, but they’ve done what they had to do to provide, to care, to nurture, and to mother. I like that. I wonder what their children receive or know of that. I wonder why some animals release their young in the world after a few years and Nhi and Robyn, as humans, will take 18 years of motherly care before allowing their children to go off, most probably to college. Why does it take so long with the most advanced of human beings?

I don’t know. But I think it underscores the importance of a mother due to such a long period of care over the non-adult human. Eighteen years. I hope daughters learn how to be mothers by watching their mothers. But I hope we all learn what unconditional love is by watching them, so much so that one day we won‘t need to say unconditional in front of the word “love“ because that is all we‘ll ever mean.


One thing that is not true is that you love your kids equally. (I mean this in the emotional sense of love). You love them uniquely . . . .which is a beautiful thought. I often think then of orphans who grow up with no family. Do they experience that of sorts in an orphanage surrounded by all their “sisters and brothers.”

In Father Fiction, Donald Miller writes about a friend of his who apologizes to his kids when he messes up as a father. I think that’s beautiful and I’ve seen it before in a lot of families and sometimes on TV, but he specifically gives a different reason. He says he does it because he doesn’t want them to think that God is like that. He wants them to know that that was his mistake and not related to how they do, might, or will view God some day (especially due to the father imagery applied to God).

It seems plausible, not necessarily for everyone. But I have seen that people relate issues of parenting to issues of God. God only exists in as much as he is around us, anyway. I mean I know people who talk of God in the clouds and the heavens, but real people need some God with skin on. And the only way we have interacting and understanding God is probably through each other or people who act as entryway points of God in this world. Maybe that’s what Father’s are supposed to do. Be a beacon. I’d love to do that.

In one chapter in this book, Don writes of being invited to a frat house in Austin, TX, to talk to a bunch of guys who have read “Blue Like Jazz” but feel lots of pressure to sleep with lots of girls, brag about it, drink a lot, and party hard. This particular chapter is on sex, and it’s quite amazing to read. It’s not that it offers solid answers, but it’s the beginning of a conversation. I mean Don offers his heart, his learnings, but above all his honesty. I think that’s what strikes me about a father apologizing. If true, it’s honest. And honesty is one of the highest valued virtues. I don’t even care if I hate God and just want to yell at him; I just want to always be honest and get it out. I think there is connection and community in honesty. And Don does that when he explains his heart and what he’s learned. In that he was fathering those gentlemen. I won’t share any of the ideas or the perspectives with which they view men and women relationships, but it was just an amazing situation to be in and read about and witness and take in and learn and breathe. Fathers can help you breathe.


It makes me think about the founding fathers a lot and if fathering a nation is similar to fathering a child. If so, where are we as a nation? Infancy? The toddler stage? Childhood? Adolescence? Young adulthood?

There are some founding fathers I actually like for some reason. I think of people like Washington who slowly underwent lead poisoning as he was given, in those days, false lead teeth to wear. And he would stand before the troops giving an order and then leave and walk behind a tree and struggle in pain.

He actually had very clean language and didn’t allow bad language from his men around him. I always wonder what his life would have been without the necessity for war. I’ve looked at some of the maps he made as a land surveyor/cartographer.

I also think about finally being done with the war and going back home to his very tough wife and trying to live the life they were supposed to. And how one day while in his house, probably still suffering, James Madison, small man that he was, rode up to the house and came in the door with that look which I’m sure George immediately understood to mean “I’m needed.” And the question would arise how would he explain this to Martha who had missed so much of his husband on the farm already and could have been wondering if this was the life she had signed up for. But James Madison was insistent. I suppose George took a few days and then decided to go to the future capital to be the country’s first president. It’s always funny, isn’t it, how most countries are initially led by the leaders who brought them independence and fought for liberty. This transition would be a different one, though, in this new democratic experiment. He would not just hold on to rule; he would voluntarily give it up after two terms. Imagine that.

I’m not a fan of Thomas Jefferson though. True George had slaves; I know he released them all upon his death. Thomas Jefferson actually wrote quite nasty things about the inferiority of black people. Moreover, at the same time, he had relations with at least one of his slaves and had a child with her. It’s interesting to look at some of the letters that went back and forth between Jefferson and John Adams (The nation’s second president) as Jefferson revealed this and looked for advice on what to do or maybe was just confessing his predicament. I like John Adams a lot. It seems like he had no slaves and ran his land with his wife quite industriously and independently. I often wonder about many of these men and what they would have done and been without the independence and nation-begetting business.

What I’ve learned is that people have many sides to them. I have a cousin who loves to tell me how she doesn’t understand this and that about America and American people. Generally, I hear this a lot from friends. I don’t understand drivers. I don’t understand Black people. I don’t understand Republicans. I don’t understand the Tea Party. I don’t understand poor people. I don’t understand road rage. I don’t understand Hitler.

Hitler is interesting because I bet he never imagined that he would be used, so often, as the baseline for a bad person or for evil. I mean what a crazy life and resulting legacy. Legacy is so important and his is ruined. In acting, though, we’re not allowed to say “I don’t understand Hitler.” In Huxley’s book “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan” one character says that the stupidest verse in the Bible is “They hated him without a cause.“ There’s always a cause or a reason. You may not know what motivated someone to do something, but we’re all human, and everyone has motivations, weaknesses, foibles, pressure points, lusts, and cravings. I know very clearly that the same thing that was in Hitler is in me. I’m so glad it has never controlled me or propelled me to such audacities. [in context of the Biblical verse from the Old Testament requited in the New Testament, “without a cause” probably means without justification though the reasons are clear]

So I’ve decided to get over my issue with Thomas Jefferson because I know he has many good points in him. I know he’s motivated by certain things. I know a man can find black people inferior and yet be sexually attracted to Black females. I think you can play the violin well and still be a racist (and it’s easier to be one when it’s acceptable or the vogue thing to do or be) and help craft the Declaration of Independence which ironically says all men are created equal. So I’m going to watch a documentary on him to learn a little more. In theatre, we have to find personal motivations and make EVERY character human. We have to show that someone COULD do certain things and they are motivated by passions, cravings, the past, history, environment, the will, weaknesses, and greatnesses. It’s all there. You have to find it and make it human. I’m going to make Jefferson more human. Besides it’s not in me to judge, but rather to learn.


The same happened with Abraham Lincoln. I thought highly of him in school because I was taught to think so. Then some people told me he was a hypocrite and he only freed slaves for ulterior motives not because he wanted to do so. The same slaves that Thomas and George had. Still here. Still an issue.

They remained an issue through the Civil War (April 1861 - April 1865). The hard part about history is that it’s hard. Can I be any more redundant. I think it’s the hardest humanities discipline. It involves the craft of historicity with the art of interpretation. Getting the events is one thing, but interpreting them is an entirely different issue. Look at current events, we have such a hard time with figuring out why we as a country just did something, why we went to war, why we didn’t sign an international agreement, why there’s no official statement about policy on this issue. And one reason is that you can do the same action for many different reasons. Sometimes you don’t want the public to know those reasons. Sometimes you say the opposite of what is true or you hide what is true in public speeches or public receptions. This makes history hard because if you want to know the true motive of people and presidents and groups, you sometimes have to infer and dig around. But when you do, often you can be accused of making things up, creating conspiracy theories, or similar actions. But, in reality, such work is necessary because it’s not as it all seems. I mean, look at how difficult the issue of Iraq was for the American people. Why did we go? Why did we not go to Rwanda in 1994 under Bill Clinton? Why are we in Columbia? Why do the same two parties have control most of the time? Who, what, when, where, and how is hard enough in this day of classified information with the FBI and CIA, but why? That is the toughest part and history’s hardest endeavor. It’s hard.
I mean if a class of students cannot even agree about what the a book, a novel from literature, is trying to say how much harder to determine the hearts of men in the events of the world.

Then arrives what’s called revisionist history (I call it that, anyway), when a historian returns to some bit of history to re-envision it and rewrite it differently. It may not be that new facts have surfaced or new records found, but rather re-interpretation of the facts. Or maybe it is just new facts that causes a direct reinterpretation. Or maybe it’s both.
I remember growing up and hearing that Civil War was fought over slavery. Then I remember studying it in high school and being told that it was fought over slavery and states’ rights, but mainly states’ rights. I, of course, considered this revisionist history, which it was. But it was convenient revisionist history. If you go back and read documents leading up to the civil war and study the historical record, it was definitely fought over slavery and slavery alone. So now I’ve come back full circle. You can only say it was fought over states’ rights as an incomplete statement. The complete statement is that it was fought over the states’ right to have slaves. Complete statement. Ultimate reason. After the civil war there was a concerted revisionist effort to recolor the history in a more favorable light for southern states. This does not mean discrimination or racism didn’t occur in the north, I’m just speaking of slavery at the moment.

I walk past an old Presbyterian church in DC sometimes. I like it a lot, partly because I love history, but partly because it was Abraham Lincoln’s church. I can walk past the theatre he was shot at, the church he attended, and the area he ran the country from. I think of him often as I visit the Lincoln Memorial anytime visitors are in town. He’s an enigma. I first learned he freed the slaves because it was the right thing to do. Then I learned he freed the slaves for political reasons but not because he actually wanted to; he didn’t care about slaves or Black people. A type of revision of history. Now, though I don’t know for certain, I’m beginning to rewrite that in my head.

History is so hard, but it’s so good. I love it. I think I love history so much because you learn so much from it. Man, as a rule, doesn’t really learn from history and we just repeat the same mistakes. But as an individual I can learn a lot from it. I include biographies in this as well. Read biographies and histories and really imbibe the lessons because it’s good for the digestion of your life, what you create, what legacy you leave.

Lincoln was a man of history, too. And he struggled. He struggled at an amazingly tough time in the history of this country. I don’t envy it and don’t want to trade places. One thing I’ve learned about history is that proper interpretation (what is proper anyway?) requires context in order to reach the subtext and avoid pretext that allows anyone to proof text. I don’t think I understood what I just said, but I know of a wishy-washy letter he wrote once where people point and say “Look, he didn’t outright blast slavery as wrong and immoral.” Looking at the context of the letter, he was writing to slave-supporting, powerful men, and it makes sense that he would use a guarded in tone in trying to achieve his ends. Context is everything.

I remember the story of someone asking him about the Civil War. The person asked “How do you know God‘s on your side?” Lincoln said something like “I don’t. I just hope and pray I’m on His side.” I love that humble approach quite honestly. They story goes that Robert E. Lee was called to Washington and had an audience with the president in which he was asked to lead the Union troops. It’s believed if Lee said yes, the war would not have lasted 4 years; it would have been shorter. General Lee, however, took time to think about it and took a boat back to his residence across the river in Virginia. He later sent word that he would have to decline and he went to lead the southern forces. And the war lasted 4 years.

I’m looking at a picture of Lincoln delivering his 2nd inaugural address. In it can be seen John Wilkes Booth, his assassin; Booth’s co-conspirators are there as well. It’s a blurry picture and you can’t really see individuals well, but the speech is amazing. It’s one of my favorite of Lincoln’s and of all American speeches. It touches on subjects I discuss a lot in philosophy, theology and religious studies. Here’s an excerpt

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'.

Isn’t that amazing. He says both sides chose war for different reasons--one as an alternative to loosing the union, the other as an alternative to keeping the union.

He then continues this ability to see both sides and says both prayed to the same God, both invoked God’s help against the other. And then he calls it strange and daring and then quickly retracts so as not to judge. But he sees the ludicrousness of it. It’s theology as anthropology. We worship God in our own image. Remember the quote where he said he was trying to be on God’s side? I love that understanding and nuance. He knows the prayers of both cannot be answered and neither received their full answer. He kind of sees both sides as wrong to do such (enlist God in a Godless endeavor).

But can you imagine what he says next? He postulates that perhaps this -- this war -- is some type of woe, some type of punishment for the sin of slavery, that perhaps the war won’t end until the total cumulative profit from the business of slavery has been wrung from the pockets of this country through the war and perhaps until enough men have died from the war as have died through slavery and the slave trade. Can you imagine the thought? I would never have thought it, I don’t’ think. But he thinks it and suggests it in an inaugural address. Are you kidding? That’s humility if I’ve never seen it. I don’t know how that is supposed to be political or win you fans on any or either side, but it’s very humbling.

That speech has probably the most valued element I seek in a speech -- honesty.


And so all the political theorists and scientists and historians tell us day in and day out in orientation that the government is slow and it was designed that way. It’s supposed to be that way. Our founding fathers created it as such. I disagree.

Our founding fathers designed it not to have to much centralized power or unbalanced power. Yes. That is true. But the concept that their intent was for the government to be slow does not make any sense to me and is not connected at all by documents. Slowness might be a side-effect of a balance of powers but it was not their intent. That’s different.

Moreover many people in DC seem to think that we’re supposed to do things according to how the original fathers wanted it. They wanted a right to bear arms so we should have it. They wanted a very weak federal government that does very little so we should oppose a federal government intervening too much.

I also doubt this. What is it that is supposed to be (or was) the greatest strength of the US Constitution? At that time it was its flexibility. The writers new they didn’t know everything, that it was an experiment and that, quite frankly, there would be bumps along the way. So allowing an amendment process allows you to fix and change the document so that it was both flexible and adaptable and hopefully would stand the test of time. I think that’s what they understood more than anything else, more than supposedly wanting a slow government or everything to be the same.

I’m confident that they would adjust to the times and when more government was needed for problems that states are not able to handle or for problems that are national problems, they would support and allow it with much debate and talk, of course. They were men that knew the document and its meaning must change as the times, the demands, the problems, the obstacles, and the needs changed in time. That’s the founding fathers.

Have you never wondered how amazingly ironic it is that the founding fathers used such perfect, ideal language to originally include themselves and exclude others, but paradoxically allowing, later, for the full interpretation of those words to include everyone? I mean ethnic minorities and women, for instance, fulfill the words they wrote, when they said that

“All men are created equal” [Declaration of Independence]


In the past two or three months, I have been approached by 4 girl friends (2 married and 2 single) asking me if I would be willing to “meet” a female friend of theirs. Now, I’m not sure why this is all happening at once or at this time, but it is. Strange. I wonder if I have that kind of walk and head bob while I walk that says “Me. ME! That’s ME! I’m the one you read about in the paper that will do whatever it takes to get married!!” Actually, I’ve had women come up to me or my roommate and say “Find me a man!”

And many people in the last update were confused about the dating service. So let me tell you how it works.

A woman in DC (I say woman because no men have come to us either because men, on average tend to be more insecure about such things or the fact that DC has large amount of men compared to women in the 20-30 and 30-40ish range) will contact me (or us) and say, “I’d like to join your service.” Then we meet up for dinner, and the only fee we charge is the meal. So over my free meal (I don’t enforce it of course) she tells me what she wants. I take notes. At this point she has the option of using our personality assessment which includes the same 29 dimensions of personal compatibility as Eharmony but we include 6 more for a total of 35. In fact, the 6 dimensions are personality dimensions of incompatibility because, as our motto goes and as grandma taught us in woodshop, “You’ve got to rough up two pieces of sandpaper before you can glue them together.” She doesn’t have to (and no one has used it to date).

We then set her up with someone in one of 7 ways.

1. The traditional Blind Date
We call you up and say “Hey, be at Farmer’s Market at 7 PM on Saturday. He’s wearing a blue shirt and looks like me.”

But sometimes that’s a little unnerving for people. So we offer a low-stress version of the same thing.

2. The Blind Group Date
This is the same thing but it is a blind double date or a blind triple date. I and/or Praj will take another girl or two and join you. Or you could invite two friends or four friends you know to join you in your blind date to ease the tension.

Still, the fact that you are paired with some person (man or woman) whom you just met makes some people unsettled. So we offer another option.

3. The Group Outing
In this case, there is not an equal number of guys and gals (I didn’t say girls) or men and women. For instance, it will be 5 gals and 6 boys or 7 women and 4 men. So the feeling of being paired romantically falls away (hopefully) and you can get to know someone in peace.

Yet again, some people are unhoused by the prospect of meeting the person face to face even in a group outing. They prefer something else.

4. Faceless Communication
In this case, you are put in contact with a potential date through e-mail, telephone, videophone, text-message, and instant message (any other instant, e- or video- methods you can imagine). This is quite comfortable for some because they want to get to know someone in a hyper romantic state before a personal face-to-face meeting.

But for those who think love is so superficial and they think they are really into the heart of a man or woman, have we got a test and option for you.

5. The Literal Blind Date
This is where you come to our house for dinner and you dine. The only difference is that the windows are all blacked out and no light is let in. The lights inside are off and we use infrared goggles to serve you your food. You get to know the personality and voice of your date, but that’s about all. We have ways to black out the bathroom so you can be guided there and use it in peace with the lights on but without light escaping into the room. It’s phenomenal. Let’s see if love really IS blind. :-/

Nervous are you? Well, we have another version.

6. The Literal Blind Group Date
This is the same blind date at our house, but it is done as a double blind blind date or a triple blind blind date. It’s quite fun!

7. The Mixer
In this case, let’s say you’re a boy. You enter our house and there are 12 or 13 girls. People don’t like this scenario and prefer the gender-reverse. So let’s pretend (or maybe it’s true that) you’re a woman. Then you come to our house for drinks and talking and schmoozing with 12 or 13 guys. At the end of 1.5 hours, you choose one guy with whom you can go out on a funded date (did I say this was a non-profit. We might even be in the red!).

Even with a funded date, some women find too much focus and energy directed at them, and it is hard to handle. So if you prefer, we have another option.

8. The Mixed-up Mixer
This is the same thing but if you are a woman meeting 12 or 13 guys we throw in 3 or 4 other women to help defray some of the energy. So the guys have other people to talk and mingle with while waiting to meet you. This makes some clients feel better and not as anxious about the whole affair even though she has her pick.

In general the name of the game is personalization. We personalize the experience. In other words, it’s what the client wants. If the client wants a service we don’t offer, we start offering it. But we do whatever the client finds comfortable. Because it’s not about us; it’s about you!