Sunday, June 29, 2014

Six Questions; One Answer

I am on a journey.

(As are you.)

There are often no signs on my road to tell me if I'm going the right way.  If I look away from my map, even for a short time, I find myself lost.  At those times, there is no light for the dark paths... and I often stumble and fall.  My load is sometimes too heavy for me to bear...

Here follows a short and to the point conversation between me and God.  There is no intent to blaspheme here; this is my take on what He would say to my questions-- and in fact, the short answers at the links below are all His Word anyway.  I have come to realize that He has said all of this to me (and you) over the years.

1. Why must I struggle so much with this journey?
---You struggle mostly because you are willfully proud and ignorant, 
and refuse My help... (As it says here.  And here.) 
 So, I offer you THIS and THIS and THIS (for starters).

2. Why can't things be more clear to me so I can have all the answers?
---Because there are none so blind as those who refuse to see...  (As it says here.)  
All things become clear to he who looks with an open mind and heart.  
So, I offer you THIS and THIS.

3. Why do You allow me to bump into so many brick walls?
---I gave you free will. Why do you aim for the brick walls 
and then expect someone else to stop you?  (As it says here.)  
So, I offer you THIS and THIS.

4. When will I get what I want?
---You have not what you think you want because you do not yet know 
what it is you really want (and need).  (As it says here.)  
So, I offer you THIS and THIS.  

5. When will things finally begin to go my way?
---Things shall never go your way while your way is aligned with this world.  
Things shall always go My way, and you are welcome to align your will with Mine... 
and then things shall go your way.  (As it says here.)  
So, I offer you THIS and THIS and THIS.

6. When will You answer my prayers?
---Always; but you ignore and even run from My answers because they do not sound 
like what you think you want to hear.  (As it says here and here.)  
So, I offer you THIS and THIS.

The real answer to all of these questions is, of course, Him.

By and by.  With trust and with Faith, I will get there by and by.

So much good will come to me: once I am patient; once I maintain perseverance in my prayers; once I understand that He will answer in His way and in His own time.

Lord, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Light.  Thy will be done.

God bless!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014


~~  “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”  --Thomas Sowell   ~~

After soaking myself in ruminations on virtues and vices (and physics) for so long now, I am seeing a new angle to answering an old question that has plagued me for a long, long time.  The old question is: what the heck is up with bureaucracies?  How do they begin and proliferate so quickly- and why are they nigh impossible to get rid of?  My new angle itself begins with a question: what happens when the agents of evil exploit the force of entropy and mankind's inherent weaknesses?  The answer is, of course:  Bureaucracy happens.  I'll explain.

There is not a person in this country (or most any other country) who has not experienced (i.e., been a victim of) bureaucratic "efficiency."  We see it happening all around us-- and often we recognize that we have been drawn into it and have actually become a part of it.  Seemingly good and decent people can become something other than that when acting under its "gentle" auspices and "helpful" procedures and policies.

The prime directive of the bureaucracy is: "Must. Follow. Procedure."  The immediate corollary is: "Must. Develop. More. Procedures."  Take these two foundational imperatives and before you know it, viola: we are awash in bureaucratic minutia.

~~  "Bureaucracy gives birth to itself and then expects maternity benefits."  
--Dale Dauten  ~~

Let's break down this beast and see what it looks like and what it does (and does not do).  There are a few principles that I have observed that will serve to help us understand what we're dealing with:

Bureaucracies prevent actual accomplishment.  They are, by their very nature, antithetical to mission-focused action.  This is because there is an institutional need or inclination to follow rigid and complex (and often circular) procedures and processes for their own sake.  I've seen an analogy of a bureaucracy wherein everyone stands in a circle and the first one to do anything loses.  Richard Nixon said that in a bureaucracy, change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos of the system.  Important to note, though, that changes to the intricacies of the processes is very important to the bureaucracy, because it gives the impression that things are happening.

~~  "Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status."  --Laurence J. Peter ("Peter Principle" founder)  ~~

Bureaucracies grow by feeding off of a mysterious substance called "Metrics."  This is the engine of the beast... the "justification" fuel through which people and systems seek to prove that they should continue to exist (and grow).  Metrics are a food that grows spontaneously and cannot ever be truly consumed. Instead, they multiply like the loaves and fishes, except in a sinister and eminently destructive way.  Paperwork increases as you spend more and more time reporting on the less and less that you are doing.

It is not necessary for the metrics to have value (and in fact, they seldom do), they only have to claim to show... something.  Their hidden value, of course, lies in perpetuating the institutional story-line that something worthwhile is happening within all the processes and functions.  Further value comes when the metrics show "issues" (and here is the growth center of the beast).   Oh, dear... now something really must be done because a process is askew!  We need a corrective action plan!  And more people to implement it!  And a team to come in behind the corrections to evaluate their results.  So... to survive and thrive, the bureaucracy continues to empower prolific bureaucrats and misplaced managers to further develop context-free metrics and hollow corrective action plans.  

Picture it:  Section Alpha does the creative work.  To prove that they are doing their job properly and working efficiently, we create Section Bravo.  So Bravo (auditors/assessors and report writers) conducts meetings with, and piles endless forms to fill out on, the people in Alpha... all to prove they are working efficiently.  No doubt you've noticed that this prevents Alpha from doing such, because they are now spending all their time filling out forms and entertaining auditors.  None of this matters to Bravo or to management, since they have happily checked off the box that says Alpha has been audited/assessed.  They also have the option (often exercised) of bringing in another group of auditors to verify that Bravo did the thing correctly.  Soon, we can see, Alpha is outnumbered by the pen-pushers... and our best people are consumed with more and more bureaucratic tasks – just to fulfill the demands of the ever-increasing metrics machine.

So devilishly simple and virulent.

~~  "Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof that they were busy."  --Charles Peters  ~~

Bureaucracies often grow to resemble a religion (and the aforementioned "Metrics" are the main sacrament).  There are bishops (district managers), priests (general managers), deacons (supervisors and leads), and the laity (you and me).  All worship at the alter of procedures and functions and directives; and sins against these most holy scrolls are punished harshly.

~~  "If you are going to sin, then sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won't."  --Admiral Hyman Rickover  ~~

Virtue shrinks in a bureaucracy.  The bureaucratic system allows people to hide behind layers... thereby absolving them of basic decency and Charity.  There is no Hope in a bureaucracy.  Bureaucrats claim Faith to the system, instead of to God.  Justice and actual fairness become casualties of bureaucratic relativism.  So, in the human aspect of the bureaucracy, we often see the worst being brought out in people.  Bureaucracies seek to pit people against one another toward the end of furthering the system.  

In fact, several of the Seven Deadly Sins (Capital Vices) are routinely on full display within the bureaucracy: To name a few:  Vainglory (bureaucrats must look good to other bureaucrats), Greed ("my position," "my project," and promotions equal more money, which equals more stuff), Sloth (oh, yes, how often bureaucrats do anything except what they ought!), and Envy ("I wish I had his office..."  "I hate how the boss always talks to her...").

Bureaucracies are uncaring.  Although filled with otherwise good people, a coldness and an air of institutional arrogance permeates everywhere.  A sense of good humor is not within the DNA of the bureaucracy, but the people inside it often have a well-developed sense of "gallows humor."  We know what's going on here, of course we do... and we feel that we have only two choices: find a way to survive within it or find a way to get out of it.  Coping through humor that stresses the "misery loves company" theme is a preferred method for many people ensconced in the belly of the beast.  This coldness can be more than just a matter of hurt feelings, depending upon the nature and power of the organization.  Lives can be ruined.

~~  “The larger the state, the more callous it becomes... the colder its heart. It is also true that the bigger the corporation, the more callous its heart. But unlike the state, corporations have competition and have no police powers.”  --Dennis Prager  ~~

Bureaucracies frown on true leadership (the way an infection frowns upon an antibiotic).  Much lip-service is given to leadership within most organizations, but the proof is in the bureaucratic pudding.  "Management" is seen as the virtue to strive for; and the term is often erroneously used interchangeably with leadership.  Senior managers are often so insulated from the front lines and so entrenched in the processes and functions that they can no longer relate to the actual mission.  

Hallmarks of leadership such as decision making are severely retarded in a bureaucracy.  Decisions are avoided and delayed; and on the occasions when they are made, it is often done in groups within the bureaucracy, so no one can be held responsible.  Bureaucratic management is concerned with "safe" decisions and protecting the system and the manager's place within it.  Leadership, of course, cares not for "safe" decisions-- only good and righteous ones.

Free thinking is not tolerated-- anything outside the "party line" is frowned upon; therefore, innovation is extremely difficult within a bureaucracy. (Think about that for a minute.)  General Patton famously said that if everyone is thinking alike, then "someone isn't thinking."  That nicely sums up the "collective mind" nature of a bureaucracy.

This dearth of leadership is due in no small part to factors such as:

Bureaucracies are awash in the dreaded "zero-defects" mentality-- meaning mistakes are not tolerated.  (By the way, micromanagement is always a companion to zero-defects.)  General James Jones, USMC, called the zero-defects mentality a "cancer that could eat us all."  This mentality is acknowledged in both military and corporate circles to be grossly ineffective and pure poison to morale and efficiency.  It produces timid leaders and employees who are afraid to make tough and timely decisions, who hide mistakes, and who will often go out of their way to avoid taking responsibility (ownership) for anything.  Whatever you do, do not take action on a sudden and unusual problem... because if you do something that doesn't work, you may get a negative entry in your file or appraisal: "Takes risky chances, which can lead to extra costs and inconveniences. Not recommended for promotion."  This is a universal truth about bureaucracies everywhere in the world.

Bureaucracies are contributing to the end of the universe.  Entropy is a good metaphor for what the bureaucracy does.  The second law of thermodynamics says that in an isolated system (our bureaucracy, for example), entropy will cause spontaneous evolution from order and energy towards maximum disorder and no energy.  This will, as the theories go, lead to the ultimate "heat death of the universe," wherein things have diminished to a state of no free energy and therefore can no longer sustain processes that consume energy (including computation and life).  If that does not sum up a bureaucracy, I don't know what does.

So, what do we do about this maddening, entropic syndrome called bureaucracy that has seemingly overtaken almost all aspects of human endeavor?  Well, how about another metaphoric comparison to start?

Bureaucracies are actually reptilian monsters.  I have been calling the bureaucracy a "beast," because that is how it appears to me-- and in Greek mythology I find a good way to illustrate it.  One of the labors of Hercules was to attempt to kill the Hydra-- an ancient serpent-like water monster with reptilian traits. It had many heads (one of which was immortal) and when a head was cut off or smashed, two more grew in its place. It also had poisonous breath and blood, by the way.  Well, along comes Herc, protecting his nose and mouth with a filter cloth and smashing away at the heads... but then (uh, oh) he realized the thing about the multiplying heads.  For this problem, he got his nephew to use a torch to cauterize the bloody stump after a head was smashed by Herc's club.  Eventually, the demi-god defeated the beast (even while dealing with a monstrous crab, sent by Hera to help the Hydra) by lopping off the immortal head with a golden sword.

This is our bureaucracy-- a poisonous monster with a seemingly endless supply of new heads.  The immortal head is management.  The poisonous breath and blood are the procedures, processes, and functions.  The rejuvenating heads are the endless audits and assessments.

Bureaucracies can be defeated (but it's very difficult).  The filter cloth we must use against dizzying procedures, processes, and functions is a mission-driven model for conducting business.  Our torch and club to use against endless audits and assessments are value-added, contextualized metrics that point straight to mission accomplishment (not process accomplishment).  The golden sword is, of course, real leadership that influences human beings and leads them in proper directions to accomplish the mission.

The cynic would understandably say that it is not that simple... and I would agree.  History has shown that even things that began with great intentions and true nobility usually descend into disorder and chaos (damn that entropy!).

~~  "Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy."  
--Franz Kafka  ~~

Still, having the knowledge that the Hydra can be beaten can help us keep a watchful eye against the re-emergence of the beast.  We have seen that with bureaucracies, as with virtually all issues in human endeavors, it boils down to leadership.

So, to all out there trapped in the belly of the Hydra: keep hope alive and practice good leadership at all levels!  Ultimately, the golden sword, wielded properly in worthy hands, is our best hope.

God bless!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Diem Patris

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; 
pay attention and gain understanding.
 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
 For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.
 Then he taught me, and he said to me, 
"Take hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands, and you will live. 
Get wisdom, get understanding; 
do not forget my words or turn away from them. 
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; 
love her, and she will watch over you."
-Proverbs, 4: 1-6

My Dad was Superman.

Growing up a comic book lover, I was deeply involved with a whole bunch of super-heroes-- Spiderman, Batman, the Mighty Thor, the Flash, etc.-- and I loved them all.  None of them was Superman, though.  Superman had it all; he was the unbeatable force for goodness... he was the greatest and best of them all.

That was my Dad, Robert Dean Grinstead: the greatest and best.  And unbeatable.

As I grew up, I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt this way about my Dad.  There was definitely something about him that people recognized as different… as special.  I've been working my whole life to understand exactly what it was.  My Dad was a great man who lived a powerful life.  There was something about him that was quite different from other people.  It wasn't just because he was my Dad-- other people felt it and saw it, too.  What was the word that described him?  He wasn't rich or physically striking and he wasn't Ivy-League educated or famous.  There was an aura surrounding him that spoke volumes to the world around him.  I've spent a long time trying to put my finger on exactly what that aura was saying and how it was saying it.

What I've come up with is that he was powerful.  I don't mean in a physical sense-- although he was a strong-backed working man for a good deal of his life.  No, the power was much more than physical-- it was the very composition of the aura… it was his very life that was powerful.  I will be writing a lot more on the subject of a powerful life in the future. Enough for now to say that my Dad was tough, compassionate, loving, hard-working, and a whole bunch more adjectives.  He appreciated his life and he loved his God and his family.  

He was taken too soon-- a victim of major complications of a deathly-stubborn staph infection (MRSA) that made his final years very painful and very, very difficult for him and for my dear mother.  It was in those last five years, though, that we saw his true strength and greatness.  A physically strong man was brought down by infirmity and could no longer do most of the things he had always taken for granted.  This is not only devastating to a person physically, it also often destroys the will and disturbs the sanity.  

Not so with my Dad.  He took it with grace and a strength that set a lifelong example for me and many others.  He was dealt a very bad (and unfair) hand and instead of folding, he improvised, adapted, and overcame.  He taught himself new skills (not the least of which was computer literacy) and he smiled through debilitating and humiliating circumstances.  As in the verse from Proverbs above, wisdom and understanding did not abandon him... and they did serve him well.  He never stopped seeking and learning and working to understand.  What an example.

I could go on (and will someday), but I'll suffice it to say that there is a reason I was compelled to have this image permanently attached over my heart in the form of a tattoo (by my awesome niece, Katie).

Because I had such a great father, I have tried always to follow his example-- including the example of having and raising children.  So, I think it more than fitting to spend a minute or two bragging on four very special heroes of mine.

#1 - Jessica Lynette.  My eldest and fellow amateur Catholic scholar.  She just graduated magna cum laude from California State University with two Bachelor's degrees (English and Fine Arts).  She is one of the hardest working and most goal-oriented people I have ever known.  She is capable of multi-tasking to a degree seldom seen in mere mortals.  She is currently finishing an internship at Disneyland and will then begin the task of conquering the world of animation.  If she has limits, I've not yet seem them.  She will yet set this world ablaze.  She is married to Adam-- an ultra helpful and friendly man who is also an amazing musician and artist-- and they maintain a menagerie of four-footed feline family members, including the esteemed and dapper WALL-E.

#2 - Arthur William.  First and only son of mine.  He is a fellow Marine who decided to join the Band of Brothers in the most dangerous days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars... because he has deep, good old-fashioned courage of the uniquely American type.  Once he finished serving his country (including a deployment to the worst part of the Iraqi front), he decided he should be a doctor.  He quickly set about working his amazing brain to the bone and, in less than two years, finished his pre-med studies and obtained his Bachelor's degree from Colorado State University and has now been accepted to medical school.  He is married to the lovely and talented Alycia (herself a gift from God) and they are expecting The Grandchild this coming December to join them and the awesome Maddy (sweetest dog ever).

#3 - Rachel Marie.  The middle child.  This is one of the smartest people on the planet, as far as I'm concerned.  She is finishing her science/biology degree this year at University of Nevada Reno.  Last year, Rachel shocked the world by announcing that she was going to Africa to "help people, learn things, and see stuff" with a program for students.  Anyone who knows her knows that her kryptonite has always been acute homesickness (even sometimes on a day trip somewhere).  She rose above and made it happen-- such a grand adventure and such an inspiring accomplishment!  She is also a world-class photographer who sees and captures things in a way that no one else does.  She is engaged to Taylor-- a future metallurgical engineer and all-around good-egg (and de facto Hobbit).

#4 - Anna Danielle.  The baby who is no longer a baby.  She is a bonafide Pokemon master with the most magnetic and infectious personality you can imagine.  A natural and trained performer, she is capable of bringing down the house... and has done so in theatrical performances.  After her first semester as a freshman at University of Nevada, Reno, she joined Jessica in the Disney college internship program, and has made that place her own.  She has a fierce intellect and wonderful people-skills that are quite unusual for a person of her age.  I sometimes think of her as something like the Pied Piper, because people will follow her anywhere!  Expect great things, here, people.  She is currently dating Marc, a very smart and decent fellow.

I could go on and on and on enumerating all of the talents of these amazing people.  As wonderful as all of that is, though, the best thing about my kids is not what they are... it is who they are. Something that all of my off-spring share is that they love people and they love and seek Truth.  They are all good Catholics and honestly good and upright human beings who make me and their beautiful mother, Teri, prouder than we could say.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." -3 John, 1: 4

I am blessed beyond measure to have such a family as I do; and so, finally, we must take time today to honor our Heavenly Father, without Whom nothing would exist.  Our goal as earthly fathers is to emulate Him as best we can-- by which we will Honor Him and keep His commands.

In Matthew's gospel (6: 9-13), Jesus told us how we are to pray to God Almighty.  So, together, then, in the words our Savior gave us:

Our Father, Who art in heaven, 
Hallowed be Thy Name. 
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

Happy Father's Day- and God bless!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

An Open Letter to the Media

Dear News Media,

I have a request to make of you.  You have the power to help save many, many lives if you will just honor my request.  I realize that what I am going to ask will be difficult, and may actually be impossible; but I'm going to ask anyway, because humanity and justice demand it.

Please stop making cult heroes out of mass murderers.  I can say with confidence that I speak for untold millions of people--  including past and future victims and their families.  You are a very large part of the problem.

I fully understand that you are in the business of "selling papers," as it were, and nothing sells papers more than interesting and absorbing issues like "active shooters" and "cop killers."  We are all horrified by and, curiously, drawn to stories of these atrocities... and you keep feeding them to us; outdoing one another as best you can in bringing us "new angles" and deeper coverage.

This is a very complicated issue, and there are multiple things that go into the making of a mass killer; some of them arguable as to causation and some of them not arguable.  One thing that is beyond dispute is that excessive and sensationalistic media coverage of the murderers that is seen by certain people as "favorable" IS making things worse.

Stop.  Please.

I have been deeply and actively involved with the subject of public violence for about six years now.  I've taught thousands of people in government and private sector on the subjects of workplace and public violence (including "active shooter") prevention and survival.  The subject is very personal to me for many reasons, and I can tell you that my research and study has shown me that much of this senseless violence CAN be prevented, if we start taking some very important steps.  One of those steps involves you, Mr. and Ms. Journalist/Editor.

I will now offer you a short, but vital, lesson in why and how you are making this phenomenon much worse.  You see, the sick monsters who perpetrate these massacres have many things in common with one another.  First, they are clearly mentally ill.  Second, virtually all of them have decided to die in this "glorious" fashion (mass killings are, at their root, almost always suicides).  All of the killers go through the same five stages on their way to monster-hood; each stage's length and intensity being relative to the individual:
  1. Fantasy stage: Initially, the killer only dreams of the killings and fantasizes about the headlines and  news coverage he’ll receive.  In this stage, he is trying to overcome what's left of his humanity by depersonalizing his intended victims, and by basking in the comforting thoughts of all the media adulation he will get when he takes down those bastards.  It's not hard to see how this would be attractive to someone who has reached the end of their rope and sees no other way to cope with the crushing illness plaguing their mind.  Finally, they will have some power and get immortality thrown in (courtesy of you)!
  2. Planning stage: Now they have decided to actually work on doing it.  In this stage, prevention is possible. The killer might start hinting to his plans and even posting about them on social media (this is known as "leakage" and offers a real chance at prevention).  In their planning, they use information gained from the saturation coverage that you so helpfully provided to them from previous massacres; choosing what they like and making plans to avoid mistakes their predecessors made.
  3. Preparation stage: Now that the plan has been made, it is time to gather all of the logistical items needed to make it happen.  This stage includes not just acquiring weapons and supplies, but sometimes also rehearsals, etc.  Again, your detailed coverage really helps them here.  Fortunately, there are also good chances for prevention in this stage.
  4. Approach stage: This is a very dangerous phase in which the killer is traveling to the destination with his weapons to carry out his plan.  He has decided, planned, and prepared, and woe be to any who get in his way.
  5. Implementation stage: The killer has opened fire and will not stop until he is stopped or until he runs out of ammunition.
I hope you see where you fit in here, Mr. and Ms. Journalist/Editor (hint: it's in bold and red and italics above).  You see, they gain vicarious strength and courage from the news coverage of previous mass murderers.  This is not speculation-- it is demonstrably true, and purely intuitive.  Misery loves company.  These monsters have convinced themselves that the world has wronged them and they have no power in their own lives.  They are at the lowest point of their lives and suicide seems to be the only option.

But wait, thinks the future monster.  Look at that news coverage of the Columbine killings (or Aurora killings, or Virginia Tech killings, or Sandy Hook killings, etc. ad nauseam)!  Wow- they look so cool in their outfits!  They really showed those bastards, didn't they?  Everyone knows their names now!  They took the power and now they are somebody!  Maybe... maybe I can do that... no...  not maybe!  I CAN DO THAT!  Those bastards will pay!  In fact, I'll outdo the Columbine (Aurora/Virginia Tech/Sandy Hook/etc.) heroes!

This is not exaggerated.  This is how it goes.  You are feeding potential monsters by celebrating previous monsters.  You provide for them exactly what they wanted: star quality and fame.  By doing this, you are a key player in the cycle of violence that is sweeping the world.  You are encouraging sick people to listen to the voices in their heads because they will get a great reward if they do.

The latest example is the media blitz of the killings of two Las Vegas Police officers (Officers Alyn Beckand and Igor Soldo) and one brave citizen (Joseph Robert Wilcox) who tried to help.  Just as with all other "big" massacres, you can't escape pictures of the killers in their "crazy" costumes all over the internet.  These pictures are sad and disturbing to you and me... they are irresistible and intoxicating to potential killers who now imagine a kinship with the "revolutionaries."

Stop.  Please.

The list of examples that prove this is virtually endless.  The Santa Barbara/Isla Vista massacre aftermath shows us Facebook pages and other "support" groups springing up to celebrate that monster.  A few samples are “[Monster's name redacted], Alone & Rejected RIP,” and “RIP [Monster's name redacted]—A Beautiful and Misunderstood Soul.”  A group calls itself "[Monster's name redacted]'s Advocates."  Here are some actual comments posted about this new media darling:

--"He was too beautiful for this world."

--"He didn't let them suffer long enough.  The victims all either died nearly instantly, or will survive.  Not good enough, if you ask me.  They need to be tortured, for hours on end, knowing with certainty that their death will be coming, but not permitted to get it until their bodies absolutely cannot take anymore physical pain."

You say that these are isolated sick people.  I say you are right; and I follow by asking why the hell you would throw shiny jewels out for them to focus on?  Do you not think that the second comment above reflects the ruminations of a person deeply into his own Fantasy stage?  I do.

Want another example?  We all remember the monster who perpetrated the July 20, 2012 midnight mass-murder during "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. (Of course we do- you won't let us ever forget about him.)  There were at least 16 "copycat" incidents either perpetrated or foiled within a month of the original-- most happening within days.  There is also no shortage of "fans" of this particular monster.  Why?  Mainly because you splashed his "coolness" all over the world and thus offered tantalizing bait that some sick people just could not refuse.

Another "smoking gun" (pun intended) is the fact that the Sandy Hook monster was "obsessed" with the Columbine massacre and he was also a "big fan" of the maniac in Norway who slaughtered 77 people in 2011.  He wanted to emulate and outdo them because they were so damn cool.  This is the rule, not the exception, by the way.

Have you noticed how easy it would be for you to correct this?  Nowhere in this letter did I use the name of one of these monsters (and I never will-- they won't get their immortality from me).  I did, however, mention the names of some victims-- and that is what you should be doing.

Imagine if you devoted the energy you spend glorifying the killers to eulogizing the victims and supporting their families.  Imagine if you just refused to put their names up in lights.  Imagine if you just decided to do the right thing.

Every time you print or say the name of one of these monsters, you are giving them what they craved.  Every time you put their pictures up, you are helping the next generation of monsters take another step up in their five stages.  You are very much giving aid and comfort to the enemy here... an enemy who does not discriminate or show mercy or moderation in his ruthless actions.

Stop.  Please. 

This is not a plea for "censorship" or in any way saying you should abdicate your journalistic responsibilities.  It is, instead, a plea for responsible journalism.  There is a gigantic difference between reporting the facts of a case responsibly and what we see happening today in the news.  There is no journalistic reason whatsoever to give these murderers so much air time.

Two of the best things we can and should do as a society are 1) publicize the plight of the victims and their families and glorify those who try to help in the dire situations; 2) ensure the monsters are buried, forgotten, and left to rot in hell.  

Please, please stop.


Kurt M. Grinstead
Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (retired)

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Friendliest Ghost

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"Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur. Et renovabis faciem terrae."

What would you do if you knew that a ghost was knocking at your door?  Because one is... and it's not the door to your house.  It is the door to your heart.  Would you let it in?  Would you actually call for it to come in?  Seems a  bit crazy, but that is exactly what the above Latin prayer is doing.

This familiar prayer is very old and is invoked by people all around the world, in the vernacular, of course.  Father Dominic Serra, professor of liturgical studies at The Catholic University of America, has researched portions of the prayer and found it to date prior to the ninth century.  It evolved mainly in the Pentecost liturgies, as well as the antiphons and hymns of every liturgical tradition.

On "Whit Sunday"-- aka the Feast of Pentecost (Greek for "fifty"- as in fifty days after Passover/Easter... today!)-- we hear it: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love” in the Gospel acclamation at Sunday Mass.  The second part of the prayer comes from Psalm 104, verse 30: “When you send forth your breath [spirit], they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

This prayer is a profound and personal way for us to ask God to be with us-- to be re-created in Him in order to make our hearts burn with His Love.  He accomplishes this by "sending forth" His Holy Spirit.  So, it seems a good time to spend a few minutes discussing this wonder of wonders.  God's Spirit has been appeared in the likeness of a dove (Luke, 3: 22) and of "tongues of fire" (Acts of the Apostles, 2: 3).  In all cases, the Spirit descends upon the faithful and begins immediately to make profound improvements.

~~  "The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer."  --Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2672  ~~

The "Holy Ghost" (old-school) is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity-- and the Blessed Trinity is, of course, the very center of Christian belief.  It is a deep and powerful mystery that compels the intellect and sends shivers of excitement up the spine.  It is also very hard to understand and, therefore, to teach effectively.  St. Augustine said of the Trinity:  "In no other subject is the danger of erring so great, or the progress so difficult, or the fruit of a careful study so appreciable."

Indeed!  Great things come from the Trinity... because the Trinity is the essence of all that is, was, and ever will be.  Unfortunately, because of the depth of the mystery, there have been many heresies regarding the Trinity and the Holy Spirit over the centuries.  "Christianity" can be defined as belief in the full divinity of the Holy Trinity-- that is "Three Persons in one God."  Three equal Persons.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that, although the Holy Ghost is truly distinct from the Father and the Son as a Person, He is consubstantial (Latin: "of the same substance") with Them.  He is God like Them, and He possesses with Them one and the same Divine Nature/Essence.  The Son proceeds from the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son.  He proceeds not by some generational process, but "by way of spiration, from the Father and the Son together, as from a single principle."  Imagine the “breath” of God, the breath that gives life to all creation. In the Gospel of John, the resurrected Jesus breathed on the disciples, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John, 20: 22)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” -Acts of the Apostles, 1: 8

It is easy to see why believers have been in awe of the Holy Spirit for thousands of years.  Praying to God's Spirit is as old as prayer itself, and this Ghost is known by many titles: the Advocate;  Paraclete (Latin and Greek);  the Comforter; the Counselor; the  Author of Scripture; Guide; Intercessor; Teacher; Witness; Gift-giver; and more.  He is the force that moves and inspires (literally).

Most people have felt Him working inside their hearts and minds, even if they do not know it is Him in there.  Fun fact about the Holy Spirit: He does not just pay attention to believers.  In fact, anyone who has ever "converted" to Christianity did so because of the Holy Spirit.  No person can "convert" the heart of another-- we can only be instruments that He uses in the process.  How important is the Holy Spirit for our salvation?  Indispensable, actually.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." -John, 3: 5

Back to the question of the Ghost knocking at your door.  What if you knew that He was knocking in order to offer you a wonderful basket of assorted fruit?  That is precisely what is happening, by the way.  This most friendly Ghost bestows so many sublimities upon mankind that it boggles the mind and overwhelms the heart.  Consider that St Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit's fruits are "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control." (Galatians, 5: 22-23)

From that, we see that Virtue pours forth from the Holy Spirit like a fountain.  These "fruits" are, according to Aquinas, actions that God would smile upon.  Whatever we have inside of us that is virtuous and not worldly is the work of the Third Person of the Trinity.

~~  "Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit of the Holy Spirit."  
--Thomas Aquinas  ~~

There is that knocking again!  It turns out that the Ghost has not only brought fruits for you, He also offers seven amazing gifts; and we will reap the fruits by employing these gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The bible (Isaiah 11: 1-5)  tells us that the gifts are:
  1. The gift of Wisdom: which helps us detach from the world and learn, relish, and love the real truth and what really matters.  Aquinas said that the mind of man is not moved by the Holy Ghost, except to unite it to Him.  So, all of these worldly thoughts of mine are the work of my temporal and corruptible mind, and not of His (and my) Spirit.
  2. The gift of Understanding: which helps us to use wisdom and knowledge to grasp the real "big picture" truths.  Pontius Pilate asked "What is truth?" when Truth was standing right before him (John, 18: 38).  Clearly, he did not understand because his heart was hardened.
  3. The gift of Counsel: which comes from supernatural Prudence, and allows us to see and choose correctly what will most glorify God and ensure our own salvation.
  4. The gift of Fortitude: which is the courage we receive to overcome all of the travails and obstacles that will always be in our way-- and which will actually increase at times, the closer we get to Christ.
  5. The gift of Knowledge: which fills our mind with that which will show us the right path to follow, as well as identifying the bad things we must avoid on our path to heaven.
  6. The gift of Piety: which inspires us to have childlike confidence in our Father; and to fully and joyfully embrace Him, all His instructions, and the service that He demands of us.  
  7. The gift of Fear of the Lord: which makes us dread the notion of offending God because of the awe and respect that overwhelms us when we think of Him.  The term "God fearing person" is so often misunderstood and used by those opposed to God to paint a false picture of a non-loving God.  Quite the opposite.  It is precisely because He loves us to such a sublime degree that we cannot bear the prospect that we might be a cause of offense to Him.
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” -Luke, 11: 13

When I think of these amazing gifts, I am reminded of how Bishop Ratko Peric said "the truth both frees us and binds us."  That is a simply profound message.  Once we see the real truth of who God is and who we are supposed to be, we are bound in that direction.  St Paul told the Ephesians (3: 1) that he was a "prisoner of Christ for the sake of you..."  Once we see the Truth, then we are all prisoners of it, and must follow it to where it leads us... which is, ultimately, to Truth Himself.  The fruits and the seven gifts are what we have in our backpacks for the journey.

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." -John, 14:26

The Holy Ghost works inside us in so many ways.  One way is to inspire us ("inspire" and "spirit" are related from the Latin for "to breathe").  I have felt His touch and breath inside me many, many times.  In fact, it was He who inspired me to write this essay (and so many others).  It was He who inspired me to write "Guardian Dear."  I don't see Him so much as a "muse," per se... rather, a conductor or director.  I am hardly alone in this.

 ~~  "One night, I just woke up and I went, 'Killing Jesus.' And I believe, because I'm a Catholic, that comes from the Holy Spirit. My inspiration comes from that. And so I wrote 'Killing Jesus' because I think I was directed to write that."  --Bill O'Reilly  ~~

Whether or not Mr. O'Reilly believes that the source of inspiration was the Holy Spirit is, of course, irrelevant.  If, indeed, it was divine inspiration, then it would not matter one bit it he believed it.  The Holy Spirit is definitely in the business of directing human beings in endeavors such as writing.  In fact, the scriptures are all inspired writings.  This is why the Holy Ghost is known as the "author of scripture."

This ultimate friendly presence inside of us is exactly how God interacts with us and it is the manifestation of his "Agape" Love-- that which wills the best for the loved one.  The real point is that the Holy Spirit pushes us from inside.  Moving within us-- very much like our lungs-- to bring us to the right way.  How humbling and exciting that concept is!  How can I, once I know it, not want to share it?

~~  "It's easy to write for God and about God, because what a thrill to remind the church that the Holy Spirit of God is in you. What a rush! What an amazing blessing!"  --Francis Chan  ~~

This holy "respiration" happening deep inside of us is what can bring our hearts to the level of "burning," as happened to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus in Luke's gospel (chapter 24).  While walking, they were joined by the Resurrected Christ, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.  As they walked, He instructed them on holy scripture, and they later described how their hearts were "burning" as He opened the bible to them in a way they had never before understood.  We can ask for His help in similar ways.  In Romans (8: 26) St Paul tells us that we do not know how to pray as we should, and so the Holy Spirit will help us by interceding for us with "groanings too deep for words."

~~  "The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our teacher. That's why, in prayer, we can ask the Lord to open up Scripture and make it come alive to us, to open our understanding. He left his Spirit with us until we join him in Heaven."  --Michele Bachmann  ~~

His actions are not limited to helping us with writing and prayer.  Not by a long shot.  The power of the Holy Spirit is best seen in us as our inner counselor and adviser.  There is a very close, and very obvious, connection between our conscience and the Holy Spirit.  It is striking that our conscience is often "informed" when our conscious mind is not.  We have it on good authority that to disobey your conscience is always a sin-- even when it might be in error.  Our conscience is the very voice of God in our soul.  Dr. Peter Kreeft calls the conscience the knowledge of what is right and wrong-- literally "intellect applied to morality."  In fact, the "argument from conscience" is one of the proofs of God's existence (and St Paul teaches on it in Romans).

I don't know about you, but it makes me feel incredibly good (and awestruck) to know that God's actual voice is an actual part of me.  This is the Holy Spirit working, always working, inside of me.  Amazing!  Even more amazing is the knowledge that He is working inside of everyone on the planet.  If that is true, you may ask, then why do so many people not feel/hear/see the Holy Spirit at work in them?  I would say that is a function of choice-- free will.  We have to want His Love... that is what makes it so utterly sublime.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 7?  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  Many have done so over the ages, and we should follow that lead.

~~  "O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams."  --Saint Augustine  ~~

It is true that all analogies limp at some point, but they can be useful to at least some extent.  A good way to analogize the communication links going on inside us is to think of radio frequencies.  Within the HF, VHF, and UHF frequency ranges, there are many, many "channels," if you will.  If I transmit on one channel, and that happens to be the channel that your receiver is set to, then you will hear (or see) my transmission.  If your receiver is not set to that channel, my signal will still reach your antenna, but it will stop there.  Because your receiver is not, at the moment, set to hear/see my transmission does not mean that I am not transmitting.

The Holy Spirit is transmitting-- all the time and to everyone.  Those who scan the frequency bands in search of His signal will find it.  Also finding it are those who are not consciously scanning for it, but would be willing and able to see/hear it if they happened upon it.  That actually happens all the time.  I find that it is only those who have hardened their hearts against the signal who do not ever seem to find it.

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  -Ephesians, 4: 30

They do find it, of course.  As we discussed above, their consciences are a big part of the transmission... but they either refute that by saying a conscience is just another biological function, or they deny and even attempt to ignore their conscience.  Such refutation and denial does not, of course, change reality one bit.  It only changes and retards their personal apprehension of reality.

The Holy Spirit's transmissions are not the only ones hitting our receivers.  There are plenty of unspoken messages flying around in the realm where human souls abide.  Many of these messages are positive ones and many are quite the opposite.  I think this is why God built our consciences in the way that He did.  Once we tinker with it positively with our free will, the conscience is fully capable of leading us to a happy and virtuous life.  The warning in the owner's manual, though, is quite clear: keep the conscience's receiver tuned to the channels that carry virtuous signals.

The Holy Spirit has done so much for so many for so long... how can we possibly quantify it?  Maybe it's best to just reflect on the single greatest example of inspiration in the history of creation.  Fifty days after the Resurrection, the disciples of Christ were huddled in a small room, hiding from persecutors, when "...there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the house they were in. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11)

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These previously timid, frightened men, who had been hiding from the world for almost two months, suddenly were out in the streets of Jerusalem, speaking passionately and unabashedly to an international audience "in tongues" - which is to say that all of the foreign people in the city heard what they were saying in their own native language.  These formerly confused and frightened men became the greatest revolutionaries the world has ever seen.  Their courage, wisdom, and fortitude are legendary; and without their initial sowing of the faith with their toil and blood, Christianity would never have happened.

If we want real and true happiness of the eternal variety, we must be open to God's Spirit.  We need to humble our minds and soften our hearts if we are to have any hope of receiving the amazing lives that His Agape Love wants for us.  Once we're open and humble, we will find that our receiver suddenly defaults to His channels; and true Caritas (Charity) will become our regular mode of operation.  Not always an easy road, but in the end, it is the only road that we should ever be on.  Helps a lot to know that the friendliest Ghost is traveling with us... always.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him.  But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you."  -John, 14: 15-18

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All together now:

"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. 

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord.  Amen."

God bless!!


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