What the Hell Do We Need Morality For?

morals and ethics

This blog is about the subject of morality.  Once upon a time, they taught morality in school and in church.   The first system of morality that many older Americans were exposed to was probably the “Ten Commandments.”   This was a code of rules given to the Israelites by Moses on Mount Sinai.  I have always thought it ironic that a set of morals from the “Old Testament” was supposed to be the foundation for a Christian America.  Even today, advocates of this code of morality want to hang it in town halls, schools, courts and government centers.  This is a part of the Bible that promoted an “eye for an eye” and stoning adulterers.

Jesus did say “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus added at least one commandment to all others that was even more valuable than the ten TenCommandmentsMoses gave.   Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John: 13:34).  I would be much more in favor of seeing this posted in my neighborhood than the Ten Commandments.

Perhaps even more importantly in terms of a system of morality, Jesus gave a sermon where he proposed what has been called:  The Eight Beatitudes:   (Click here to hear the The Beatitudes Song

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  —- Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

It is my opinion that the Eight Beatitudes constitute one of the greatest systems of morality to come out of the Bible.  I would rather see these taught (if we are going to teach a system of morality) than the Ten Commandments.  I would also not mind these being posted in schools and other public places whereas I am sick and tired of those who want to post the Ten Commandments.

I noted that once upon a time, we taught morality in schools and churches.   Actually, we not only taught morality but morality was also imbued in our social fabric by many traditional stories and the media.  Children from an early age were exposed to Fairy tales, Uncle Remus stories, Aesop Fables, and Tales of the Arabian Nights.  These stories were full of morals on how to live and behave properly.  Early TV was also full of morality tales.  Shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith each week clearly conveyed stories of morality and what was right and what was not right in terms of behavior.

sin-guilt-causes-body-pain-sicknessSomeplace along the way, we started losing our sense of morality.  Some have blamed it on becoming a multi-cultural environment.  Some have blamed it on the decline of religion and church going.  Some have blamed education while still others have blamed progress and a business culture that has no room for strict morality.  I am not sure what the actual cause was.  I am more concerned that it did happen.  Studies have shown that our culture has become more amoral than moral and that narcissism now plays an increasing role in our society.  People are less moral and more self-centered than ever before in the history of this country.  A book by Joel Marks (Ethics without Morals: In Defense of Amorality -Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory, 2012) is one of several that makes an argument for amorality:

“In clear, plainspoken, engaging prose, Joel Marks presents the case for abandoning belief in morality. Anyone who wants to defend the practice of making moral judgments will have to confront the issues Marks raises, and the alternative to morality he proposes.” – Mitchell Silver, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA 

In the book “The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality (2009)” the author Hans-George Moeller advances the following case for amorality:

“Justice, equality, and righteousness—these are some of our greatest moral convictions. Yet in times of social conflict, morals can become rigid, making religious war, ethnic cleansing, and political purges possible.  Morality, therefore, can be viewed as a pathology—a rhetorical, psychological, and social tool that is used and abused like a weapon.”

In an article “Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?”  by Peter Gray in Freedom to Learn (2014), Gray notes the following:

“For the past three decades or a little more, researchers have been assessing both narcissism and empathy using questionnaires developed in the late 1970s.  Many research studies have shown that scores on these questionnaires correlate reliably with real-world behavior and with other people’s ratings of the individuals.  For example, those who score high in narcissism have been found to overrate their own abilities, to lash out angrily in response to criticism, and to commit white-collar crimes at higher rates than the general population.[1]  Those who score low in empathy are more likely than the average person to engage in bullying and less likely to volunteer to help people in need.[2.]

Over the years, these questionnaires have been administered to many samples of college students, and analyses that bring all of the data together reveal that the average narcissism score has been steadily increasing and the average empathy score has been steadily decreasing ever since the questionnaires were developed [3.]  The changes are highly significant statistically and sufficiently large that approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.

What accounts for this historical rise in narcissism and decline in empathy?  There is no way to know for sure, based on the data, but there are lots of grounds for speculation.”

I think we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  I agree we need to keep the State separate from the Church.  I also agree that we don’t need the Ten Commandments as the foundation for moral thought in America.  Nevertheless, I do believe that we all need a code of morality to live by.  Whether it be Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, Agnostic, Atheist, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i, or other, we need a set of morals as a template and foundation for our behavior.  We need a baseline that each of us can start from so that we can assess what is good and what is right.  We need to have some system of ideas about what is correct behavior and how we should live in a socially interconnected world.

When I was a kid, (somewhere along the way) I was taught the Seven Deadly Sins.  Sometimes they were called the Seven Deadly Vices or the Seven Cardinal Sins.  I assume that since I attended a Catholic school, it went along with the teaching.  The Seven Deadly Sins included the following:

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

7 deadly sins

Some of you might think that this list is old fashioned or out of date.  How could this set of implicit moral values make a difference in our society?  They are so old; do they really have any relevance anymore?

Take a close look around you at the world.  You have only to look for a few minutes to persuade yourself that these “sins” are at the top of the list of major problems.  Greed, envy, gluttony and lust appear pervasive in our culture.  (See my series on Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins) TV shows, movies, magazines, radio, supermarkets, superstars, sports, credit services, escort services, pornography, Las Vegas all portray an American brand of materialism that is nothing short of sick.  Get it now, get it fast, and get more and moreMore is better!  Bigger is better!  Shop till you drop!  He who has the most toys wins!

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then surely greed must be the father. Children of this odd couple are named: Laziness, Envy, Greed, Jr., Gluttony, Lust, Anger and Pride.”  ― John R Dallas  Jr.

Black Friday ( The day after Thanksgiving in the USA) is only a small manifestation of the greed, lust and sloth that has infected our society.  How many Americans have a regular exercise schedule?  How many obese citizens can you count on the street each day?  How many Americans spend more each week then they earn?  How many Americans will go in debt this Holiday Season to spend money that they don’t have on gifts and toys?  Where is the self-restraint that is necessary to push oneself away from the table or shut the TV off and say “Enough.”  It barely seems to exist.  Is it any wonder that so many countries have a very negative stereotype of the “average” American?  We appear to be a group of people who have lost our moral compass.

ARTICLE 29 —  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • You have a responsibility to the place you live and the people around you-we all do. Only by watching out for each other can we each become our individual best.

At this point, you well may be asking “What right does he have to be so damn moralistic?”  Didn’t Jesus say “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”  “Are you so perfect that you have a right to look down on other people?”  “Who does he think he is, Jonathan Edwards?”  “I don’t need anyone telling me my faults.”  “I get enough negativity from work without having to get it from you.”

Please allow me to clarify a few misconceptions.  In some religious circles we are all sinners.  Since I am agnostic, I don’t subscribe to a religious view of sin.  My use of the terminology is borrowed from the religious sphere since I think that the concept of sin has a very useful connotation if we can free it from some of the pejorative and negative associations with which it is fettered.  First of all, I do not believe that you will go to hell for committing these Seven Sins.  Second, you will not be a bad or evil person because of them.  Third and accentuating the positive, you may be happier and healthier if you are more aware of these “sins” and can do a better job of examining the role that they play in your life.  My bringing these “sins” out is to help us all become more aware of the morality that we have allowed to become obscured in our daily lives.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.  —-Buddha

We have had a decline in morality that started over one hundred years ago and it still seems to be declining.  More people are worried about their taxes increasing then the poverty facing many people in this country.  More people are worried about their security then the number of people going to jail every day for victimless crimes.  More people are worried about the price of gasoline then the pollution we send into the atmosphere every day.  Self-centeredness has become a dominant fixture of the American landscape.  “Greed is Good” says Ivan Boesky and everyone applauds.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.   — C. S. Lewis

Why do I think we should care about morality? 

goodevilWithout morality, we are not even as good as animals.  Animals eat, drink, sleep, procreate and fight when they have to.  They do not do it simply to hurt other animals or to wage war against groups or individuals that they cannot tolerate.  Animals care for their young and exhibit many characteristics of moral behavior.  In captivity, animals may display much more aggressive behavior.  For instance, Orcas in the wild have never been observed to kill other Orcas.  This is not the case for Orcas in captivity.  There is no such thing as civilization without a commitment to moral and ethical behavior.  Even animal societies are proof of this.

“I am Envy, begotten of a chimney-sweeper and an oyster-wife. I cannot read, and therefore wish all books were burnt; I am lean with seeing others eat – O that there would come a famine through all the world, that all might die, and I live alone; then thou should’st see how fat I would be! But must thou sit and I stand? Come down, with a vengeance!”  ― Christopher MarloweDoctor Faustus

Without morality, we have no compass to define what is good behavior and what is bad behavior.  We are reduced to the level of opportunists willing to take advantage of anyone and anything that suits our ends.  Listen to the current debate on the use of torture and the recent CIA report and you will find numerous “experts” advocating that the “ends justify the means.”  One man on NPR noted that he thought we should ask the victims of the Twin Trade Towers what they thought about the use of torture to capture Osama Bin Laden.   John McCain (May he Rest in Peace) once said it best when he opined in Congress (12-9-14) that “”Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”  Nevertheless, he was opposed by his own party in his opposition to torture and in fact to even releasing the CIA Tortmoralityure Report. 

Many Republicans argued against releasing the report, especially as the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria grew and U.S. intelligence officials had warned that its release could cause backlash from nations and groups hostile towards the nation.   American embassies in the Middle East had been put on heightened security alert for its release.

McCain replied that “This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world.”  (CNN 12-9-14)

Finally, without morality, there is no way to transmit values from one generation to another.  A lack of morality has led to the increase in amorality that is now symptomatic of our society.  Amorality is a set of beliefs which deny the value of morality or at best are indifferent to morality.  A rock is amoral.  It is neither good (moral) or bad (immoral) but may be used for either purpose.  Anything or anyone without a conscience is amoral.  It is a fine line and one that is very easy to trespass between amoral and immoral.  Many people today may think their behaviors are amoral when actually they could better be described as immoral.  Harken back to the Seven Deadly Sins and ask yourself, how many of these vices are amoral?  Are greed, gluttony, lust and wrath amoral?   Can anyone with a good conscience say it is okay to partake in these vices?

“Seven deadly sins,
seven ways to win,
seven holy paths to hell,
and your trip begins

Seven downward slopes
seven bloodied hopes
seven are your burning fires,
seven your desires…”
― Iron Maiden

Time for Questions:

What is your moral code? What are the three most important morals in your life?  Do you think everyone should have an explicit moral code?  Why or why not?  Do you know many amoral people?  What do you think about amorality?  When is it justified?  What do you think the world would be like if everyone was amoral?  Would it be a better world or worse? Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”  ― Dante Alighieri

The Eleventh Greatest Mystery of All Time:   Where is the Arc of the Covenant?

The Arc of the Covenant is the repository for the commandments given by Yahweh to Moses on Mount Sinai.  Precise descriptions for the repository were given by Yahweh to Moses.  The Book of Exodus gives detailed instructions on how the Ark is to be constructed.   (Listen to the Arc of the Covenant Song by the Congos)  Ark-of-covenant-God-face-to-face-1-

Ark of the Covenant from Exodus 25:10-22 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

10 “They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.12 You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. 16 You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 You shall make two cherubim of gold and make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.

The precision of the construction of the Arc is remarkable.   Those who dispute the Bible as a historically accurate document should read it more carefully.  No doubt there are many historical inaccuracies in the Bible but only a fool could ignore the incredible detail that is contained in many Biblical narratives.  The Arc disappeared sometime after the destruction of Solomon’s temple and there are numerous claims as to what happened to it and where it is now located.

8 Alleged Resting Places of the Ark of the Covenant

To date there is no evidence that any of the present claims have any veracity.  If you think about it, the potential presence of the Arc is a powerful tool arc picture of waterfor bringing followers to whatever brand of theocracy one is selling.  It makes sense to keep the memory of the Arc alive and in good shape.  To many of the Jewish faith it is a sacred icon with enormous religious significance.  The possibility that it exists has profound implications for many of the more conservative religious faithful throughout the world.  As they say, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

Unfortunately, history provides many unpalatable lessons.  One lesson is the amount of grave robbing, tomb destruction and artifact desecration that has gone on since before written records.  This has taken place both in the name of greed and in the pursuit of fame.   Tomb robbers have been mainly motivated by greed while scientists have been mainly motivated by fame.  Imagine being the man or woman who finds the “Lost Arc” or the “Treasure of King Solomon” or Noah’s Arc?

“You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am a shadowy reflection of you. And it would take only a nudge to make you like me, to push you out of the light.”       — From Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc.”

Nevertheless, up until present times, archeology (if you can call it that) was dominated by tomb raiders.  For a tomb raider, the question is not fame, but how much money can the artifact bring.  As it relates to the Arc of the Covenant, this is the sad part.  Sad, because the gold and cherubim were undoubtedly worth a great deal more melted down then they would have been still attached to the Arc.  The wood most likely rotted away centuries ago and the gold would have been the only thing of value left.  The two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed on them were probably indecipherable to the tomb raiders and most likely became part of a rock pile.

Conclusion: 

947563-ark3Don’t waste your time looking for the Arc of the Covenant.  It no longer exists.  The gold in your earrings or wedding ring or coins may be part of the original Arc.  The rocks in your back yard may have some Hebrew inscriptions which if you look closely at are actually letters from the original Ten Commandments.  Fortunately, we have the remarkable description of the Arc that has been passed down in the Bible for over 5500 years now to describe what it once looked like.

Plato was right in that ideals never die.  Forms, structures, buildings will all eventually decay and wither away, but the ideas, beliefs, hopes and aspirations of humanity will go on as long as there is one person alive to remember them.  The Arc of the Covenant represents the hopes of a people for a system of law and morality that was created twenty seven hundred years before the Magna Carta and one thousand years before the Law of the Twelve Tables.  Based as it were on a set of religious beliefs, the Ten Commandments provided a set of ideas and principles for living with others in peace and harmony.

Time for Questions:

Where do you think the lost Arc is?  Do you agree with my conclusions?  Why are why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Nothing is predestined. The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.”    ― Ralph H. Blum

The Story of the Lost Frederic Treasure

You are going to find the following story as unbelievable as I would have, had it not happened to me.  In addition, for the skeptics out there, I am posting pictures of the actual treasure map that I recently found.  No, I have not found the Frederic treasure yet, but given time, I think I will.  Well, let’s back up a minute so I can tell you the whole story.

About two weeks ago, I finally got the car that we left in the garage (a 1998 Saturn Coupe) running and out of the garage.  The battery had died after having been left to sit in an unheated garage through one of the coldest winters in history up here.  Since this is our run-about car, I wanted to put the 2009 Honda Civic in the garage.  It is newer and more dependable.  Karen generally uses it when we are up here in Frederic.  By the way, Frederic is a town of about 1200 people in the Northwest area of Wisconsin, located in Polk County.

Karen’s great grandparents were early pioneers and residents in this area.  They founded a mercantile store and a realty agency back in the early part of the twentieth century.  There is a Blomgren road up here.  There are many Blomgrens interred in the local cemetery and even some Blomgren memorabilia in the Frederic History Center.  We have a 1923 Frederic phone book with names of Blomgren Imagefamily members who lived here as well as an old 1909 ceramic plate from the mercantile store.  Perhaps the most unique thing we actually own is an old wooden desk that was built in 1900 for William Starr (The original founder of Frederic, which was named after his son) and at some time was acquired by Karen’s grandfather.  (The picture included is an actual photo of this desk.)  Well, Karen’s father inherited the desk from his father and Karen eventually inherited the desk from her father. The desk came from Frederic and is now back in Frederic where it started out its life. This old desk is determined to become a part of Frederic history.

To continue the story:  After getting the Saturn out of the garage, I wanted to put the Civic in and put a remote in the car for the garage door.  I had placed the remote in the house before we left to go to Arizona last October.  However, I could not find the remote.  (That’s because I had strategically placed it) After six months, I had forgotten where I had strategically placed it.  Thus, began a search of the house which eventually led me to searching the old desk.  As you can see from the picture, this old desk has more drawers than you can count.

ImageA few years ago, we actually found an old 1910 deed to the Blomgren cemetery plot in one of the drawers.  After contacting the Maple Grove Cemetery Association, we found that we were proud owners of a 1 and ½ cemetery plot that was still legal and valid after more than 100 years.  Karen is going to take the full plot and I will take the ½ plot.   I figure an urn with my ashes would fit nicely there.  However, I must return to the story.  Sorry for my digressions.  It is just that I want you to fully understand the import of what I am about to tell you.  This could forever change the history of this town and perhaps put Frederic on the map where it deserves to be.  It is such a unique and interesting town.  But that is a story for another day.  You want to know about the Frederic treasure I suppose.

Finally, I found the garage door opener.  What I found while looking for the opener is actually the beginning of this story.  I found a secret drawer hidden behind one of the old pull-out drawers.  I was rather amazed because we had been through this desk many times.  In the old drawer, I found a 1915 edition of a book titled:  “New Standard American Business Guide”, copyright 1904 by Gordon G. Sapp.  Since I love books, my first thought was to look through it to see what it was about.  I quickly found the “Alphabetical Table of Contents” and was amazed at the wide range of subjects it included.

ImageStarting from Affidavits, it included such topics as:  banking, bills of exchange, farms and farming, mortgages, naturalization, and last, working on Sundays and legal holidays.  Dare I say, I was amazed at the breadth and depth of the subject matter included in this book?  If you could read this entire book, it would be like getting a BA degree in Business; albeit, a BA in 1915, which might make you somewhat obsolete.  I put the book alongside of my other books (in my books to read pile), to either read or review it later in the week.

The following week as I was looking through the book, I found an old piece of parchment with old fashioned typed letters (probably an early 1900 typewriter) and the title “The Story of the Lost Frederic Treasure.”   At first, I thought it might be a joke however reading the manuscript; I began to wonder if it could have any veracity.  I am a born skeptic and so I looked up some of the history of Frederic to see whether or not there was any validity to the entire story.

ImageLo and behold, the more I read about Frederic, the more I became convinced that this was a truly legitimate story.  The history, dates, names and places all matched up.  (See below for the entire text that was on the old parchment.)  I Googled about seventy five different sources and the history was accurate.   I gradually came to believe the story.  About 150 years ago, William Starr had buried some type of treasure near Frederic in an old box.  Whether, it was gold, silver or someone’s peculiar idea of a treasure could not be known until the treasure box was found.  Putting the book away, I went back to my other work.

Two more weeks went by before I picked up the old book again. I had totally forgotten the treasure and its story of mayhem and carnage.   Everyone knows there is a treasure in the Superstition Mountains in Phoenix but you won’t find me looking for the supposed “Lost Dutchman Mine.”  I have better things to do then go up and down these mountains looking for buried gold.  Now, if I had a map, it might be a different story.  With this last thought in my mind, you will never believe what happened next.

As I continued scanning the old book, out fell another old piece of parchment with some archaic writing by pen and hand.  It said, “Not ten leagues from the lake with the raccoons, the treasure box is buried.”  Now Frederic has a lake called Coon Lake and ten or less leagues would place the treasure somewhere near Clam Falls, Wisconsin.   I believe that the tale was passed from father to son and then rewritten years later.  The “treasure map” was drawn from memory by either Frederic Starr or Karen’s father back when he was living in Frederic.  There is no doubt that the “treasure map” is more recent than the manuscript since it includes some old but still more recent place names.  Alas, the map is not as detailed as I would have liked.  This brings me to the reasons why I have included the Frederic treasure map for anyone to copy and use.  I provide my reasons lest anyone think me either stupid or overly benevolent.  I am not even going to sell the map.  It is yours to use for free

Image

My two reasons for including the map:  Number one:  Following the old map, I have had no luck.  I have spent hours out digging and hunting so far, but it has been fruitless.  Since my days on this earth are more and more numbered, I would love to see the old treasure found even if it is not by me.  Second reason:  To assure you that there is truth to this story.  All you have to do is come up to Frederic some Saturday with a pick and shovel and you may be the next millionaire.   (Please let me know if and when you do find the treasure box.)  Perhaps more research might help pin down precisely where the treasure is located.  There are many old records in the Frederic History Museum, the Frederic Library and the Frederic Newspaper Office.   Someone with more patience than I have had could likely find some clues to help locate the treasure.

I wish anyone with the patience and curiosity to seek the old Frederic treasure, the best of luck.  One warning to any potential treasure hunters, watch out for bears, wolves, ticks and deer flies.  They are all murder up here in the summer.   Following is a copy of the first manuscript that I found.

The Story of the Lost Frederic Treasure

Legend has it that a fortune in silver and gold was buried in a strong box not far from Frederic to hide it from the Indians during the great Sioux Uprising of 1867. 

According to historians, William J. Starr, one of the founders of Frederic, had developed a home site here as early as 1865.  Being a prospector at heart, he had moved to the area in search of precious minerals.  He soon met a local Native woman whom he hired as a guide to the area.  Eventually, they were betrothed and as luck would have it, she was the only daughter of the local Lakota Chief Bear Eyes.  Chief Bear Eyes did not get along with the numerous Ojibwa tribes in the area and was something of an outcast.  However, his clan had lived in the area for many generations and he was determined to stay where his ancestors had hunted and fished.  

When the Lakota tribes to the south rebelled against the white settlers, Chief Bear Eyes decided to remain at peace with the white settlers this side of the St. Croix River.  This decision did not set well with the local Ojibwa tribes as they had taken sides with the Whites and wanted to use the uprising as means of punishing the Lakota and sending them across the river to Minnesota.

One night in the late summer, Chief Bear Eyes learned of an impending attack by the combined Ojibwa tribes.  He sent his daughter, Princess Nomokagen, who still lived with him together with a strong box to stay with William J. Starr until the battle was over.  Starr and Princess Nomokagen decided it would be best to hide the strongbox.  Local townsfolk claim they saw them put a large box that was about 3 feet by 3 feet on the back of a mule and head out in the woods somewhere to the east of where Frederic was eventually built.  Apparently, after burying the box, William and the Princess made a small treasure map to guide them back to the strongbox.  The map was secreted at the home of Starr. 

Chief Bear Eyes and his clan were all killed in the battle and the strong box was forgotten in all the commotion that followed both the battle and uprising created.  Princess Nomokagen committed suicide by drowning in the Yellow River when she found out what had become of her tribe.  William Starr not finding the treasure in gems and minerals that he had been looking for realized that the large pine trees would be worth their weight in gold.  He started up some of the first logging camps in the area and soon became a millionaire lumber baron.  He was president of the Davis and Starr Lumber Company and the Wisconsin Refrigerator Company, secretary of the Eau Claire Book and Stationery Company, owner and operator of an orchard and stock farm in Wisconsin and four farms and a large country estate where the family resided near Easton, Maryland. 

Starr also had large interests in the Steven and Jarvis Lumber Company of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the Florence-Louisiana Company of Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, and owned extensive timber lands in Wisconsin and California as well as the Parkdale Apartment Building in Chicago. He was a man of considerable standing in Frederic, the leading benefactor of the West Sweden Lutheran Church, president of the first Frederic Public Library Board, and a member of numerous area clubs.  He also seems to have had a wide acquaintance in both the political and financial arena.  The town of Frederic, Wisconsin near to his first lumber camp was named after his youngest son.  William J. Starr died in 1921. 

The story as told by his son was that on his death bed, Starr suddenly remembered the treasure box that he had buried fifty-five years earlier.  With his last dying breath, he tried to tell his son and heirs where the treasure map was hidden.  However, it was too late and all they could hear him say was: “map, gold, treasure, buried nearby Frederic in woods.”  Numerous attempts to find the treasure and map have all proven futile.  Most of the people familiar with the story are now deceased.  Some believe it was all a hoax and that no treasure ever existed.  However, years later, (in 1971) one of Starr’s grandchildren found a Lakota cooking pot made of solid gold in the old attic of Starr’s house in Maryland. The single pot weighted six pounds and was conservatively valued at $78,000 dollars.  This find gave some credibility to the old tale of Frederic’s lost treasure. 

Time for Questions:

Only one question is relevant today.  Where is the Frederic Treasure Box hidden?

Life is just beginning. 

A bold person can find this treasure.  Think of what it could mean.

 

 

Jesus Starts a Facebook Page

Hi, I need to apologize.  I should be doing Gandhi’s third Social Sin but I got sidetracked by two recent news reports which have taken me down a different path for this blog.  I decided to do this blog on the subject of Jesus and Facebook.  I wonder what Jesus would do with Facebook if he were alive today?  I want to speculate a bit on what the current emphasis on social media would or could possibly do to enhance Jesus’s message and mission.  I will return to Gandhi next week. 

A few years ago, I remember seeing a science fiction movie wherein the value of a person in the future was directly related to how popular they were.  I cannot remember the name of the movie, so if you are familiar with it, I would appreciate your sending me a comment or email. I vaguely remember it being a Stallone movie but the only sci-fi movies I remember him in were Demolition Man and Judge Dredd and I do not think that either of these were the right movies.   In this future time, each citizen was given some sort of a number or code that showed how popular they were. The more popular they were the more successful and wealthy they were. Your value as a human being rested in your popularity regardless of how you may have achieved this popularity.  I have thought about this issue many times since then.  What once seemed like science-fiction now seems like daily reality.

Today we actually do value the worth of a person or their endeavors by how popular they are. Their popularity rating is based on a variety of measures.  How many followers do they have on Facebook?  How many hits do they get on their Blog?  How many calls do they get to be on game shows or other Hollywood Media?  How many books have they sold?  How many downloads did they get?  How many people did they kill?  Popularity sells newspapers, movie rights, stories, advertisements and TV space.  We have an entire set of people who are called celebrities who owe their lifestyles to some bizarre excuse for fame that the public has latched on.  Donald Trump, Lady Gaga, Psi, Kate Middleton, and dozens others routinely grace our newsstands and command maximum space in the media.  Wikipedia defines celebrity as:

A celebrity is a person who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is often synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.

Celebrities are the superstars of today’s world. Celebrities ban together at parties, galas, shindigs and anywhere the rich, successful or famous go to hang out. I noticed that during President Obama’s most recent White House Correspondents Dinner on April 27th that the audience was filled with not only news reporters but many of the rich and famous referred to as Hollywood’s A-List.  This A-List also included many of the politicians in this country since they were well represented at this dinner. It did not matter whether or not they supported Obama.  Right Wing, Left Wing, Conservative, Republican, Democrat, Liberal were all conspicuous at this dinner.  One can see Conan O’Brien, at the podium sharing some jokes at Bill O’Reilly’s expense on some of the videos posted on You-Tube.  For one brief night, Obama and O’Reilly had more in common than any of the common people (Are we B or C list?) on the face of the earth.  Regardless if the event is a Superbowl, Wimbledon Championship. PGA Major Event, or a funeral of some important dignitary, the “Celebrities” will all be invited.  Popularity is the coin of the realm today and the holy graile that we all seek. Today, it is more important to be famous and well known that it is to be kind, decent or good at least if you want to be a celebrity.

I noticed a Facebook posting on my web site from George Takei (AKA Sulu) of Star Trek fame.  He is now being hailed as a social media expert since his Facebook site has over four million followers and is one of the most popular sites on the Internet.  I had to admit to some curiosity so I went to check out his site to see what is behind his popularity. It seems his new found recognition is now translating into a renewed interest in his career and endeavors.  I will say that I was a big Star Trek fan and read most if not all of the bios of the lead actors from the series. I even went to the very first Star Trek convention in New York City.  I declined an invitation though to attend the second one.  I can only take nostalgia so far. I was most struck by the reported animosity between Takei and Captain Kirk.  It seems they did not get along too well off set although several other characters also found Shatner overbearing and egotistical. But then this seems to go with stardom.  Takei stuck to his guns though and was well liked by all members of the cast. 

Looking at Takei’s website, I was struck by the randomness of his site. Humor, short human interest stories, lots of pictures alluding to Star Trek and many liberal causes which Takei supports. I found it a fun and interesting site, but still left amazed that 4,000,000 people a week go to this site. To give you some perspective, when I started my www.timeparables.blogspot.com website it took me almost three years to go from 50 hits per month to nearly 3000 hits per month.  I confess, I routinely scrutinized the figures and sometimes felt obsessed with my “numbers.”  I did not want to fall into the trap of equating the value of what I had to say with the numbers of people who hit my site, but I found it hard not to feel bad on those days when I would publish what I thought was a very thought provoking blog and hardly anyone would logon.  Many times I felt disillusioned at the interest in my writings and was on the verge of stopping. Almost every time I got to this point, I would receive a comment or email indicating how much my blog meant to someone and how it had really made a difference in their life. I determined to keep writing as long as I had even one reader out there. I did not and still do not want to measure my value by my popularity but it’s not an easy task. 

One day a good friend of mine and I were in a coffee shop in Stillwater, Minnesota. We had both set down with our coffees and suddenly a man about our age appeared at the counter.  I could not help but think I knew him but I could not place where I knew him from.  I decided to go up to ask him.  I inquired whether we had met in the motorcycle club I belonged to and he said “No.”  I started to return to my seat but out of curiosity I persisted.  I said “Dam, you look very familiar, have we met someplace before?”  He again replied “No.”  I tried again.  “Are you in the movies or papers?”  “Yes”, he replied.  May I ask your name?  He answered “Sam Shepard.”   Suddenly, I was rather embarrassed and tongue tied. I admired many of his movies, writings and plays but did not know what to say.  I did not want him to think I was a celebrity seeker or one of the people who hound celebrities just to get their autograph or a piece of them.  I quickly ended the one-sided conversation with “Well, I like your movies, have a great day.”  That was the end of it. No further reply and Sam just walked off.

I realize there are many celebrity hunters out there. In fact, what would a celebrity be without a celebrity hunter? I also realize that many people who have achieved fame and recognition would rather not be celebrities. I suspect Sam was one of them.  An extremely accomplished actor, playwright and film director, he could stand on his own without “fame” or fortune.  However, fortune and fame does follow people who are very successful.  This is one of the payments for being able to do things that other people envy, admire or want to associate with.  Probably that is part of the reason we associate celebrity status with something desirable.  To become a celebrity means to become rich, famous and liked by millions.  We average people seldom see the downsides of celebrity status.  Thus, I am left to reflect on the curious juxtaposition of Jesus and Facebook.

If we can fast forward to Jesus of Nazareth to the 21st Century and imagine him having a Facebook site, how many followers would Jesus have today?  Let us assume for the sake of this hypothesis that Jesus was just starting out his ministry and was relatively unknown except for 12 rather flighty and fickle followers (AKA Disciples).  So Jesus puts up his Facebook site and starts posting parables and stories.  One story Jesus tells is as follows:  Matthew 18:23-34 — Unmerciful Servant

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” 

What is the moral of this story?  There are many that could be derived from this parable.  Love others as you are loved?  Do unto others as you would have done unto you?  What goes around comes around?  Share kindness not unkindness.  Jesus taught with the use of such parables and today he is the most famous person in history with more followers than even Donald Trump.  However, if Jesus were alive today would he get hits on his website by posting such parables?  Or would Jesus have to “get” with the times and become more contemporary?   Would he get himself executed again by the civil authorities for preaching discontent and unrest?  Would Jesus be a Republican or a Democrat?  Would he be a Liberal or a Conservative?  My mind reels with all the questions that this fantasy of a 21st Century Jesus holds for me.

I suppose I am losing you at this point.  My good friend Carrie Classon keeps her postings to 600 words and I am almost at 2000.  I am not sure I have made my point yet.  The moral I have been trying to explore here is “When does celebrity become hollow and mindless?”  There is fame that comes from accomplishing something of worth and value to the human race. There is also fame that comes from trivial meaningless endeavors or worse destroying lives and ideas that hold value for others.  One type of fame should be admired but the other type should be denigrated. Unfortunately, it looks like the media and too many people today do not distinguish between the two types of fame.  I see many news pundits who make their living preaching hate and intolerance and not love and kindness.  I see talk shows, radio and TV with mindless sycophants talking much but saying little.  I see a vast wasteland of entertainment with putdowns and innuendos making fun of other people.  I see millions of watchers who feel they must live their lives vicariously through others because they don’t have the ability or opportunity to do otherwise. Is this the value of Fame?

I conclude with a poem by Emily Dickenson: 

Fame is a Fickle Food

Fame is a fickle food

Upon a shifting plate

Whose table once a

Guest but not

The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect

And with ironic caw

Flap past it to the Farmer’s Corn –

Men eat of it and die.

Ok, time for questions:

Are we too concerned with being popular?  Do you think more people should look inward or worry more about what others think?  Do you worry too much about what others think?  What if you cared less?  What would your life be like?  Can someone be too popular?  Should popularity be a goal for anyone?  Why or Why not?

 Life is just beginning.

 

 

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