James Tour

Advertisements

Apollo astronauts

Here are the 8 surviving Apollo astronauts. Not too long to go before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing! Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the lunar surface on July 21, 1969, followed by Buzz Aldrin 19 minutes later. Michael Collins stayed in orbit around the moon on the Apollo command module.

astronauts

Left to right: Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7), Al Worden (Apollo 15), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17), Michael Collins (Apollo 11), Fred Haise (Apollo 13).

Location: The Explorer’s Club, Marriott, Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA.

Date: March 16, 2019.

Source: Felix Kunze.

In his image

Austin Farrer writes the following about C.S. Lewis in the book Remembering C.S. Lewis: Recollections of Those Who Knew Him (James T. Como, ed.).


In His Image
By Austin Farrer

A familiar prayer in commemoration of benefactors declares that God is to be praised as well in the dead as in the living; and to praise God in the dead is to honour the excellence of his handiwork in them. It is no business of ours to sit in judgment or to strike the balance of merit; how much of the virtue we praise was the gift of fortune and how much of the virtue was the product of effort or self-discipline is a question with which we have nothing to do. God is the supreme cause of every positive effect, whatever the means he employs to bring it about; we glorify the Creator when we mark the glory in his creature.

Every human mind is a marvel, for is it not a focus into which the world is drawn? Yet minds differ vastly in force and range, and spirits in life and feeling; and the first thing I am moved to say about the man we commemorate is that he had more actuality of soul than the common breed of men. He took in more, he felt more, he remembered more, he invented more. The reflections on his early life right up to manhood, which he has left us in his writings, record an intense awareness, a vigorous reaction, a taking of the world into his heart, which must amaze those whose years have offered them a processional frieze in several tints of grey. His blacks and whites of good and evil and his ecstasies and miseries were the tokens of a capacity for experience beyond our scope. And yet he was far from the aesthetic type as commonly conceived—this burly man was no overstrained neurotic, whatever he was.

Someone wrote to me yesterday that Lewis was a split personality because the imaginative and the rationalistic held so curious a balance in his mind; and Lewis himself tells us how his imaginative development raced away in boyhood and was afterward called to order by logic. Yet I will not call a split personality one brave enough both to think and to feel, nor will I call it integration, which is achieved by halving human nature. Certainly reason struggled in him with feeling and sometimes produced bizarre effects; but no one who conversed with him and listened to the flow of that marvellous speech could wish to talk of a split between powers so fruitfully and so mutually engaged. No doubt many intellectuals keep a life of feeling somewhere apart, where it will not infect the aseptic purity of their thoughts. If it is a crime to think about all you strongly feel and feel the realities about which you think, then the crime was certainly his.

It was this feeling intellect, this intellectual imagination that made the strength of his religious writings. Some of those unsympathetic to his convictions saw him as an advocate who bluffed a public eager to be deceived by the presentation of uncertain arguments as cogent demonstrations. Certainly he was a debater and thought it fair to make the best of his case; and there were those who were reassured by seeing that the case could be made. But his real power was not proof; it was depiction. There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader at home. Moral issues were presented with sharp lucidity and related to the divine will and, once so seen, could never again be seen otherwise. We who believe will ask no more. Belief is natural, for the world is so. It is enough to let it be seen so.

The impact of his writings sufficiently shows that he had a fundamental sympathy with the public for which he wrote, a sympathy based partly on the experience of teaching and partly on a scrupulous attention to the letters that readers, sane or mad, simple or sophisticated, wrote him from all over the world. He answered them all in his own hand.

His characteristic attitude to people in general was one of consideration and respect. He did his best for them, and he appreciated them. He paid you the compliment of attending to your words. He did not pretend to read your heart. He was endlessly generous. He gave without stint, to all who seemed to care for them, the riches of his mind and the effort of his wit; and where there was need, he gave his money. I will not say what I know about his charities. When he had entered into any relationship, his patience and his loyalty were inexhaustible. He really was a Christian—by which I mean, he never thought he had the right to stop.

As he gave, so he took. Everything went into that amazing capacity of mind, his living friends as much as the authors on his shelves. Not to name those who are still with us, his debts in personal wisdom and in literary inspiration to his wife and to Charles Williams were visible to all. He had no affectation of originality. He did not need it.

I must not let myself be led into a panegyric, still less a critique, of his writings. You will estimate them, and are free to estimate them very variously; and what another generation will say, who can guess? Perhaps the force of his style, the concreteness of his invention, and the solidity of his scholarship are unlikely to lack appreciators. But it is not the work of Lewis’s pen; it is the work of God’s fingers that we are to praise. Truly he had made man in his image, and where the lineaments are visible we will glorify the Maker.

The life that Lewis lived with zest he surrendered with composure. He was put almost beside himself by his wife’s death; he seemed easy at the approach of his own. He died at the last in a moment. May he everlastingly rejoice in the Mercy he sincerely trusted.

The tragedy of progressivism

Frank Dikötter, the author of The Tragedy of Liberation, says the golden age of China’s liberation was really a period of broken promises, systematic violence and calculated terror.

(Source)

Hm, China…or modern progressive America?

1. On the one hand, it’s at best silly when leftists say how America is morally equal to or worse than China. How America under Trump is a totalitarian nation (fascist). And so on.

On the other hand, thanks primarily to leftists, America could be in danger of becoming a totalitarian state like China.

2. Dikötter is currently a historian at the University of Hong Kong. I don’t know that he’ll last long once the communist Chinese government completely takes over Hong Kong. Once the “one nation, two systems” idea is gone, which is already happening.

For that matter, I’ve read interviews with and reviews of Dikötter from left-leaning publications in the US and elsewhere in the West that seem inordinately critical of him for precious little reason. As far as I see, he’s just being a good historian and relaying the facts. However, they’re apparently trying to kill the messenger. I guess they believe he puts communism in China in too negative of a light. We can’t have that!

3. Anyway, after reading and watching a lot of his stuff, Dikötter seems to be a meticulous historian. He unearths the horrors and tragedies of communism in China, from the Chinese Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.

However, it seems to me, China hasn’t fundamentally changed today:

  • China still clamps down on the slightest hint of dissent. That spills over into China sorely restricting if not punishing free speech, assembly, religion, etc. Something like Tiananmen Square could easily happen again.
  • China still has a million or more of its citizens locked away in concentration camps to “re-educate” them through “labor” (laogai). Many if not most of these are political dissidents. Those who dissented from the communist party.
  • China still controls its population’s birth rates. For example, China used to have a one child policy, but changed to a two child policy a few years ago. Also, China forces many women to have abortions and/or hysterectomies without their consent.
  • China forcibly harvests organs from prisoners, some of whom may have not committed any crime other than being a political opponents against the communist party.
  • China is still a high-tech surveillance state (e.g. facial recognition used against its citizens, apps to monitor phones).
  • China still controls the news media. In fact, it has state-run media.
  • China still uses propaganda and censorship.
  • China still blatantly steals intellectual property from whomever they wish.
  • China still engages in cyberattacks against individuals, groups, and nations.
  • China still occupies Tibetan and Uyghur lands.
  • China still uses N. Korea as its puppet against S. Korea, Japan, the US, and others.
  • China still considers Taiwan a rogue Chinese state that should be part of China rather than respecting its independence.
  • China still considers the South China Sea its own. China has literally created man-made islands in the South China Sea and installed military bases on these islands. This way China has strategic control over this area where tons of ships and trade have to go through every day.

I’m sure the list could go on, but that should suffice for now.

Bottom line: China hasn’t fundamentally changed. It’s just gotten a lot richer and more powerful.

4. Here’s an interview with Dikötter that provides more of his background.

The smartest person who ever lived

William_James_Sidis_1914
(William Sidis at his Harvard graduation in 1914.)

William James Siddis (1898-1944) was perhaps the smartest person who ever lived. Estimates of his IQ range between 250 and 300. At eighteen months he could read the New York Times. At two he taught himself Latin. At three he learned Greek. At four he was typing letters in French and English. At five he wrote a treatise on anatomy and stunned people with his mathematical ability. At eight he graduated from Brookline High School in Massachusetts. He was about to enter Harvard, but the entrance board suggested he take a few years off to develop socially. He complied, and entered Harvard at eleven. At sixteen he graduated cum laude, and then became the youngest professor in history. He inferred the possibility of black holes twenty years before Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar did. As an adult, he could speak more than forty languages and dialects.

Yet the stress of possessing such an amazing intellect took its toll on Sidis. Instead of being appreciated and admired for his intellectual gifts, he was regarded as a freak – an intellectual performer to be started at rather than a fellow human being to be esteemed. As a teenager at Harvard, he suffered a nervous breakdown. As a professor at Rice University, he was unable to bear the constant media attention. In his early twenties, he resigned his professorship and withdrew from all serious intellectual pursuits. In 1924, a reporter found him working at a low-paying job in a Wall Street office. Sidis told the reporter that all he wanted was anonymity in a job that placed no demands on him. He spent the rest of his life working menial jobs. [Sidis died from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 46.]

(The Design of Life, p 1.)

Jonny Kim

So let me see if I got this right:

  • Navy SEAL. In fact, Kim was part of the infamous SEAL Team Three “Task Unit Bruiser” led by Jocko Willink. His teammates were Chris Kyle (portrayed in the film American Sniper by Bradley Cooper), Marc Alan Lee, Kevin Lacz, and Michael Monsoor.
  • Math major. He graduated at the top of his class (summa cum laude).
  • Harvard medical school graduate. He’s a medical doctor (MD).
  • Emergency medicine resident. He was an emergency medicine resident at the Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). MGH is arguably the most prestigious teaching hospital in the United States.
  • NASA astronaut candidate. He says he’s ready to go on any mission NASA sends him to. That could be the international space station, the moon, or Mars.

My observations:

1. That’s quite the list of accomplishments. Well done!

2. However, I wonder if his family life suffers. I ask because he mentions he has a wife and children. Given he’s in an extremely high-risk line of work, if he dies or is seriously impaired, then I hope his family will be okay.

3. All one’s accomplishments and accolades in this life mean nothing without God. If one is living for oneself, not living for God, then so what? Consider: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7) and “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mt 16:26).

Lights in a dark world

lights

Ernst Kasemann was telling me of his friend Steinbauer, one of the most courageous Christians of the Third Reich, who spent nearly as long in prison as Martin Niemoller [or Dietrich Bonhoeffer]. We do not know his name as well because, I suppose, he lacked some of Niemoller’s gifts. I had not heard of him until then. But he was a man of surprising courage. He had publicly declared ‘Hitler is mad’. When he was set free at the end of the war, by the Allied forces, he was immediately sent – out of the frying pan and into the fire – to act as chaplain to a prison camp of 30,000 S.S. [Schutzstaffel] men. He preached there a sermon and one ex-officer came up to him and said, ‘As soon as I am out of here, I will seek you out and kill you.’ Steinbauer went on, unafraid of what he knew was a deadly serious threat. After four sermons the S.S. officer was converted.

Lights in a dark world; straight in a crooked world; fearless in a threatening world; loving in a selfish world; helpful in a despairing world. You possess the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Learn from the past but do not live in it. And press on to the mark.

(Source)

This is not unlike the present world in which we live in the West. When our religious freedoms and liberties as Christians are under threat by secular progressives. In fact, it’s not just Christians, but all people who cherish democratic ideals are under threat by secular progressives.

What do I mean by secular progressive? I have in mind people who argue for the following kinds of things. Every man is a sexual predator until proven otherwise (also see the excesses of the #metoo movement). Biologically born males who are transgender women must be allowed to use women’s bathrooms and locker rooms and compete in women’s sports. Everyone must call a person by the term the person wishes to be called. Religious people owning private bakeries must serve any and all customers including those customers who want them to bake a cake for their homosexual wedding despite it going against their consciences, or else face law suits, but progressive-minded restaurant establishments are allowed to deny service to anyone they wish without any repercussions (e.g. Red Hen and Sarah Huckabee Sanders). And so on and so forth.

Secular progressives hold most the power and influence in our culture, the media, and public education, among other areas.

Politics is currently split 50/50, but secular progressives are making gains in politics too. If and when they do gain enough strength in politics, then secular progressives will doubtless seek to change how we are governed. If they govern, they will govern top-down, not bottom-up as it should be in our constitutional government. They will govern by mandates and edicts, but also by bread and circuses. They’ll give people “free” education and “free” health care, but as every good economist knows “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. People will get what they want, but they’ll have to pay on the way out. Perhaps some will leave in coffins.

It’s worth reading the very short book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by the Yale historian Tim Snyder. As an aside: Snyder applies the book’s lessons to Trump and conservatives in public forums. However, the ironic truth is the shoe’s on the other foot, but the author doesn’t realize it. It’s secular progressives who are the real threat to our democratic ideals.

In any case, it’s a serious concern what the future world will look like for Christians and our families. Society will say the opposite: don’t worry so much, all is well, black is white, down is up. Even families will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother. Fathers will have their children put to death, children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. The question for us is, what kind of person will we be?