Thursday, October 29, 2009

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman

With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility

Oh Spiderman – how did you get to be so wise? He listened to his elders, paid attention to experts and learned from his mistakes. That’s how!

For those of you who never read the comic books or saw the movies the basic story goes like this. Spiderman (Peter Parker) was raised by his Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben in New York City. One day he was bitten by a radio- active (or bio-engineered depending on the version) spider and gained super human strength, agility and the ability to spin webs out of his wrists.

After his uncle loses his job and the Parker’s are faced with the possibility of losing their house young Spiderman decides to join an underground fight club to make some extra money. His uncle notices a change in Peter’s attitude and delivers the now famous line. At the end of the night the club is robbed and Peter has a chance to stop the thief but doesn’t. As he is running away the thief stabs Uncle Ben. Because Peter Parker didn’t feel it was his responsibility to stop a robbery, even though he had the power to do so, his uncle died.

From that point forward Spiderman made it his mission to steward his power responsibly.

One of the most powerful institutions in North America, outside the government is the Christian Church. Some would say it is even more powerful than government.

But Jesus never taught his followers how to steward power. His only teaching on the subject was to give it away and just serve people. And not just to serve but to serve to the point of giving up your own agenda, a kind of spiritual death to self. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Jesus (Matthew 10:39).

The Christian Church is in a position of power that it was never intended to have. Unfortunately recent history has shown that the biggest hurdle many good people face when trying to serve others is none other than the Church. Church politics, arguments over doctrine and structure determine who’s “out” more than who to serve. Jesus corner stone teaching, best known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5, 6 and 7) is inclusive and humble. Not exclusive and superior.

I get a lot of flak from people on this blog aimed at my Christian bias. One of the things I have noticed about it though is that it almost always comes from people who have been wounded by a powerful church. The message of Jesus is not a message of institutional power. It is a message of service and humility. Much of the church today looks nothing like Jesus intended. My challenge to everyone, believer or not is to read the Sermon on the Mount and ask yourself this question; “Am I living this life?”

And because I know some of you might not have a bible, here it is, just click the forward and back arrows to go to the next chapter.

I welcome your feedback!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Out of a Clear Blue Sky

“What Makes a Person So Poisonous, Righteous that He’d think less of anyone who just disagreed?”
The Gulf War Song, Moxy Fruvous (1993).

An Earworm is often described as part of a song. So it’s fitting that my first entry after I renamed the blog is prompted by a song.

Moxy Fruvous was a “one hit wonder” from Kingston, Ontario that wrote and produced a full album of politically charged folk songs in the early 90s. The hit was a fun little ditty called “The King of Spain” in which the band tells a prince and pauper type story of international trade. But the album reaches its most poignant moment on the final track, in the “Gulf War Song” a 4 minute acapella lament of politics turned to self-righteousness. In addition to the line quoted above my other favourite says “I’m just a pacifist, he’s just a patriot, if I said you were crazy would you have to fight me?”

This song was written during the first Gulf War. Before 9/11, before anyone knew who Osama bin Laden was or how to spell Taliban and before anyone but a few pentagon staffers knew what WMD meant.

I haven’t written much in the past few weeks. I’ve been reading a lot of the recent history of the Bush administration and how the world reacted to September 11, 2001. Like everyone, I’ve lived that history and at times had a front row seat. 9/11 is one of those events, like the moon landing, pearl harbour or the assassination of John Kennedy that everyone who was alive at that moment will never forget.

As was often the case, I was the first one in the office that morning and I vividly recall sitting at my desk in a Toronto high-rise looking out at a clear blue sky and watching aircraft on final approach to Pearson International Airport. The thought crossed my mind that there appeared to be more planes in the area than on other mornings, little did I know that US airspace had just been closed and a number of flights were being diverted.

I had the window open and a maintenance crew who happened to be repelling down the side of the building making repairs to the balcony leaned in and asked if I had heard was what happening in New York City. They had a portable radio on their work platform. It was a surreal moment; 4 men literally hanging from a rope 19 stories above the ground talking to me through an open window about how airplanes were crashing into a similar building half a continent away. Would we be next?

As I have read the historical and political commentary of what followed two things have stood out.

# 1) In 1998 journalist Thomas Freidman said, “It’s not another superpower that threatens America at the end of the twentieth century. The greatest danger that the United States faces today is from Super-empowered individuals who hate America more than ever because of globalization and who can do something about it on their own, more than ever, thanks to globalization.” (The Lexus and the Olive Tree). 3 years before 9/11, Freidman prophesied that Globalization could become a double edged sword. Our struggle in the 20th century is to keep one edge sharp, that of expanded markets and empowerment and the other, increased poverty and widening economic gaps, dull.

# 2) Decision makers need to have complete information. In the case of George W. Bush my reading of the accounts from journalist like Bob Woodward (State of Denial) and Ron Suskind (The One Percent Doctrine) have revealed that the president was functioning with bad intelligence. The people with good intelligence were unable for various reasons, not the least of which was fear for their own jobs, to pass the information up the chain. In one instance a general on the ground in Iraq later wrote in his personal journal that he felt the government was making huge mistakes that would take years to correct and yet when given the opportunity to meet face to face with the president said that the mission was proceeding as planned.

I am not an apologist for George W. Bush, but how can you expect a man to make effective decisions when his closest advisors aren’t giving him correct information.

Over the next few posts I hope to expand on the first idea, the second I’ll leave to the historians.

Go ahead and download the Gulf War Song at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Month - New Title

I found a new title for my Blog!

After months of looking for the perfect word or phrase that really says what I mean I’ve settled on this. These musings start out as Earworms. I’ll see something on the news, read it in the paper or a book or hear it spoken by someone in the know; it’ll get in my head and stick there like a worm.

The only way to kill the worm is to understand it, listen to it, and figure out where it came from so that you know what it wants from you. That’s what I do here.

Having an Earworm isn’t fun! The term conjures up images of creepy, crawly things in your head. These thoughts that I explore here, crawl into my brain and won’t leave until I give them the time and understanding they demand.

In short – they drive me crazy.

Welcome to life with my Earworms....