Friday, June 22, 2012

ZAMM (part 6) - Sloth, or just not caring ...

Heard of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Pope St. Gregory I ("the Great") in the 6th century A.D is credited for coming up with this list of vices, which all good Christians are to avoid - all bad stuff:

wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
(reference: The Seven Deadly Sins)

On the other hand, the flip side are the Seven Virtues:

faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, virtue, prudence, temperance.
(reference: The Seven Virtues)

But Robert Pirsig's book - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), in my opinion, focuses much of his Chautauqua on one of these seven deadly sins ...


Imagines come to my mind of laziness and sluggishness - as so illustrated by the sluggard in the garden scene above. Certainly, that is part of it. But there is more to it than that. (reference: The Seven Deadly Sins - Sloth)

The root of the word for sloth is ...


It literally means - not caring. (reference: acedias - Memidex dictionary/thesaurus)

And caring - or the lack of it - is a major thread in ZAMM.

You call this Motorcycle Maintenance?

In one Chautauqua, the author describes his unpleasant experience dealing with a bad mechanic. Instead of fixing the author's motorcycle, the mechanic made its condition worse than ever. What went so wrong in this process? Pirsig had quite a bit to say about that.

The trinities - mind, body, spirit - science, art, religion - are all engaged and interconnected when pursuing excellence in any craft or skill. Mechanics, for example, must be aware of the thousands of technical facts out there about motorcycles, say. The art is sorting out which facts are relevant to the solve the problem at hand. And the art of gumption comes into play while troubleshooting and identifying the root cause of the problem and knowing how to fix it.

But what divides a good mechanic from a bad one?

This divide comes in the spiritual dimension, which can be summed in one word ...


In my opinion, the stories told in ZAMM are a kulturbarer (the Swedish word translated "culture bearer") because of the epidemic of not caring that has infected our modern society. Not caring manifests itself in many ways, and below is just a sampling of what some may have encountered.

* Poor Workmanship

Many new houses - perhaps you have bought one of these lately - have a veneer of quality. But a closer look exposes the thinness of this veneer as it masks the degraded craftsmanship of the building ... like the planners and contractors just did not care when they put the house together.

Below is a clip of the condo owners' lament over this former Olympic village - rife with examples of not caring.

These condos are not the exception of poor construction, but unfortunately the rule these days. And poor workmanship is a manifestation of sloth.

* Corporate America

Scott Adams pokes fun at the dysfunction of the corporate world in his comic strip - Dilbert. The strip resonates with so many because the jokes and the punchlines have so much truth in them.

And this clips shows it.

Apathy is another manifestation of sloth. And it trickles down from management, infects the workers, and outputs its degraded end products to the customer, who often complain of its poor workmanship (as in the first clip above).

* Lonely People

And there can be a psychological cost of not caring - depression. One of the consequences of depression is loneliness. And loneliness seems so prevalent in modern society. The Beatles captured this malady in Eleanor Rigby.

Below is the song with images of this lonely human condition:

All the lonely people - where do they all come from?

Lonely people come from not caring:
* Not caring can come from not being willing to reach out to lonely people.
* Not caring can come from the lonely people not being willing to be reached by others.

Sloth, either from the sufferer or the enabler, can cause or exasperate loneliness, depression ... and the consequences can be so deadly.

ZAMM gets it right as it points to the spiritual root cause of many of the maladies in our culture ...

Just not caring

But is there a cure for this malady?

Yes, it's opposite - caring

To find caring ....

Go back to the garden

The first Adam's job was gardening, working in the garden and caring for it.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

This caring can be extended to all of God's creation, especially to fellow human beings.

Caring was the first job given to the human race.

The last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, went back to the garden, to the original purpose of humans - to care for all of God's creation. In his parables, Jesus talked about gardening and caring in various parables and teachings: sowing in the field, workers in the vineyards, the diligence of servants, and most of all how God cares for people as Jesus had said in these words ...

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Like the difference between the a good and bad mechanic is caring, the difference between the first and the last Adam is ...

Caring to the nth degree

And we all have this promise from the last Adam (Jesus), especially when we feel no one cares:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Sloth is deadly.

But caring brings meaning to life and is the balm for this malady of sloth that has infected us all.

Question: Any stories of caring/not caring you would like to share?


Previous articles in the ZAMM series:

ZAMM (part 1) - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2011)

ZAMM (part 2) - Journey through Life (2011)

ZAMM (part 3) - Chautauqua, then and now (2011)

ZAMM (part 4) - Ghosts (2011)

ZAMM (part 5) - Sheldon vs Penny (2012)


Photos from: sloth
Wikipedia Commons: Gardening

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pray4America (part 3) - FDR's Flag Day prayer - June 14, 1942

US Historical Flags

Remember when TV stations used to sign off for the day?

If you don't, you are probably under 30.

Before 24/7 cable, a station ended its day - late at night or early in the morning - usually with a short, but inspiring or patriotic video. And one such sign-off video (shown below) plays to the appropriate tune, The Star Spangled Banner, as it shows the evolution of the American flag throughout our history - from Jamestown (1607) to the moon landing (1969).

And that clip above is both quite a historical and an educational tribute to Flag Day - which we recognize each year on June 14th. Since the early days of our history, the American flag has represented freedom - something very fragile in an evil world - and our country's ideals of liberty and justice for all.

But ....

70 years ago ...

the United States celebrated a more poignant Flag Day, one in which freedom and our country were greatly in peril.

The year was 1942.

The United States had just entered into World War Two (1939 - 1945) after Japan and Germany had declared war on us, embroiling us in another world war not to be equalled in the rest of the 20th century.

During those trying times, the Nazi juggernaut had rolled up the map of continental Europe. Japan had nearly wiped out our Pacific fleet with their attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Yet, we had just fought the Battle of Midway the previous week (June 4 - 7, 1942) and had won a decisive victory against Japan, giving hope to turn the tide in our favor in the Pacific theater.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during these dark days, broadcast his Flag Day speech to the nation, closing with a prayer for the world.

The clip below plays an excerpt from the last part of that prayer, shown with some moving images of World War Two, which are from the end credits of the series, World War II in HD.

The Spirit of man has awakened
The Soul of man has gone forth

Grant us the wisdom and the vision
to comprehend the greatness of man's Spirit
that suffers and endures so hugely for a goal
beyond his own brief span

We are all of us children of Earth
Grant us that simple knowledge
If our brothers are oppressed,
then we are oppressed
If they hunger, we hunger
If their freedom is taken away,
our freedom is not secure

Grant us a common faith,
that man shall know bread and peace
That he shall know justice and righteousness,
Freedom and security, an equal opportunity,
and an equal chance to do his best,
not only in our own lands, but throughout the world.

And in that faith, let us march, march toward the clean world,
our hands can make. Amen

The entire text of FDR's radio address can be found here: Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Radio Address on United Flag Day.," June 14, 1942. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

It's been 70 years since these words ending with a prayer were first broadcast to the nation ... on Flag Day.  And it was one of many prayers offered during World War Two.  (reference: World War Two and National Prayer.)  Yet, this prayer speaks to the great needs of our nation and the world in the 21st century.

And may we continue to pray to rely on God for help and wisdom as we face the great challenges and difficult days ahead, and with His infinite grace and mercy, prevail. Amen.

So ....

Keep praying for America
for ...

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord ...
Psalm 33:12


Previous posts in this series:

Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer (2012)

Pray4America (part 2) - FDR's prayer on D-Day (2012)


Previous posts on Flag Day:

The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner (2010)

Flag Day (2009)


Posts on World War Two:

America's Story (part 4) - Christmas 1944, when we said NUTS to the enemy (2011)

America's Story (part 3) - Over There - 1917, 1941 (2011)

A kiss immortalized in August 14, 1945 (2010)

Remembering D-Day - June 6, 1944 (2010)

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered (2009)


Photo from Wikipedia: US Historical Flags

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pray4America (part 2) - FDR's prayer on D-Day

Normandy Landings


- the Normandy Landings -

June 6, 1944

D-Day marked the start of the allied invasion into France, known as Operation Overlord, during World War Two. Since the date had not been determined until its final approval, D-Day was the date used for planning purposes. But the invasion plans all came together, commencing on June 6, 1944 ... and the rest is history.

My father-in-law was part of the overall invasion, landing a few days after D-Day. Since then much has been written about this critical time in the 20th century. And some blockbuster movies have been made to play out the drama of the invasion. (The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, to mention a few.)

For a brief history on D-Day, feel free to check out a few of the resources below:

* National D-Day Memorial

* D-Day - June 6, 1944 - the United States Army

But before D-Day commenced, General Eisenhower addressed the troops, then made a request for prayer ...

in this message shown in the clip below:

" ... The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

"Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Full text can be found here: General Eisenhower's Message - D-Day - June 6, 1944 - the United States Army)

If prayer was ever needed, it was needed then ...

As D-Day began and President Franklin Roosevelt broadcast his prayer to the American people:

" ... And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

"With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

"Thy will be done, Almighty God.
(Full text for the Presidents prayer can be found here: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Prayer on D-Day)

And prayer is needed even more today because ...

The enemy to freedom is not so overt or defined. The real enemy is spiritual and takes on many forms and contrives many plans to enslave and destroy us. We need wisdom to discern ...

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

And we - like soldiers - need special weapons to fight this enemy and get the victory:

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:13-18

And may we rely on the help of God as our leaders and our nation had done on D-Day.  May this D-Day anniversary be a turning point.

So ....

Keep praying for America
for ...

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord ...
Psalm 33:12


Previous post in this series:

Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer (2012)


Posts on World War Two:

America's Story (part 4) - Christmas 1944, when we said NUTS to the enemy (2011)

America's Story (part 3) - Over There - 1917, 1941 (2011)

A kiss immortalized in August 14, 1945 (2010)

Remembering D-Day - June 6, 1944 (2010)

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered (2009)


Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Normandy Landings