Identity – Who Dat?

Identity – Who Dat?

Epiphany 2020

02.20.2020

 

Who are you? When I first began writing this blog, someone asked me that very question. Then I was asked to complete a profile and again, that question came up. What is your identity? More importantly, what do you want people to remember about you?

 

We’ve discussed in past blog posts about “Who dat?” I know many New Orleans Saints NFL team fans want to believe they invented this phrase but, alas, history proves it predates the National Football League. It was first sung as a line in a song in an operetta written by Dunbar and Will Marion Cook entitled “Clorinda: the Origin of the Cakewalk”. It was presented as part of the 1898 “summer Nights” show produced by E. E. Rice.

 

US service men picked up the catchy phrase and it was often heard over plane radios as servicemen radioed each other. One of the lines of the original song asks a question we might all ask ourselves: “Who dat inside who’s dat outside; who’s dat inside who dat well outside?”

 

Several years ago the Anglican Communion voted to sanction the Episcopal Church of America. The issue was the Episcopal Church’s interpretation of the Bible which, in the Episcopal Church’s view, states that the creator known as God loves all equally and so should man. In his response to this action, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, a man quoted in this blog from time to time, asked: “By what identity do we want to be known?” In other words, when it comes to believing and sharing God’s love, do we want to be picky and choose only certain ones?

 

George Orwell once wrote “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” As a child, I was often mistaken by some as being of a different race. It was a time of segregation and so, when in the company of my red-haired, freckle-faced mother, I had no difficulty in using the same restroom and water fountain as she did. However, when alone or with a group of children, I would sometimes be directed to the facilities marked “colored”. I felt no shame because I was curious.

 

We all wonder what is on the other side of a closed door. The enticement of the unknown affects us all. To my surprise and, yes I admit it, to my disappointment, the other side of the door looked just the same as the room marked “white”. The water fountain used the same intake pipes to bring water to the spigot and the drains went into the same outtake pipes. The only differences were the markings, the identifying signs designed to separate and discourage acceptance.

 

Who do you want to be? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wanted to be known as a man. He wanted his children to be just children, not identified by color but by their being. They had names, not shame. They were God’s own. Maybe not in the eyes of the Anglican Communion way back when but now…Who dat?

 

Who are you? What do you believe? What is evidenced by how you live? I remained me whether I used the “white” restroom or the “black” restroom. I did not change because of another’s perception. And whenever someone asks me who I am, my first thought is “a child of God.” Of course, just saying it doesn’t make it so. I have to live it. That is what gives me my identity. Not what someone else thinks or sanctions but my own actions. My identity is what I do, what I say, how I evidence my faith in my life.

 

We humans are a curious lot. I am certain someone famous has said that but tonight it is my own quote. In an effort to avoid schism within the Anglican Communion, the Communion created a schism with itself and the Episcopal Church. The issue is about who qualifies as a child of God and is thereby entitled to respect, love, and forgiveness…all those things we humans expect. It should be noted that the very things that created such schism would later be adopted and today there is little difference to note.

 

It makes me wonder if the Anglican Communion thinks we have invented a new breed of mammal – the homosexual Christian. It really is not about who the outcasts are. It is completely about who we become with such decision. What identity do we then take on when we fail to recognize these as children of God, or the Creator, or Allah, or the Supreme Being, or any of the other one hundred common names for the Creator Spirit?

 

There is a national holiday declared as Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the U.S.A. He had a dream that one day all people and children would be seen as just that – people and children. “Who dat inside who’s dat outside; who’s dat inside who dat well outside?” We cannot be well in our identity if we fail to see the inner soul and respond to the being within. Recently those who work in the nation’s capital seem to have forgotten the purpose behind this holiday. Instead they use their positions as an excuse to engage in name calling and acceptance of those who commit illegal acts.

 

I am proud to be a member of a group of people who have chosen their identity to be open to envelope in God’s love all the souls of the earth, regardless of color, creed, race, or status. My identity is not that of God nor am I any better than another. Who dat? It’s me, a child of God, a child who still hears the echoes of Dr. King’s words.

I, too, have a dream, a dream of a world in which respect is given to all living things. My identity is based upon equality and the hope that we will someday truly realize equality for all. When it comes to acceptance, I don’t think anyone should be left outside.   Who are you?

Control and Determination

Control and Determination

Epiphany 2020

02.19.2020

 

Ask any student that has ever taken a mathematics test. Simply answering the question is not giving a complete answer. One must be able to show the work to explain how the answer was obtained. In other words, the student cannot simply guess; computations must give evidence of how the answer was determined.

 

In 1956 Kurt Godel wrote a letter to John von Neumann and, basically, asked if he thought a computer could determine answers to certain problems from scratch. Computers had already proven quite successful at verifying answers; Godel wondered if they could posit the answer all on their own, especially regarding those problems that were easily verified but not so easily solved. This question was put into mathematical terms fifteen years later by Stephen Cook who wrote “P versus NP”.

 

The questions involved in the P versus NP debate are, simply put, questions whose answers cannot be determined without testing every possible answer. In 2000 seven mathematical problems were named Millennium Prize Problems by the Clay Mathematical Institute. Anyone solving one of these seven would win a million dollar prize. To date, only one of the seven has been solved; six are still unsolved.

 

These are not the only unsolved problems that exist, however. Even in mathematics, there are still a host of problems in each specialty that continue to challenge mankind. One of my favorites is found in Discrete Geometry – solving the happy ending problem for arbitrary . The problem itself has nothing to do with marriage. It states “every set of five points in general position contains the vertices of a convex quadrilateral.” There are quite a few theorems but none have been proven and proving is what solves the problem. In other words, the work must be shown. By the way, two mathematicians met while studying the problem and married; hence, the name.

 

The Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009 was a gentleman named Stephen. A prominent theoretical physicist and often called one of the greatest scientific minds of all times, Stephen illustrates a great deal of unbelievable control for many people. He served as the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, was a most successful author and a fervent supporter and fan of quantum mechanics. He was also an avid supporter of SOS Children’s Villages in the United Kingdom.

 

The SOS Children’s Villages support vulnerable children who have lost their parents or have parents that no longer reside with them. The agency provided family strengthening programs, health, educational, and psycho-social support. Emergency relief programs are also available and the organization works within the intention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as working with the UN Economic and Social Council.

 

For me, though, one of the most astounding things about Stephen was his own lack of physical control that so many of us take for granted. Those that knew him claimed he had an incredible amount of determination or obstinacy, the perspective being determined by whether or not one agreed with him. He serves today as an example for us all in what hard work can accomplish since he did not come from a background of wealth or privilege.

 

For many just the fact that he was still working illustrated the P versus NP issue. You see, Stephen was Dr. Stephen Hawking, a man who in his mid-20’s contracted ALS and lived much of his life in a wheelchair and unable to communicate naturally. As he lost control of his muscles and movement became limited, his geometric insight seemed to increase and he began performing equations in his head that most people could not solve with pen and paper/chalk and chalkboard.

 

All too often we write people off based upon their background. This is especially true for children who have grown up in deplorable conditions without a proper mentor or example set for them. We consider those that manage to become successful as anomalies, not the norm. We assume the children of Poverty will never Negate Poverty, that these People will not ever be Noticed People. They are the P versus NP problem of the world and by simply continuing to do what he once set out to do, Stephen Hawking has proven that life can be lived.

 

We seek to control so many things in our lives and yet, we often become our own enemy, our own handicap. Dr. Hawking let nothing prevent him from being and by doing that, he maintained control over his handicap. So how can we follow his example and how do we help the children he so proudly supported in his own humanitarian efforts?

 

I cannot imagine someone ever rushed into the building that housed Dr. Hawking’s office and complained about too much, especially if he was rolling into the building in his wheelchair at the same time. He served as a role model simply by being present.

 

Each of us does the same, although certainly not to the extent of Stephen Hawking. We can help children in our own areas by being a mentor or role model for them. So many children, especially those living without a great deal of positive parental involvement, need to simply see an adult being a functioning adult.

 

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do to and succeed at.” Those are the words of Dr. Hawking. They are words that you can help a child discover by manifesting your faith and living your beliefs. We each put forth an image every time we encounter another. Six days ago Stephen Hawking turned 74. His life was the proving of a theory he proposed at his graduation from Oxford over fifty years ago: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

 

We might think control and adaptation are two different things just as five points might not seem like they would make a four-sided figure or quadrilateral. Yet, though not yet proven, the happy ending problem in Discrete Geometry exists. When teach control when we teach children how to adapt and we do that by helping them. This is something you can do. Be a hero to a child and you will help yourself in ways no computer could ever count. Charity really does begin at home.

Winning

Winning

Epiphany 19

02.16.2020

 

Peyton Manning and Bangambiki Habyarimana may not seem to have much in common. One spent today playing a football game, the American Football League Championship game in Denver, Colorado. The other was either writing another of his books, having already published eighteen, or working with young adults, educating them about HIV Aids as a community worker.

 

This is not the story of two distinctly different men although they are. It is the story about two men who are helping children and young adults win in life. Winning is, whether we admit it or not, something we all seek. We might not all be trying to win a spot at the Super Bowl in two weeks but we all want to win at something.

 

Bangambiki Habyarimana writes books about personal growth, inspirational books and happiness and self-help. Peyton Manning puts a more private face on his work with youth. One lives in affluent areas of the United States while the other works in his native homeland on the continent of Africa. Yet, the both are winning the same game of life. I think Quarterback Peyton Manning would applaud author Bangambiki Habyarimana’s words: “When you say you can’t, you stop the creative powers in you; when you say you can you free them.”

 

The point of this blog discusses how we manifest what we believe, how we show the world our faith in our actions. It may not seem like much, this game of American football. Certainly it has had its fair share of scandals and even Peyton Manning has been the subject of accusations and claims. The ramblings of someone attempting to get his ten minutes of fame cannot erase the good deeds of the man, however.

 

The players and owners of American football teams have a long history of charitable acts. Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos.   The Denver Broncos is a team owned by the Bowlen family with Pat Bowlen being the major stockholder. Born in Wisconsin, Bowlen is an attorney and member of the Canadian Bar, among other things. Born into a family that became wealthy while he was still a child, Bowlen set about making his own place in the world.

 

Under his ownership the Broncos have won seven AFL Championships and two Super Bowls, all since 1984. More impressive, they have raised millions of dollars for Denver’s poor and homeless populations. He is also one of the largest contributors to the University of Denver, helping to promote educational opportunities for all students.

 

Manning, as I mentioned, does not flaunt his charitable work. He never mentions that fact that there is a hospital named after him, the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Even after leaving Indiana and moving to Colorado, Peyton Manning has continued to support the hospital and, perhaps most importantly, continued to interact with the young patients there. Once he has the parents’ approval, Manning calls the young patients and then lets them talk.

 

The PayBack Foundation in Denver provides Thanksgiving meals to low income families in both Denver and Indianapolis and yes, Manning is heavily involved in it. His foundation gives over one million dollars annually to various groups. Manning donates time and energies to the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as the local Community Development.

 

Living on a continent where there are countries where it is illegal to speak with people with Aids or HIV, Bangambiki Habyarimana risks it to help young adults stay alive. Every day he goes out makes him a winner. As American rodeo cowboy and barrel racer Doug Firebough once said, “Winning is life is more than just money; it’s about winning on the inside and knowing that you have played the game of life with all you had….and then some.”

 

Winning does not instantly happen, though, and sometimes that is exactly what we think should happen. One of my favorite quotes from Habyarimana is this: “success sits on a mountain of mistakes.” IN other words, you have to accept that you are not always going to win. What makes a winner is that failure is just a step towards winning, not a dead end.

 

We all can be humanitarians and help others. First, we must help ourselves. That starts when we adopt a winning attitude. Perhaps each step will not result in what we wanted but we can make it successful as long as we keep trying. As writer Johnnie Dent, Jr reminds us: “God will not allow you to add the words “Next time” to now faith. Sadly for Pat Bowlen, his time is now spent battling Alzheimer’s. For Habyarimana and Manning, today was a good day to be a winner. Make tomorrow yours.