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Sunday
Nov252012

From the Annals: "The Phantom Itch"

We, at The Ink Society, do not stand for "Chronologic Snobbery" even in the recent past. Therefore, it seems only fitting to recognize that what was written before might even be more seasonable and felicitous today. With this principle before us, we offer the following from the annals of The Ink Society: 


 Well, the wind was blowin' a gale from the north and did not seem interested in entertaining visitors, so we took refuge with the kids and extended family in a theatre putting ourselves at the mercy of another form of wind (which turned out to be more mild but much less fresh). The lights had gone down and the movie was starting when a clinking beneath my chair was heard. Upon checking my pockets, I discovered I was no longer in possession of my pocket knife. Assuming it was the sound I had heard, I proceeded to wait an hour and half for the lights to come up. Mysteriously even with the added light, no knife appeared, and now here I am having lost my knife. (more)

Tuesday
Nov132012

May I Be One Man

After living the better part of my life under one name, I thought it only appropriate that the following action be taken to comply with this "one name notion." Not only do I like being known by only one name, but I would also like to be one man to boot.

Why, just today I met someone new and last night I spent the evening with a group of old friends. However, though I introduced myself to each in their various times, they made the acquaintance of quite the variety of fellows. In fact, if you cornered one of these people demanding who this fellow is that introduced himself by my name, sixteen different characters would be described. These characters or "comrades in title" march under the auspice of one name. The name that belongs to me! Now I do not want to unjustly pull the name badges of these, I'm sure very nice, fellows but the individual is fast becoming a bureau. So today I am laying off most of these cohorts to comply with the individual mandate. In fact, if you happen to come upon me and introduce yourself , you will now only have the option to meet me. The personalization with take a hit, but hopefully I can make up for it with sincerity.

I look forward to meeting you!

Phillip Tippin
Having just sat down
Roeland Park, KS

Painting:
Triple Self Portrait
Norman Rockwell
Feb. 13, 1960
Friday
Nov092012

The Case for a Clean TV Show

                     Have these words ever issued forth from your mouth, “Boy oh boy, this would be a great TV show if it didn’t have all this moral rot in it?” Do you find yourself sighing deeply with a sad indefinable longing when you see “The Andy Griffith Show” reruns? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why don’t they make shows like this anymore?” All the evidence indicates your thoughts and deep sighs are being systematically ignored. Take “Breaking Bad,” a heart warming drama about a high school science teacher who takes up making and selling meth. (It would be much more fun if he were a math teacher selling meth, but poetry seems to have died with morality.) No matter the show’s ethical conclusions, there can be no argument that “Breaking Bad” depicts certain images and language to which many people do not want their brains subjected. If this show were a TV enigma, an isolated event, there would be no problem. But “Breaking Bad” is not alone. In fact, it is nigh impossible to find a sitcom or drama currently being made that would be unquestionably acceptable to a Christian with a sensitive conscience. We only need imagine Saint Francis’s shock at seeing “Modern Family,” or “The Walking Dead,” never mind his shock at seeing a television. The only place for a morally sensitive individual to find a current scripted show without objectionable content is on Sesame Street or with Dora the Explorer on her bilingual escapades. Traditional morality has, for the most part, been relegated to children’s entertainment—not the first viewing choice of an average adult. 

            Why this influx of questionable material on television? Why have television producers rejected so completely traditionally moral shows like “Andy Griffith” and “Leave it to Beaver?” There are two major objections that seem to crop up when “the old shows” are discussed:

            1. “They are simply not realistic! People don’t want to be shown a perfect life that they can never hope to live themselves. We make realistic shows now. We’re not hiding anything anymore.”

            2. “Those shows promote bad things like female subservience and even worse, male chauvinism. Also, they don’t deal with the issue of racial diversity.”

            Actually, both of these statements are mostly true. No one has a mother as perfect as Joan Cleaver (except me, of course); chauvinism is wrong no matter the sex, and racial diversity should be addressed in a sensitive way. But none of those are compelling or even rational reasons to avoid making clean shows.

             Maybe “The Andy Griffith Show” is unrealistically happy-go-lucky and trouble free, but “Breaking Bad” is equally unrealistic in the opposite way. Ask your local high school science teacher. Furthermore it may be extremely rare to find individuals as chaste, and fair-mouthed as The Cleaver family of “Leave it to Beaver,” but it would be equally hard to find a group of adults as oversexed, and foulmouthed as the characters of “Mad Men.” It is understood by unspoken consent that television shows are unrealistic. In the real world Doctor House would have had his license revoked and his face punched in long ago. We all understand without expressing it that scripted shows are not accurate depictions of real life. That is why the vast majority of viewers make dinner on their stoves instead of cooking Meth on them after watching “Breaking Bad,” and why they choose not to cheat on their wives—at least outwardly—after watching Mad Men. The question must be asked, if most scripted shows are basically unrealistic, why are most of them unrealistically nontraditional in their morals? Would it not be logical and profitable to make a few shows that are unrealistically good as they did in days past, while keeping the quality modern technology allows?

            And for those who say, “Drugs and sex and violence and cheating and casual sex are part of reality and must be depicted. We don’t avoid topics anymore like those old shows do.” The response is simple. You are avoiding many things—the merry, virtuous, sexually uncharged, happy, functional, drug free, peaceful sides of life. Those moments are equally real, and incalculably more precious, but modern television seems to have rejected those moments for what is called “true” reality. We have all heard of the baby who was thrown out with the bathwater, but it is something new to throw out the baby because he is too clean and keep the bathwater because it is so dirty.

          The second objection on chauvinism and racial insensitivity of the old shows is even weaker than the first. Of course those things are wrong, but no worse than much of what is piped daily into living rooms across the fruited plain. Why not reject the old vices as well as the new, not in all shows, but one or two?

            Now, if a TV producer were to make a show as clever, funny and well-written as “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” and as clean as “I Love Lucy,” or an action drama as intriguing as “NCIS” and as clean as “MacGyver,” they may have a problem finding enough space in which to fit their ratings. Why? To borrow from tax terminology, they would broaden their base. Grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and all the kids would feel comfortable gathering around the television together, guilt free. It is just silly logic to think that potentially objectionable, controversial material is the primary driver of high ratings. If that were true, ABC’s “The Playboy Club” would still be on the air, and thriving. Solid writing and producing drive solid ratings. Coincidently, this has been tried in the feature film industry with great success.

           These clean shows need not be preachy, corny nor cheesy, just not vile and vulgar. Yes, this is a call to represent traditional Judeo-Christian values in a television show, but only because of the shocking underrepresentation they have received of late. This is not a call to end morally deviant television shows (God will do that in his own timing), but only to add some traditionally clean options. There is an eager target market, just itching to bring ratings and revenue to the producer who will dare give traditional morality a voice. At least I hope there is.

 

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study" on 8th Street
October, 2012 

Tuesday
Oct302012

I Want a Story in my Pocket

Long has the turning out of pockets yielded treasures and provided just the right remedy for the moment. In no way is this more evident than in Chesterton's essay "A Piece of Chalk" (which has been noted on the society here).  My Grandfather would have been no more than a boy during the days of Chesterton and, to the best of my knowledge, he knew nothing about those writ words. However, the concept was successfully passed to the next generation without the loss of a single jot or tiddle. 

He, my grandfather, was a man of few words (or couldn't get a word in edgewise) but he had the remedy where words failed utterly. Words can give thanks for a gift, but they can't cut the ribbon to find out the gift. Here my humble grandfather would quitely offer the contents of his pocket in the form of a small pearl handled blade. Now my grandpa is resting in the presence of Jesus. I inherited at least one of his knives and one of his tendencies. This tendency is contained in the fact that I also enjoy carrying a few essentials around in my pockets. The latest addition to the little linty collection, a gift from my wife, is a light blue pocket square waiting patiently to wipe fingers, noses, and these fingerprints I am presently making on this iPad. 

Scout pocket preparedness is practical, wholesome, and handy in its intergenerational faithfulness, but there was something missing from my grandfather's pocket and maybe from Chesterton's for all I know. Do I need to say it or did you deduce it from the cryptic title? Well, I want a story in my pocket!

This wish will not be a stranger here on The Ink Society even if no marks will soil the canvas or pen be put to parchment in this type of story. This wish for which I'm wishing is a story to tell. Not a story written or recorded, but told from the travels of the mind.

Something of this concept began to pull at the string of the balloon in my brain while driving and trying my hand (or mouth) at dictating a text message through Siri. "What would you like your message to say?" Ah, here was the moment of truth. I knew I wanted to say something along the lines of "Did you hear anything from so and so?" but when my moment came to talk and not type I made it about three words in and crashed (not the car). Siri was unphased: "Here is your message: 'hey, did you um hear ah.' Would you like me to send it?" Me: "No, Cancel."

What an abysmal failure! I could not speak one solitary cogent sentence which said just what I wanted in the moment it was demanded. I needed that few seconds of filtering in typing the text for it to come off right. This is a problem.

I spoke not long after to R. Eric Tippin, my kind and well-spoken brother, about the concept of speaking when put on the spot in a way that relates in a succinct and logical way what thoughts you could more easily write down. He indicated the fact that C.S. Lewis spent hour upon hour talking through ideas (without a determined stance at the outset) while walking with friends through the countryside. He hypothesized that this was one of the reasons why Lewis's radio addresses could be transcribed in a quality that a plodding writer would envy. He is on to something here.

Now it is one thing to win a debate or preach a sermon, neither of which fill me with dread or doubt as this aim of mine. Attacking a cognitive fallacy in an argument is much easier than mesmerizing an audience of one or two with a strolling tale. I know nothing of this ability (in fact my initial attempts in the car all by my lonesome were quite the train wreck to behold).

What pleasures are enjoyed over meals or gatherings when I hear stories with the scantest of facts and descriptions from my cohorts! I can only imagine what it would be like to listen, in the same situation, to detailed vivid stories as I'm sure (and have to believe) were told in other times when the written word was not as available. I've only known a couple verbal storytellers in my life and one was just a passing acquaintance in the mountains. I have no doubt the last few generations have begun a great draught in the verbal storytelling field. I can only hope that some people like my grandfather with his pocketknife and I with my new handkerchief carry around with them a delightful story to tell along with the ability to pull it from their pocket.

Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my grandpa from the second paragraph. He may not have had a story ready at the drop of a hat but he had other things that were always ready: his knife, as was already mentioned, an immaculate auto, and a quiet faithful hope in Christ to the end. As a dad and someday, LORD willing, a grandfather it is the desire of my heart to fulfill the hopes I had for or emulate the traits I admired in my dad and grandfather when I was a boy.

What I mean to say is this: if ever I find myself around a fireplace, reclining at table, or swinging on the veranda I don't want to be at a loss when someone says "daddy, tell me a story" or the baton of conversation is being passed between jovial faces and I am the anchor leg or a blasting blizzard of a storm is rattling the windows of the lodge and a quiet story is the only necessary reply to its ruckus.

These are the moments I wished for as a child and have the best memories of them being granted in the reading of the written word. These were precious moments, but others would have been made the lovelier with a story flowing from the heart of the author to me the only one with the opportunity to read this story or rather experience it in the world at that moment.

So, why sit around the bemoaning what I don't have in my pocket and not go out and find one to put in?

 

N.B. I may have to borrow my first. I'm a beginner at this.

 

Phillip Tippin
On a cold clear night
Roeland Park, KS 

Long have the turning out of pockets yielded treasures and provided just the right remedy for the moment. In no way is this more evident than in Chesterton's essay "A Piece of Chalk" (which has been noted on the society here).  My Grandfather would have been no more than a boy during the days of Chesterton and, to the best of my knowledge, he knew nothing about those writ words. However, the concept was successfully passed to the next generation without the loss of a single jot or tiddle. 
He, my grandfather, was a man of few words (or couldn't get a word in edgewise) but he had the remedy where words failed utterly. Words can give thanks for a gift, but they can't cut the ribbon to find out the gift. Here my humble grandfather would quitely offer the contents of his pocket in the form of a small pearl handled blade. Now my grandfather is resting in the presence of Jesus. I inherited at least one of his knives and one of his tendencies. This tendency is contained in the fact that I also enjoy carrying a few essentials around in my pockets. The latest addition to the little linty collection, a gift from my wife, is a light blue pocket square waiting patiently to wipe fingers, noses, and these fingerprints I am presently making on this iPad. 
This scout pocket preparedness is practical, wholesome, and handy in its intergenerational faithfulness, but there was something missing from my grandfather's pocket and maybe from Chesterton's for all I know. Do I need to say it or did you deduce it from the cryptic title? Well, I want a story in my pocket!
This wish will not be stranger here on The Ink Society even if no marks will soil the canvas and pen be put to parchment in this type of story. This wish for which I'm wishing is a story to tell. Not a story written or recorded, but told from the travels of the mind.
Something of this concept began to pull at the string of the balloon in my brain while driving and trying my hand (or mouth) at dictating a text message through Siri. "What would you like your message to say?" Ah, here was the moment of truth. I knew I wanted to say something along the lines of "Did you here anything from so and so?" but when my moment came to talk and not type I made it about three words in and crashed. Siri was unphased: "Here is your message: 'hey, did you um hear ah.' Would you like me to send it?" Me: "No, Cancel."
What an abysmal failure. I could not speak one solitary cogent sentence that said just what I wanted too in the moment it was demanded. I needed that few seconds of filter in typing the text for it to come off right. This is a problem.
I spoke not long after to R. Eric Tippin, my kind and well spoken brother, about the concept of speaking when put on the spot in a way that relates in a succinct and logical way what thoughts you could more easily write down. He indicated the fact that C.S. Lewis spent hour upon hour talking through ideas (without a determined stance at the outset) while walking with friends through the countryside. He hypothesized that this was one of the reasons why Lewis's radio addresses could be transcribed in a quality that a plodding writer would envy. He is on to something here.
Now it is one thing to win a debate or preach a sermon, neither of which fill me with dread or doubt as this aim of mine. Attacking a cognitive fallacy in an argument is much easier than mesmerizing an audience of one or two with a strolling tale. I know nothing of this ability (in fact my initial attempts in the car all by my lonesome were quite the train wrecks to behold).
I think of the pleasure I get over meals or other times when I hear stories with the scantest of facts and descriptions with my cohorts. So, I can only imagine what it would be like to listen in the same situation to detailed vivid stories as I'm sure (and have to believe) were told in other times when the written word was not as available.
I've only known a couple verbal storytellers in my life and one was just a passing acquaintance in the mountains. I have no doubt the last few generations have begun a great draught in the verbal storytelling field. I can only hope that some people like my grandfather with his pocketknife and I with my new handkerchief carry around with them a delightful story to tell along with the ability to pull it from their pocket.
Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my grandpa from the first paragraph. He may not have had a story ready at the drop of a hat but he had other things that were always ready: his knife as was already mentioned and an immaculate auto. As a dad and someday, LORD willing, a grandfather it is the desire my heart to fulfill the hopes I had for or emulate the traits I admired in my dad and grandfather when I was a boy.
What I mean to say is this: if ever I find myself around a fireplace, reclining at table, or swinging on the veranda I will not be at a loss when someone says "daddy, tell me a story" or the baton of conversation is being passed about between jovial faces and I am the anchor leg or a blasting blizzard of a storm is rattling the windows of the lodge and a quiet story is the only reasonable reply to its ruckus.
These are the moments I wished for as a child and have the best memories of them being granted in the reading of the written word. These were precious moments, but others would have been made the lovelier with a story flowing from the heart of the author to me the only one with the opportunity to read this story or rather experience it in the world at that moment.
So, why sit around the bemoaning what I don't have in my pocket and not go out and find one to put in.
N.B. I may have to borrow my first. I'm a beginner at this.
Friday
Oct262012

On the Size of the Universe and Other Trifles

“Why should not a man say, ‘I like this cozy little cosmos, with its decent number of stars and as neat a provision of live stock as I wish to see.’”[1]
           --G.K. Chesterton

            Every now and then I wonder at the size of the universe, and every time I come to the same conclusion: Either it is very large or I am very small. It is true, the universe is the largest thing we know, but we know so little, really. We think it is gigantic, romantic and hauntingly cold and beautiful, but as universes go It could be a rather medium-sized, homely one. The truest statement we can make about the general size of our personal universe is, that in comparison to us, it is rather hefty—like the bags.

            The next question to be addressed is, “Why?” Why is our universe so large, so spread out, so maddeningly outside our ability to explore it? Space may be the final frontier, but it is a frontier into which we have barely inched. Our little attempts at going to the moon and mars are like swimming a couple meters off the coast of California and claiming we have explored the Ocean. We could go farther, but current technology only allows us to reach the nearest star system as decayed bones or at best, fossils—not an ideal condition in which to go exploring or collect data.

            It seems that God has ordained humankind to stay on earth, at least for now; it is also clear he has not told us directly what is reasoning is for this. So I would like to guess. You will be tempted to call some of my conjectures science fiction, but I answer that it is only science if it is practical and only fictional if it is untrue. The following guesses on the reason for the size of the universe are neither practical nor, provably untrue. Better call them “Impractical Possibilities,” or better yet, “Silly Guesses.”

            1. God made the universe so colossal in proportion to humans simply to show them his grandeur--as a sort of exhibition of lights soely for the benefit of Earth's inhabitants. In this view, the far flung galaxies, nebulae and gas clouds are as they appear through telescopes—lifeless and beautiful to behold from earth. They are simply signposts on a cosmic scale pointing to the work of a powerful creator and sustainer. Earth may not be at the center of the universe on the “Atlas of the Cosmos” but it is the cultural, spiritual and biological center—the only life-sustaining planet fashioned by God, when he created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing).

            I would guess this is the view held by the vast majority of Christians. It also happens to be the most uninteresting and, to be frank (sometimes I get tired of being Eric), boring option. It also has two major flaws: (Run away! It’s a list within a list!) 1. It presumes that humans are the most significant thing created in the material universe—a tad bit presumptuous for a race of beings that gave “Captain Underpants” a Kids Choice award in 2007.  2. It makes God seem arbitrary and the rest of the universe superfluous. I’m sure there are nooks and crannies out there between galaxies or behind dark matter that are lovely places to look at, but due to our spatial and visual limitations, we are unable to see or enjoy them. If humans are the only really significant material life-form in the universe, it is hard to see a purpose for all the vastness and intricacy of the second heaven—outer space. In defense of this view, God may have created those unobservable nooks and crannies for his own pleasure, without mankind in view. But, in my estimation, this theory is quite limiting and narrow for a God who is anything but limited or narrow.

            2. The universe is gigantic because it was made to be explored/exploited by unfallen men and women. Now this view fires the imagination a bit! If physical death was one result of the fall (not a given, but certainly possible), then humans were made to stay in the physical universe indefinitely, procreating and recreating in innocent bliss. But, in that case, the earth would be inadequate to hold all these happy, good humans after a certain number of centuries. What a lovely thought it is that after the earth was filled, as God had commanded, there would be millions of other verdant planets, waiting to be populated with perfect humans—planets covered in lush,  exotic, edible plants and colorful wildlife, never before seen by human eyes; forests of unimaginably large hardwoods ringing with unrecorded bird songs; blue and green oceans, spangled with islands and teaming with, as the French say, “the fruits of the sea” (only they say it in French). Maybe, just maybe, the universe was made to be filled by humans, but that option was removed at the fall of mankind by the elimination of some interstellar highway or mode of travel. Maybe, as you read this, those beautiful planets are quietly spinning in a solar system millions of light-years away, filled with all good things for humans to enjoy, waiting patiently for the day when all things are made new and the plan of redemption is complete.

            Call it fantasy; call me crazy, but this theory is just as possible as the first, maybe more. It’s certainly more logical. It gives the universe a purpose outside of the impression it makes on humans. It gives it living purpose—to be explored and settled.

            3. Now we come to my personal favorite of the possible reasons for the universe’s immense girth. God made the universe so unfathomably large to keep humans out of it—to keep us from soiling other planets and races who did not fall into sin as we did. We are quarantined by light-years of space that we have no hope of traversing alive, and the last frontier is really only the inside of a generously large but barren prison cell.

           Are we so audacious as to presume we are absolutely the only intelligent life God created in this entire universe? Humans, made in the image of God, have prolific imaginations filled with visions of intergalactic alliances, elves, boy wizards and those little furry guys from Star Wars. Must God’s creativity be relegated to Earth? Granted, Earth is a lovely, romantic, complex and mostly comfortable place to live. But I would argue, there is more life in the mind of God than we see across our land and in our oceans. This theory makes the scientists’ desperate attempts to find microbial life in the underwater oceans of Jupiter’s moons comic and a little sad. They don’t realize it is our sin that makes finding life on other planets and planets’ moons impossible. God has a plan to redeem the Earth; part of that plan may be to keep us and our sin on that earth and not to spread the disease of our selfishness to races who chose not to eat their forbidden fruit—or whatever form it took on their planets (forbidden fish jerky?). The implications of this view are highly fascinating and give a new meaning to “the great multitude” of Revelation seven and an expanded view of what the new heaven and earth imply. It is important to note, each one of thse views, though differing in details, has one constant: "The heavens declare the glory of God." Whether the universe is burgeoning with life or completely sterile, its function never changes.

            In 1977, the United States launched the voyager spacecraft. On that spacecraft was a golden record with a voice recording from then President Jimmy Carter (brother of the highly esteemed Billy Carter) that said in a silly southern accent to any alien life form that may find that record,

“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

            President Carter (brother of the esteemed Billy Carter) in his little recording may have been entertaining prophecy unawares. But those who “survive our time” will be the redeemed of the LORD and not scientists with the highest IQs. So to all of the NASA scientists and space nerds longing to explore the billions upon billions of Galaxies filling our universe, your best chance of doing that will come when you fall on your knees in repentance to the God who made those Galaxies and will someday open their mysteries to the redeemed inhabitants of Earth.

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study" on 8th Street
October 26, 2012 


[1] Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2009-10-04). Orthodoxy (p. 58). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.