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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
I haven't commented yet on this article in which the Vatican's chief exorcist is reported to have stated that Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the devil (or a demon).

At one point in college, when I thought I knew a lot more than I think I do now, I had decided that angels and demons were superfluous to explain the universe, probably mythic explanations for things such as self-destructive human sinfulness, and the ability of a transcendent God to interact with the universe. Two things changed my mind: first, probably from my background in science, I remembered that we can determine what exists in the universe only by experience and observation, not by a priori decision; second, a passage in the theologian John Macquarrie (no conservative) to the effect that it is rather egotistical of humans to suppose themselves alone with God in the material universe. As C.S. Lewis observed, belief in devils is not required of Christians--it's not in the Creed--but it is the plain reading of Scripture, the belief of the Church through the ages, and indeed the belief of most people of most cultures of human history.

For a time, in college again, I resumed belief in demons (and angels) but refused to believe in demon possession. To me it seemed that human perversity and sinfulness could explain all that needed to be explained regarding sin and sinful behavior. But, alas for my hypothesis, the same reasoning given above that moved me back to belief in demons also applied to demon possession--it is the plain reading of Scripture, the Church through the ages has believed in possession, and indeed most human cultures have beliefs in similar things. And, reality is not known a priori, but by observing what is. Also, though I won't discuss it now, I've observed more. (more below)

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Legendary jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died yesterday. I was privilaged to hear him in person twice with his band. What a talent, what a showman. And a class act. The first time I heard him some friends and I (I think we were still in high school) drove down to the Kansas City area to a concert at a college. We arrived early and were wandering around campus before the show. From across the way we hear the unmistakable sound of Maynard, warming up by playing scales. We followed the notes in the air and found our way to a dressing room in the back of the auditorium. We stood gawking at the open door until one of us found his voice and said "Uh, Mr. Ferguson?", then we asked him for his autograph. He asked how many of us there were, saying he did not have much time to get ready for the show. When told there were only three of us, he most graciously signed an autograph on an album. Nice guy. Most high school and college trumpet players I knew back in the day wanted to play like Maynard: high and bold.

A tribute on Power line is here.

13/08: Be a Creature

Tonight after church I took my dogs down to the creek about 3/4 of a mile below our house. (Public land, part of a wetland reclamation project, though in August in SW Oklahoma not very wet). As we entered the oaks, cottonwoods, and elms along the creek we heard the sadly-sweet song of cicadas; the tops of the cottonwoods applauded the southerly breeze although it was still at ground level; and the drought had caused some of the trees to begin dropping leaves creating a fall-smelling path through the woods. About 40 yards into the woods a squirrel crossed the path about 30 feet up, heading south. About two hundred yards in an owl flew up from a tree and headed north toward the creek (kind of early for it, but the sun was nearly setting). A bit farther in my dogs scared up an armadillo on the north side of the trail, leaving him to return to me when I called them. The oak leaf litter showed the unmistakable pattern of armadillo browsing on both sides of the path. A ways on down the trail I saw a mother raccoon leading three teenage-scrawny juveniles toward the creek. We've been so hot and dry lately that I suppose she could not wait till dark to go for water. The creek would be dry, as most are near here, except that it is backed up by a lake a couple of miles downsteam. Still, the level drops every day and more and more sand and mud is exposed. The dogs, noses to the earth, had not seen the raccoons so I called them to me and scratched their ears till the coons were safely across. Then, banging my walking stick on a couple of trees to alert mama coon, we proceeded on. In another 70 yards or so the dogs scared up another armadillo which quickly burrowed itself under a dead log. The rest of the walk was uneventful, except for the flies and the heat and the smells of late-summer woods and stagnant water.

Our culture encourages us to travel on wheels. Ride ATV's four-wheeling through the mud and streams and rocks of creation; exhilarate ourselves with motion and noise and mastery of terrain, lords of nature before whom all must flee in terror. Why not instead, enter creation (I am weaning myself away from saying nature, which sounds too distant from God) as a fellow creature, on foot. Watching and smelling and listening to all around us. Maybe that will save us from the mistaken belief that armadillos are born dead beside the interstate. Maybe living as a creature, on foot, can help restore us in ways that the internal-combustion engine cannot.