Author: Karl (page 2 of 43)

Terms of Endearment

I never saw the movie “Terms of Endearment,” but is widely acclaimed as a great drama with some comedy, romance, as well as great acting. It got me thinking about the endearment terms lovers and friends call each other and how relevant this might be during our “stay at home,” “shelter in place,” and “lock down” orders.

Although it may be psychologically revealing to note what spouses, lovers, or family members call each other, I am not interested in it for that reason. For example, I have a friend who calls his wife “hey.” I don’t know why, but she responds as if he had called her “sweetheart,” “honey bunch” or some other romantic label. They seem to have a great marriage and it wouldn’t matter if she replied, “What do you want ‘dude’?”

We were teaching linguistics in England one summer and would go out for an ice cream after classes in the afternoon. The proprietor of the little neighborhood store we frequented would greet me with, “And what would it be today, luv?” Her moniker for customers was “love” and she said it very sweetly and sincerely, although with an accent I hardly understood.

My wife can talk on the telephone, skype, or zoom, but right now she has only me to talk to in person, so it is important to note how she addresses me. If I hear “Karl dear,” there might be something to fix; “Karl honey,” might implore me to read something with her or watch a TV show together. “Karl darling,” causes me to look around to see what clothes I have inadvertently and without malice discarded on a chair. On the other hand, a rather loud “Karl,” will indicate that she doesn’t know which of the rooms I am in and wants attention.

Couples have their favorite terms, and, over the years, I have heard many terms of endearment that play on the theme of sweetness. Some were indeed so sweet that I felt embarrassed. I don’t mind “hubby,” but “prince charming” makes me feel insecure and “Casanova,” “handsome” or “Romeo” are out of my league.

I know that endearing terms vary from culture to culture. I read that in France a man might call his partner a “little cabbage,” but in Thailand she might be a “little elephant.” Both the vegetable and the animal must somehow remind the man of his loved one—best not to imagine how.

I had a look on the Internet and found multiple endearing terms. Does your husband call you “sugar,” “pumpkin,” “muffin,” “peach” or “sweetie pie”? If he does, he might want you to get him something to eat. But be suspicious if he calls you “angel,” “dove,” “sunshine,” or “doll,” because he has probably forgotten to get you something for your birthday and without a face mask he can’t go out and buy anything for you now.

A woman may call her husband “hubby,” but would he call her “wifey”? I don’t think so. He might call her “beautiful,” “blue eyes,” (or “brown/green,” but not “red,” unless she had pink eye or too much to drink), even “gorgeous.” She could reply with, “my stud,” “my king,” “big-guy,” “tiger,” or “man of my dreams.” Men, be honest: even in isolation, has she called you any of those?

Parents have been known to call their little children “snookums,” “wookums,” “sweetums,” or even “munchkin,” “jelly bean,” and “sweetpea.” However, those are not spouse-like names. Husbands, don’t try using them—stick to less tear-inducing ones like, “baby doll,” “my queen,” “sweet cheeks,” or even, in desperation, “hot mama.”

I read that “bae,” is a current and popular endearing term, but I have no idea what it means. The British use “poppet,” which sounds better than Americans who use “teddy bear,” “cuddle bear,” or “honey bear.” There are no bears in England so women would have to call their husbands by unique animal names like “Natterjack toad,” “St Kilda field mouse,” or a “Fiar Isle wren.” That is better than in Australia where women could call their husband a “wombat,” “joey,” “platypus,” or “echidna.” I have never heard spouses call each other those names when we lived in Australia, but I didn’t frequent the pubs.

Think about this: you are in isolation and your best other friend—a dog—is licking your hand and showing affection. What name might you use to return that fondness? Certainly not “Rover,” “Sport,” or “Prince.” Instead, the “in thing” is to call your dog “Quiche,” “Kale,” or Hummus,” and prove that you are “cool.”

Some of you have your teenage kids with you in isolation. I won’t ask what you call them, because they might reciprocate with some embarrassing parental nicknames of their own.

The wonderful thing for Christians is that we will be given a new name: “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name” (Revelation 3:12).

“Name the family member contest”
Day 27 and counting (slowly)
Karl and Joice Franklin

Naturalism and C.S. Lewis

In his book, Missionaries to the skeptics (Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 47 John A. Sims says, “Naturalism makes a modest claim. It claims that all know facts support the view that the whole of reality emerged from and is dependent upon material nature.” If this is the case, there is not need to have anything or anyone beyond the physical world explain anything: it just “happened.” We originated in nature and any appeal to supernatural means is discarded.

Lewis questions this and in his book Miracles: A preliminary study (Geoffrey Bles, 1947), he states “…the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience” (11)….This book is intended as a preliminary to historical inquiry…Those who assume that miracles cannot happen are merely wasting their time by looking into the texts: we know in advance what results they will find for they have begun by begging the question” (13). In other words, the first choice a person must make is between Naturalism and Supernaturalism because “[if] Naturalism is true, every finite thing or event must be (in principle) explicable in terms of the Total System” (13).

By Naturalism Lewis means “the doctrine that only Nature—the whole interlocked system—exists” (13) and that it does not exist by its own accord. Lewis believes strongly that we can reason and that “no thought is valid if it can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes” (17, his italics). Furthermore “You have to assume that inference is valid before you can even begin your argument for its validity” (29). Rational thought is therefore interlocked with “the great interlocking system of irrational events which we call Nature” although “Nature is quite powerless to produce Rational thought” (33).

Lewis further believes it is absurd to think that “Nature produced God” or even the human mind—the two go together (41). And because reasoning matters—it is from God—it cannot be denied by the Naturalist “without (philosophically speaking) cutting his own throat” (43). Further, “A naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically Christian” (83).

How could Nature, created by a good God come to its present deplorable condition? According to Christians, this is due to sin because “Nature has all the air of a good thing spoiled” (147). That is, “Spirit and Nature have quarreled in us; that is our disease” (190) and only God’s redemptive gift can heal us.

Victor Reppert examines Lewis’s views of naturalism in volume 3, chapter 7 of Bruce Edward’s four volume study (Praeger, 2007) of the life and works of Lewis. His chapter, “Miracles: C.S. Lewis’s critique of naturalism” conclude with this thought: “A naturalistic view of the universe, according to which there is nothing in existence that is not in a particular time and a particular place, hard pressed to reconcile their theory of the world with the idea that we as humans can access not only what is, but also what must be” (177). It follows that the maker of the universe is a rational being—whom Christians call God—and that “the argument from reason is unrefuted and constitutes a substantial reason for preferring a theistic understanding of the universe to a naturalistic one” (178).

Reppert had already examined what he called C.S. Lewis’s dangerous idea (the title of his book, InterVarsity Press, 2003). The idea, as given in the subtitle of the books was “In defense of the argument from reason,” which was Lewis’s attempt to show that you could not “account for the activity of reasoning as a byproduct of a fundamentally nonpurposive system,” without reason (8). Reppert also examines the famous argument put forth by Elizabeth Anscombe against Lewis in his book on miracles. He allows that her objections “rightfully lead us to recognize the distinction between irrational and nonrational causes” (70).

Reppert further updates his arguments on Lewis’s arguments from reason in a chapter called “Defending the dangerous idea,” in C.S. Lewis as philosopher: truth, goodness and beauty, edited by David Battett, Gary R. Habermas and Jerry L. Walls (IVP Academic, 2008, pp. 53-67). He concludes that “A naturalistic view of the universe, in which there nothing in existence that is not a particular time and a particular place, is hard-pressed to reconcile with the fact that some truths that we know are not only true in this world, but also in all possible worlds” (67).

The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, edited by Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward (Cambridge University Press, 2010) has a chapter (8) called “On naturalism” by Charles Taliaferro. He reviews Lewis’s arguments against naturalism: arguments from reason, morality and life and death and concludes that “Lewis deserves a rightful place in considering arguments pro and con, not only because of the merits of his own arguments, but because he offers us a valuable lesson in assessing any theory” (125). Lewis uses both reason and imagination to appreciate the natural world while enhancing his view of the supernatural.

As David C. Downing points out in Mysticism in C.S. Lewis: Into the region of the awe (InterVarsity Press, 205, p. 45), “In Mere Christianity Lewis goes beyond momentary impressions and gives an account of everything in the cosmos as a mirror of God’s nature.” To Lewis there was joy anda gratitude for the beauty that lay beyond the natural world.

J.T. Sellars provides a definitive picture on how Lewis combined imagination with and understanding in his book Reasoning beyond reason: Imagination as a theological source in the work of C.S. Lewis (Pickwick publications, 2011). Some things that I noted that are relevant to Lewis and naturalism are:

  • We do not start by doubting reason; we presuppose it (15)
  • The notion of rationality is not independent of God (16) because God is the source from which reasoning power comes
  • Imagination is not falsehood or wishful thinking (45)
  • Rationality resides beyond the step-by-step reason of modernity (51)
  • Our worldview is a representation of reality (61)
  • With Lewis’s Chronicles, everything began with images (74n44)
  • There is a real Good, the true and the beautiful, independent of our particularity and tradition, but mediated through our tradition (107; 118)
  • The poetic and mythic utilize the imagination, a deeper level of consciousness (166)
  • When the spirit and God descend to nature we have difficult understanding the higher (197)
  • Reasoning beyond the rational is present in imagination—the prelude to action and motivation (202)

Flatten the Curve

Right now we are having a plague throughout the world and in the U.S. (and other places) we are told to help “flatten the curve,” meaning that we should spread the number of people with the sickness out, instead of having them lumped in one place—like in NYC.

I never imagined that anyone who had been to school and helped by the grading curve would want to flatten it. The curve helped me get through a couple of courses in college and I was very happy for it.

The curve that our teachers applied was related to the “bell curve,” a statistical measurement that shows what the expected variation is for any set of data. When the data is plotted on a graph, the line usually shows the shape of a bell or hill and the normal variation will be towards the middle of the hill.

Teachers use the curve in examining their tests by assuming that the scores of the class will form a bell curve, if the test is a good one. When the teacher plots the test scores and, if no one has a high mark, the assumption the teacher makes is that the test was too difficult, and a curve will be applied to adjust the scoring upwards. The teacher does this by adding points to the scores or bumping up one student’s score to 100%, then adding the same number of points to everyone else’s score. There are many ways that the teacher can adjust the curve, including taking the square root of the test percentage and making it a new grade, or standing on one’s head and writing backwards.

Test score curve procedures are said to apply to sick people because we are told that flattening the curve will push them out and make the sickness go away. I never wanted the curve to go away in college. The smart kids were not our friends if they didn’t help us get bumped up in the curve—we were like a flat tire and needed pumping up.

Similarly, we want to know how many people are actually sick, not the average number of people who are not sick but think they may be.

There are other kinds of curves. For example, there are some bad ones on the mountain roads of rural Pennsylvania where I grew up. The early road builders followed goat trails and goats don’t walk or climb in a straight line. Instead of flattening the curves in the road, the engineers tried to make the road straighter. They couldn’t always do this due to rivers, mountains and the determined farmer or hermit who would make the road builders go around them.

There was a very bad curve on a corner near the general store in our community. The natives knew about it but city travelers, out for a drive in the countryside, would not be aware of the curve until it was too late and they ended up in the yard of Clayt Williams, who lived south of the curve. Consequently, his lawn often looked like an off-road mud track. The city drivers would apologize and pay Clayt to have their car towed back to the “main” highway. There was no way to straighten the curve and flattening it would not have helped.

Sometimes mapmakers do flatten the curves and make Interstates and main roads look like they are in a straight line. Without flashing yellow lights, luminous signs and guard rails, the casual driver will believe what he sees on a map. The result is the same as driving into Clayt’s yard.

However, now with GPS and Sandra, the mythical navigator who gives us directions, it is difficult to go astray, although unfortunately Sandra does not warn drivers about curves. She will say, “Turn left on Edgemont Street in 300 yards,” but most drivers are anxious. They will see the street that has a left curve, but it is 100 yards too soon. The curve was flattened, but it was the wrong one.

John the Baptist, like Elijah before him, wanted the roads straight for the Lord to travel. Isaiah reported that they wanted the valleys and potholes filled in as well. They expected this to happen without a GPS or maps. Imagine if that would help by “flattening the curve” in our neighborhood.

Sheltering to help “Flatten the Curve,”
Day 21 and counting (slowly)
Karl and Joice Franklin

14 Days

Our 14 days of self-quarantine are over and, for some reason, I started to wonder: “how far could I have walked in 14 days?” Suppose I started out from Fish Pond Village, where we live in Waco, Texas. First question: Do I want to go north, south, east, west, or some combination? I don’t have a compass handy, although there is one on the dashboard of our car. But I can’t take the car—I am committed to walking.

I think I’ll go north and head in the general direction of Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, where I “grew up.” Siri, my faithful friend to whom I have given an Irish accent, tells me that it is about 1,570 miles by car and about 1,339 miles as the crow flies. I have never heard of a crow flying from Waco to Shickshinny, although they are “large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices.” I also have heard that crows often are hit by trucks since they can’t warn fellow crows because they can’t call out “truck, truck.” Instead they call “caw, caw,” and are therefore less likely to be hit by one.

A crow is a bird of the genus Corvus, not to be confused with Covid, and they are constantly on the lookout for hawks, owls, coyotes, racoons and the occasional hunter. You will undoubtedly find crows between Waco and Shickshinny.

But back to my original question: how far could I have walked during our 14 days of isolation? Again, Siri was helpful: “A healthy person can walk 20 to 30 miles in 8 hours” and “even beginners easily survive a 6-mile walk in two hours.” I’ll classify myself as intermediate and healthy, so I should be able to do 25 miles a day. Dividing 1,570 by 25 tells me that it will take 60 days to get to Shickshinny. That is close to two months and then I would have to walk back.

I need a more realistic goal: 25 x 14, divided by 2 because I do want to come back. I could go 350 miles if I didn’t return. However, returning is crucial—my wife and dog are waiting—so I could only do about 175 miles before turning around.

Even with such a modest goal, I will need tactical support. I will ask my friend, Ken, who has a Ford 150, to be my assistant. We will load the truck with Gatorade, Ozark sparkling water, vitamins, chewing gum, Ritz crackers, disposable adult diapers and freeze-dry vegetables, as well as extra sneakers and sweatbands. I will keep walking, but periodically he will pull along side of me and hand me whatever I want or need.

However, when I looked 175 miles north on my i-phone, it headed me towards Wichita Falls. That doesn’t sound right, so I’ll try going west. Again, my phone doesn’t help—instead, it tells me it is 4,039.82 miles to the North Pole, which obviously is north.

I need more help and our church motto is “Sacred, Simple,” which fits my goal perfectly. What could be more sacred than walking and, of course, praying? And what could be more simple—place one foot ahead of the other—it doesn’t matter which—and keep moving.

This is where the Internet can help me: I read that GoFundMe is a “free and trusted” fund raising site, but there are many others. Mine will be called “step-a-thon,” whereby after every 1000 steps I take, people will contribute $1 to our church. After 10,000 steps, another $1 will automatically be deleted from their on-line account to supplement the pastor’s salary. This should raise money faster than playing bingo or selling baked goods.

It turns out now that it doesn’t matter that we have completed 14 days of isolation. There is now a “shelter in place” order, whereby we are to stay home: the president has invoked the Stafford Act, declaring a national emergency relief measure, first set up in 1974. I am hoping it will help us with our HEB curbside grocery service.

It wasn’t total isolation: one of our grandsons came to visit us this week. He stayed by his car and we were in the garage, but we had a good chat. We also skyped with family in Australia and we are going to try zooming in on members of our Life Together group.

Fourteen days isn’t too long when you think about it. Jesus was led by the Spirit to the desert, where he spent 40 days, and his only visitors were Satan, wild animals and angels. Ponder that and you can put 14 days (and counting) in proper perspective and not feel worried because you had no visitors.

Not isolated but “sheltering”
Day 18 and counting (slowly)
Karl and Joice Franklin

A Silent Spring?

In 1962 Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” when the robins and other birds stopped singing, due to pesticide poisoning in the environment. It is almost Spring in Central Texas and hopefully the birds will not be silent. But it will be quieter than usual in Waco people are, somewhat reluctantly, taking time out due to COVID-19. To their dismay, Waco residents are going to have to live alone for at least a couple of weeks—perhaps much longer. We may be isolated but it will not be silent: there will the incessant and persistent TV commentators with increasingly bad news; newspapers and magazines will continue to report Covid-19 cases, deaths, and problems with the government; robo-calls will continue and sirens will sound in the distance. On the other hand, we won’t need to jostle for toilet paper (it’s all gone) and hand sanitizers (the shelves are empty), crowded lines at the supermarket (social distancing is in place), or trying to find a parking space somewhere. People, or at least old ones like us, are asked to stay home and actually—we have heard—they have begun to talk to one another!

Of course, it can be a frightful experience. Imagine that you have been married for several years and have hardly had to talk to your spouse—a feat that I have never experienced. In such cases, both may have their individual activities, friends, books, and favorite TV shows. But if you really need someone to talk to and your buddies are sequestered at home with their favorite clubs, bars, and restaurants—or even churches—quarantined, you may need a different plan. You may rent movies, but unless you tolerate violence, cursing, sex and sin, you probably have seen all the “good” ones

You may wait anxiously for the mail and then try not to respond to requests from St. Jude’s, the Salvation Army, 125 different agencies wanting help for the destitute, pictures of old dogs and cats, wounded and paralyzed veterans and, of course, those agencies needing assistance for various body organs. You will have to turn most of requests down and you may then feel cruel, unresponsive, even un-Christian. And you can’t go to Australia or Greenland to get away from it all—no country will let you in, even if you could afford to go—and it is probably not wise to consider cruise ships.

I have found a solution—it will not suit everyone—but it is built on experience. Go to a room where there is no one else, not even a dog or cat, pick up a book and read it. It doesn’t have to be the Bible, but that would be a good place to start. Read for a while and then take notes. Yes, write! Generally, when you read the Bible you will find things that confuse, startle and even challenge you. Write them down, and now comes the most frightening suggestion: show them to someone, your spouse—if you are lucky enough to have one. But don’t just show the comments to the person—ask what he or she thinks.

If you can’t think of something to ask, start with the footnotes in Genesis in any study Bible. Ask if the person knows that the Hebrew words for “man” and “woman” have similar sounds and that the Hebrew words for “ground” and “man” have similar sounds as well. They may say, “so what?” but could possibly generate some interest and it will certainly foster a hard look at you.

Of course, that is the dangerous part: he or she may get interested in the topics and begin to question you about some of your comments. It may get very personal and terrifying, much like when your pastor asked you the names of the 12 disciples or 12 tribes of Israel. You may have to stall for time, which you now have plenty of

This is the fourth day of our self-imposed quarantine and it may turn into a long week. I ask my wife: “Would you like to watch something on TV?” We don’t have cable, so what about “Southern Fried Homicide,” which is one notch above Dr G, the woman who does autopsies, cracking the sternum and ribs with a giant set of hedge clippers. The shows have enough intrigue and blood to keep us clutching one other for comfort. I realize however, this can’t go on for another week or two. We could scratch one another and would soon run out of band aids and can’t go to the store for more.

However, I know that HEB does home deliveries, although we would probably need to order more than band aids. Perhaps we can order frozen dinners and bottled water. Then it will be safe to get back to our TV shows.

On a more serious side, this is time for reflection: I will be 87 next month and Joice will be 89 in May, then on the 26th of May we hope to celebrate our 64th wedding anniversary. We are old and candidates for coronavirus—we also have medical “issues.” Regardless, we are unlikely to die healthy—not many people do! We follow our usual retired custom: we read and pray together each day, thanking God for the day as a gift. We pray and think about our family, our friends, our church, our neighbors, the wounded and the weary, the persecuted and the forgotten, non-believers, even our enemies. We joke, we look at old pictures, we email, we phone our children, we go for walks (the Y is out for now) and do the normal things of life. I write stories (some are funny), I paint pictures (most are funny), I try not to sleep much during the day (that can be funny) and I often recite Psalm 50:14: “Let the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God and give the Almighty all that you promised.”

We do not lack toilet paper and soap and I admit that I stocked up on ice cream (2 half gallons). Hopefully, it will not be a long nor a too quiet Spring and hummingbirds will soon be here.

Waco coronavirus self-imposed quarantine
Day 4 and counting, March 2020
Karl and Joice Franklin

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