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Augustine and the Christian Church


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Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine or St. Austin, was born in the city of Hippo in North Africa. In his early years, he was influenced by Manichaeism, then became a skeptic, then shortly after disproved that whole philosophy by saying, “I doubt; therefore, I am.” This statement was made famous by Descartes, who quoted it as, “I think; therefore, I am.” He afterwards became interested in Neo-Platonism. He was also a teacher of Rhetoric, and taught in Hippo, then Rome and then ultimately Milan.

After rejected Neo-Platonism, he became a Christian, after the long prayers of his mother, St. Monica. He then began to find and found a system of Christian philosophy. Shortly after his conversion, he wrote the book Confessions, a book written in praise of God, which is still read today.

In his life as a Christian, he wrote prolifically. He wrote in response to every heresy of his day. He also disproved Manichaeism, saying that there were no two gods, one good, one evil, battling it out; but that evil was not a created thing, being an absence of good, just as darkness is not a thing but a removal of light, or a lack thereof.

His book, The City of God, is probably one of the things that makes him most famous as a Christian writer. In the the book, he responds to haters who said that Christianity is to blame for the fall of the Roman Empire. He says that the real drama of man is the strife of the City of God and the City of Man, and saving souls, not the rise and fall of Empires. Empires would come and go, he said, but Gods great purpose never would.

All in all, even though I believe that Augustine had some things wrong, I do know that he was a great and brilliant writer, preacher, and Christian, who had a lot of good to say. His influence on the modern Christian church is indisputable, his books, notably the Confessions and The City of God, have been an encouragement to many,thus he contributed much to Western Civilization and Christianity as a whole.

 


Prokaryotes – Incredibly Diverse

12668156-bacteria-and-bacterium-cells-floating-in-microscopic-spaceProkaryotes are amazing diverse creatures. They can live in almost any habitat, create and receive their energy in many different ways, and much more. Some are even predators.

First, I will talk about their habitats. They live in many different habitats; some live in extremely salty conditions (9% for one), and many live in extreme heat, such as black smokers (more detail here), and geothermal vents (more detail here). They also create biofilms on your teeth (plaque) and on medical equipment. Some can only survive in areas with no oxygen, and others require oxygen to live. Others live on animals and people, helping the host through symbiosis to carry out its body functions, such as digestion.

Prokaryotes can obtain nutrition multiple ways. First, it could wander around and eat dead cells or even prey on live ones, but this method is in the minority. The most common method is the creation of usable energy through photosynthesis or the use of other minerals, like sulfur, to create usable energy for the prokaryote.

I’m not even scratching the surface; there is so much info and data out there on prokaryotes and all forms of cells. Without them, we would probably not be around today, as we depend so much upon them for food and the ability to get food from the environment.


Which is the Greater Promoter of Personal Responsibility?

Which is the greater promoter of personal responsibility? The Free Market, or the Welfare State?

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“So it begins. The great battle of our time.” Fought over and over again. For Centuries.

First, lets give the seeming pros of the Welfare State. We take from the Rich (theft) and give it (some, at least) to the poor (usually). The “benefits of this might include seemingly making the rich come to a more even level with the poor, and bring “balance to the Force” in a manner of speaking. This, however, is not the case. It’s more of a bribe. While the rich are crippled, making it so that they cannot take power from the few, top elite, the poor are bribed into continuing the welfare state, until the system collapses. The producers no longer have the capital or the money to produce anymore, and more and more is being drawn in by the state. The system continues to trail along, funneling all available wealth into the hands of a few, until there is none left in the hands of the people. We see this repeated in history; the Romans, all throughout the Medieval Ages, the Soviet Union and the modern day era. This is happening even the United States, slowly, but surely, as people desire the “benefits” of the Welfare State.

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The Welfare State gets an F… again.

Now, about the advantages of the Free Market. First, people don’t have “free” money handed down to them, which means that they must earn a living for themselves, which means that there is a large population needing jobs. Without government, or state, interference, the market will create jobs for these people, because, to get a job, people will be willing to work for less. Thus, more money and capital is freed to open up more jobs.

(Note: Like, lets say there is a demand for bicycles. There are people working cheaply at the bicycle factory, and the profits are invested into a young inventors wallet, and he’s just invented the car. Now, there is a bicycle factory, and a car factory. People are hired for more, but quickly, competition between newer car factories opens up, and competition from all the lower paid (compared to the beginning higher wages for the car factory) workers trying to get a job creates more jobs at lower wages between jobs. A company is willing to hire someone for more, and another worker comes in and says he’ll work for less. In the end, it balances out. Bicycles become more expensive because less people want them, and cars become cheaper because more and more people want them. Wealth has just been created that wasn’t there before!)

So, overall, the Welfare State causes less jobs and less creativity, and certainly less personal responsibility. The Free Market can prevent that, but only if it is allowed to work; if it is truly free. So long as that is the case, the Free Market wins out every-time!


Booker T. Washington and the Future

000520Booker T. Washington had amazing success; so much success, he had an entire college (Tuskegee College), with hundreds of students,  was given an honorary degree from Harvard, and had the President (President McKinley) come visit his college.  In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Mr. Washington had a vision; for blacks to have the same opportunities as  whites, or any other race, and that all races can one day be equal, and any individual could aspire, by their own physical labor, make something out of their lives. Even though it took over 50 years for his dream to begin to come true, I believe that his view of the future is similar to mine. I hope a future where there will be no race, no group of persons, no one person dominating over any other race or persons. I, like Mr. Washington, have faith that this will one day be reality.


Monks: What have they Contributed to Western Civilization?

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European monks have been the saviors of Western Civilization in many ways, and even built it up higher. After the Roman Empire was destroyed, and chaos swept across Europe, the monks maintained oases of order. European Monks lived in monasteries, such as the one above. Each European monastery had copies of the Scriptures, and of ancient poets and authors, such as Virgil, Homer, and others, such as Plato, and diligently copied them, over and over, to preserve the constantly decaying pieces of parchment over the centuries. But, monasteries couldn’t produce everything they needed, so they needed to dip into the larger economy. So, some monasteries used water power to finish cloth, grind wheat into flour, and every monastery had large gardens, and maintained and developed agriculture, in order to barter with the local nobility and peasantry alike. They also served as defensive structures against attack, which served very useful when the Saracens came to invade Malta (the Knights Hospitaller might be an example of this).

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The monks and their monasteries laid the groundwork for the reformation, which re-birthed Christianity and Western Civilization. The monasteries had protection from pillage and what they had to say and their reproductions of ancient works were trusted as accurate because they were affiliated with the Christian religion. Even though they had their faults, Western Civilization has much to owe European monasteries. Without the monasteries, Western Civilization would be almost non-existent.


This world is MINE! (Part 2)

 So, I’m mining in Minecraft, which is what I’m supposed to be doing anyway. I take a sword, a few pickaxes and nine porkchop, which is supposed to drive away hunger for the next week until my wheat finally grows. I’m sixty blocks beneath the surface, and I begin a new mine-shaft in an attempt to find bedrock, in order to begin the laborious process of resource hunting.

 ImageLook out for the creeper dummy…

 I begin my spiral shaft down, down, down into the deep I go, when suddenly, my all attentive sisters shout, “Look, red light!”

 I look closer, and begin mining towards the light, which a fortunate glitch allows to shine between the blocks of stone that surrounds me like a tomb.

 Suddenly, as a block of stone crumbles beneath Steve’s strokes, we finally see it; sizzling at our feet is a large pool of lava. I begin mining around the obstacle, for I can see redstone shining, tempting my dwarfish instinct to mine it. I finally mine my way around it, when I suddenly emerge into the arms of a zombie! I strike furiously with my pickaxe, and the evil monster falls dead at my feet.

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(Skeleton): Quiet!  (Creeper): I didn’t know I was supposed to be quiet. I’m just not supposed to be seen by those we creep. (Skeleton): Here he comes!

At last, I’ve found a rich treasure of gold, emerald, diamonds, redstone, iron, and coal all waiting for me to mine it. After two or three trips into the cavern, resulting in multiple, very exciting and short clashes with creepers, a very dangerous encounter with “baby zombies”, and a stupid spider, I was finally laid low by lava. I hate that stuff. Hours of playing had been wasted. But, at least, I knew not to try that careless mining method again. A lesson that I need to learn every time I play almost.

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 Once again, I was faced with the choice: do I quit? Do I look for my stuff, which I’d probably never find? Or do I build a new house and hope for my luck to change. Well, I took the latter course. I now have a beautiful stone walled, wood roofed house with an attic to spare. The only problem is the witch that lives ten sprinting moments away from my house. I haven’t found her yet, but she has it coming to her.

 Minecraft is a challenging game that takes a lot of patience, a lot of skill, mental endurance, and bravery (yes, you do get very, very scared playing). And, you do learn some lessons from it. The above story is real. That was me playing Thursday, August 22, 2013.

 At least, its a game. I get to respawn, unless I’ve picked Hardcore mode (which I haven’t played yet). But, what about the lessons I learned and continue to learn from playing Minecraft?

 For one, patience is the key. It seems to take forever to find bedrock, let alone diamonds or other ore (besides coal). Second, always be on the alert. There never isn’t a time in Minecraft you aren’t in danger. The danger levels vary, depending on day or night, whether or not you are in a shelter, etc; but you need to admit, you are still in danger. Thirdly, always balance the benefit with the downsides. I could mine straight down, and it would bring me to bedrock faster, but what about the ultimate consequences? I could plunge into lava or a cavern, a million other things could happen. Is it worth it?

 That brings us to the ultimate lesson: risk takers must take the risk they face with wisdom, not just knowledge. I take risks every time I move in Minecraft, every time that pickaxe starts moving, every time I engage an opponent. I know about the risks like the back of my hand, but I’m still learning how to react to those risks wisely.

 Be ye crafty, be ye courageous, but remember, its not all gold and diamonds.


This world is MINE!

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So, you go walking along through your world, axe in hand, innocently chopping down trees, when you hear the twang of a bow from the shadows. You get thrown back by the force of the blow as an arrow lodges in your gut. Taking absolutely no physical damage beyond losing a few hearts, you turn toward where the sound came from. Face it. You are thirty meters away from a skeleton, and there are two creepers between you and the current threat.

You grab your sword, and charge behind a tree just in time. The skeleton then merely advances to where you are and walks out from around it. You hit him wildly and run… where? You’re on the edge of an abyssal cliff. You turn around and, well, the battle begins. You have to hit the skeleton repeatedly, over and over. Finally, you collect the bone and two arrows that he “dropped” and look gloomily at your health, and you see your food bar is drifting toward empty. Suddenly your trained Minecraft ears “see” what your eyes cannot; the all too familiar “ssssss” behind you. You sprint jump, where? Off the cliff. You spawn at your bed, with the pressing need to recover your lost treasure before nightfall.

You have a few options:

(1): Stomp your foot on the ground, bounce off your chair, pitch a minature fit, and uninstall Minecraft from your computer.

(2): Click the escape button, quit and delete that world.

(3): You patiently go back to get your stuff.

(4): You start all over.

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Minecraft has taught me some things about patience, about life in general. On multiplayer servers, when your house gets “griefed” or “raided”, you know that they did wrong, and you’re furiously mad. Was it worth all that time to build a big house and show off, when your rivals are going to destroy it? Or do you build an underground fortress that isn’t as pretty but won’t get raided. Do you build a fences to fence in your property or do you instead make ladders so that you can get more resources from deep within the “earth”? Your time and resources are suddenly worth something.

I’ve told myself, “What I learn from this I should apply to my real life circumstances.” So the next time I get blown sky high, I’ll tell myself to be more careful and less carefree about my coming and goings. Maybe have a lit tunnel going to the nearest forest with a shelter at the other end? Real life principle: Expect the unexpected and make the best out of it.