Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Wright Brothers Go Wrong

I have not read the book by Lawrence Goldstone, Birdmen, nor do I ever intend to read it, but I am grateful to DelanceyPlace for the following introduction and excerpt.

After their historic 1903 breakthrough in flight, the Wright brothers were granted patents on their invention that were overly broad -- both by the standards of their time and the standards of today. The Wright brothers' vigorous attempts to enforce these patents (especially against their arch rival Glenn Curtiss) created enormous resentment and left a trail of rancorous litigation. More importantly, the brothers, especially the older brother and design genius, Wilbur, pursued this litigation to the neglect of pursuing improvements in their technology, and soon found themselves trailing other pioneers in the aviation industry:

"In pursuing damages over technology, the Wrights had rendered themselves anachronisms. Their lack of moderation was equally self-­defeating. Wilbur and Orville thought anyone who did not see things their way was either ignorant or duplicitous; anyone who overtly disagreed with them was either a liar or a cheat. The fact that the performance of their competitors improved while Wright airplanes remained substantially unchanged was, according to the brothers, only because the rest of the aviation community were a bunch of craven patent in­fringers. ...

"By the end of 1911, Wilbur's frustration had begun to gnaw at his health. He had by his own admission worked harder and for longer hours pursuing the case against Glenn Curtiss than he had developing the Wright Flyer. He drove himself to exhaustion traveling around the country, meeting with lawyers and giving depositions, and grew so thin as to appear cadaverous. Family members began to express concern about the crushing pace he insisted on maintaining.

"In January 1912, Wilbur wrote a singular letter to the Hungarian anthropologist Guillaume de Hevesy. 'During the past three months, most of my time has been taken up with lawsuits,' he began. ... Then Wilbur made an extraordinary assertion. 'When we think what we might have accomplished if we had been able to devote [the past five years] to experiments, we feel very sad.'

"There is little question that the patent wars were devastating American aviation. By January 1912, France boasted 800 aviators a day making flights to only 90 in the United States. As early as July 1911, Aeronautics ran an editorial whose opening line read, 'What is the matter with aviation in America?' The journal lamented that 'in three short years' after the 'epoch-making flights of the Wright brothers in France and at Fort Myer [that] electrified the world,' America had 'changed places from the head to the foot of the procession.' The magazine blamed a combination of a fear of innovation, an unwillingness to spend money, and a desire by the government to sit on the sidelines and wait to see what Europe came up with. Nowhere did the editorial mention that America's two greatest designers were either spending a good part of their time (Curtiss) or all of their time (Wil­bur Wright) trying to best each other in the courtroom."

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Truth is...looking backward will seldom get a person ahead. If we spend all our time trying to recapture, protect, or fix the past, we will miss out on enjoying the present and preparing for the future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nixon's Henchman Speaks Truth

To many, Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that are ancient history; relegated to a section of the brain alongside Washington crossing the Delaware and One Direction being popular.

Earlier this week, Christians around the globe celebrated another piece of ancient history...the resurrection of Jesus.

Whoa! Wait...what do those two sentences have to do with each other?!!?

The connection is the following quote from Charles "Chuck" Colson, who served prison time because of his role in the administration of Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that.

Truth is...this single line of reasoning may not be enough to convince the skeptical that Jesus really did raise from the dead, but it's a fairly solid rung on that ladder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Troubled by the Truth

The normal phrase is "the truth will set you free", but sometimes the truth will get you in hot water.

Mark 12:1-12 (The Message)

Then Jesus started telling them stories. “A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip. At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits.

“They grabbed him, beat him up, and sent him off empty-handed. So he sent another servant. That one they tarred and feathered. He sent another and that one they killed. And on and on, many others. Some they beat up, some they killed.

“Finally there was only one left: a beloved son. In a last-ditch effort, he sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But those farmhands saw their chance. They rubbed their hands together in greed and said, ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him over the fence.

“What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others. Read it for yourselves in Scripture:

That stone the masons threw out

    is now the cornerstone!
This is God’s work;
    we rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!”

They wanted to lynch him then and there but, intimidated by public opinion, held back. They knew the story was about them. They got away from there as fast as they could.

From my journal, January 22, 2001

"They" knew the story was about them, but instead of repenting in tears and agreeing, "Yes! We have rejected God's claim on our lives and lived our own way. Dear God, forgive us!", they get angry and seek out revenge  -  revenge for Jesus having told the truth.

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Truth is...if I find myself getting angry at the truth about myself, I just may be standing on the wrong side of the issue.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Any Given Sunday

I remember the first time I got absolutely gobsmacked with the world-wide nature of being The Church.

Beloved and I were on our first cross-cultural mission experience. On Sunday morning in David, Panama, we sat in what was used as a lottery office the rest of the week. We sang songs. (Well, we hummed along to songs that were sung in Spanish.) We prayed. We read Scripture. And as we ate the bread and drank the juice that reminded us of the sacrifice of Jesus, I happened to glance at my watch and realized that folks back in the church in Indiana where I was serving at the time were eating and drinking at that very time as well.

And an overwhelming sense of unity with all Jesus-followers across the expanse of both space and time burst my heart wide open.

And now, years later, Yahweh brings to my attention a little ditty by Carolyn Arends called Any Given Sunday. It reminds me of all the things people are missing out on when they decide they don't need to be part of a church family.

Truth is...I've been tempted to get depressed lately at seeing so many get so comfortable in NOT gathering together as a church community ("as is the habit of some" Hebrews 10:25). There is a pervasive take-it-or-leave-it attitude that reveals our consumer orientation toward corporate worship. Granted, there are many a local congregation that fall far short of the goal of true fellowship and mutual encouragement, but it will NEVER happen if people who desire those things stay away. If I'm not part of the solution, then I'm part of the problem.