11 January 2014

Irapuato Three King's Day Parade

07 January 2014

Chicago People

My daughter Angela posted the item below to her to her Facebook page. She received it from her good friend Ashley. It was captioned "I think Grandma and Grandpa Mrotek would have liked this post. Happy New Year to some of my favorite Chicagoans."

The Grandma and Grandpa that she is writing about are, of course, my parents, George and Armella, who are now in Heaven and to whom I owe so much. They are part of the generation that came of age during the Great Depression, served their their country during the dark days of World War II and the Korean Conflict, built the Interstate Highway System, and put a man on the moon. That generation deserves a great debt of gratitude which will never be paid in full.

One of the hallmarks of the people in those days was their ability to take things in stride. I believe it was called backbone and common sense. The cold and snowy weather may have been a nuisance at times but was never allowed to be an excuse. When I was a lad in the 1950's they just bundled us up well against the cold and sent us to school and the schools never closed for bad weather. The only time that I can remember my school being closed was for the death of President JFK.

God bless you Mom and Dad, and I hope this gives you a chuckle.


03 January 2014

My Word of the Year for 2014

Today I was reading the blog of my friend Pamela Toler called "History in the Margins". She chose the word "boundaries" as a theme to concentrate on in 2014. In December of 2010 I came up with a one word resolution for the year 2011 in a post called "My Word for MMXI". After careful consideration the English word that I chose was "ideate" (pronounced AHY-dee-aet) which is a verb that means "to form an idea of", "to think of", "to imagine" or "to conceive of". It is synonymous with "to dream", "to envision", "to fancy", to "fantasize", "to picture", "to visualize", "to conjure up", or "to see in your mind's eye". When used in the intransitive form (without an object) and in the imperative mood (command) it means: THINK!

The word that I chose for 2012 was "update" in a post appropriately named "2012 Update". The word "update" is, of course, a verb that means to make something that was suitable for times gone by more suitable to the present and the future by adapting it to recent ideas. It is synonymous with "improve", "correct", "renew", "revise", "upgrade", "amend", "overhaul", "streamline", "modernize", "re-brand" and "contemporize".

The word that I chose for 2013 was "motivate" but I didn't write much about it in a post called "What Motivates YOU?".

My word for 2014 is "ataraxia".It is a Greek word meaning a proper attitude characterized by “freedom from worry”. By suspending judgment, by confining oneself to phenomena or objects as they appear, and by asserting nothing definite as to how they really are or should be, one can escape the perplexities of life and attain an imperturbable peace of mind. For example, the current struggles between the different ideologies of the Democrat and Republican parties with the extreme ideologists of both sides firmly entrenched in dogma is causing much angst in the general populace. If we suspend dogma, however, even just for a little while, and just explore possibilities perhaps we can find a path to enlightenment about those things where we can share a consensus. Take the case of Galileo, Copernicus, and Pope Urban VIII. Galileo and Urban VIII were locked in dogmatic controversy over the heliocentric model of the universe. Even though Urban knew that Galileo was probably right, he just couldn't give up church dogma at the drop of a hat. Galileo stubbornly asserted his scientific “dogma” and ended up suffering dearly for it by the loss of his freedom. Copernicus, however took the path of “ataraxia”. He wrote about the heliocentric theory as if it were nothing more than an exercise in thought without claiming it to be dogma and thus furthered the aim of science without strife.

So, how about you? What is your word for the year? Something positive I hope!


30 December 2013

Continuing Resolutions List for 2014 and Beyond

Every year I make New Year's resolutions and most the time I forget what they were by the end of January. What I need is a follow-up  plan and some kind of rating system to measure my progress. Benjamin Franklin at the age of twenty had four resolutions...To become more frugal, to become more honest, to become more industrious, and to avoid slandering. Out of these four resolutions he developed thirteen virtues to concentrate on one at a time. They are:

1.)  Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2.)  Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations.
3.)  Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4.)  Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5.)  Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6.)  Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7.)  Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
8.)  Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9.)  Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve.
10.) Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation.
11.) Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.
12.) Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your  own or another's peace or reputation.
13.) Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin's list seems pretty good if not a bit stodgy but it is a bit incomplete and doesn't match up directly with the Boy Scout  Law that I memorized as a youth but probably didn't obey as well as I should have. You know how it is when you are young and besides, that was back in the 60's. Enough said.

Each country has a slightly different version of the original list of virtues made by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement. The list was a bit militaristic in its expanded form but that is understandable since he was a British officer of high rank. Nevertheless according to the Boy Scouts of America, a Scout should be:

1.)  Trustworthy,
2.)  Loyal,
3.)  Helpful,
4.)  Friendly,
5.)  Courteous,
6.)  Kind,
7.)  Obedient,
8.)  Cheerful,
9.)  Thrifty,
10.) Brave,
11.) Clean,
12.) Reverent.

Baden-Powell is said to have generated the list after studying various codes of conduct from around the world. He wanted it to be positive and uplifting and not negative and foreboding. He drew inspiration for the Scout Law from the Bushido code of the Japanese Samurai,  laws of honor of the American Indians, the code of chivalry of European knights, and even the traditions of the Zulu warriors that he had fought against in Africa. He chose a positive a set of affirmations, in contrast to Old Testament style, "thou shalt nots". The two lists, even if combined as much as possible, still did not give me exactly what I was looking for. I finally found my answer in the middle of the flag of India. You never know where you are going to find what you are looking for and it seems like persistence and determination are the keys to searching for something just as they are the keys to success in almost everything else.

In the center of the flag of India there is a wheel with twenty-four spokes. It is a form of the Dharmachakra which is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols. In its simplest form, it looks like a ship's wheel with eight spokes and is known as the "Wheel of Dharma". It represents the Buddha's "Path to Enlightenment".  In Buddhism, "dharma" signifies the "cosmic law and order" and "chakra" means "wheel" or "vortex" and signifies that there is life in movement and death in stagnation.

The twenty-four spokes of the chakra on the Indian flag called the "Ashoka Chakra" comes from the base of a statue of four lions facing back to back that sat atop a pillar at Sarna, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It was put there about the year 250 B.C by the Emperor Ashoka to mark the spot where Buddha first proclaimed his gospel of peace and emancipation to the four quarters of the universe. After Buddha achieved enlightenment at Gaya, he came to Sarnath. There He found five of his disciples who had previously abandoned him. He preached his first sermon to them, explaining the Dharmachakra. This is the motif taken up by Emperor Ashoka and portrayed at the base of the statue of the lions on top of the pillar. A graphic representation of the statue was adopted as the official emblem of India in 1950 and can be found on Indian currency and legal documents.

The 24 spokes on the Ashoka Dharmachakra represent the following qualities or "virtues":

1.)  Love
2.)  Courage
3.)  Patience
4.)  Peacefulness
5.)  Magnanimity
6.)  Goodness
7.)  Faithfulness
8.)  Gentleness
9.)  Selflessness
10.) Self-Control
11.) Self Sacrifice
12.) Truthfulness
13.) Righteousness
14.) Justice
15.) Mercy
16.) Gracefulness
17.) Humility
18.) Empathy
19.) Sympathy
20.) Spiritual Knowledge
21.) Moral Values
22.) Spiritual Wisdom
23.) The Fear of God
24.) Faith or Belief or Hope

In my opinion this is a very nice list and is just what I was looking for. Then I had to come up with a rating system. I didn't know if I should use a simple binary thumbs up or thumbs down or something more sophisticated perhaps, like the five star rating of items on Amazon.com. Then I thought that the scale of one to ten might be better since it would lend itself to numerical comparisons from week to week, month to month, and year to year. I finally decided on a scale of zero to ten with five as the beginning median around which I could plot distributions.

Finally, I had to make some rating criteria for each item in order to be as consistent and as objective as possible. I must also develop a procedure for documenting the pluses and the minuses of the occurrences on a timely basis without making it too complicated. The more I work on this the more interesting it gets. I am happy that I initiated this project. Actually it was the Greek philosopher Plato who got me started. He equated virtue with truth. Benjamin Franklin gave me an example to get me going. Robert Baden-Powell gave me a boost, and Gautama Buddha gave me some great ideas. After all, the official motto of India is: "Satyameva Jayate"..."Truth Alone Triumphs".

Happy New Year wherever you may be and may your New Year be newer than ever before.

15 November 2013

The Mathematician, The Philosopher, and the Camels.

A man who had seventeen camels and three sons died.

When the last will and testament was read, it stated that one half of the camels would be for his oldest son, one third for the second, and one ninth for the third. What to do? There were seventeen camels so how could you give half to the oldest son? One of the animals would have to be cut in half. This wouldn't resolve the problem either because one third still needed to go to the second son and one ninth to the third.

The sons went to look for the smartest man in the city who was also a mathematician. He thought hard about the problem but couldn't come up with a reasonable solution that wouldn't damage the camels. Then someone suggested: "It might be better to look for somebody who knows about camels and not mathematics".  The boys finally found a philosopher who seemed to know a lot about various things and who had some experience in these matters. They explained the problem to him. The philosopher laughed and said, "Don't worry about it. The solution is quite". Now it just so happened that the philosopher had recently been given the gift of a camel so he lent it to the boys to help them even up the account.

Now there were eighteen camels instead of seventeen, thus making the problem much easier to deal with. The philosopher began to divvy up the camels. He gave nine to the oldest son who was very satisfied because this was half of the camels. To the second son he gave six camels which was a third of the camels, and he gave two camels, which represented one ninth, to the third son. Guess what? There was one camel left over which was returned to the philosopher.

Let's see...
17+1= 18
Oldest son gets 18/2= 9 camels
Second son gets 18/3= 6 camels
Third son gets 18/9= 2 camels
Total camels in the father's will 9+6+2= 17 camels
18-17= 1 camel returned to the lender.

So what's wrong with that?

03 November 2013

Happy Diwali

To all my Hindu friends, हैप्पी दिवाली, Happy Diwali.

Diwali is the spectacular Hindu festival of lights celebrated all over the world. This year starts today, Sunday, November 3rd, and lasts for five days. It is a festival of lights that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Hindus celebrate this festival by lighting oil lamps, decorating their homes, and eating sweet treats. Join me in wishing for Hindu people in all countries of the world, Joy, Peace, and Prosperity.


04 October 2013

A pertinent voice from the past...

A voice from 80 years ago and it still carries a powerful message that rings as true today as it did then. It is pretty spooky. Listen all the way to the end. It will give you goose bumps.


15 September 2013

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The problem in the Middle East is complicated by many factors but it seems to me that most of them can be traced back to "The War to End All Wars", i.e. World War One. The following video is one version of how it all began and it is one of the most accurate and concise versions that I have seen to date although the unbiased and one hundred percent accurate story will probably never be known. Untangling this "Gordian Knot" without the use of a sword in the manner favored by Alexander the Great will be a herculean task to say the least.


08 September 2013

What should we do?

What I would do about Syria? What would you do about Syria? What constitutes the basis for a "just" war? Is there such a thing? I went to three sources for advice. The first source is the admonition of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew:

Matthew 5:43-48
King James Version

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Being only humans and most of the time unable to act coherently as an entire group we need to find some common ground on how to counter unjust aggression that would affect not only ourselves but that of our elders and our progeny. Enlightened God fearing people of all persuasions and especially Christians have been arguing about where the "red line" should be drawn for thousands of years.

The following list is a combined summary of what St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in regard to the limits of a "just war" as I understand them to be:

(1) Just cause. The war must confront an unquestioned danger. The damage inflicted by the aggressor or the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain. Syria has not been an aggressor towards the United States or its allies to the extent that war would be justified.

(2) Proper authority. The legitimate authority must declare the war and must be acting on behalf of the people. The majority of the American people according to current polls do not want war. As far as the injustice occurring within the borders of Syria is concerned I think we should first seek remedies for the injustices occurring within the borders of our own country.

(3) Right Intentions. The reasons for declaring the war must actually be the objectives, not a masking of ulterior motives. A contractual arrangement like Poland had with England before World War II or that the U.S. currently has with Israel would be considered legitimate reasons but the U.S. has no other such contractual arrangements in the Middle East that I know of except with Turkey through NATO. It is the "ulterior motives" that I worry about a la the Military Industrial Complex.

(4) Last resort. All reasonable peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted or have been deemed impractical or ineffective. The contentious parties must strive to resolve their differences peacefully before engaging in war, e.g. through diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, embargoes and yes, even bribes perhaps as a temporary measure if it would save lives and protect the innocent from further harm.

(5) Proportionality. The good that is achieved by waging war must not be outweighed by the harm. What good is it to wage war if it leaves the country in total devastation with no one really being the winner? Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. WHAT good was there in that?

(6) Probability of success — The achievement of the war's purpose must have a reasonable chance of success. Look at what happened in Iraq after one trillion dollars were spent and so many lives were lost. Is George Bush's phallus any bigger? Was the mission really accomplished?

(7) Discrimination — Armed forces ought to fight armed forces, and should strive not to harm non-combatants purposefully. Moreover, armed forces should not wantonly destroy the enemy's countryside, cities, or economy simply for the sake of punishment, retaliation or vengeance.

(8) Due proportion — Combatants must use only those means necessary to achieve their objectives. For example, no one needs to use guided missiles to settle a territorial fishing dispute or water rights. Due proportion also involves mercy towards civilians in general, towards combatants when the resistance stops (as in the case of surrender and prisoners of war), and towards all parties when the war is finished. Remember  Abu Ghraib?

In my opinion (pragmatically and rationally speaking, not emotionally) self determination issues and human rights struggles are an internal issues and not a legitimate reason to attack another nation.

Conclusion. The United States should not bomb, invade, or declare war on Syria at this time. This thing will come to a natural end by itself, God willing. Having said that I think we should follow the lead of the minutemen of 1776 and keep our destroyers close, gassed up and ready to toss a few tomahawks at either Syria or Iran if they step any further out of line towards Israel or Turkey. I also believe we should urge Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate because if Israel puts anymore settlements on the West Bank right now, I believe Israel will have broken the spirit of the contract. He must fight the temptation to provoke an attack on Israel that might draw the U.S. and its allies into an unending maelstrom. I believe that President Obama is fully aware of all of the above and I also believe that so far he has been doing the right thing. I pray every day for him, his family, and all of the intelligent and well meaning members of congress that God's will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.


04 September 2013

At the Sound of the Shofar

To all my Jewish friends, non Jewish friends, and to all children of God:

Rosh Hashana Greetings!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova
Shana Tova Umetukah

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and may you prosper and may the day come soon that “nation not lift up sword against nation and humanity not learn war anymore,” and “everyone will sit under his vineyard and fig tree and no one will have reason to fear” (Micah 4:4). 

May you live live so that you may remain God’s witnesses and a light unto the nations of the world (Isaiah 42:6).

"It is our duty to praise the Master of all,
To ascribe greatness to the Author of creation..."

"You shall know and take to heart this day
That the Lord is God,
In the heavens above
and on earth below. There is no other."
(From the Aleinu Leshabei'ach)


About Me

My Photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.