Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unplanned Obsolescence

(Proverbs 12:15) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; But he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsel.  

recently took my five year old grandson for his first library experience; it was also my first visit to a library in many years. It had been so long since I had darkened the door of a library I had to apply for a card. I wondered if the librarian thought it strange that such an old lady would be, at this late stage, applying for a library card. When she handed me the shiny laminated permit she instructed me in her serious librarian tone that I could check out two books and when I returned those, ON TIME, I would THEN be able to check out fifty books. 

You know how, when you have a huge long history that applies to a moment that could be shared but you know it's not only too long but the person you could tell it to wouldn’t care anyway, so you just smile and leave the story untold? 

I took the card, thanked her, and my grandson and I wandered over to the shelves of picture books to find his first two library books.  

My love for books began in a library that started life as an elegant private mansion in what was once an upscale area called The Heights in Houston, Texas. My memories of that building are a bundle of sensations intertwined; the visual of an elegant winding mahogany staircase leading up to thousands of books neatly lined up, spine out, on tall shelves, the distinct aroma of aging paper, binding glue and dust, the sound of a blue jay screeching outside in the shady courtyard, where I loved to sit on the cool concrete bench, book on lap. 

My long history with books includes many libraries. Locating the nearest one has always been a top priority after any move. Once I was able to shop in bookstores I began my own book collection from the markdown tables. Being able to buy books that I didn’t have to return soon overcame my frequent library visits. 

It was predictable and inevitable that one day, like most avid readers, I would want to write books and thus I have a few remnants of my book writing era in my personal library.  But what I found to be more satisfying than authoring has been during my next stage–book publishing. 

While learning the craft of writing was certainly worth the effort, acquiring the skill of turning words into a printed book has been my greatest, most rewarding creative challenge. First, I had to spend nearly two years researching the business of publishing. This was both eye-opening and disheartening to say the least. Turns out publishing isn’t the noble business I had assumed, not even close. Unfortunately I went in with stars in my eyes so my mistake was equating the glory of communicating ideas and imagery in written language with the down-and-dirty process of getting those lofty things to market. 

Okay, so I was disappointed but I sucked it up and got over it. I studied the business, the rules and the mechanics, what’s an ISBN, the how’s and why’s of the art and significance of fonts, margin width, leading, kerning and style. And then I did what I always do, cherry-picked between what I had to do, and those things I determined that I could ignore. 

Truth is, no matter how much I learned, I couldn’t have done it at all if it had not been for the advent of the digital age of publishing. 

In 2002, when I had just launched my quest to decode the mysteries of book creation, while surfing the Net, I found intriguing discussions about POD (print on demand) or digital printing. As is always the case, the vision of digitally printed books went soaring out way in advance of the technology that would eventually make it possible. And, as is also always the case, the naysayers in all areas of traditional publishing, from authors to publishers, hooted at the concept of anything ever replacing off-set printed books, loaded onto pallets and shipped to and sold at bookstores. 

I didn’t know, at the time, that Amazon had already been looking ahead even as the traditionalists were digging in and standing their ground. But I, as usual, immediately could see the future as well. Regardless what was abundantly clear for me, I quickly learned to keep my predictions to myself in the online author forums I frequented. No one agreed with me and, in fact, flamed me to a toasty crisp if I even hinted that technology would catch up one day soon. I eventually stopped participating in the writer forums because I was too busy forming my own POD publishing company in keeping with my lifelong position that those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the one doing it.

In the eight year interim from then to now, POD publishing has quickly evolved. Now the craze is for POD publishers to migrate to ebooks. TA DA! They figured out that pixels don’t have to be printed, just loaded onto readers and broadcast like web pages. While there certainly are many upsides to ebooks, thousands of titles in a light-weight hand-held devise, adjustable type size, backlit for low light reading, but, just as I could easily predict that digital printing would take over and turn the publishing world on its ear, I can see far enough ahead to make another prediction.

A few days after my library trip another grandson was sitting next to me as I showed him a book that I helped bring to life in the mid-eighties. It was a ground-breaking combination, fictional American history/craft book called The Weepeeple. It took one year and a team of us, editors, graphic designers, layout artists, a photographer, me designing/creating the dolls and G P Putnam Publishing to bring this book into being. My only copy has been sitting in my personal library un-thought about for a long time. It’s made many moves from town to town, house to house, shelf to shelf. The dust cover is worn and torn in several places but inside it’s still as fresh and readable as the day I first proudly held it. 

My grandson could not know that when I opened the front cover all the memories of those years, my “crafting” era, the creative labor pains it took to birth that book is forever captured in those printed pages. It wasn’t the first or last book I had done for the Family Workshop but I’ll always think it was the best. It has been out of print for many years but this copy still exists; it’s tangible, holdable, and unchangeable, which is not an insignificant point. 

My personal experience with this book is mine alone but the value of the book is available to anyone who might choose to open and use it. My grandson wants me to recreate one of the characters–Hugger dog–for him.

It occurred to me that this book, in hand, represents not just a rapidly passing era, but perhaps even a last gasp. But, that’s just me, always visualizing the probable and what I see is having a personal library of ten thousand titles all stored in tiny pixels ready to flood the window of a digital reader with the push of a button, but the reader is broken, the reader can’t be charged. Or, worse yet, the reader is out of date. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the new coding for ebooks will likely not work on the “old” original readers. You’ll have to buy new ones periodically to keep up to date and so you can continue to access the ebooks you bought. 

The god of down-and-dirty commerce will be fed. 

Flame me, call me names and mock me, but, mark my words, when printed books are fully replaced with ebooks, when libraries close or are converted to computers only, when bookstores transition to coffee shops with tables of ereaders, civilization will suffer from the most short-sighted application of unplanned obsolescence ever.  

And what if it wasn’t unplanned? Then I can think ahead to even worse things. 

You’ve been warned.

For Christ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Generation OCD

(Colossians 2:8) Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ:

Auri was estimated to be a year old when my granddaughter and I found him three years ago at the local shelter. Though he definitely stood out from the other motley inmates, it was his soulful brown eyes that sucked us in and won him his freedom. He is a good dog, if somewhat neurotic, and a vigilant watch dog with a bark much more intimidating than his size. 

Auri can run like a greyhound. A primal instinct in the spaniel in him compels him to hate squirrels and when he spots one on our morning walk, he can go from zero to sixty in point five seconds. Thus the squirrels remain on high alert and scarce in the mornings until the resident terror has passed. Whoa be unto the one that forgets and finds itself stranded out in the open between two trees. Auri has never actually caught a squirrel, though there have been some very close calls. I’m not sure he’d know what to do with it if he did. Squirrels can fight back when cornered. But Auri doesn’t know this and he also doesn’t think ahead about the what ifs any more than he remembers yesterday. He’s a dog, on a mission: get small rodent with fluffy tail.

Like all dogs, Auri has basic instincts and needs. Shelter, food, water, affirmation, feral joyful running to expend natural energy, chasing squirrels up trees and playing fetch with his ball. Here’s where the neurotic part comes in. Auri is obsessed with his ball and is determined that we, his people, will also be obsessed with it. Once engaged he will not quit on his own. He brings it, drops it at the feet of his victim and then stares at the ball, every muscle tensed, tail wagging in slow measured waves. His focus is so intense, the owner of the feet has no choice but to comply, pick up the ball and throw it. Ten seconds later, the ball is dropped again, Auri back in position. We’ve never tested how long Auri would repeat this action, I personally believe it would be a marathon, possibly eligible for the Guinness Book of World Records. Alas, Auri’s fetch partner usually ends it long before Auri is ready. The only way to end it is to hide the ball. 

This type of behavior is endearing in a dog but annoying in humans. This kind of focus is referred to as OCD–obsessive/compulsive disorder. I don’t know if this is a relatively new mental problem or an old one that has only just been labeled in the modern science of human psychology, but it seems to me many more people suffer from varying degrees of OCD than ever before. OCD in its mildest form manifests most often as “selective perfectionism”. At its worst it is a debilitating, overriding autopilot that prevents the mind from thinking in any other way but closed loops. Advanced OCD renders one essentially mentally crippled and not only pre-programmed but nearly unteachable. 

In the last decade or so the identification and recognition of OCD has made it a household word–almost a joke as well as a commonly accepted character trait. Who doesn’t refer to his/her own “OCD” tendencies from time to time as the excuse for some minor obsessive behavior? I don’t know if it has to do with more people being born with mis-wired brains or if there is something in the environment that is slowly poisoning us and messing with our brain activity. 

From the spiritual side, I could take a leap and determine that what seems to be a growing physiological problem can be traced to something much more sinister. Call it a type of spiritual conspiracy theory, if you must.

If you wanted to own a population, transform it into a pliable, subservient, controllable society, the simplest technique would be to inundate the masses with exciting distractions, enticements, pandering to base desires, coaxing them into little addictions and passion for acquiring and embracing every new thing. Maintain a tight schedule of new things coming successively in short timeframes to increase anticipation to frenzy levels. Flood the populace with 30-60 second fictional vignettes 24/7, keeping these in the forefront of consciousness and embedded in the subconscious until natural attention span can be reconditioned and reduced to a minute or less which effectively short-circuits any critical thinking. 

Make idols out of beautiful delusions, disguise truth with a thin glittering layer of better-than-real lie until expectations for reality are unilaterally elevated to the newly created illusions of perfection. 

In summary, shrink attention span, unplug long-term memory, logic and reason, then exalt and idolize useless trivia and activity.

Through these strategies you can, within as short a time as a generation, redirect every brain wave in tune to the same frequency and your new pets will be sufficiently stunted, limited and compliant to whatever you wish for them to do. You need not worry that they will be able to think beyond the preoccupation of the moment. They will be so obsessed with sterile irrelevant minutia they will have no need for recollection of the past or hope for the future. 

You will have created Generation OCD, that, like Auri, just wants to play fetch over and over and over until you, the master, finally decide when to hide the ball. 

For Christ,

Failing in his frontal attacks upon the child of God, Satan often turns to more subtle means of achieving his evil purpose. He resorts to devious methods in his attempt to divert the Christian from carrying out the task God has committed to him. He often succeeds by involving the saint in some other lesser occupation and so distracting him. ~ A. Tozer

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chasing Truth - Part Four - White Lies, Black Truth and Other Fiction

All successful writers know there is a standard formula for crafting a good story. This includes, but is not limited to, developing at least two believable characters who are diametrically opposed to each other. 

This has been the way of yarn-spinning since mankind began making up stories, but I’ve noticed a subtle disturbing change in the dynamics of modern fiction. More and more often it seems the “hero” or protagonist is a bad guy to begin with–a thief, a liar, a criminal. This type of hero, usually a social misfit and/or part of a group of misfits, find themselves at odds with an even more fiendish bad guy, (usually someone who is mega rich), and are compelled to rally to the cause of bringing justice to the world by doing in  him and his evil minions. 

We, being programmed to root for the protagonist of the story, regardless how questionable of character he/they might be, do our part and align with and cheer for what is tantamount to nothing more than the lesser of two evils. What good is splitting hairs about the dubious character of our hero when the REALLY bad guy needs to be exposed and punished post haste? 

This is indeed an interesting twist on a very old technique but it is also an ominous sign of the times. Those who claim that there is no empirical evidence that points to movies, books and video games as being influential to culture, are usually those who make their living off said products.  To know the truth of it, one simply has to follow the money. 

Billions of dollars to be had will always trump what might be bad for society in the long run. But money is one thing, there is another, darker, spiritual side to all this–less obvious, of course. 

Professional liars, thieves, murderers and other psychopaths, who have no conscience, who do not care what happens to others so long as they get what they want are, by their nature, unable to be genuine heroes in real life. The old saying there is no honor among thieves is actually a fact. Experiments have been tried, during war, to put criminals into dangerous combat zones. As soon as they were able, they bolted, never to be seen again. This is what happens in real life, but through the medium of fictional writing we have been convinced that those who are good at lying, cheating, stealing, murdering and otherwise committing crimes against others are just using acceptable means so long as the end is perceived to be good.  This is simply a very ingenious way to embed new definitions of good and evil into society’s collective psyche. The result is that deception is deemed fine and, in fact, expected so long as it is for a good cause.

This gentle, diabolical technique has finally, effectively blurred the lines between good and evil, what is acceptable and not. We used to know better who or what made a hero and a villain. We used to understand the difference between honor and dishonor–clear  were the definitions of morality, integrity, and honesty. We used to be able to recognize who was wearing the white hat and who was wearing the black hat. Suddenly, it seems there are no white hats. White hats are passé, old-fashioned and out of date. We have come to prefer our heroes a bit more rough around the edges, a tad bit tarnished, way less shiny and, well, let’s say it–more like us. So, instead of seeing heroes as those with traits we would like to rise up to, we bring our heroes down to our level. 

There is an inevitable consequence to this new cultural model of idolizing bad behavior as heroic and it seems that we are rushing to the climax of this ongoing story of good against evil. In fiction, evil is always presented as knowing it is evil and is proud to be; the antagonist/villain/bad guy rubs his hands together and laughs BWA-HA-HA, celebrating his beautiful evilness. But evil in real life is not a fictional character, it’s a genuine villain who prowls and seeks to destroy whomever he can while he still can. He  is somewhat more clever than fictional villains though, preferring to make those whom he has garnered to his side believe they are good and right because he knows the best way to suck in more victims is to create the illusion of good and to look good one must believe one is good. These minions speak black truth instead of white lies. They say, “Believe me, trust me, Honest, I am speaking truth!” 

The diabolical part is that they have been deluded, by the author of lies, to believe their own words because unlike a white lie, where the speaker knows it is untrue, a black truth becomes real to the person who has crafted it. It is a created reality for this person so it presents itself real enough for others to be convinced as well. Whole belief systems are often founded on nothing more than a single individual’s black truth. 

So, how does one recognize black truth in a world where the lines between right and wrong are fuzzy?  Where white lies, black truth and real truth are in the final conflict for the souls of men? The answer is as old as storytelling itself: When in doubt of the veracity of the sayer, pay more attention to what one does than what one says. 

To that I must add, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, measure that action by the Word. 

For Christ,

(Ezekiel 33:30) And as for thee, son of man, the children of thy people talk of thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord.  (33:31) And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but do them not; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their gain.  (33:32) And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


 (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6) But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you.  (5:2) For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  (5:3) When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape.  (5:4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief:  (5:5) for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness;  (5:6) so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober.    

We were gathered together for a family meal recently and the topic of the Mayan 2012 end of the world thing came up as a philosophical discussion. One of us offered what she would do if she knew she only had one day left. This launched a lively dialogue, each and all enthusiastically lobbing in suggestions for the most optimal way to spend the last day on earth. I listened and laughed along with the group as each contribution got sillier and sillier but I didn’t pull anything out from my bucket list. Though the moment was completely light-hearted it tapped into something I have been mulling over and I knew I’d need time to think about it. I can be as silly as the next guy, but not about some things. 

The following morning, I pressed the call button for the elevator that was downstairs. Knowing it takes twenty-one seconds for this small movable closet to transition between two floors, I chose to use the interim to walk over and raise the shade on the front window. With at least nine seconds to spare I decided to walk further and raise the shade on the other front window. The elevator arrived and I walked back and opened the door. On the twenty-one second ride down I suddenly recalled the dinner conversation and all the ideas presented about how to spend the last day on earth. 

I thought, Last day? What about the last seconds?

Although time can be measured with some precision, we prefer to think in terms of less specific numbers. Twenty-one is a real number but it’s too exact. Most would round up or down - twenty, or less than a minute. If asked how much we paid for a thing, we’d likely respond “ten bucks” instead of “nine dollars and ninety-nine cents”. It’s easier and, well, more flexible to think about the numbers of our lives in increments that are generally representative and therefore more conceptual than actual. But this, then, sets the precedence for us to think of our lifespan as more conceptual than actual as well. 

Vague and hazy is just more imaginative and open for broad speculation. In other words, there’s nothing concrete on the calendar so, eat drink and be merry.

Here’s where vague and hazy must come into sharp focus.

As much as we would like to ignore the fact that there are absolutes in life, there is one that ought to be addressed sooner better than later. Counting backwards, from the very last beat of our heart, it can be said, irrefutably, that we all are appointed one last year, one last month, one last day, one last hour and, yes, even one last increment of twenty-one seconds. 

The catch is, unfortunately, we rarely, if ever, know when that last twenty-one second countdown has begun. Twenty-one seconds is not enough time to think about and then execute how it ought to be spent. Who wouldn’t want to do something significant? But what? What meaningful thing can one do in twenty-one seconds? 

One could say...

I repent.

For things that I have said and done that grieved You,
     for all the things I didn’t say or do that would have pleased You.

I wish I had more time to pray,
that Your will would be my only way.
So in this last second please hear me say,

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, forgive me.

...and you’d still have three seconds left - just enough time to look up.

For Christ,

(Psalms 90:12) So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013


(2 Timothy 3:1-5) But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come.  (3:2) For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  (3:3) without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good,  (3:4) traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;  (3:5) holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.

blame |blām|

verb [ with obj. ]
assign responsibility for a fault or wrong: 
• (blame something on) assign the responsibility for something bad to (someone or something): they blame youth crime on unemployment.

Blame-Shift 101 is a required course study in order to graduate and integrate into the New Enlightened Society. Suggested reading includes but is not limited to: 

Feeling Is Smarter Than Thinking  by Ernest Whiner 
Sticks And Stones Break Bones but Words Really Hurt  by Dr. A. Weenie 
How To Use Guilt For Fun and Profit  by Ima User
Do As I Say, Not As I Do - Practical Applications for Self-Righteousness  by Truss Meh 

and the wildly successful, 

Lies, Statistics, & Alternate Realities: A Short Course in How to Convince Anyone of Anything by I. C. Sheeple.

Recently a news item appeared announcing that a six-pack of incarcerated criminals had come together to file a lawsuit against companies that produce alcoholic beverages. Their justification: “they were in prison because they were alcoholics” which clearly was/is the fault of breweries and distillers. 

This is reminiscent of the headline grabbing lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers over the last several decades that have netted unimaginable windfalls for the plaintiffs because the cigarette companies were deemed to be deviously enticing in their advertising. They also secretly added addictive ingredients to their cancer sticks. How diabolical! Apparently, warnings on the packaging, as mandated by the Surgeon General, that cigarettes are bad for health were not enough to deter those who chose to ignore the warnings and thus could not therefore be blamed for ill health directly attributable to smoking. 

Who doesn’t know that, in the big picture, blame-shift can be reduced down to greed seeking to redefine and exploit liability. Deep pockets are easily and legally picked in a licentious culture. Given so much precedence it follows that these six poor victims...uh... prisoners will likely get their day in court and perhaps will even win their case. It is a sign of the times and a slippery slope as well. Blame-shift for gain soon becomes a standard of its own and a pattern that inevitably turns into blame-shift on the smallest personal scale. Sort of like a virus that spreads to become epidemic. All signs point to this effectively having already been firmly established in the modern operating psyche. It is now not just socially acceptable to refuse to claim responsibility for individual choices and behaviors, it is the expected norm. It has been a slow boil. It wasn’t established overnight but because of “feel-good” nurturing and self-soothing it has suddenly matured and grown teeth in but a single generation, becoming a force to be reckoned with. 

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers–you can blame anyone but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you want to change, you’re the one who has got to change. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?” ~ Katherine Hepburn

Unfortunately, the inevitable and ever so untenable consequences of this revised standard loom darkly. Sooner or later the piper must be paid for what amounts to nothing more than a collective free pass for bad choices. Once a society elects to downgrade the principles that underwrite all that which keeps civilization civil, the anarchy waiting at the bottom is a short swift slide away. 

What could possibly go awry from this feel good stream-of-consciousness credo that declares that all responsibility for any individual act is actually communal and  therefore can and should always be deflected and shared? The possibilities boggle the mind. In a matter of seconds I can point the finger at a plethora of individuals for directly or indirectly causing me problems. Using the new model I should be able to blame Domino Sugar Company for making me fat. 

Let’s take it to the absurd, just for contrast. If you are a creep who abuses or mistreats others, your behavior is not your fault. You should easily be able to blame someone in your past. If you are dumb and not educated you can blame the educational system. If you are inept at anything, have no social grace, lose jobs because you do not work or play well with others, and/or you are maladjusted in any regard, rest easy, you do not have to take responsibility for your actions. There are circumstances in your past that can be conjured up to cover you. Murderers, thieves, liars, cheats, and other miscreants just need a group hug because sometime long ago, they didn’t get one. 

Even in jest I can’t force myself to blame anyone or anything else for my life choices. I guess I am just too old to adjust. I’m a relic from another era, another paradigm where individualism included not just individual rights but equal measures of individual accountability as well. Consequences once belonged entirely to the individual. But nowadays, nothing belongs to the individual which means we now live in a tenuous “no-fault” age. Of course, beneath all of this is something a bit more sinister that silently encourages the current blame culture “I’m-okay-you’re-okay” delusion supporting that no one has to repent for anything. After all, what is there to repent for when any/all transgression can be efficiently diffused and absorbed into vague abstracts?

I can’t predict how long this downhill slide will take before it hits rock bottom so I might not live to see the piper come for his dues. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m quite sure it isn’t going to be pretty. Who/what will catch the blame I wonder?

Don’t even think about blaming me. 

For Christ,

“It comes down to trust. Who can ever trust the credibility of someone who is never able to admit fault?” ~ T. Glady

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Flim Flam

Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Reject every kind of evil. First Thessalonians 5:21-22

There’s a sucker born every minute. 

However terse, this truism is packed with wisdom and has been attributed to numerous people, including P.T. Barnum and Mark Twain. Regardless who said it first, it is and has been ever so. But there is a secondary truth left unstated though. For every sucker born, there’s two con men in the waiting. 

There doesn’t seem to be a discernible difference between the gullible of any era in human history. Intelligence, education, status, whether rich or poor, no one is exempt from the threat of being scammed by the intuitive skills of a flim-flam man, who knows exactly how to tap into humanity’s weakest emotions, needs and desires. Thus, anyone can be made to believe anything, on the short term, so long as one is able to create the perfect illusion where by common knowledge, belief and reason can be suspended until the con has succeeded and the con artist is long gone. It works every time, in all areas of life, from the heights of politics and religion, down to individual relationships. The con game happens over and over, each time fresh-faced and unrecognizable (until too late) as though it had just been invented.

Why is that? Why are we so exploitable? There must be a reason why we never learn how to see it coming. Is it merely that we are simply dumber than we realize? Or, perhaps con men are just that much smarter? Again, it seems to boil down to the basest of human weaknesses, desire and greed. We desire to be able to lose twenty pounds in two weeks without doing anything but sprinkle powder on our hot dog and ice cream. We desire to believe what we see, even though we are well aware that modern technology is more than able to create images that are not even close to real. Either we desire to believe that all advertising is honest or we choose to expect that all advertising is a lie and we don’t care. We know politicians always lie but we vote for them anyway, hoping the lies won’t hurt us personally. And we blindly accept that any word or language that sounds Biblical must be from God. 

But regardless how many times we are duped, we always desire to believe that one day we will defeat the odds and we’ll be able to get something for nothing. As easy as conning has been through-out history, high speed communication, via the internet, has made cheating and deceiving people even easier. I still receive emails inviting me to help a dying prince to fulfill his last wish by sharing in millions of dollars with him. After all these years of the Nigerian Email Scam circling the globe on digital wings and the common knowledge that it is indeed a scam, people must still be falling for it or it would have died out with the poor prince. Apparently, new suckers launch online every day and all good con men know that the siren call of greed always trumps reason. 

Works and works again and again.

Besides desire and greed there is one other weakness in humans that overrides reason and leaves us vulnerable to those who understand this about us and that is the fear of looking cynical. No one likes a doubter, someone who is forever pointing out the flaws, deficits and fallacies in the human condition. We prefer positive attitudes. Look to the bright side, we are admonished.

Well, to this I say, I’d rather be called a cynic than be a fool. Where is the downside to questioning things before buying in? If something is true it will remain true, even after copious amounts of testing. Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels but some scars can be completely avoided with the exercise of a modicum of cynicism and one small question:

Is it too good to be true?

"It ain't so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so."- Artemus Ward 

The most successful modern day cons tap into our ingrained belief in the potential that technology is unstoppable, sort of magic, and therefore capable of anything. We desire to believe that all things are possible (so long as it doesn’t involve belief in God) so the next miraculous break-through is just a few buzz words in a website or TV commercial away. New! Amazing! Miracle! Super! Revolutionary! Bio-Tech! Really Works! Nine out of Ten Doctors Recommend! Clinically Proven! All You Need Is This One Weird Trick! Must See Video Before it is Taken Off Web! 

Apparently most folks have no idea how easy it is to make a commercial or create a website. Yes, it looks all mysteriously high tech doesn’t it. High tech and fraught with dazzling tools for a new generation of flim-flam men. The latest twist in the modern web-based con? You simply claim to be an unbiased reviewer and put your product at the top. Five stars! Who can argue with FIVE STARS? Holy Cow! This is irrefutable! This guy is legit because he says he is, honest! 

When I see these types of websites my first question is: who are you and what are your credentials?  But then, that’s just me, I’m a serious cynic. There is a narrow path down the middle of mindless trust and hardcore mistrust however. It’s called skepticism and it serves as a useful way station on the treacherous road of life. It’s not a bad habit to cultivate. 

A reasonable amount of skepticism can be used to challenge all manner of psychological scams, including those defined as religious and political. There is no end to the applications for fleecing sheep. New religious cults and political ideologies are born from nothing more than the charismatic ability of a con-man to zero in on the deepest human need of all, to feel the self-satisfaction of believing one is plugged into the inner circle–the elite few who know the real TRUTH, the place where one is absolutely RIGHT. Thus the adoring members willingly turn off their reason and logic and turn over their trust to nothing more than the one who knows the mesmerizing key words and when and how to use them. Sometimes the goal is money but often it’s just psychopathic desire for power over others. Nevertheless, flim-flam is flim-flam in whatever form it takes or whatever era it appears. It nets nothing for the ones scammed. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada.

So, call me a cynic, skeptic or heretic. I do pay attention to the man behind the curtain, further I want to know who pays that man and/or what his agenda is. I want to know the whys and the wherefores, and my questions almost always lead to a single conclusion: 

Too good to be true is just not good enough for me. 

For Christ,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. First John 4:1