Sunday, September 25, 2022

On Being as Wise as a Serpent, Innocent as a Dove


White Dove / Getty Images
Copyright: martinmystere
People have asked me how I figure problems out. So, I want to write on an overlooked command: Practice innocence. (This piece draws from the Bible and my understanding of God; so, if that's not your cup of tea, you can stop reading here.)

When I was a child, my uncle told me this verse. I clearly didn't understand the importance of it, until recently. Matthew 10:14-16 states, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (ESV). 

Perhaps in every civilization that I know of, people are interested in attaining wisdom. The story that comes to mind is of the Norse mythology of Odin - the Chief of all gods. When his kingdom is rotting and in decline, he realizes that he doesn't have enough wisdom to solve the problems destroying and perplexing him and his empire.

So, he visits a pool of water called Mimir's Well. The water spirits promise him wisdom, if he rips his eye out and throws it into the pool. Odin agrees. It's a trade required and the price has to be paid. He gouges out his eye and sacrifices to the spirits of Mimir. Odin drinks from the water and obtains the precious wisdom he seeks out. (Too bad for him, it doesn't prevent his daughter from destroying his kingdom, in the apocalyptic event called Ragnarok, when she burns down Valhalla.) 

I want to highlight two points in this story. Obviously, the Norse are valuing wisdom by esteeming Odin's sacrifice. They believed that Odin did the right thing to sacrifice his eye. The Norse are also stressing that one should not hesitate to sacrifice something valuable in pursuit of wisdom. Two, Odin had to lose his external sight to gain insight.

The Jewish people place equal value on the obtaining of wisdom. Solomon tells us in his Proverbs - "Wisdom is worth more than silver; it brings more profit than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you could want is equal to it. With her right hand wisdom offers you a long life, and with her left hand she gives you riches and honor." (Pro. 3:14-16). 

So important was wisdom, that the Queen of Sheeba took the grueling trek with her wealth to visit King Solomon to ask the questions confounding her. The Scripture says that "When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed." (1 Kings 10:5-6).

So - why am I telling you this pagan Norse myth, and adding in Proverbs, and Solomon, when explicating how to be as wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove? Because, seeking knowledge and wisdom, as far as I've studied, has been universally declared as necessary and a noble quest for all those who seek it. And, I don't think I need to stress to my readers or others that seeking wisdom is necessary in order to accomplish the mission in front of you. It's important for the pagans, the gentiles, the Jewish, the Christians, and all other peoples.

It's the second part of Jesus' words that needs emphasis. But be "innocent as doves." 

As far as I've studied, only the Christian god adds that in fighting off evil, who are symbolized as wolves, you also need to be innocent. It's only the Christian god that makes clear - wisdom alone is not sufficient.

The more experience I gain, I realize it's only half the battle to have the wisdom of a snake, and to strike and bite with venom - a venom that can destroy. In other words, it's not really praiseworthy to behave this way.

The reason is because executing the serpent's strike limits a person and makes her no better than the enemy. Remember; snakes are limited in their sight. And becoming like a snake will also limit one's sight. Snakes are almost blind, and although they have an extraordinary sense of the environment through other receptors, they still lack external vision.

Nietzsche sums the risk best, when he said, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

So; how does a trait like innocence, enhance sight and wisdom? I can imagine Odin, the chief and warrior king of the gods, scoffing at such an illogical, and seemingly passive concept. 

But Jesus states it so clearly in his beatitudes, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). 

I think we shouldn't miss the point. Seeing as God sees is powerful. Seeing like God, will also give you divine insight to accurately behold the problem as God sees it. And as a natural consequence, a God-like solution should also follow. So, being innocent is more valuable than it appears on the surface. (That's not to say, I haven't fallen into the temptation of retaliation too.)

From experience, I tell you this. One of the challenges in practicing purity, is that when you understand the way of the evil enemy, the temptation materializes in front of you to use his or her venomous tactics that you've just learned or learned previously. The temptation is now always there. Perhaps - that's why it was better that Adam and Eve never ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because once you learn of that evil - it's with you forever.

Self-control is absolutely necessary. To give into this temptation, and return evil for evil, will make one like the enemy - and create the same blind spot that snakes indeed have. This will handicap the strategist and ultimately limit one from achieving the quest at hand.

How does one obtain innocents? It's two steps. 

The first one is to admit you and I cannot do it alone. The source of goodness, wisdom, and purity has to fill and guide one. For this reason King David wrote in the Psalms - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalms 51).

The second step is given in the New Testament with a letter Apostle Paul wrote. He said - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23).

As the late minister Derek Prince points out in his one of his talks, trees need to be cultivated for good fruit to be produced. Cultivation requires work, such as tilling, fertilizing, pruning, watering, nurturing, patience, and waiting for the season of harvest. It takes work, sometimes a lot of work.

Hopefully, this helps. It's an article long overdue.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

LA Times Reports on How Baldwin Park Council Members Solicited $250,000 Cash in Paper Bags; Reform Required to Put Corruption in Check.

The LA Times reported on how Baldwin Park city officials asked for $250,000 in cash bribes to be put in paper bags to approve marijuana licenses. Regarding Baldwin Park, here's what the Times says:

Baldwin Park leaders saw cannabis as a financial boon for their struggling community in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley.

But from the start, pot licensing stirred allegations of corruption.

One of the licenses approved by Baldwin Park gave the exclusive right to distribute cannabis in the city to a local business, Rukli Inc. The city required other licensed weed businesses to use Rukli as their sole distributor. The arrangement prompted another cannabis business to file a lawsuit accusing Rukli of engaging in a conspiracy to secure an illegal monopoly and racketeering, including bribery and kickbacks. Rukli denied wrongdoing. The lawsuit was eventually dropped after Rukli pulled out of its exclusive deal.

Before the end of Rukli’s exclusive arrangement, a Baldwin Park police lieutenant visited the firm’s distribution center to make sure it was complying with the city’s requirements for securing the property. Lt. Chris Kuberry told The Times one of the firm’s partners mentioned paying $250,000 in cash to city officials.

Kuberry said that the comment was “certainly suspicious” and that he had heard the FBI was investigating possible corruption in the city. But he didn’t inquire further, file a report or contact the FBI. He said his department of about 50 officers was rife with complaints of retaliation and he feared for his job if he raised any questions.

 “To be honest, [it was] out of self-preservation,” said Kuberry, who retired shortly after.

In a lawsuit the city brought against its former police chief, Kuberry said in a sworn declaration that pot operators complained to him about “questionable business practices which included paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.” His declaration did not name the firms or their owners, but Kuberry told The Times he was referring to Rukli.

Scott Russo, an attorney for one of Rukli’s partners at the time, said the company never paid a bribe. He declined to comment on whether any city officials solicited bribes, citing an ongoing federal investigation.

“There’s a process [the FBI] would appreciate I respect,” he said.

A source who is cooperating with the FBI told The Times he was present when Ricardo Pacheco, then a member of the Baldwin Park City Council, asked that Rukli pay him $250,000 in cash to ensure the city would approve a license for the firm. . . . [And you can read the rest on the Times].

The Times argues that legalizing marijuana "unleashed corruption in California." I don't know if it unleashed corruption as it just ramped up what was already there.

50% of California cities declined to open their cities up for marijuana businesses. An analysis should be done as to the demographics and average income of residents as to which cities engaged with marijuana and which ones didn't.

Also, if you haven't noticed, corruption appears rife in Californian government. Not only does the Times article point to a number of politicians that solicited bribes for cannabis licenses, but the Times just reported on a pay-to-play scheme with a USC Dean and a current LA City Council Member.

The question is, how come are checks and balances are not working? Why is that only the federal government, and not the Sheriff, or other local law enforcement agencies pop these cities? 

Long time readers of my blog will know that I've often had to take Baldwin Park to court for open records. But the City then lies to the court and says - "We gave out everything." Or, "We don't have anymore records." And then the judge just believes them. In short - the public records act doesn't work. If it did, would our residents and citizens be cheated this much by our politicians?

As I've been saying over and over again, our law needs reform, so that it's easier for citizen journalists to investigate and hold accountable these politicians. Are current checks and balances are failing.