Aesop’s Fableshave been with us since the 6th Century B.C. The fables’ fame is rooted in their antiquity, story-telling form, and common sense.
Whether Aesop, reputedly a slave who later became a free man, wrote the fables or wrote some, compiled some (scholars lean to the latter) is still debated. Either way, the canon has been settled upon some 656 fables Aesop apparently told in his lifetime.
Not long ago I set out to read some of the classics, books I’d heard about all my life but never got around to reading. Aesop’s Fables made the list.
Aesop’s stories relate to common experiences in everyday life often as seen or spoken through the vantage point of animals, two attributes of his writing that have allowed the fables to translate easily across languages and cultures and most especially into the lives of children. And, the stories are an illustrator’s dream.
Some of the fables are what we’d call “lame,” not very weighty or convincing and not particularly useful. Then again, many are interesting for their universal appeal or for their surprising insight.
“The Fox and the Grapes,” that is to say “sour grapes,” has entered the conversational lexicon. So has “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs,” the ill-fated bird killed by a farmer’s greed. In “The Tortoise and the Hare” we see that “slow and steady wins the race.”
In “The Mischievous Dog” we learn that “notoriety is often mistaken for fame,” something our celebrity-mad culture could do to relearn. “The Crow and the Pitcher” teaches “necessity is the mother of invention.” This, our pioneer forefathers handed down to us, though such initiative and creativity are waning in contemporary culture.
“The Gnat and the Bull” teaches “we may often be of more consequence in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbors.” While “The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf”—remember the boy who cried “Wolf?”—warns “you cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.” This is applicable in today’s bloodsport national politics if not also in office politics. Another refresher we need in our politics is listed in “The Boy Bathing,” wherein the moral is “give assistance, not advice, in a crisis.”
“The Two Bags,” like several other fables, is reminiscent of Scripture. In this story we’re told that every person carries two bags, one in front and one behind, both packed full of faults. The bag in front contains our neighbor’s faults while the one behind contains our own. So, you guessed it, we always see our neighbor’s faults but never our own. Matthew 7:3 asks why we look at the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye but fail to see the plank in our own.
“The Dog and the Shadow” addresses greed, while “The Crow and the Raven” is about the cost of pretentiousness.
Some of the reading was slow and, to me, nonsensical. But I can see why the fables have earned global acclaim. Aesop’s fables aren’t the proverbs of Proverbs, but they are interesting and thought provoking. I enjoyed reading them.
Americans sometimes confuse their faith and their patriotism. In a country that pioneered the idea of separation of Church and State this is a rather interesting development. For ones who enjoy their faith and love their country it's easy to do. And the tendency is not always or necessarily sinister. But then again it can create blinders and cause problems.
In it's more developed form mixing faith and patriotism is called civil religion. But that's a subject for another time. Here I simply want to think about the question, Is Americana (not America per se but American culture) always Christian? Here's more on the topic:
If you like politics, especially presidential politics, like I do than you’ll like this book.
I enjoy reading behind-the-scenes stories, ones based on credible evidence, which the author’s provide in spades. My favorite stories herein: how Ronald Reagan taught Bill Clinton how to salute and the way George H. W. Bush conducted himself as a gentlemen during and after his presidency. Something I learned: how far Richard Nixon went during the 1968 presidential campaign (some say to the point of treason) to influence clandestinely the Viet Nam peace talks in Paris and thus the election. This was a precursor to Watergate or at least the unworthy character(s) that caused it.
The President’s Club is a study of the relationships of men who’ve served as President, with each other and with the current occupant of the White House. From Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama and his living predecessors the authors examine how “the club,” this unique and limited number of men (so far) have functioned in a world all their own.
The watchwords of the club are competition, collaboration, and consultation. The club members’ common goals: to preserve the credibility and power of the Office of the President, to protect America, and to advance, as possible, their own reputations and legacies.
Hoover and Truman launched the modern club. Catching their partisan peers off guard they worked successfully in post-war Europe to save the lives of tens of millions of hungry people. Later, at Truman’s behest the Hoover Commission helped transform the Office of the President into a powerful platform for leadership of the Free World. Later still, they surprised themselves and became lifelong friends.
JFK and Lyndon Johnson leaned heavily upon Ike Eisenhower for private consultation about Viet Nam and much more. Nixon was a fatally flawed man, but his brilliant insights involving international relations helped Bush 41, even Clinton. Ford and Carter made amends and worked together off and on for over twenty years; they even tried to rescue Clinton, or at least his office, when Clinton became the second president to be impeached.
Bush 43 kept a public distance (in terms of consultation) from his father during his campaigns and presidencies, yet their relationship as son and father was and is deep and forever. It was 41 who later created the opportunity for 43 and Clinton to partner in humanitarian relief, launching what many and even they call a special “father/son” relationship. Now, it’s Obama and, after a testy time, Clinton, and surprisingly perhaps, Bush 43. President Obama sent Clinton and 43 to Haiti for humanitarian relief efforts that raised tens of millions. The club, all members have found, is useful politically and personally.
There’s something about the job of President of the United States, the crushing responsibility, tension and concern in the face of global threats, the loneliness in leadership that draws all who’ve held the position together. Who else can fully understand? And all, regardless of party and policy want the President and the Nation to succeed. Consequently, the Presidents Club, when it’s at its best, represents one of the blessings of a free, democratic, and peaceful transfer of power.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested American politics, the presidency, or leadership.
I've met a few people in my life who've claimed, cluelessly I think, that like Popeye, "I yam what I yam." Sounds cool, but it's baloney, especially if it's a masquerade for faults that could be addressed. No one is changeless but God, who by the way doesn't need to change. But we, human beings, are a work-in-progress. We often need to change, to grow, to become, and the good news is: we can.
Solomon. Just the name catches your attention. The man lived, and he lived as king during Ancient Israel's Golden Age.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. During his life he spoke more than 3,000 proverbs, left us with portions of Scripture, and undoubtedly spoke and did a lot more than has been recorded for us. But what we have is significant.
Solomon wondered aloud about the meaning of life, because his general observations led him to cry, "Meaningless, meaningless. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless" (Ecc. 1:2). Now had he stopped there he would have ended up like Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Cobain, who took their own lives with shotguns because life didn't seem worth living to them. But Solomon did not stop there. He systematically investigated and tried just about all the world had to offer, then he came to his conclusion.
In the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the most philosophical and one of my favorite books of the Bible, Solomon said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth...Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:1,13).
What interests and what grieves me about this topic is how easily some Christians seem to align themselves with a way of interpreting the Scripture that ends with Christians believing the modern secular state of Israel can do not wrong. Further, people who embrace this approach argue that the United States should stand as Israel's uncritical ally. For many, though not all, who assume this position, it's an easy next step to taking an anti-Arab outlook.
For the record, I'm not against Israel per se, and I am certainly not anti-Jew. But neither am I anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian, or for that matter anti-Turk or anti-Iranian. This I can say about a people or people group even though I certainly disagree from time to time, if not often, with what given national governments do or how they position themselves, whether Israel or Arab world countries, Turkey, or Iran.
The article entitled "Confused Christians" simply recognizes that the Word of God calls upon Christian people to love all, to forgive as Christ forgave us, to share the message of the Gospel with all, to be no one's sworn enemy. This isn't la-la land thinking. I acknowledge the presence of evil in the world and the necessity of dealing with it harshlly via law and order, criminal justice systems, governments, and unfortunately at times armed forces and coercion. But these biblical principles of justice stand for all people, no matter their ethnic, racial, or national heritage or homeland.
Christians, I believe, need to pray for and work toward peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs even if history seems to suggest the impossibility of this outcome. God loves Jews and Arabs and salvation by faith in Christ is available to all.