October 29, 2016

Sometime in the early 1980's, I discovered Garrison Keillor. By then he had hosted A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio for about ten years. At that time I was convinced that NPR was only for former beatniks and Birkenstock wearing leftists, but there was something about that live musical-variety show from Minnesota that spoke to my soul. 

I appreciated the eclectic musical guests, from Willie Nelson to Mark Knopfler to Heather Mosley. I laughed at the fictitious commercials for Powdermilk Biscuits and the American Duct Tape Council. But what I loved was Keillor's tales from Lake Wobegon, a fictitious Minnesota small town of Scandinavians who attended church at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, got their news from "The Herald Star" (owned and edited by Harold Starr), ate at the Chatter Box Cafe and drank beer at the Side Track Tap. His self deprecating humor about faith and small town life resonated with the way I was raised. He could mock who he was and where he c...

October 25, 2016

We have a banana tree growing near the Maintenance Building. Its close proximity to the building protected it from last winter's freezing temperature, so it currently has about 25 bananas. While it might be wrong to steal them, we may harvest them.

When Joseph Heller wrote his classic novel Catch-22, it was supposed to be "Catch 18". However Leon Uris' novel Mila 18 had just been published. Heller's editor Robert Gotleib instead came up with Catch-22, saying the 22 was a "funnier" number than 18. Don't you agree?

Can you imagine how many emails are being deleted in Washington DC these days? Wikileaks is the best thing that's happened to restaurants and bars, as DC insiders now have to meet face-to-face just like the old days. Maybe they'll learn to communicate and break the gridlock.

Two inmates got in a fight in the Chow Hall. Apparently the altercation started over a single packet of jelly. It happened right in front of me, but I saw nothing, as I was completely focused on trying to cut...

October 20, 2016

Preface to this 3rd and final part of Theology From Prison.

I have an inmate editor here at Bastrop Federal Satellite camp who refers to himself as Ben Bradley. Bradley, for all you millennials, was the respected editor of the Washington Post during Watergate. He wondered, after reading "Theology of Prison, Part 2: The False Self" if I had an out of body experience in the midst of writing it. His comment after reading this post was that he feared I had outkicked my coverage. Neither of these comments were exactly compliments. Anyway...here goes nothing.

How do I write about something that is not exactly achievable because it's already me, but is also something I've seldom experienced because of me? Would that make the True Self an enigma? Probably not, because it's not difficult to explain. It's simply God in us. It's the essence of God incarnate. It's love instead of fear. That sounds simple, but we can't study, work, or tithe our way into it because it's already the essence of who we a...

October 16, 2016

I've tried to use my time here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp to read, and one of my favorite authors has been Thomas Merton, the Cistercian monk. I've written about him and his book No Man Is An Island before on this blog post. Merton wrote about what he called the True Self and the False Self. He did this to try to explain Jesus' teaching that we must die to ourselves, or "lose ourselves to find ourselves" (Mark 8:35). Others might call the True Self the divine within us, or our soul, and the False Self our ego, or our personality.

I wanted to start with the False Self, since that's what I know best. Paradoxically, the False Self doesn't even exist, but is still quite real. Unlike our eternal True Self, we self-create it, therefore it dies with our physical death. Our False Self is characterized by fear, but fear is the root of judgment, anger, and greed, to name a few. It likes to be appreciated, even worshiped, but dislikes being exposed or examined. It's fragile and easily offen...

October 12, 2016

In western culture and religion, we play a mind game. We like to pick winners and losers, saints and sinners, good and bad, in and out, up and down, right and wrong. We divide the world to fit our picks, often based on preconceived notions, and then ask God to bless our division. Invariably our race, country, or religion is good, right, and should always win. Have you noticed how that works? The inherent lack of self awareness in this mindset is so embedded in our culture and religion that we're blind to it. The eastern traditions call this mind game "dualism". 

It's the kind of thinking that crucified Christ. It's responsible for racism, sexism, homophobia and all kinds of prejudice. It's also the kind of thinking, condemned by Jesus (Matthew 7:1-4), that criticizes the speck in someone's eye while overlooking the log in ours. It's condescending and even narcissistic. It creates a hereafter gospel as we attempt to weigh, measure, and work our way toward some future reward or away from...

October 8, 2016

Visitation is held at Bastrop Federal Camp every Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm. Our TV room is converted on those days into the visitation room. Several card tables are brought in, and the plastic chairs are rearranged to make conversations easier. There's even a small play area for children. Outside, there are picnic tables and benches under a covered patio and in the yard shaded by pine trees. It's typical to see children playing in that area. There are also vending machines for sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Entry to and exit from the camp is not at all prison like. Parking is convenient, and visitors simply walk directly into the visitor room. There are no gates, metal detectors, bars, guards, dogs or moats. Even a casual observer can sense hope and joy being invested into this place during those times. 

An inmate is allowed up to 30 visitors on his approved visitor list. The process of being approved to visit is not difficult but it isn't quick either. To...

October 4, 2016

Have you ever thought the world was going to hell in a hand basket? Many people do. A recent article entitled "The State of the World" in The Economist magazine had some interesting data on that very subject. Much of the article was based on a book by Johan Norberg called Progress: The Reason To Look Forward To The Future.

So why are we so pessimistic? Norberg writes that one of the reasons is that we are just predisposed to think things are worse than they are. We overestimate the likelihood of disaster. This is because we ignore factual information while we remember stories; and the more catastrophic the story, the more memorable. Of course this natural distortion is amplified by the media and by presidential candidates with unusual hair and orange skin.

Here's a short True/False test to illustrate this point.
1. In 1990, 37% of humanity subsisted on less than $2/day (in 2016 dollars), but by 2015, that percentage had decreased to 10%.
2. The homicide rate in hunter-gatherer socie...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones