So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The walled city. A description of walls.

There is a lot of talk about walls these days. The following essay was written nearly a year ago as a Lenten meditation of sorts but got buried in the sacristy vault. It seems the time has come to unleash it upon the world.

Hold on, hope hard in the subtle thing
That's spirit: tho' cloistered fast, soar free;
Account as wood, brick, stone, this ring
Of the rueful neighbours, and—forth to thee!
—Robert Browning

The world is fast becoming a global city, an electronic city with invisible but real walls. Sure, there are those who daily attempt to breech said protective barriers, but there are those who, on the right side of the law, work against the criminals and curious cyberites to ensure the barbarians stay in the outer darkness, or at least contained behind a wall to help prevent them from adversely affecting the rest of society. The clever ones build tunnels to undermine or fly like birds to overcome said walls. Those who so do most call hackers.

The deftness with which these hackers employ their obvious skill hardly merits such a crude term, at least from their point of view. Skill, though skill most often employed in immoral ways. Perhaps the fact that they often disrupt legitimate communications and cause people undeserved worry is probable grounds for describing their efforts as hacking. They hack away at privacy, and they are by no means the only ones who engage in annoying and disruptive activity. Individuals who legally report gossip for licensed businesses (i.e., the media) may claim a defence of their activities by insisting their subjects live public lives that invite intrusive scrutiny. That excuse wears thin among people of integrity.

Some hackers are very helpful, in an indirect or perhaps unintended way. Though they typically risk imprisonment, even when not seeking to profit materially from intrusive activities, they remind us that we should not pretend we are invulnerable to spies, hackers or anyone with a will to do others harm: economic espionage; theft of intellectual property; attacks on reputation (calumny, gossip, libel, etc.); etc.

Walls keep out unwanted visitors. Yes, walls can keep people isolated from each other, too. The Berlin Wall comes to mind.

Walls can protect the innocent from harm. Walls require upkeep. Some walls are impervious and cannot be breached. Even the designers of such walls cannot help law enforcement officials decrypt information once it has been encrypted by their software, or so they claim:
Where would we be without protective walls?
  • Firewalls - A firewall is a system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both [webpedia]. Firewalls protect privacy and keep out those who seek to manipulate and corrupt. Encryption is a kind of wall.
  • Firebreak—also called a fireroad, fire line or fuel break, is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a bushfire or wildfire. A firebreak may occur naturally where there is a lack of vegetation or "fuel", such as a river, lake or canyon.
  • Gunnels - are essential walls that keep boats afloat.
  • Seawalls - protect the coastline from erosion. When storms kick up, it can be fun to watch waves crash against a seawall sending water high into the air. 
  • Retaining walls - do what the term suggests. They retain soil or gravel and prevents it from sliding down a bank. A house may be constructed on land built up behind a retaining wall.
  • Flood (tidal) barriers - prevent large tides from flooding low lying areas. E.g., the massive machines built on the Thames River and those being constructed to protect the City of Venice which is built on tiny (sinking) islets in a lagoon.
  • Dike - a barrier that protects low lying lands from the sea. Often dikes are built to "reclaim" land from the sea. Without its system of dikes, two-thirds of the Netherlands would be vulnerable to flooding.
  • Levies - typically line river banks and protect lower lying levels from flooding. The levies that line the mighty Mississippi River that flows through Louisiana (and several other states) come to mind. 
  • Dams - are often very large walls that retain water. Lakes form behind dams. Dams are also used to retain toxic waste water and sludge.
  • Prison walls. Sometimes one has to wonder who is the prisoner and who is the freeman.
Invisible Walls
Walls which inhibit progress or career development.
There are some corporations and institutions that are notorious for creating barriers that prevent employees from pursuing their careers. Universities come to mind. Few other modern institutions inhibit workers' lives as most universities do. Dedicated sessional instructors or adjuncts (of the non-tenured kind), for example, are routinely denied career advancement or income stability even though part-time instructors perform services without which most universities would founder. Sessionals put the 's' in sustainability.
Psychological barriers in relationships.
Some walls are so cleverly manipulative that only the people trapped by a spouse's or boss's or coworker's systematic controlling and intimidating behaviour can fully testify to the negative consequences of said walls. These walls rob people of their well being and can compel people to destroy themselves in a desperate attempt to escape from the mental or emotional prisons behind which they are forced to live.
Economic walls are usually constructed in a way that resembles a labyrinth or maze. Such walls can seem haphazard, though in some societies these walls are highly planned in order to keep people from achieving progress.
And then, there is the most important kind of wall—the spiritual barrier. The walls we make can keep out the Lord or keep out the devil, but they cannot keep out both.

The walls that humans create in their minds are not so perfect that they prevent a ray of heavenly light from penetrating the deepest recesses of their souls. The cracks in human souls can also permit malevolent entities to enter.

Even if designed to keep out the devil, humans have a way of undermining their own walls. Cracks emerge in said barricades. Why erect a wall if it's eventually, or even frequently, going to fall down or admit evil influences? Because, we must try—with God's help—to work out our salvation (with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12) and guard our hearts and minds and bodies from defilement. With God's grace, serious sin can be overcome. The Sacrament of Penance is an indispensable opportunity in which the humble soul, desiring to please his Maker, seeks God's help to grow in holiness.

The wall that protects the conscience is that dependency upon God. A free and informed conscience depends on the grace of God to enlighten it. An informed conscience creates walls that protect a person from straying into sin. Reason illumined by faith best prevents the mind from buying into lies such as the mythical right to end an unborn baby's life.

Public morality founded on Judeo-Christian teaching is a wall that protects people from themselves. Man's laws, if they be true, are configured to the natural law which is itself a reflection of the divine law written on the hearts of men.

There are barriers to common sense which tend to result in individuals taking unnecessary and dangerous risks, risks that affect not only themselves but their friends and families.

Ideologies that were despised a generation ago are now being heralded as necessary freedoms. Euthanasia, for example. Furthermore, we have not shed much of the eugenics movement in vogue in the early to mid 20th Century. If anything, we have regressed to a much more violent and inhuman version of ourselves. The wall protecting us from ourselves has a crack in it, and through that crack is pouring the filth of a false view of man that promotes the notion that the weak are less than human and are therefore disposable. It's time we wall that beast (that consumes human dignity) behind a thick barrier at which it can scratch and kick and exhaust itself without hurting anyone.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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