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Bernie Ziebart

The Engineering Perspective

The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.

Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.

Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.


The Good Samaritan

I try to prioritize the issues in my life.  At the top of my priority is my relationship with God, my family, friends and neighbors.  My career (ability to support my family) is my second priority.  My service to my state and country is a third priority. My personal liberty, freedom and pursuit of happiness is a fourth priority. Everything else is a fifth priority. 

Therefore political issues like gun control, taxes, government, health care are a low priority.  I certainly have opinions on these matters, but I will not allow them to take a high priority.   On occasion, the issues, such as taxes and gun control, may impact my ability to provide for and protect my family.  And with greater regularity, the issues have had some impact my liberty and pursuit of happiness.  But so far the political issues, even the latest proposed changes, have not infringed on my top priorities...and for that I am grateful.  

The parable of 'The Good Samarian', as told by Jesus, is an excellent analogy in placing a high priority in maintaining a good relationship with my fellow man.

The Good Samaritan
Luke Chapter 10

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

To understand the parable by Jesus, the reader must understand who the Samaritans were.   There is much debate over the origins of Samaria, but most historians believe that the Samaritans are of Jewish origins, from the tribe of Ephriam and Menassah, who had lived on the east side of the Jordan river.  They were taken into captivity by Assyrians centuries earlier and then later returned to the area of Canaan.  During the time of Jesus there were roughly one million Samaritans living in the region.  But there was tremendous hatred and conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews.  The Jews believed that the Samaritans were perverting the Jewish faith with their own customs, laws and traditions.  And the Samaritans accused the Jewish people of bigotry, condescension and persecution.

The second aspect of the parable that the reader needs to know is that the priests were required to do good.  They had a motto similar to “Malice towards none and charity towards all.”  The Talmud commanded the priest to be shepherds who would tenderly lead and care for the flock.  But if a priest touches anything dead or unclean, they are also declared to be unclean and must undergo a long purification process.

As in every parable, the real subject matter is the nature of Jesus and how he deals with man.  The beaten, broken and bruised man is you and me.  We have been robbed by this world, beaten down, bruised and battered.   We are vulnerable and prone to wounds and destruction (both self-destruction and destruction at the hands of others). 

The religious leaders, who are commanded to help and are more concerned about rules, regulations and appearances.  When the religious leader saw the broken, bruised man lying at the side of road, his first thought was for himself and the tremendous inconvenience the situation would produce.  The priest was fearful that the broken man might cost him something in terms of money, time and reputation.  Just the purification process, following the help to this man, would be a long inconvenient ordeal. 

The temple worker represents the common working man.  Since he worked in the temple, he was considered to be a decent, upstanding citizen, highly respected.  The worker passed by the broken man without helping because it was unproductive; not profitable.  He is busy running from one job to the next, not concerned about the plight of his fellow man.  His God is his belly and money is his top priority.  Of course, every now than then, he might do a good deed for the purpose of maintaining a good reputation, but it is not his heart.

The Samaritan of this parable is Jesus.  He is hated by the Jewish people.  He is rejected,  despised and persecuted. 

The broken man, over the course of his life, was almost certainly involved some kind of hurtful action against the Samaritans, thus against Jesus.   Doubtless, the broken man would not want help from Jesus (the Samaritan), but he was helpless; in no condition to object.

But when Jesus sees the broken man, he sees past the personal animosity and conflict between the cultures and has compassion on the man.  Jesus looked beyond the faults to see the need.

Jesus placed the broken man on his donkey, took him to the hospital and then a care facility; paying for it from his own pocket.  The cost to Jesus was very high.  But in the parable, the Samaritan (Jesus) is depicted as riding a donkey, not walking, signifying that he had some means.  But he wasn’t being driven in a chariot, implying great wealth.  The depiction is that the hospitalization and care for the broken man may have cost the Samaritan a considerable portion of his assets. 

The command by Jesus to the religious expert, who questioned him, to be a good neighbor was a shock to the man’s system.  There was no possible way that he would have the necessary compassion to spend much of his money to help a man that he hated.  At this point the religious expert turned around and left Jesus.  He understood that all of his religious training, education, wealth, prestige and understanding would never get him into right standing with God and his fellow man without self-sacrifice, faith and compassion.

The key to the passage is grace, mercy and compassion.  More precisely, it is the depths of grace,  mercy and compassion God has towards man...and the depths of self-sacrifice that is required for us to deal with our fellow man in a similar fashion.

Grace (as displayed in the parable) is the unmerited compassion of God on man. 
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God. 

But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself. 

But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid. 

But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly. 

But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly, not grudgingly and with a open hand and open heart. 

The parable commands us to go and do the same, thereby making our relationship with our fellow man a very high priority.  But at this point in my life, I doubt that I have the ability to have this level of compassion on someone that I fundamentally disagree with.  However, it is my goal.  

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