Monthly Archives: December 2012

Karma

Karma

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Christmas was in the air and all was well
With him, but for a few confusing flaws
In divers of God’s images. Because
A friend of his would neither buy nor sell,
Was he to answer for the axe that fell?
He pondered; and the reason for it was,
Partly, a slowly freezing Santa Claus
Upon the corner, with his beard and bell.

Acknowledging an improvident surprise,
He magnified a fancy that he wished
The friend whom he had wrecked were here again.
Not sure of that, he found a compromise;
And from the fulness of his heart he fished
A dime for Jesus who had died for men.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

On December 22, 1869, Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Head Tide, Maine (the same year as W. B. Yeats). His family moved to Gardiner, Maine, in 1870, which renamed “Tilbury Town,” became the backdrop for many of Robinson’s poems. Robinson described his childhood as stark and unhappy; he once wrote in a letter to Amy Lowell that he remembered wondering why he had been born at the age of six. After high school, Robinson spent two years studying at Harvard University as a special student and his first poems were published in the Harvard Advocate.
Robinson privately printed and released his first volume of poetry, The Torrent and the Night Before, in 1896 at his own expense; this collection was extensively revised and published in 1897 as The Children of the Night. Unable to make a living by writing, he got a job as an inspector for the New York City subway system. In 1902 he published Captain Craig and Other Poems. This work received little attention until President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a magazine article praising it and Robinson. Roosevelt also offered Robinson a sinecure in a U.S. Customs House, a job he held from 1905 to 1910. Robinson dedicated his next work, The Town Down the River (1910), to Roosevelt.
Robinson’s first major success was The Man Against the Sky (1916). He also composed a trilogy based on Arthurian legends: Merlin (1917),Lancelot (1920), and Tristram (1927), which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928. Robinson was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his Collected Poems (1921) in 1922 and The Man Who Died Twice (1924) in 1925. For the last twenty-five years of his life, Robinson spent his summers at the MacDowell Colony of artists and musicians in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Robinson never married and led a notoriously solitary lifestyle. He died in New York City on April 6, 1935.

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So True…


What the World Needs Now…Is Patience

“Patience is a virtue.” We’re all familiar with that cliché, and many of us know that patience is listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. So there’s no disputing that Christians ought to be patient. But as with most of the virtues, the biblical writers assume that we know what patience is and don’t give an explicit definition. But do we? Could you define patience if you were asked? And, to make things more tricky, could you do so without simply citing examples of patience? Starting with the basic definition of patience as “waiting without complaint,”‘ we will address some key questions. Why is patience a virtue? What are the different varieties of patience? Why is patience so difficult at times?

When defined as “waiting without complaint,” patience might seem to be a morally insignificant trait. What’s so virtuous about not complaining? In itself, not complaining carries no particular virtue. Suppose a person awaits the arrival of a friend from out of town, and he spends the time happily reading or watching television. We wouldn’t say that, simply because he’s not complaining, he exhibits patience in this case. Something else must be required to make one’s lack of complaint virtuous. That something is discomfort. It’s because a circumstance is uncomfortable for someone that we find her refusal to complain remarkable and thus regard him as patient.  So to improve the initial definition above, to be patient is to endure discomfort without complaint. This calls into play some other virtues, specifically, self-control, humility, and generosity. That is, patience is not a fundamental virtue so much as a complex of other virtues.

What are the different contexts in which patience is demonstrated? One way to distinguish types of patience is based upon the nature of the discomfort involved. The following threefold distinction can be made: first is the patience needed when facing a nuisance of some kind. A person or a set of circumstances really irritates you, and you’d love to complain about it, but you hold your tongue, knowing that such a grievance would be petty or simply compound the problem. That person at the office who is so insufferably annoying doesn’t, after all, mean to pester you. And what good will it do to moan about those potholes on your street? So you quietly endure these things. Did you know you were being virtuous in doing so?

A second type of patience is called for when facing boredom. Those who fall into a rut at work or at home often experience discomfort over the uneventful routine. To those who don’t struggle with boredom, it might seem absurd to suggest it can be a serious trial. But those who endure the plague of drab routine without complaint exhibit the virtue of patience.

A third type of patience is the most serious and significant. It is the patience required when one suffers in some way, either physically or psychologically. If you’re struggling with some disease or mental illness, then patience is required of you. Or if you must assist someone else who suffers, a family member or friend, then you are called upon to be patient. Whether you bear the burden of affliction directly or indirectly, your challenge is to endure that discomfort. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cry out in your distress. Scripture, in fact, advises us to do just that, so it’s appropriate because the degree of discomfort in some situations warrants complaint. But this raises some important questions: What is a complaint? And which complaints are worthy?

To complain is to make known one’s irritation or frustration about some matter. This doesn’t necessarily imply that one says anything out loud. Usually we complain by speaking directly about the circumstance that bothers us. But we also complain in nonverbal ways, with a sigh, a huff, a shake of the head, or a roll of the eyes. Many of us are quite expert at communicating our irritation in subtle ways to those closest to us, through means that most people wouldn’t recognize as complaining. But our target complainee (the person we complain to) gets the message, and that’s all that matters.

From a personal standpoint, I don’t know which is more difficult—exercising patience with God or other human beings. Both can be tremendous challenges, and none of us have perfected the art of being patient with each other or with God. I, in fact, become impatient with myself (a potential third category worth considering) because I struggle in being patient with other people and with God.

It’s been said that nothing teaches like experience. To some degree this is true of the virtues. Pain and suffering teach us endurance and empathy. The experience of mercy and forgiveness inclines us to be more merciful and forgiving. We gain moral maturity each day precisely because each day brings some difficulty that we must overcome. Like it or not, we persevere, and we are morally the better for it. This is why James tells us to “consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). The Stoic philosopher Seneca echoed this theme, noting the moral value of adversity:

Pampered bodies grow sluggish through sloth; not work but movement and their own weight exhausts them. Prosperity unbruised cannot endure a single blow, but a man who has been at a constant feud with misfortunes acquires skin calloused by suffering; he yields to no evil and even if he stumbles carries the fight on upon his knee.

Misfortunes are designed to build virtue in us, and among the virtues gained through difficulty is patience. That family member or work associate who annoys you is God’s gift to you to build your patience. If you’re stuck with a job you don’t like, and you can’t find any other work, then God is building your patience. Each nuisance, long wait, and affliction, every mosquito bite, traffic jam, and body ache in the life of the Christian raises his threshold of tolerance ever so much. Even tedious sermons and difficult reading (perhaps including what you are enduring right now!) can make you a more patient person.

Especially during the holiday season, we need patience.  Whether it is the long lines at stores, the crowds of people who always seem to be in the way when you are most in a hurry, the holiday traffic, or your family at a holiday gathering, we need patience to get us through.  Patience is a virtue.  I have struggled with it in the past, but have largely become a more patient person, and it makes life much less frustrating.


Moment of Zen: Resting

I apologize for not posting yesterday. I had to be at school at 5:30 am, to get kids on a bus by 6am for a field trip to Atlanta. Once we got back, we had dress rehearsal for the play that we are premiering tonight (and I am directing). So after leaving home yesterday at 4:45 am, I got back home after 9 pm and went to bed. I have had a whirlwind schedule all week. This morning, I am getting a little rest before our production tonight.

Josh Pacheco

Josh Pacheco was a junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., where he loved theater, his Advanced Placement history class, and his friends and family, his mother Lynette Capehart told Michigan Live. But the “sensitive” teen was also the target of relentless antigay bullying, which his parents believe led the 17-year-old to commit suicide on November 27.

Pacheco came out as gay to his mother just two months before he died, Capehart told MLive. Capehart and her husband, Pacheco’s stepfather, didn’t know the extent to which their son was bullied, being shoved into lockers and harassed both in and outside of school. Their first indication was when Pacheco returned from a homecoming dance on October 6 in tears, but wouldn’t elaborate on why he was upset.

“He was having problems with bullying,” Capehart said. “He didn’t really want to tell us very much. It was very disheartening to me.”

MLive reports that Pacheco questioned his life and his future in conversations to his siblings, which prompted his mother to make him an appointment with a counselor. But Pacheco never made it to the counseling appointment, posting on Facebook near lunchtime on November 26, a quote from J.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: “I regret to announce that this is the end. I’m going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.”

When a neighbor checked in on Pacheco at his stepfather’s urging, the neighbor found the teenager unresponsive in his truck, which had been running inside a closed garage. Pacheco left a note in the truck which said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be strong enough.”

Capehart says that since her son’s death, students and teachers have approached her, telling her they knew that Pacheco was being bullied. She told MLive she was upset that school officials never notified the family about the problems. 

“We weren’t aware of any specifics,” Superintendent Ed Koledo toldMLive. “There’s been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators.]”

In response to Pacheco’s death, school officials accelerated plans for an antibullying hotline called the Eagle Hotline.

These stories always make my heart hurt.  I wish that I could tell every young gay man and woman that it is okay.  Suicide is never the answer.  I have always had the firm belief that the bullies of this world will meet their punishment, if not on this life, then in the next.  Never, ever, give them the satisfaction. If you have a problem with bullying, TALK TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST!  There are teachers who will help, find that teacher, and a good teacher will fight for you like no one else has ever fought for you.  If you are a young LGBT person struggling with depression, isolation, or suicidal thoughts and feel that you can’t talk to a teacher, your parents, or someone in authority, then you can call the Trevor Lifeline and speak confidentially with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386. Please just get help, your life is worth so much. You are the generation that will eventually see more equality for LGBT people than the world has ever known.  Just live to see it. PLEASE!!!

The Jewel Box Revue: America’s First Gay Community?

In 1939, during a time when gay people were viewed as abhorrent subversives and a threat to society, two gay lovers, Danny Brown and Doc Benner, created and produced America’s first racially inclusive traveling revue of female impersonators. It was staffed almost entirely by gay men and one gay woman and was known as the Jewel Box Revue. In many ways it was America’s first gay community.

recent and insightful paper by Mara Dauphin argues that the early drag/female impersonation revues of the 1940s and 1950s were “highly instrumental in creating queer communities and carving out queer niches of urban landscape in post-war America that would flourish into the sexual revolution of the sixties.” And though there were other popular female impersonation clubs, such the famous Finnochio’s in San Francisco and the infamous mafia-owned Club 82 of New York City, with the exception of the Jewel Box Revue, all the revues were operated and controlled by straight people, who were not always very gay-friendly (a notable exception being the Garden of Allah cabaret in Seattle, which featured the Jewel Box Revue as their opening-night act in 1946). Robin Raye, who performed in several early establishments, including Finocchio’s and the Jewel Box Revue, once said of Mrs. Finocchio, “I don’t think she liked gay people, but she certainly knew how to use them.”
Creating America’s first gay community was not what Danny and Doc initially had in mind when they created the revue. They felt that Vaudeville had sidelined female impersonation acts into little more than burlesque shows, and both were passionate about reviving drag as an art form. Danny and Doc also intentionally catered the show to a heterosexual audience and tried their best to be viewed as legitimate entertainment by locals and authorities, to stay clear of any legal charges of sexual deviance. But behind the protective spin of publicity, it cannot be denied that the revue fostered one of the first gay-positive communities in America, if not thefirst. It was a place where “gayness” was accepted before the concept of gay-identity had even been fully conceived. Tobi Marsh, who joined the revue as a rebellious teenager in the late 1950s, viewed Danny and Doc not only as his bosses but as no-nonsense parental figures. Their overprotective nature agitated Tobi at the time, but his agitation would later grow into a grudging respect, as Danny and Doc took great efforts to protect him and the other members of the revue from the often brutal homophobic realities of life in the pre-Stonewall era.

In the end Danny Brown and Doc Benner were successful and saw their dreams of reviving female impersonation as an art form come to fruition. The Jewel Box Revue became very successful and toured throughout the country for over three decades, even headlining at famed venues like the Apollo in New York City. But their contributions resonate far beyond their impacts on the field of female impersonation. In a very real sense Danny and Doc are the true godfathers of the modern gay community. The show was billed as “25 Men and 1 Woman,” but hundreds of gay entertainers and female impersonator would come to work with the revue over the years, and their influence on the burgeoning gay rights movement still resonates to this very day, one particular performer somewhat more so than others. The African-American lesbian drag king Storme Delarvarie was the “1 Woman” of the Jewel Box Revue. She spent decades living, working and traveling with Danny and Doc’s tough but protective community of touring entertainers. Those experiences and life lessons would prove invaluable in Storme’s later life, and her actions continue to inspire generations of gay people. Storme Delarvarie is credited as being one of the first people to bravely fight back against the police as they raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City on the night of June 27, 1969. Her courage helped to spark a riot that begat the modern gay rights movement.

I’ve got a hunch that somewhere out there in the cosmos, Danny Brown and Doc Benner couldn’t be prouder.

Toward the Winter Solstice

Toward the Winter Solstice
Timothy Steele
Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.
Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.
Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.
And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.
Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

“Toward the Winter Solstice” from Toward the Winter Solstice (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2006, www.ohioswallow.com).

By the way, I think of L.A. as “Lower Alabama”. LOL.

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Gay Marriage Questions, Cases Weighed By Supreme Court, Decision Delayed

WASHINGTON — The running fight over gay marriage is shifting from the ballot box to the Supreme Court.
Three weeks after voters backed same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth, the justices met Friday to discuss whether they should deal sooner rather than later with the claim that the Constitution gives people the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation.
The court also could duck the ultimate question for now and instead focus on a narrower but still important issue: whether Congress can prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving federal benefits otherwise available to married couples.
There was no announcement about the court’s plans on Friday. The next opportunity for word on gay marriage cases is Monday, although the justices also could put off a decision until their next private meeting in a week’s time. That will be their last meeting until January.
Any cases would be argued in March or April, with a decision expected by the end of June.
Gay marriage is legal, or will be soon, in nine states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington – and the District of Columbia. Federal courts in California have struck down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but that ruling has not taken effect while the issue is being appealed.
Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved gay marriage earlier this month.
But 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. North Carolina was the most recent example in May. In Minnesota earlier this month, voters defeated a proposal to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in that state’s constitution.
The biggest issue the court could decide to confront comes in the dispute over California’s Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters adopted in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. The case could allow the justices to decide whether the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection means that the right to marriage cannot be limited to heterosexuals.
A decision in favor of gay marriage could set a national rule and overturn every state constitutional provision and law banning same-sex marriages. A ruling that upheld California’s ban would be a setback for gay marriage proponents in the nation’s largest state, although it would leave open the state-by-state effort to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
In striking down Proposition 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals crafted a narrow ruling that said because gay Californians already had been given the right to marry, the state could not later take it away. The ruling studiously avoided any sweeping pronouncements.
But if the high court ends up reviewing the case, both sides agree that the larger constitutional issue would be on the table, although the justices would not necessarily have to rule on it.
Throughout U.S. history, the court has tried to avoid getting too far ahead of public opinion and mores. The high court waited until 1967 to strike down laws against interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had them.
Some court observers argue that the same caution will prevail in the California case.
“What do they have to gain by hearing this case? Either they impose same sex marriage on the whole country, which would create a political firestorm, or they say there’s no right to same-sex marriage, in which case they are going to be reversed in 20 years and be badly remembered. They’ll be the villains in the historical narrative,” said Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University. Koppelman signed onto a legal brief urging the justices not to hear the California case.
Yet some opponents of gay marriage say the issue is too important, and California is too large a state, for the court to take a pass.
“The question is whether there’s a civil right to redefine marriage, as the California Supreme Court did. We don’t think there is,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Regardless of the decision on hearing the California case, there is widespread agreement that the justices will agree to take up a challenge to a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The law was passed in 1996 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton. It defines marriage for all purposes under federal law as between a man and a woman and has been used to justify excluding gay couples from a wide range of benefits that are available to heterosexual couples.
Four federal district courts and two courts of appeal have overturned the provision in various cases on grounds that it unfairly deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits. The justices almost always will hear a case in which a federal law has been struck down.
The Obama administration broke with its predecessors when it announced last year that it no longer would defend the provision. President Barack Obama went further when he endorsed gay marriage in May.
Republicans in the House of Representatives stepped in to take up the defense of the law in court.
Paul Clement, the Washington lawyer representing the House, said the law was intended to make sure that federal benefits would be allocated uniformly, no matter where people live.
“DOMA does not bar or invalidate any state-law marriage, but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriage,” Clement said in court papers.
The court has several cases to choose from, including that of 83-year-old Edith Windsor of New York. Windsor faces $363,000 in federal estate taxes after the death of her partner of 44 years in 2009. In two other cases, same-sex couples and surviving spouses of gay marriages in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are seeking a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and private pension survivor payments, access to federal employee health insurance and the right to file a joint federal income tax return.
In the only instance in which a gay couple already is receiving federal benefits, federal court employee Karen Golinski in San Francisco has been allowed, under a court order, to add her wife to her health insurance coverage. That could be reversed if the Supreme Court upholds the marriage law provision.
No matter which case the court chooses, the same issue will be front and center – whether legally married gay Americans can be kept from the range of benefits that are otherwise extended to married couples.
Justice Elena Kagan strongly suggested in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings that she would not take part in a gay marriage case from Massachusetts because she worked on it while at the Justice Department. The Massachusetts case is one of only two cases that have been decided by a federal appeals court. Windsor’s is the other.
Another case, from Arizona, has some similarities to the Defense of Marriage Act appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which invalidated Proposition 8 in California, struck down a state law that said only married state employees were eligible for health benefits and withdrew domestic partner benefits for unmarried state workers. Separately, the Arizona constitution bars same-sex marriage, so gay couples had no way to obtain the state benefits.
___
From the Huffington post by Mark Sherman can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/shermancourt

Faith

Faith is trusting in God. Lack of faith is doubting God. The Lord has shown us three things concerning Biblical faith. When you combine these three elements, we can operate in mountain moving faith!

Faith key #1: Knowledge brings faith

Knowledge of the truth (in God’s Word) brings faith. Faith is believing something, thus requiring something to believe. The new age movement believes that we can ‘believe things into existence’, which is not the same kind of faith that us believers should have. Our faith is based upon the truth in God’s Word. Thus, knowing what God’s Word has to say about something gives us the ability to believe it. Our faith should be based upon God’s Word.

Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

For example, how can you have faith to pray for a healing, believing that He will heal you, if you didn’t know it was God’s will for your healing? This is why Satan works so hard to tell the church today that it may not be God’s will for them to be healed! Why? Because it casts doubt, the opposite of faith, upon the hearts of God’s children! How can you lay hold of the promises of God, if you don’t know what they are? We must first know the truth, then believe it. That’s Biblical faith!

Mark 9:23, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

In the verse above, the word believeth means to trust. Jesus was in essence telling His disciples that all things (referring to the promises of God) are possible for them who will trust God for them (believe).
How can you believe something that nobody told you? You can’t. That’s why it’s important to know what the Word of God has to say, so that we can believe it. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing God’s Word:

Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Faith key #2: Faith and a pure conscience

The Lord tells us about the connection between a clean conscience and faith. He tells us that you must KNOW you are clean spiritually, because your faith depends on it. How can you confidently approach God, when your conscience is dirty? The truth is, you can’t!

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

We need to have a true heart of full assurance of faith and washed clean from an evil conscience.

Faith key #3: Faith works through love

The third key to operating in faith is to be rooted and grounded in love so that your faith will operate through love. The Bible tells us clearly that all believers should be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, if we want to experience the fullness of God, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. When we are grounded in the love of Christ,

Ephesians 3:16-20, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

We are told to put on the breastplate of faith and love… the two go together like hand and glove!

1 Thessalonians 5:8, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

As we walk in the Spirit, the love of Christ will begin to flow through us, and will give birth to much faith. Among the fruit of the Spirit, we find both faith and love:

Galatians 5:22-33, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

When the love of Christ is flowing through us, it brings fourth much faith. God’s Word tells us clearly that faith works through love.

Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”


Moment of Zen: Window of Opportunity