Chronicles in Ordinary Time 61: The World’s Frivolities

December 15, 2014

Creatio_of_Adam“So now, from this mad passion
Which made me take art for an idol and a king,
I have learnt the burden of error that it bore
And what misfortune springs from man’s desire…
The world’s frivolities have robbed me of the time
That I was given for reflecting upon God.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo Buonarroti did not know about plasma and Tesla coils, otherwise he would have realized that some form of energy probably passed between the Creator of the Universe and the simple human called Adam…

It’s easy to let the frivolity of the world [“a lack of seriousness; the quality or state of being silly; something that is unnecessary”] rob us of the time we’ve been given for reflecting upon the Creator of the Universe.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified [angels apparently don’t look like fat babies or cheery old men named Clarence]. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

There are too many in our culture who don’t realize that the Good News isn’t ‘good news’ at all to many; and it’s often because the bearers of the ‘good news’ are a real pain in the backside. The Good News has become bad news; usually because of someone’s behavior rather than the Message…The Good News is that the Creator of the Universe is able to join with your soul—that which makes you whole; helping you to become more than you are right now; and the process has nothing to do with lists of Naughty and Nice. The process is a Gift of Grace, the picture of all that you can be.

From Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Sarcastic Lutheran” blog entry, The Slaughter of the Innocents of Sandy Hook:

“… the Epiphany story of Herod and infanticide reveals a God who has entered our world as it actually exists, and not as the world we often wish it would be. Because God’s love is too pure to enter into a world that does not exist.

“I wonder if we’ve lost the plot if we use religion as the place where we escape from the difficult realities of our lives instead of as the place where those difficult realities are given meaning.  Of course, there are many ways of pretending shit ain’t broke in ourselves and in the world, but escapist religion is a classic option since at church we have endless opportunities to pretend everything is fine.

“But when we find ourselves in a world where we see up-to-the-minute images of human suffering, we simply cannot afford any more fucking sentimentality in Christianity. Not one more soft-focus photo of a dove flying in front of a waterfall with an inspirational verse on a coffee cup, not one more over-produced recording of earnest praise music, not one more Thomas Kincaide painting. I don’t think Jesus would abide this ignoring of reality in favor of emotional idealism and I know for sure we cannot afford it. Not when we live in a world where suffering is as real as it was when Jesus was born and people are longing for something to help make sense of their suffering. Sentimental images of Santa kneeling at a manger are not helping us make sense of the world as it actually exists…”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/12/the-slaughter-of-the-innocents-of-sandy-hook/#ixzz3LxVBuPbd

I tend to get grumpy at Christmas-time. My normal state-of-being tends to be one of melancholy. I’ve had a ‘melancholy temperament’ for all of my life. At Christmastime in America [soon it will start after Labor Day], everyone starts getting ‘perky’—people tend to emulate a ‘good will toward persons’ that is so hard to find the rest of the year. Christmas in America is Shopping. Black Friday. DoorBusters, Cyber Monday… I live in an economy that is based on consumption rather than production, so I shouldn’t be surprised that our idol today is a plastic card; and that ‘swiping’ is a good thing according to society. When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, ‘swiping’ meant stealing. Given the nature of Wall Street, maybe the definition hasn’t changed all that much.

All of my adult kids are dealing with serious stuff today. Stuff that I am largely powerless to solve at all; stuff that they are largely powerless to solve today. A weight upon my mind that takes some of the sparkle out of the lights. Other years, I’ve had other excuses. I have a body that leaves me in pain most of my time; and I battle constant fatigue. I am in the midst of another set of medical experiments [perhaps frivolity] to see if there’s a solution for some of the pain and/or fatigue. Another crapshoot. I keep seeing Dr. McCoy ranting in Star Trek IV as he encounters 20th Century Medicine in a hospital.

“…the world’s frivolities have robbed me of the time that I was given for reflecting upon God.”

We are each the product of the joining of two microscopic cells. Two cells that subdivide and replicate in the same manner that all living creatures on earth grow. So much so, that one can see the reflection of that miracle throughout the stages of embryonic development. At some point in time, as we measure time in this world, humans alone, of all of earth’s creatures [said with some hesitation—there is much that we do not know about life on this planet], become able to connect with the Divine Idea that each of us is in some way ‘larger’ than the rest of the teeming life on this planet. Not size, but depth. We are self-aware, and we can make choices as to how we live our lives. We aren’t ruled entirely by ‘subroutines’ created within our neurological systems.

We Make Choices.

Everything that follows, whether or not we like the results, is mostly because humans make choices. Most of the time we are oblivious to the choices we make; oblivious because we fill our time with distraction. This doesn’t mean that the distraction isn’t worthwhile; it’s simply distraction from other stuff. Frequently, distraction from other distractions from other stuff.

We are each grown; we aren’t fabricated. We spend so much time fabricating stuff that we can’t easily see that we aren’t just another fabrication. We are miracles of that which is called Life. Most of what exists isn’t alive. Because we are grown and are affected by a genetic code that is subject to interruption, we sometimes develop inadequately. Sometimes we mess up our lives by the choices we make. And yet, even the most damaged among us can be the source of joy, happiness and wholeness for others; as we choose to learn to care for those who can’t care for themselves. For us, 2004 was the “Year of the Great-Grandmother”. She came to visit is on Christmas Day, 2003; her mind left a few days later; her body returned Home on Christmas Eve, 2004. A profound experience.

Tens of thousands of people will die today. Most won’t have planned for it.

Two to three times more people will be born today. None of them have planned for it.

Something like 2000 years ago, the Creator of time and space and the Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell in the uterus of a teenage girl. The Creator of the Universe chose to be born into the womb of a homeless, unwed teenager; she and her fiancé fleeing from an insane king who ordered the deaths of all of the children in his realm, under the age of two.

This Man who has divided history in two lived an apparently unremarkable life as a child and young man; and then Lived An Incredibly Remarkable Life for about three years; He then was murdered by self-righteous fools. But that was only the beginning of the Story, because He Chose to die at the hands of self-righteous fools. He then rose from the dead—He came back to life—and said that we can, too.

The significance of Christmas is that if we listen really carefully, we can hear the Voice of the Creator. Where? Most anywhere. In my experience, hearing the Voice of the Creator happens most often when I don’t expect it, and can’t point it out to anyone. On top of that, it isn’t really a voice; it isn’t a sound that drowns out the ringing in my ears. It’s an internal awareness that is more important than the ringing in my ears.

“I ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for life nor for death; but that you may dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory…
You alone know what is expedient for me; you are the sovereign master, do with me according to your will.
Give to me, or take away from me, only conform my will to yours.
I know but one thing, Lord, that it is good to follow you, and bad to offend you.
Apart from that, I know not what is good or bad in anything.
I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world.
That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom.”

— Blaise Pascal

whales

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 60: Wounded

December 8, 2014

Michelangelo's_Pieta_Legion
I came to Christ in college; I had no religious upbringing. Christmas was ALL about Santa Claus and presents. When it came to the historical event that divides our time and space into BC and AD [yes, I know CE is more politically correct], I understood Michelangelo’s image of The Pieta [above left] before I understood the image on the right– Michelangelo’s The Bruge Madonna. I understood the Cross before I understood the stable—but that isn’t entirely accurate, because after 40 years of study, I can’t say I understand either very well. Jesus was killed by the people He came to save…although it is more accurate to say that Jesus chose suicide by crucifixion rather than execution by religious zealots. There were 10 legions of angels waiting to protect Jesus, had He desired for them to be called up.

Raising my three children at this time of year was always an exercise in trying to reconcile the two images below; the two men in the red and white suits:

nicholas
We parent-types make Christmas a magical time for children, a time of lights and parties and presents. I have no real complaint against the concept, except that the concept we experience today was mostly created by Madison Avenue; and has little to do with Jesus of Nazareth, born in a barn to a homeless couple named Mary and Joseph…

Granted, the Christmas tree my wife and I no longer install nor decorate is an old tradition; supposedly the work of ancient priests attempting to bring the pagan tree-hugger world closer to the Christian world. Saint Nicholas was a real man [at least as real as any historical accounts are believed to be, in this skeptical world]; a bishop who was known for giving presents to the poor of his congregation. I talked about Saint Nicholas and explained that Santa Claus was a mispronunciation of his name; that Christmas was about giving; and that the celebrating the birth of Jesus was intended to be a year-round event; not something that only happened in December.

I still remember the Christmas morning when my kids discovered a pair of grooves in the slush on the driveway, and a number of vaguely circular depressions. It really did look a lot like the remains of a reindeer-drawn sleigh having landed on our driveway, and I swear on a stack of whatever, that I had nothing to do with the illusion. I believe in a Creator who has a strange sense of humor…

And then there’s the idea that Jesus was probably born in the Spring, according to those who study such things…

My first Christmas church service happened when I was 22 years old. I had planned on going to a candlelight service at First Presbyterian Church, downtown. A beautiful sanctuary filled with carved wood panels that I can’t imagine being built by the carpenters of today [I was one]—truly a labor of love by skilled craftsmen that probably won’t be duplicated again in the future. I’ve carved wood; the amount of time invested in such work could not really be justified in today’s economies.

1stPres
I had missed the bus [it happens a lot, in my life]. An African-American woman at the bus stop invited me to come to her church [in a part of town that I had been trained was dangerous for white folk to go]. A joyous multi-racial celebration; but as the service was going into its second hour, and showed no signs of stopping, I excused myself, vaguely unfulfilled. The experience hadn’t been what I’d hoped for.

I had by this time experienced a Presence appearing in my life. Sort of like a door was being opened in a stuffy building—suddenly the environment was fresher. Nothing outwardly different than the moment before, but I became aware that I was no longer alone in the environment I found myself in. Of course, there was absolutely nothing I could point to, for someone else to see. It was an experience. These experiences don’t happen often, and rarely at the times I hope they will. However, they have happened for 40 years… These experiences prove to me that there is a Life beyond the one I live, and beyond anything I can imagine. These experiences tell me that words in books about the Creator are True…

…and, I believe in a Creator who has a strange sense of humor…

The opening words of the Book of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I have a music collection that I label, “Songs for Broken People”. Songs about surviving, about enduring, about overcoming; about Peace. I play these songs every day as a way of training my mind. Voluntary brain-washing; my brain needs continual washing, and it has little to do with germs. Several years ago I read these words of Tim Hansel:
“Most people who live with chronic pain or chronic problems have a hard time being happy. That is to be expected. Although there are moments of laughter, nothing seems to stay.
“Joy, on the other hand, is something which defies circumstances and occurs in spite of difficult situations. Whereas happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude. A posture. A position. A place. As Paul Sailhammer says, “joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.”
“If we are to have this kind of joy in our lives, we must first discover what it looks like. It is not a feeling; it is a choice. It is not based on circumstances; it is based upon attitude. It is free, but it is not cheap. It is the by-product of a growing relationship with God. It is a promise, not a deal. It is available to us when we make ourselves available to Him. It is something that we can receive by invitation and by choice. It requires commitment, courage, and endurance. –Ya Gotta Keep Dancin’

Christmastime has come once again, and once again I find that I’m out of step with the society in which I live. There are a bunch of people outside of the United States of America that have very little reason to celebrate, this December. Celebration becomes a difficult choice when there is nothing material to celebrate—death by disease, death by soldiers, death by drones, death by the people down the street; homes flattened by war or natural disaster. Much of the world is having the stuffing kicked out of them, and we Americans complain about the stuffing in our Christmas turkey—we consume in one evening meal more than many consume in a week. Each day we dispose of enough food to feed most of the world—because it’s no longer ‘fresh’…

I’m not sure if I never learned how to celebrate, or whether the ability to celebrate was removed from me by the life that wears me down. Not sure that it matters, since the result is pretty-much the same. My kids provide me with reminders about the importance of celebrating. I am thankful for my kids, because they have taught me so much about Grace, and love, and courage and endurance. I’m still learning.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Adoration

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 59: It isn’t supposed to be this way…

November 24, 2014

sorrow

‘She went into the situation armed with an 8th Grade Biology class and a belief that the world is a decent place…’ from the movie, “trust_” The story is of a 14 year old girl, wanting to be older and less awkward [as we ALL are at that age], who becomes friends with “Charlie”, a compassionate ‘friend’ on a teen chat site. Charlie starts out being 16, but during a couple of months of ‘relationship,’ turns out to be in his late thirties, and he’s a sexual predator.

In the world I grew up in, predators were creatures in movies. The odds of running into a predator in Portland were pretty slim. In Corvallis I learned that predators could live in the dorm with you. A jilted lover who murdered a girl with a knife; and the scarier, in-house ‘security patrol’ who traveled the hallways at night, armed with whatever weapons they had handy. The murderer was a mixed-up kid whose intelligence was larger than his maturity. The farm kids who were out to ‘shoot a varmint’ were more scary, in my mind.

I encountered evil in Eugene.

A brief encounter, probably no more than an hour total. I realized that something other than my physical body was in danger; my soul was being threatened. I know now that my soul wasn’t really in danger; my Creator was at my side; but at the time, I was terrified by a guy dressed in white who apparently had tracked my movements across campus. Without GPS, which didn’t exist.

The Internet is, in my opinion, ‘Free Will, Writ Large’—there really are no limitations on what one can do via the Internet, thanks to the digital revolution that occurred while I wasn’t really watching all that closely. I used to think I was near the forefront of digital illustrators—I started drafting in Wordperfect Draw—something similar to Microsoft Paint, but more versatile. I still use some old graphics programs that are similar to GIMP; the ‘magic’ in digital art comes from the .psd file—computerspeak that allows one to create multiple transparent layers in a single image. The digital version of Walt Disney’s illustrators & animators creating paintings on transparent plastic sheets. I watched a Pixar biography tonight, and realized that I was doing a tiny version of their own experimentation with my own work. Seeing how far I could stretch the abilities of ones & zeroes to create an image. However, in the time that I was experimenting while trying to earn an income, digital art blew right past me. The growth of ideas has become exponential; as a result, incredible achievements are being accomplished by brilliant teenagers who don’t have the patience for the classroom. As a result, an intelligent child can learn how to create a bomb. A not-so-intelligent child can learn how to brutalize people more effectively…

We now live in a world where everyone is everywhere all the time; and the outcomes, sometimes, aren’t so good. Beheadings in the Middle East have been occurring for millennia; today they are filmed and broadcast around the world as public statements. A kid with access to a computer can learn all of the things their parents did not want them to know until they were mature enough to handle the psychological trauma that can accompany such knowledge. Our government can spy on us in ways that we never imagined; and there really isn’t a concept of privacy any longer. There will probably come a day when people’s DNA information is put on file at birth; ‘for our protection’. Police have DNA matches on serial criminals they cannot find, because they don’t know who the DNA belongs to; they simply know that the DNA belongs to a person who is a predator.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Universe poured into a human being, to the extent that a human being can hold Eternity and Infinity. I believe that the incarnation of Christ happened so that we could have a picture of what a life of Grace and Love and Freedom could be like. There are a lot of theological beliefs that accompany that picture; at the moment, I’m thinking about all of the evil that exists in the world. Most of that evil comes from people not that unlike ourselves. How can a “Loving God” allow such evil to occur? Where would a “Loving God” stop that behavior from occurring? Today I also watched a biography of Richard Pryor, whose father was a pimp who abandoned his family; whose mother was a prostitute; and who was raised by his grandmother, the owner of the brothel where his mother worked. Pryor’s comedy was ‘white bread’ until the seventies; when the young people of my generation started protesting the hypocrisy that was rampant in American society. I remember the conversations in college. The anticipated outcome from our ‘honesty’ was NOT a society where the government is run by corporate America, for the benefit of corporate America. Ironically, Wall Street was fed by the ‘entrepreneurs’ of my generation, who learned that morality can simply be a word that some people use to get what they want.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

One of my mentors, Steve Brown, posted this on his website:
“The law reflects the parameters of God’s desire—not the parameters of his love. When those two get confused, then the law is used improperly.”

The Law of Moses and the subsequent books of the Bible were written to show us how things could work; teaching a society of slaves to live as a free people. One of the reasons that the Creator did not want the Israelite people to have the King that they wanted, in order to live like other people, was ‘you won’t like the outcome.’ Jesus was born around the time when the Roman Empire was at its height; and the Roman system of roads could provide reasonably safe passage through much of the world. Once again showing people a Way of Life. Foolish creatures that we are, we turned it into Rules for Living. Free Will does not like Rules. We aren’t meant to live under Rules; we are meant to live under Freedom; freedom that does not exploit the freedom of others.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 58: The Examined Life

November 24, 2014

valley of the shadow_crop

Yesterday, I thought I’d seen it all
I thought I’d climbed the highest wall
Now I see the learning never ends
And all I know to do is keep on walking
Walking ’round the bend singing

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
And why, why, why
And all I can say

Is somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
And somewhere down the road
Tho’ we cannot see it now

Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers
At the end of the road

Oh, keep on walking

Somewhere Down the Road Amy Grant, Wayne Kirkpatrick

“Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living — that you are still less likely to believe.”

Plato, Apology

Possibly the one advantage to living with pain for several decades is that it has given me a lot of time for examining my life. When all one can do is get horizontal in the dark, and hope that whatever method of pain relief one is using will kick in soon, one has a lot of time to think… I’ve spent a lot of time examining my life, and I have decided to cultivate faith in things that many people are unable to see; ideas they can’t understand.

One of the things I’ve learned is that I can’t fix people. The most that I can do is provide an environment where ‘fixing’ can occur, if someone is inclined to becoming ‘fixed’. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of being broken. I think there are probably a lot of house pets that would object to the concept that the trip to the veterinarian ‘fixed’ something that wasn’t broken. It was merely inconvenient. ‘Fixing’ a human is far more complicated than some minor surgery.

I started realizing that the world is really messed up while I was in high school. High School, particularly an all-male high school in the sixties, was so different from high school today. At a guy’s high school in the sixties, if a food fight developed in the cafeteria, a coach simply went up to one of his players throwing food, and decked him. End of food fight. No counseling, no lawyers, no fuss. There were switchblades in my high school, and chemistry students making explosives [contact explosive on the legs of the teacher’s desk, which went off when the teacher slammed his briefcase onto his desk—probably the last time he ever did that to get his class’s attention].

During my senior year, I started reading stuff I never would have thought to read, and had to start writing essays on “Appearance vs. Reality as Demonstrated in Kafka and Camus.” I was also introduced to transcendence, in the form of “The Man of La Mancha”:

“I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined – -to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha.”
“I’ve been a soldier and a slave. I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I’ve held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning “Why?” I don’t think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams – -this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

Being mostly a geek through my childhood and high school, my behavior stayed within certain boundaries because life worked better within those boundaries. In college, I learned that there really aren’t any boundaries. By the end of my sophomore year, I spent a lot of time in depression—like Senor Quihana, my brains began to ‘dry up’ as I witnessed man’s inhumanity to man in Vietnam, and in Chicago, and at Kent State… “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams–this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all-–to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

During my third year, at a different college, I discovered my Creator; and I learned that the idea of ‘life as it should be’ wasn’t simply some sort of behavior that my parents had tried to instill in me. One can instill behavior in another person, either in a positive way, or by coercion. To discover a way of living life that transcended behavior, and for me, was the beginning of a journey on ‘the road less traveled’. The vast majority seek a different road.

There are two people in my life who I wish I could help. “Help” in this context means to see life through my perspective. Seeing life through my eyes would not ‘fix’ them; their bodies betray them in ways that are similar to my 30+ years of pain. I’d like them to know that there is a reserve. That no matter how many times they find themselves stumbling on their paths, no matter how many wolves are waiting in the wings, Goodness and Mercy are always following them, protecting their souls. I believe their souls are protected, even if they don’t believe they have souls. Somewhere down the road, they will learn this. In the span of Eternity, our lives here, no matter how broken, are like the blink of an eye. We are as eternal as the stardust from which we are created.

Created. Such a strange concept in today’s scientific world. We learn so much and the learning costs us perspective. The explanations imply that we are machines of some sort, with predictable outcomes. We grow from the joining of two microscopic cells, in much the same manner as all life on this planet exists. Because we are grown, rather than manufactured, there are flaws; there are limitations. I believe that enough generations have passed to cause more flaws to occur. There has been enough contamination to the original strains that more of us are susceptible to breakage; more of us that experience life as it was not intended to be. Bad design? Perhaps. Perhaps it is simply that the raw materials are so fallible. And we are taught that life can be guaranteed. It can only be guaranteed to bring trouble.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 57: we are all mortal

October 8, 2014

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet.
We all breathe the same air.
We all cherish our children’s future.
And we are all mortal.”
John F. Kennedy

My daughter-in-law [11 days from now] has cancer. Surgery has just been done; more treatment will be required. Being diagnosed with cancer, a month before one’s wedding, is bad; major surgery 12 days before the wedding dampens the joy a bride and groom are supposed to be able to feel at this time. Fortunately, further treatment can wait until after the wedding. The discussions with oncologists may not be able to wait… It’s challenging to think about the joy of weddings—two families becoming one larger family—in the midst of cancer.

“In 2014, an estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,570 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.”
http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

A friend of mine, who started as a client, is in remission from liver cancer; and his current health challenge may be a result of his treatment. He is angry with god; he doesn’t accept the idea of a god who allows people to suffer. For me, the problem with his concept is that the Creator doesn’t create cancer. We do. We, the human race; specifically the human race in the 20th Century… we are a cancer.

“Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells…”
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-036845.pdf

Uncontrolled growth and the spread of abnormality. Not that I’m a big fan of ‘normal’…

we are all mortal

Over two thousand nuclear weapons have been exploded in our shared atmosphere or in our shared oceans or in the earth itself. Particulate matter from these tests falls onto the soil of the earth, or upon the surface of the oceans.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJe7fY-yowk

“As of 1993, worldwide, 520 atmospheric nuclear explosions (including 8 underwater) have been conducted with a total yield of 545 Megaton(mt); while the estimated number of underground nuclear tests conducted in the period from 1957 to 1992 is 1,352 explosions with a total yield of 90 Mt.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_weapons_tests

In World War II cities of Germany and Japan were fire-bombed by allied forces.

“In a meeting with the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Vice Marshall Harris enunciated his boss’s policy: “We shall destroy Germany’s will to fight. Now that we have the planes and crews, in 1943 and 1944 we shall drop one and a quarter million tons of bombs, render 25 million Germans homeless, kill 900,000 and seriously injure one million.”
“The bombers pounded Germany with 48,000 tons of explosives in 1942, and with another 207,600 tons in 1943. Night attacks escalated, targeting Germany’s most populous regions: the Ruhr, March to June, 1943; Hamburg, July to November, 1943; Berlin, November, 1943 to March, 1944…”
http://www.century-of-flight.net/Aviation%20history/WW2/bombing%20raids.htm

German forces, determined to stamp out ‘undesirables’ destroyed Warsaw.

“The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.”
—SS chief Heinrich Himmler, October 17, 1944, SS officers’ conference
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_destruction_of_Warsaw

Cancer does not come from the Creator.

 

According to the laws of physics, there is no darkness; there is the absence of light. There is no cold; there is the absence of heat.
Perhaps there is no evil on earth, only the absence of goodness. There is a spiritual side to evil, and there is a greater spiritual side to goodness. However, physics has little to say on this subject.

Somehow we assume that our planet is self-sustaining; that all of the debris from thousands of bombs is somehow cleaned from the atmosphere. The garbage in our air does not go into space; it goes into the soil and into the oceans.

However, we have also polluted that part of space inhabited by our planet. This is essentially the same view of the earth as the idealized view above. The planet earth is in the center, underneath the dots:

space debris

Debris plot by NASA. A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item.

Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three-Mile Island. Chemical pollution, depletion of the ozone layer, those who believe that mankind is not significant enough to affect the environment.

If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he stop us from doing all the damage we do?

Where would he start? Stop all of the scientists who learned to split the atom? Stop all of the generals, all of the politicians who feel power is more important than people? Stop all of the children who pull legs and wings from insects, for their own amusement?
We were created with Free Will—the ability to make choices about what we do. The science community, who in their search for knowledge decide to do that which is very unwise to do. The military leaders who decide that ‘collateral damage’ creates ‘acceptable losses’ in wartime. Leaders who decide that carpet-bombing is the most effective method of dealing with civilian militia on ‘the other side.’ There are no more ‘non-combatants’.

Greed, addiction to power. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In one century, mankind in his ‘wisdom’ brought the world to the brink of destruction during the Cold War [which really hasn’t ended], have destroyed huge amounts of wilderness, plowed-away the American plains, caused the extinction of thousands of creatures on land and on the sea and in the air. In today’s news, war rages over much of the earth; ebola is killing thousands of people; with no end in sight. During the 20th Century, political and ideological zealots killed hundreds of millions of people for not looking at the world in the same way that the zealots see. Fourteen years into the 21st Century, I don’t see much improvement.

I am becoming of the opinion that most of the behavioral injunctions written in Scripture were the Creator’s effort to enable the human race to survive long enough to create the wonders that have come about in the last 114 years.

Wonders are being created every day. We just have to make the time to see them.

Some quotations to end with:

It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.
Albert Einstein

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
Helen Keller

Everything difficult indicates more than our theory of life embraces.
George MacDonald

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 56: The Value of Altruism

September 19, 2014

“Before the names Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin were indelibly etched into the American consciousness and the course of human history was forever changed by their individual endeavors, a prominent family made a point of teaching the value of altruism, the power of perseverance, and the virtue of helping out one’s fellow man.”

Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts: an Intimate History

TR
I’ve been enthralled, watching Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts: an Intimate History” on PBS. TR has been one of my heroes for years; and the above drawing does not really do him justice. I will probably try it again at a later date.

While I hate to admit it, I don’t always ‘hit the bull’s eye” when I create drawings. This one is my first pencil drawing in the last month; maybe less. I’ve been working digitally since then. If I don’t draw regularly, I get rusty. I’m working on a new set of illustrations for a children’s book; so it’s time to get the ‘oil’ back into the joints…

Theodore Roosevelt was a complex man; from a complex family. Born with severe asthma, doctors didn’t expect him to live past his fourth year. His father, Theodore Sr., was unwilling to allow this to happen. As an infant he carried Theodore night after night, so that TR could sleep vertically and breathe more easily. His father drove him through the streets of Manhattan at night, at high speed, to force air into his lungs. When TR was a boy, his father encouraged him to work out in a gymnasium in his home; forcing his chest to expand. When, as President, he was shot in the chest by a would-be assassin, his doctor stated that he’d never seen a man with chest so well developed. The bullet was lodged less than one-quarter inch from his heart as TR gave an hour-long speech to a hushed crowd. He had checked to see that his lung wasn’t punctured; the rest was simply ‘leaking’ that needed to get plugged, when appropriate…

One historian states that if TR was a child today, he’d probably be given Ritalin, and would become a terrific car salesman, and we’d never hear from him. TR was a flawed man; many of his beliefs conflict with 21st Century ideals. The irony is that he set the stage for many of our 21st Century beliefs. He was an imperialist; he earnestly believed that America had a place on the world stage; comparable to the British, French and Spanish Empires, that still existed in his time. He read 1-3 books per day. He could recite from those books, 5 years later. As a college student he became an expert on the Naval War of 1812. He had immersed himself in world literature, and developed the belief that Warfare was the place where man achieved Glory. The histories of war are always written by the winner. As World War I killed his youngest son, and severely injured his other sons, he learned about the personal cost of War to the families of the soldiers. He learned that War is not Glory.

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. taught his son that those who were privileged in society had the obligation to use their wealth for the benefit of those who were not as fortunate. The wealthy should invest themselves in the Arts and Sciences, since society does not realize the value of the Arts and Sciences to society. TR became one of the foremost Naturalists of his time. TR changed the face of politics in America. Politicians in the 19th Century were considered a class of society with which a Gentleman did not spend time; TR had decided he wanted to belong among the Governing class of people. He believed that the virtue of helping out one’s fellow man was a ‘divine calling’ for a person of privilege.

TR’s cousin Franklin idolized him; and wanted to emulate TR as much as possible. TR could easily have served three or more terms as President; he chose to make a promise to the American public he later regretted–after his election to what was substantially a second term in office, he promised he would not run again for another term. George Washington served two terms in office; it was considered ‘improper’ to serve more terms than the nation’s founder. After one term served by his hand-picked successor, TR decided to enter Presidential politics once again, splitting the Republican vote with his Bull Moose/Progressive party, awarding the Presidency to Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. While TR became a ‘persona non Gratia’ in the Republican Party in 1912, there was talk of TR running again as a Republican in 1920; the year in which he died; an old man who had never fully recovered from a near-death foolish expedition in South America.

The Roosevelt name became one of the most revered and most hated names in American politics. I am now benefiting, in a new way, from Franklin’s belief in the virtue of helping out one’s fellow man, in that I now am a recipient of Social Security Income. The American people owe Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation, Minimum Wage/Maximum hours and dozens of other benefits to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A huge portion of the American landscape exists today as a tribute to the Roosevelt Presidencies.

I am still figuring out what a ‘semi-retired’ life as a partially-disabled person looks like. I owe too many people too much money for me to stop working; but I can now be more selective in the work I take on. Travel is difficult; my lack of sensory nerves in my mouth make ‘culinary experiences’ somewhat lost on me. One of my sons is a Sous Chef, a maker of what I understand are outstanding dishes. Sadly, to me, it is simply ‘food’. His skills are wasted on my appetite.

This is not the ‘retirement’ I imagined, when I bothered to imagine. However, it’s the hand I’ve been dealt; and I have a choice as to how I live out this life.

and the monstrous creatures of whales

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 56: Incredible Friends

September 12, 2014

new faces“New” faces; mostly from my latest project, “The Book Lover” by Roger Burke; due to be in print by the end of the month. Someone has written that the eyes are the windows of the soul; they’re probably right. I find myself fascinated with faces. If the eyes are the windows, then perhaps the faces are the window treatments; how the individuals decorate their souls…
I returned from Colorado at the beginning of the week; a 2200 mile round trip, living out of my mini-van for a couple of weeks. A few nights in motels. Some Colorado germs apparently finished their incubation while I was driving home; the Sunday stretch from Baker City to Portland is sort of a blur. Monday I ‘died’ on the living room couch, watching movies. Now, Friday, I feel over the worst of the illness; but it’s still time to give my right arm a rest—tendonitis. Too much awkward mousing; too many boxes lifted.
2200 miles provides a lot of time for listening to music; I don’t pay attention to the number of hours. A key to Life Success: time is only important when you choose for it to be. Not all time is equally important. Sometimes time is irrelevant. Another Life Key: I’m fairly selective about my audio entertainment while driving; I long ago came to the understanding that music—audio input—is “brain food”. I listen to music that helps me become who I want to be, rather than listening to music that simply reflects our culture; music that someone wants to sell.
From Todd Agnew’s “My Jesus”
‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

Helping someone move from one home to another is probably a true test of friendship; those who show up, and those who don’t. There were many who didn’t show up; a handful that did. I spent a couple of days working alongside two amazing people; busy farmers that dropped their lives for a few days, bent plans around, and did more than could reasonably be expected. I’ve only seen this dedication in the context of ‘church’ or ‘mission’ or ‘Scouts’. People who believe that by serving they are doing the work of the Creator; using Jesus as the example of the true Servant.
JT and her foreman “would never be accepted in my church”…nor would they want to be. I don’t know their stories, but ‘church’ isn’t anything like their world. Much like myself 40 years ago. A lot of ‘trash talk,’ a lot of profanity; that in itself doesn’t particularly bother me, I spent a lot of years in the construction industry. For most people, words are fairly meaningless. From my perspective, their efforts were True Grace on legs; from their perspective it was mostly because they knew that the family we were helping would do the same for them, if needed. Friendship built over a lot of years. Perhaps it’s more of a rural phenomenon; the concept of helping a friend simply because ‘that’s what one does, for a friend.” Having spent most of my life in a metropolitan environment, it seems rather odd. But I generally don’t go out of my way to interact with people. When I go to such lengths, it’s because I realize that this is what Jesus would do, odd as that seems to outsiders.
Parenting can open one’s eyes. Doesn’t happen automatically, it seems that many are ‘blind.’ I have three adult children who are following paths I didn’t expect, when they were kids. “Church” isn’t necessarily an important part of their lives—three kids, three distinct relationships with their Creator. None of them see the Creator in the way that my wife and I do; and I probably won’t understand that until I’m Home. Faith is a gift of Grace; I got God-smacked when I was in my twenties; they either ducked or didn’t need to. Life without the Creator doesn’t make any sense to me; and I never would have believed that I would say that, back in the fall of 1972, a Junior in College. I’ve been learning not to compare my life with others; a difficult thing to accomplish.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey, and yellow, white,
but we decide which is right,
and which is an illusion.
“Morning Glory,” The Moody Blues

My wife and I raised three incredible adults; and they have found some fairly incredible friends. A rare commodity in this world.

LAURELHURST PARK

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 55: Defining Ourselves

August 17, 2014

Medicine BottleI wrote about this subject not long ago; [Chronicles in Ordinary Time 47: Black Care] I still don’t have any answers. So why am I writing about it again…
A comic genius died this week, a man who was one year and eleven days older than I am. A man I’ve never met; a man I’ve spent hundreds of hours with over the last 40 years. A man who made me laugh. Making me laugh isn’t all that easy.
Parkinson’s apparently was the straw that broke his will. Or not; ‘why’ probably isn’t our need to know.

For “15 minutes” the American public is going to be all concerned about depression. It’s a normal response; how one responds to a situation that is foreign, not part of our experience; one doesn’t really understand, and one can’t fix it. My guess is that if they are like myself, people suffering from Depression don’t talk about it all that much. I talk about it here, because this place is fairly anonymous; I could be a 14 year-old teenage girl… But I’m not.

I’m watching “Pay It Forward” as I write; probably not the best movie to watch when I’m in this kind of space. Or maybe it is… Haley Joel Osment just asked, “Is the world just shit?” And he just found out that it isn’t, always. There are lights in the darkness.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since the 80s or the 90s; for most of that time, I’ve thought of them as something that helps me sleep. I can prove it by the dosage I take. But, they’re still a chemical that affects the brain; they’re still an anti-depressant. Prozac got added, a year or so ago; maybe two years. This one I know is for the Depression.

Why is the Depression here? I do not know. My kids don’t know this, I never talk about it. I had an alcoholic uncle; he was a real SOB. A very controlling Dad; my kids know about him. Implies something about my grandparents. Genes.  How much of what we are is genetic? I think maybe we aren’t controlled by our genes. I think they are a powerful influence, but I think we can be larger than our genes. Sometimes it requires some assistance.

I think some people are too scared, or something. I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change. ‘Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses.” Pay It Forward [2000]

I believe we can be more than our genes because I have had some success in getting past myself; getting outside of myself. Being the person I am, I’m going to attribute this to the Spirit of the Creator at work in my life. I’ve never been seriously suicidal. Meaning, I’ve never made an attempt. I’ve contemplated it a lot over the years; I know how I’d like to do it, if I ever got there. With my body “dissolving” the idea tends to seem more worthwhile…The ‘problem’ is, that there’s always a new day when I wake up. This should not be presumed to mean that I wake up in the morning feeling good; I suppose the event may have happened some time in the past, beyond my memory [and I just remembered an instance]. There were mornings at our family cabin. My bed was under the roof, at the end of the stair opening; from my bed I could see the fireplace. In the morning I would wake up to the sound of a crackling fire, the smell of woodsmoke, the knowledge that my grandfather was following his normal routine of making the morning fire to heat the cabin…

For years I’ve awakened each morning feeling crummy; my CPAP machine hasn’t helped. While each new day feels bad, I know from past experience that this probably isn’t the way I’ll feel all of the day. Some days it’s most of the day, and those days are the difficult ones. I get through these days because I am aware that the alternative will hurt my family; and that isn’t an acceptable solution.

I was writing a friend the other night; while writing, I described myself as a sort of ‘monk’. A monk with a wife, with kids and a home and a job. My wife added the label, “a Contemplative.” That works, too. A long time ago I gave my life back to my Creator; an odd thing for an atheist to do. I’ve made an effort to not become religious; and in spite of my efforts, I seem to have become really ‘spiritual’ compared to the people I know, that don’t give much thought to spiritual matters. I find myself coming away from conversations about Life, asking myself, ‘how did I become so darn spiritual?’ It certainly wasn’t my intention. And since I don’t have any answers, unlike so many religious people I’ve known over the years, it seems like an inappropriate allocation of ‘spiritual’. I sort of think of myself as being similar to Ellis Peters’ “Cadfael”—the soldier who became a monk in the 1100s, having grown tired of war during the Crusades—but I know nothing about herbs, and have never seen a murdered body; and I’m not very adept at solving mysteries. But I think about ‘God-stuff’ all the time. Being a commercial artist by trade gives one a lot of time to think. A lot of art is repetitive, and it doesn’t require continual thought to accomplish a task.

I’m doing Physical Therapy to help with the effects of the neuropathy; I’ve never been a guy who is into fitness. I find that I’m needing to ‘write’ a new definition for myself. I’m a guy who has defined myself by my work for four decades; willing to abuse my body to accomplish work-goals. That definition isn’t working anymore. I’ve purposely stopped looking for new work, in preparation for ‘retirement’—whatever that means. I can’t yet imagine not working.  I think it means that I’m going to start working only on projects I’m interested in, rather than taking whatever project comes along that will pay something. And I’m learning how to get interested in taking care of my body. I know that I’m supposed to reverse the last two sentences.

I do most of what I do by routine; if I have a routine, I don’t need to think about it all that much. So now I’m working on making new routines; and it’s amazing, when I step out of myself, to see how difficult it is to make new routines. And how difficult it is to think of myself as the guy who takes better care of myself…

 

Della p7dwg

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 54: “Souls on Board”

August 4, 2014

people collage 2

No one talks about souls anymore. Like all generalizations, this one is to some degree inaccurate. Passenger carriers—ships, airlines, etc.—still use the term to describe numbers of people on board; surprisingly, a Google search doesn’t really provide answers as to why.

Science-oriented folk, particularly those with a dislike of religion, tend to say that we don’t have souls because there is no scientific proof for the soul. Urban legends aside, no one has measured the weight of a soul, and a soul can’t really be detected by modern science. Therefore, the soul can’t exist; right?
X-rays didn’t ‘exist’ until 1895, when Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen “produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today that was known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901”. [wikipedia]
Except that x-rays have existed as long as the electromagnetic spectrum has existed. We just weren’t aware of them. I find it interesting that in the first chapter of Genesis, Torah states that the Creator created light before creating the sun. Visible light is one portion of the electromagnetic spectrum; wherever the electromagnetic spectrum exists, light exists.

C.S. Lewis wrote that we are not bodies with a soul, we are souls with a body. Years ago I spent time with people who talked about how we aren’t bodies with a brain, we are a brain with a body. Consequently, we are souls with a brain and a body. If souls exist, and are eternal, then they really are different than our time-bound bodies. Is it probable that we can really understand the concept of an eternal soul? Perhaps our brains are merely the interface between our very physical bodies, and our very non-physical souls. Perhaps it is simply human arrogance that we think we can understand the workings of the universe.

I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. I distract myself from thinking about the pain my body experiences, by thinking about stuff. I use music as well, and movies; if I’m awake, there is a soundtrack. In reality, there’s a soundtrack 24/7 in my house. I have music playing all the time. In theory I can’t hear it when I sleep—the office is too far away from my bed; in theory maybe I hear the music even then. The sound drowns out the whining in my head caused by tinnitus—the ‘gift’ I received from spending too many years as a foolish contractor using power tools without hearing protection. The lyrics of songs also become the means by which I ‘program’ my brain—upgrading my software. There was a time when I had silence in my life; one of my delights while my sons were in Boy Scouts was walking down to whatever body of water was present at the summer camp, and watching the stars, listening to the silence. The worse the tinnitus got, the less enjoyable the experience of sky-watching.
Movies help drown out the ‘noise’ of aching joints, aching bones; the sharp pains that come when neurons act out.

One of today’s movies was “Hereafter,” Clint Eastwood’s exploration of the ‘white light’ phenomenon associated with near-death experiences. The ‘text’ of the story is that the idea that when the ‘plug is pulled, the lights go out’ is inadequate. Something exists beyond life as we know it. There isn’t a lot of scientific proof [although the dialog hints at more scientific evidence than I’ve heard about]; but there is a preponderance of experiential evidence.
For myself, I have no doubts about the existence of my soul. I was aware of my soul before I’d even heard of a soul. In my early twenties, during the seventies, my soul was troubled by the hatred and fear I found in our society; a hatred and fear I hadn’t known about as a kid. I spent lots of hours grieving over the emptiness in our society that I hadn’t known about before I started thinking about more than myself. When I asked the Creator into my life, it was a matter of that emptiness becoming filled.

My soul is troubled by the violence and hatred in today’s world…The “top stories” on BBC World News are that today is the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I; and the co-existing facts that Israel’s attacks on Gaza have resulted in the deaths of 1800 Palestinians, mostly women and children; and the deaths of 66 Israelis, mostly soldiers. A ‘fitting’ testimony, in my mind… We never seem to learn that death doesn’t solve life.

String Theorists suggest that there are 11 dimensions compared with the three we know from geometry plus time. I am of the opinion that one of these dimensions is a dimension of the soul; a dimension that has no clear meaning for us today. The fact that we don’t understand does not mean that these other dimensions do not exist, any more than x-rays didn’t ‘exist’ in 1890. We just aren’t able to see them.

Through hardships to the stars

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 53: The Nothing

July 22, 2014

I’m addicted to movies; I have been for nearly as long as I can remember. My two favorite places to be, when I was a child, were the family cabin in the foothills of Mount Hood; and the movie theater. While I devoured books, I also loved to see the illustrations come to life on the silver screen. I became an illustrator because I was born at the end of the Golden Age of Illustration, when ‘adult’ books came with illustrations. The works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Howard Pyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Illustrators like N.C. Wyeth, Frederick Remington, and countless others. My hope was to join that fraternity of illustrators who brought the Classics to life. I’ve come close, in that I illustrated a Korean version of a Sherlock Holmes story, “A Scandal in Bohemia.” I hoped for others; the company went out of business.

Scandal_P21Watson, Holmes, and “The Woman,” Irene Adler

 Our granddaughter visited us from Colorado, for close to a month. We haven’t been around her for that length of time since she was 3 years old; she’ll be 12 soon. Among the movies that was watched was the 1980’s classic, The NeverEnding Story. I have always been touched by the dialog at the end of the film:

G’mork: Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
G’mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G’mork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
G’mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!
Atreyu: Who are you, really?
G’mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing. I was sent to kill the only one who could have stopped the Nothing…

We suffer the attacks of The Nothing—the killer of hopes and dreams. My neurological challenges are an example of the Nothing. The Nothing is nearly everywhere one looks; and one has to make a special effort to see that The Nothing hasn’t killed off all of the hopes and dreams. The high school girl who invented a flashlight powered by the heat of one’s hand…towers in the desert that will one day be filled with water, sucked out of the air…the earth is also teeming with dreams that can come true, if they are allowed to flourish.

One of our most treasured National Monuments stands in New York Harbor:

Liberty“Mother of Exiles.”

I am the son and grandson of immigrants to this country. My mother was born in Norway, my paternal grandmother’s parents were still speaking Swedish when they baptized their daughter here in Portland. My paternal grandfather’s line goes back to Nottingham, England, back in the 1600’s.

Being a son of the American Legion, and all of the God and Country messages that go with that heritage, I grew up respecting that statue in New York harbor; welcoming those who came from Europe, Africa, and lands to the East. Some, more welcome than others…

Those who keep track of such statistics report that there are over 50 Million refugees on this planet, the largest number since World War II. Half of these refugees are children, many of whom will end up in the human trafficking “industry”. Thousands of these children are reaching our border from Central America; that portion of the Americas that our government has been screwing with for decades, helping to overthrow democratically-elected governments that weren’t to ‘our’ liking…As with all of our “Wars On…” we have created problems, rather than solving them.

I was discussing this with a friend last week, who mentioned the importance of protecting our borders; and how when our country can’t even feed our own people, we can’t afford to feed refugees.

It isn’t that our country can’t feed our citizens; the reality is that those with the power to do so WON’T do what it takes to feed our citizens, to create jobs that will enable the populace to thrive. The Stock Market is at all-time highs; Robert Downey Jr. [“Iron Man”] is the highest paid actor in Hollywood, earning $75 Million/year to make comic book movies.

There are close to 400 Billionaires in the US. #100 owns around $4 Billion. Each of these individuals could donate/collaborate/invest $1 Billion [I hear that it’s possible to get by on $3 Billion], and create a $100 Billion fund from which new companies could be created; companies that would create something like the WPA and CCC, and rebuild our country’s infrastructure. The problem isn’t lack of money, the problem is lack of WILL.

I have trouble with the concept that this country of immigrants is just too selfish to open its doors to refugee children; children who didn’t volunteer to be born into the slums, ghettos and gang-infested countries of this continent. Gangs that were trained in American jails before they were deported. The selfishness isn’t on the part of the people; the selfishness is that of those who have the power to create positive change, but don’t have the guts to do it.

There are those who mention the concept of “pitchforks and torches” as a way to facilitate change. I can’t think of any way in which pitchforks will actually work. Homeland Security now has its own arsenal.

Ashes of Hiroshima

 

 


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