Chronicles in Ordinary Time 85: Rest

November 21, 2015


“…if we see rest as something that we deserve, then we just get trapped into trying to become worthy of deserving it. But if what Jesus and the Psalmist are talking about is sacred rest that comes, not from our deservingness but from God, then I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like employee benefits do where you earn a certain number of Sabbath days for every hour you work.
“See, if there is true rest in the presence of our loving God, (and there is) then we’re not on the clock. Because there is no clock. That’s why it’s called Grace and not reward.
“The rest of the Shepherd who makes you lay down in green pastures is not about time off from work, it’s about time off from all forms of worthiness. Resting in the sacred is a blessed break from the “You deserve a break today” deep-fried culture of the self-obsessed. Sacred rest is a break from the am-I-productive-enough, lovable enough, safe enough, thin enough, rich enough, strong enough-worthiness system we live under. The sacred rest that is yours never comes from being worthy. It never comes through adopting the right kind and the right amount and the right quality of spiritual practices (although if those bring you a sense of well-being then by all means don’t set them aside) the rest that is yours and mine comes from the promise of the Gospel: that Jesus came to save sinners, that Jesus came to heal and love and save the sin-sick and the over-functioning, that Jesus came to give rest to the weary, and the restless, to give rest to harried housewives and overworked social workers and mildly depressed executives.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber


“Child, lift up your eyes ’cause mercy remembers your name
And those tears you’ve been holding back, let ’em fall down like rain
‘Cause today is the day, yeah today is the day
Oh, the healing has begun
“There’s a world full of people dying from broken hearts
Holding on to the guilt, thinking they fell too far
So don’t be afraid to show ’em your beautiful scars
‘Cause they’re the proof, yeah you’re the proof
Oh, the healing has begun”

Matthew West, The Healing Has Begun

There are so many people in my life right now that are plagued by brokenness that I cannot fix. I am by nature a ‘rescuer;’ a ‘fix it’ kind of guy. And I am powerless to fix other people’s problems. I can’t really even fix my own problems on my own.

When I get stuck I turn to a group of friends for prayer. I don’t specify what kind of prayer I want. I usually explain what my concerns are. In my own prayers, I don’t tell the Creator what I think needs to be done; I simply ‘lift up’ the person by name, as if I was holding them up the way it happens in the Lion King… The Creator knows all of our needs; and is never surprised by the events that surprise us.

People tell us that there is a ‘plan’ for everything; I think the ‘plan’ is the foreknowledge of the Creator plus the Creator’s constant love for us; and the reality that 90 years of pain here will be an eyeblink in the span of Eternity. Nothing happens in our life that the Creator doesn’t mend. It may not be mended in the time frame we want; it may not be mended in our lifetime on this planet; but this lifetime is such a small portion of our Eternal lives…

When I get overwhelmed I watch Hero movies. In Chinese Hero movies, the Hero usually dies; this is how we know that his journey had an element of sacredness in it. I watched 4 episodes of Matt Smith’s “The Doctor” last night and another 3 episodes tonight. Hero stories remind me that there are possibilities that I can’t imagine happening; they remind me that my vision is too limited, and that I focus on the problems too much.

The answer is rest. Resting in the knowledge that in the end it will all work out well. If it’s not working out well, it means that this isn’t the end yet.

I wish I could download faith into people’s hearts and minds, like I can download software and data into my computer. Download the right software, and a file that couldn’t be opened can now be opened.

The faith I’m talking about isn’t some sort of Pollyanna-ish notion that things will work out if I think happy-thoughts. It’s a faith based on the fact that I am loved by my Creator; and that nothing happens in my life outside of [His] knowledge. It’s a faith that comes from 40 years of experience and a lot of reading. If the world were fair, I could make this faith available as a download from my website. The world isn’t fair.

It begins by acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own; and that you need help from however you see your Creator. Or the hope that maybe there is a Creator who loves you.

I know a guy who can’t believe in a God that would allow him to endure cancer. What he doesn’t see is that cancer is the least of his problems. He thinks the world is supposed to revolve around him, and the way he thinks. His life is filled with broken relationships.

Faith isn’t religion, although sometimes religion can help.

Faith is believing that nothing can separate you from the love of your Creator; even if you’ve made a mess of your life.

Faith is trusting that we aren’t alone when we feel like we’re alone.

Faith is realizing that you are a miracle.

Some scientist may be able to explain everything about you by biology, or genetics, or neurology, or psychology. Science can come up with brilliant explanations for nearly everything except the one, tiny, inescapable piece of the puzzle: Life. And the next inescapable piece of the puzzle: our imagination.

Most everything on this planet, as far as we are able to determine, does not have life—the oceans, the mountains, the dirt and concrete under our feet. Life may exist within those elements of our world; but their presence doesn’t make the water alive. Most of that which makes up the Earth does not have an imagination; the ability to see things that don’t yet exist as if they already do. As far as we know, only humans have that ability; and the systems of this world do their very best to make sure we forget the miracles we are. Here in America, the world system tells us that we can buy a new thing that will make us happy. And it never does.

There may be billions of us on this planet; but we still are a very small portion of all that exists here. And then, there’s the universe. The possibilities are endless.







Chronicles in Ordinary Time 84: The Nothing

November 15, 2015

angel.grief_mj 2This isn’t an original creation

Being a dinosaur, it’s still amazing to me—how powerful the Internet has become. Both for good and evil intent. We can watch the bullets and explosions as they happen. Thanks to social media we can see what others think, translated into words and images. Sometimes I’d rather not know…

There are images of Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves and calling for all-out war with ISIL; in the heat of battle, it’s easy to forget that for every drone that bombs a village from half-a-world away another terrorist is born, as the non-combatant children and mothers are killed as collateral damage.
Am I suggesting that nothing should be done in retaliation, that ISIL should not be stopped? No. I don’t have an answer. More bloodshed isn’t the answer.

There’s an 80’s movie called “The Neverending Story;” in the story, the Villain is the Nothing—it disappears parts of the world of Fantasia. G’mork is a wolf that has been sent to kill Atreyu, the hero who can save Fantasia…

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. 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.

One has to look for the hope.

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.

The 17 year old who created a simple test to detect pancreatic cancer when he was only 15.

The teenaged girl who set out to create, in her words, “a portable device that purifies wastewater while generating electricity sustainably and affordably.” Her final product, the H2prO, skirts the need for a power source and instead uses titanium dioxide and light to spur a photocatalytic reaction that both sterilizes wastewater and generates electricity from hydrogen.

Dreamers surround us…






Chronicles in Ordinary Time 83: The Search for Meaning, Part Two

October 25, 2015

I meant to send this out later in the week; I just watched a movie that changed my mind.

Della's BrainDella’s Brain

We can change the way we think.

The flashes of light in the above image represent the electro-chemical signals that cross between connections in our neurons. The flashes of light represent thoughts in Della’s mind. What those thoughts are, are known only to Della…

Our brains contain thousands of neurons, and tens of thousands of connections between those neurons. Dr. Eagleman, quoted in Chronicles in Ordinary Time 82, comments that about twice as many connections are created in our brains in the first two years of life than we normally use as adults. I don’t think these connections disintegrate, they simply stop being used. The fading of memory isn’t due to degradation of the nerve cells that make the connections; it’s simply due to the fact that we aren’t using those connections very often. The pattern, the map, between those connections and our conscious mind is still there; it just takes a while for the connections to be made.

We have the ability to make new connections between the neurons that register ideas, and we have the ability to think in new ways. During the teenage years we start questioning our parents’ beliefs; we can choose to follow them, or not. We can make new connections between our ‘stockpile’ of past experiences and sensations, and come to new conclusions. These new conclusions can change our lives.

We can change the way we think.

Prejudice starts in the mind.

Hatred starts in the mind.

Healing starts in the mind.

My appendix ruptured in 1988, and I came close to dying from peritonitis—an infection of the membranes that hold our internal organs in place. The docs pumped me full with antibiotics, and killed my immune system while killing off the bacteria. A ‘napalm process’—while killing off the bacteria that was damaging my body, the bacteria that aids my body was killed off as well. For the first few months, I caught every germ that entered the Portland Building.

I did a lot of research during the 6 months it took me to fully recover; I discovered that adult-onset appendicitis was frequently a result of stress that had occurred in the patient’s life. For most of the year before the appendicitis attack, I was heavily involved in the fund-raising for, and the care of my sister, who needed a liver transplant. I firmly believe that the circumstances around her transplant were miraculous—I perceived the working of the Creator in the events that took place, and soon the events began running ahead of us.

I realized that if Donna’s new liver was connected to the Miraculous, then my appendicitis was in some way an extension of that miracle process. I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t believe in accidents. I gave my life to my Creator 40 years ago, and asked [Him] to direct the events of my life. Therefore, the appendicitis wasn’t a surprise to the Creator; it was only a surprise to me.

In the early weeks of recovery from the peritonitis, it became clear to me that there was a ‘connection’ between my experience of a diseased appendix and past anger that I had toward my Dad; the anger wasn’t so much about the man he was, or what he did, but the reality of the father he wasn’t; the father I had wanted. He wasn’t very good with Grace; I doubt that he’d ever experienced it. I could be wrong—we never talked.

I realized that the anger I had felt toward him was gone—the burst appendix was like a boil that had been lanced. New connections had been made while I slept for days. I believe I was Healed. The healing of my anger did not remove the patterns of behavior I had learned while protecting myself from my Dad’s loud behavior. Changing many of
those patterns became part of the work of bringing my own children into this world.

I realized that my Dad was probably very much like his father, and that family of wheat ranchers—he didn’t know how to do things differently, because he hadn’t had a different role model. I decided, with the help of a lot of books and tapes, that I could cause myself to become more like the father I had wanted. I could change my life. It required the making of a lot of new connections in my brain.

I grew up without a concept of faith. The Creator wasn’t a part of my thinking until my college years; and the change of thinking mostly came from religious people who got in my face… And then the Creator ‘hit me upside the head’ in my third year; and I started making a serious change in the direction I traveled. It was at least a 45-degree turn, maybe as much as a 90-degree turn. I began looking at the circumstances and emotions of my life, and started seeing them in a new light. This is the actual definition of the word that is translated from the Hebrew and Latin as “repent.”

“God loves you and has a plan for your life”—a phrase that usually gets heard when bad stuff happens in one’s life. Often the people who say such things don’t really think about the concept that in effect says, ‘oh, God gave you cancer so that you can learn something.’ I’ve struggled with such concepts for the last 40 years. One of the guys in my life at present is angry at the god he doesn’t believe in because that god
allows people to be tortured by pain and death. He sees his cancer-related pain as torture that keeps him from being able to do the things he wants to do with what’s left of his life.

I experience a large amount of pain each day; several neurologists have no idea why it has occurred. “Idiopathic sensory nerve disorder.” A description, rather than a diagnosis. I have pain all over, even in places that have no external sense of touch. The most likely candidate [meaning, the one that hasn’t yet been ruled out] for a cause appears to be the large amounts of analgesics and muscle relaxants I consumed while working for the City of Portland for 14 years. I got through each
day on pain meds and I possibly poisoned myself in the process. Now I work at living without pain meds, in hopes that some of the damaged neurons will heal. Instead of viewing my pain as torture, I use it to help me learn compassion for a whole lot of people who deal with much larger health challenges. It’s a matter of perspective. The pain doesn’t disappear, but the fear of pain can diminish. I learn not to react to pain.

Does God have a plan for my life? I think ‘the plan’ is that I was created with a brain that is capable of changing the way I perceive the world. I learn to make new connections in my brain when I encounter new situations. I don’t believe that anything will happen in my life that is larger than the Creator can use for [His] own purposes. Occasionally it seems as though the Creator dips a hand into the ‘river of my life,’ and alters the flow; usually this happens in a manner that I cannot prove, and it usually only has a direct effect on me. Broken cars that mysteriously come back to life without the aid of a mechanic or tools; events that come strangely together in a manner I could not predict. However, the Creator is not a genie; I can’t rub a lamp and get my wishes fulfilled.

Shit happens in my life; and good stuff happens in my life. I can change my attitude toward the rotten stuff by making a conscious decision to view life differently. I know each day that I am surrounded by the prayers of people who pray for me. Some of you who are reading these words are lifted up in prayer by me, each day. Some of you are supported in prayer by people you don’t know, because I’ve told others of your needs. I think the prayer makes it easier to make new connections in your brains; and these changes can strengthen the soul we cannot see.

I can’t download faith into anyone. I wish I could. There IS Light in the darkness; and that Light is on a wavelength that is easy to miss unless you are looking for it. Sort of like Luminol fluorescing when in the presence of ‘alternate light sources’. Or wearing 3D glasses to watch the movie—there’s a depth to life we can’t normally see, because it isn’t hardwired into our brains. We have to choose to look for it, and keep working at seeing the Light in the midst of ever-growing darkness.

Stars [1926]“Stars” Maxfield Parrish [1926]



Chronicles in Ordinary Time 82: The Search for Meaning, Part One

October 23, 2015

watson's brain2“Watson’s Brain”

I’ve long been fascinated by the human brain and perception…

If Myers-Briggs is accurate, my personality type is INTJ, and is only shared by 2% of the population. 98% of any group perceives the world with a different type of thinking. Consequently, I see things differently than most people; and most people see things differently than I do.

The “mechanics” of vision is such that no two people see a scene in exactly the same way. Light passes through the lenses in our eyes, gets flipped upside down and then is bounced off of light-sensitive cells at the back of our eyeballs to send electro-chemical messages through the optic nerve to our brains. Somehow these electro-chemical signals cause us to see the world as if we were looking through a picture screen at the front of our heads… People with color blindness and disorders like Irlen Syndrome have cells in the retina that don’t work properly; floor the color-blind person colors look differently than the colors I see. For people with Irlen Syndrome, the letters on this screen might look scrambled. I know a guy who has a ‘hole’ in his brain—parts of the brain tissue are missing, for no known reason, and as a result he has no depth perception. Looking through his eyes is the same as you looking at this monitor—my drawings have the illusion of depth, because of the way they are shaded; but they have no real depth. You really aren’t looking at a piece of paper attached to your screen…

I watched “THE BRAIN WITH DAVID EAGLEMAN” on PBS the other night…

Some quotations from the show:

“What makes you You? For a long time the answer was an immortal soul, or spirit; something that goes beyond mere matter and gives you your life and your identity. But the modern story of the brain tells a different story: who we are can only be understood in terms of the 3-pound organ in our heads…what makes humans unique “is the way
that the human brain can mold to fit the world around it.” Our brains come with some basic programming that allows us to learn language and facial expression; “but the remarkable thing is the degree to which our brains are
unfinished. Which leads to a period of prolonged helplessness. But the plan is that instead of hardwiring everything the way most of the animal kingdom
does, our brains are designed to let life experience wire up the rest of the brain…

“The number of brain cells in a child is the same as the number of brain cells in an adult. The secret lies in the how those cells are connected. Over the first two years of
life, the neurons begin connecting extremely rapidly; forming as many as two million new connections every second. By age two, the typical neuron has more
than 15,000 connections. That is almost twice as many as found in an adult. After the age of two, the growth is halted. The process of becoming someone is about pruning back the possibilities that are already present. You become who you are not because of what grows in your brain, but what is removed.

As we grow and learn new skills, we reduce the number of connections in our brain–in favor of focusing on a smaller number of stronger connections…the connections go from being universal to being specific. Those links you don’t’ use, you lose. Over the course of childhood, brain circuitry is wired up according to experience and interaction with the environment. But this dependence on the outside world is a gamble. The outside world won’t always provide what a brain needs…”

Eagleman doesn’t address the italicized text above—the language that speaks of design, as opposed to randomness. Most of the Animal Kingdom enters this world with built-in programming. Who does the programming? If our brains are different in that they are grown in our mother’s womb, with minimal hardwired programming, but with the ability to make connections between sounds, feelings, smells and abstract words, how does that ability come into being?

At the end of the episode, Eagleman points out that no one has figured out what the mechanism is that gives certain connections greater meaning than other connections. What defines Meaning?

I believe that Meaning is connected to that “immortal soul” that Eagleman discounts at the beginning of the episode. An integral part of the human psyche that can’t be measured. I believe that the ‘connections’ we make to the world around us as we grow, can be made in a similar manner to a ‘world’ we cannot see, feel or touch—the world of the Spirit. The association of the world of spiritual belief and the world of physical experience are similar to the concepts of ‘parallel universes’—universes that we cannot perceive, that exist next to our own universe. I believe that some of the connections that are made between the neurons of your brain can be influenced by your Creator…

We can change the way we think.

We can decide that the way we have thought in the past is not getting us to the future we desire, and that today we will begin following a different path.

We have the ability to make new connections between the neurons that register ideas, and that we don’t have to maintain the thought processes from our parents’ belief systems as we move into our teenage years of growing independence. We can make new connections between our ‘stockpile’ of past experiences and sensations, and come to new conclusions. These new conclusions can change our lives.


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 81: Not one week has gone by…

October 3, 2015


A British mapping software company has illustrated the scale of America’s gun problem – with a map that displays all 264 mass shootings that have occurred in America this year. [right hand map]

Mapping company Esri UK, using data from the Gun Violence Archive, plotted every incident where four or more people were shot in the USA this year.

The finished product shows the sheer scale of gun violence in America, a country where there has not been one week this year without a mass shooting taking place.

Each dot on the map signifies a shooting where four or more people were injured or killed. Clicking on the dots brings up information about the number of people involved, and where it took place, with the dots getting larger the more severe the incident was.

mass shootings in the USLeft hand map:

I wonder at our society, which encourages, mostly by marketing, ‘first-person shooter’ video games. Making video death a form of entertainment. My understanding from cop-shows is that there are people in this world who play FPS games 5 hours each day…and we wonder why there are school shootings.

Am I saying that FPS video games create gun violence? No.

I am saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, it’s probable that most of the problems you encounter will tend to look like a nail.

I watch a lot of DVDs; typically 2-3 per night, often while I’m working on an illustration project. Half a day in my office with my playlist, the other half in the living room with my feet up to aid my neurological condition. I don’t play video games, I’m one of those dinosaurs whose last video game was Minesweeper…

Most of the DVDs I watch involve gun violence; I watch other people shooting each other. My form of entertainment isn’t much better than FPS video games. The advantage is that I don’t practice killing other people.

When we train pilots how to fly, we put them in simulators. My brother-in-law creates the audio background for these simulators. The goal is to make the experience as close to flying as possible, while in the safety of a room attached to the ground.

I’m not sure that I see that much difference between a simulator and an FPS video game.

One of the images I saw on Facebook following the most recent shooting in Roseburg, was a guy wearing a gun belt; and words that suggested that the best way to prevent school shootings is to arm people. School staff members all carrying will prevent school shooters—“no one in their right mind would enter a school with the intention of killing, if they knew that all of the adults were armed.” The problem being that mass murderers aren’t often in their right minds. It becomes ‘suicide by school janitor’ rather than ‘suicide by self’. And the janitor has to live with the consequences.

The ‘answer’ probably isn’t one of having better gun laws; although I can’t see any rational explanation for having an automatic weapon in your house. The fact that ‘it’s a Constitutional Freedom’ doesn’t really make much sense—there were no automatic weapons when the Constitution was written. The only reason to have an automatic weapon is to shoot humans en masse. Shooting humans is not one of our Constitutional Freedoms.

I think the answer is more along the lines of teaching every human in America that violence is not the way to solve our problems; it isn’t the way to defend our freedoms. Violence is another hammer.

I’ve watched a number of programs on the “Freedom Riders” and “Freedom Summer”—the efforts to integrate the US in the early 1960s.

FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.



Chronicles in Ordinary Time 80: They Changed the World

September 18, 2015

your life isn't about you PKDYour life is not about you.

A guy I know would say that the above statement is absurd; of course his life is about him. To his mind, there is nothing more in life than his life. Nothingness follows his life. What will be left behind from his life [from my perspective] is a bunch of broken relationships; because, his life is only about him…

Your life is about others.

You will be remembered for what you did for, or to, others. If your life has never been about others, or has only been for others as some benefit to your own life, then your life has been wasted. You may be remembered, but not fondly.

This wasn’t the message I was raised with; it took a lot of effort for me to understand. Looking back, it didn’t seem like effort; I wanted to live my life in a way that I wasn’t seeing very often in this world; and I realized I needed new information.

Fortunately, there are far more people in this world who choose to be remembered because they did something positive for another person, rather than by choosing the negative.

Our American society tends to make villains into celebrities; mass murderers who somehow become celebrated for the pain they inflicted on others. Because we tend to make villains into celebrities, those who have been given no real value by the ‘others’ who raised them feel that “15 minutes of fame” as a monster, somehow equates with a life that has meaning. They were here; they made a statement. When historians look back, they will find the tale of a monster…a person remembered because they were ‘bold’ as a monster… Maybe there will even be a cable television series about his exploits…

How many lives have you saved by the simple act of driving safely? We may never know until we arrive at Home. It’s easier to count the damage done while driving with our minds elsewhere. We generally don’t get credit for doing a job ‘well’—the way the job is supposed to be done. The reality is that the reason for driving well is others. Not to avoid traffic tickets; not to see if you can manage to avoid getting caught; driving well is a gift you give to others. Doing your job well is a gift you give to others.

Your life is not about you.


This week I watched the PBS biography of Walt Disney on American Experience. I would not have enjoyed working for Disney; although a part of me wishes that I had left Eugene, Oregon in 1975 and headed for Los Angeles, to work full-time as an illustrator. In the late 1930s Disney’s crew worked 12-18 hour days in order to complete Snow White on time; the background painters, inkers and ‘in-betweeners’ worked for minimal pay [it was the Depression, and most of the painters and inkers were women—‘any knucklehead can do that job’]; while the ‘creative talent’ was paid well for their work. In the years following World War II, Disney employees went on strike for higher wages, wounding Disney deeply; this forever changed Walt’s vision of the world he wanted to create. As with many creative geniuses in the Art world, Disney was a tyrant, who had an entirely different persona displayed on camera, and with his family.

To a degree Disney’s life was about others; but for the most part, his life was about him. His highest praise, in general, was ‘that will work’. He chose a career that depended upon people liking what he created. The struggle every commercial artist faces, regardless of the form in which the art appears.

If one provided Walt with what he wanted, on time and in good order, Walt was a friend. He wanted the Disney studios to be ‘families’ [albeit dysfunctional ones]; with himself as the father, and his artists as ‘his boys’ [gender bias noted]. Loyalty was rewarded; disloyalty was not permitted.

In 1937 he premiered that which his detractors called, “Disney’s Folly”: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The movie that changed animation forever. The movie that proved that ‘a drawing can make an audience cry’. The wonder of those early images is lost on modern viewers; we’ve become accustomed to sophisticated imagery.

When I heard the words, ‘he wanted to prove that a drawing can make an audience cry,’ a chord was struck in my ‘heart’. While I’ve never used those words, I can understand them. I’ve had ambitions of artistic immortality. I doubt that this will happen.

mickey's cafeI apparently had a relative of some sort, a guy named Milt, who worked at Disney Studios sometime in the past. Hanging on my wall is a drawing that I inherited from my Grandmother, after we moved her out of her house in a little town in Eastern Oregon. An original ‘Disney’ drawing—probably a personal project. I used the image to explain the concept of layering in digital art, the great tool that makes Adobe Photoshop the ‘giant’ it is; the digital giant that the .psd file is. A digital algorithm that enables ability to create a ditital drawing using transparent layers—the digital equivalent of the ‘cels’ [celluloid sheets] Disney used to create his animations. Disney created his early animations by photographing layers of transparent cels, which gave his animations the illusion of depth.

After the post-war strike, Disney’s enthusiasm for creating ‘art’ rather than making cartoons, disappeared. He started turning his real interest to television, while his studio continued to turn out feature films. Eventually his interest turned to Disneyland.

Walt Disney touched everyone in America who has lived in the 1950’s and beyond. I realized this week that Disney was foundational to my early life. I grew up with a television as a babysitter [two working parents]; and Walt Disney provided a lot of my entertainment. He also told me about my ‘history’—a white, conservative, ‘American Dream’ history. I think Disneyland was still new when my parents took me there, along with a million other white, conservative, American families. The Disney version of American history omitted “Manifest Destiny” and the genocide of the people who were here before the Europeans arrived, in Frontierland; ignored Slavery and Civil Rights in Fantasyland; and the Atomic Bomb in Tomorrowland; and all of the atrocities carried on by the real version of American history.

The Disney version of the world created some of the most enduring stories in American culture. Many today want to return to that world—one that really didn’t exist beyond parts of rural America. A vision of small town America that didn’t translate well into the urban environment. Geographically, America is mostly made up of rural towns; in terms of population, America is mostly made up of urban-dwellers. Cities where knowing your neighbor takes a lot of effort [more effort than I want to put out].

In spite of all of his cultural shortcomings [against the advice of the NAACP, Disney’s Song of the South was filled with ‘darkies singing happy songs;’ and premiered in Atlanta, where the story’s hero, ‘Uncle Remus’ was not allowed into the all-white theater], the truths his stories tell told remain true: if you live for others, you’ll find a reason for your life.

Audrey p22-23From an unpublished biography of Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn was a sensation in Hollywood in her day. Surviving privation in Belgium during World War II, she emigrated to the UK to study ballet. Life being what it is, she instead became an actress, a virtual ‘overnight success’ after her role in Roman Holiday, opposite Gregory Peck. After she retired from movies, she devoted her life to UNICEF. My guess is that her impact as UNICEF’s ambassador far outweighed her career as an actress. Her life had taught her that her life was not about her.



Chronicles in Ordinary Time 79: Change the World

September 1, 2015

EstherThe Story of Esther, acrylic
permanent collection: Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas, Texas

Tonight [my tonight] there are fanatics in Syria, destroying thousands of years of art and architectural history, in the name of religion. This has happened before, in Western history; we call it iconoclasm. Part of the reason there is so little visual art in Protestant churches is a result of the iconoclasm that took place in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The historical link, in the Abrahamic faiths, is a literal interpretation of the Creator’s command that man shall not make ‘graven images’—the creation of idols that are worshipped in place of the Creator. Israel’s “Golden Calf” being a prime example. People still make idols that sit on dashboards of cars and are enshrined in homes. In the American culture of today, many of our idols are concepts—we even name television shows after them…We make idols all the time. The Creator knew this from the beginning of Eternity. The Creator also gave us free will—the ability to choose how we live our lives. And the Creator gives us the power to get past our idols.

I am a man of faith, and I am an artist. I am grateful to The Sisters of the Holy Names at Marylhurst, and other Catholic friends who helped me to resolve the differences between art that represents faith, and art that creates idols. More of my art is digital these days—my hands and eyes don’t work as well as they did in earlier times. Part of me ponders the idea as to whether or not digital images—patterns of light upon a screen—can even be considered ‘graven images’—the images don’t even really exist until they are printed on some type of medium. At that point, they really aren’t the created image, they are a copy of the image, subject to idiocies of printing equipment.

When my brain hurts because of the actions of extremist fanatics, I find myself retreating to science fiction movies—particularly of the genre inspired by Gene Roddenberry and the creators of the Stargate saga. Roddenberry believed in a future where the ideology that separates people can be overcome; that people of different races, religions, ideologies could live together in harmony rather than always being in endless war. These stories present the idea that we can become better people. Always working at becoming better people. Semper opus fieri meliores for those who believe that a phrase is always more cool in Latin…

This way of thinking seems hard to find, in today’s world. Here, the world runs at the whim of the rich and powerful—today’s American idols. People in masses tend toward violence and hatred; and fear of the unknown.

Individuals, and groups of individuals can actually create positive change. I’ve seen it happen, I see it happening every day, in small ways; small steps that can become giant leaps. Will the 98% overthrow the 2% and the fractions of the 1%? Hard to imagine, given that we keep electing millionaires and aspiring millionaires to the seats of power in government… This is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its destruction of the Gulf Coast. Ten years on, there is still a lot of damage to be undone. The promises of government have not been kept. The actions of individuals working together have demonstrated what faith, hope and love can accomplish.

There are ideas and ideals that money and power cannot buy. Most lottery winners end up broke in a few years. From what I understand, most millionaires end up with broken families. I am neither rich nor famous—I have aspired to both in my time—but I am richly blessed in that I have a family that aspires to be better than they are at any given time. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Compared to much of the world, I am rich. My net worth is a positive number.

How do we change the world? One act of random kindness at a time.

A few years ago, without permission, I edited the movie “Evan Almighty” into a-few-minutes-long synopsis video. The file [link below the image] is fairly large so it will take a few minutes to download…

One Act of Random Kindness… can change the world for the better.



Chronicles in Ordinary Time 78: the tracks we leave behind…

August 27, 2015

My desire for the last few weeks has been to write something upbeat…it’s just very hard, looking at the world and the way it is.

Sitting BullWe will be known forever by the tracks we leave behind.

Lakota Proverb

I watch a lot of movies. Now that my time is not as tied to a schedule as it has been in the past, and because I spend about 1/3 of my day in a chair in the living room, I watch even more movies/DVDs…they occupy my mind while my hand and eye are working together.

I’m not sure why I’ve never watched “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” before. I spent several months, back in the 90s, researching our American history and our treatment of the ‘indigenous people’ who occupied our continent until we—white folk—drove them off their land. I’ve heard that there were something like 500 nations in the Americas before the Europeans arrived.

I’ve also spent/invested the last two weeks of my time investigating my family history. As an adult I’ve largely considered myself as an ‘immigrant child’—I’m ‘first generation on my Mom’s side of the family [she was born in Norway]; and ‘third generation’ on my Dad’s maternal side of the family [my maternal great grandparents were Swedish, born in Finland. My paternal great grandfather comes from a family line that seems to have taken the Biblical command VERY seriously: “As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” From that generation backward, it seems like every mother gave birth to a dozen children—free labor. I found an immigrant side of that family as well—one of my ancestors emigrated from England to America in the mid-1600s. To my surprise, that line of my family goes back to Charlemagne—by marriage—a Plantagenet descendant married a woman who is in my ancestral line…

I’ve been a member of churches for the last 40 years; and I was in a Christianity-based sales organization for much of the 80s and early 90s. For years I have heard from platforms and pulpits, how blessed the [white] American people are—‘the only nation created in the name of God’—and other such nonsense. The prosperity so valued began in the 50s and 60s, increased in the 80s and died in 2008…I’ve heard so many people state that our material prosperity is a ‘gift from God.’ For all of our supposed ‘prosperity’ we have an incredible number of mass murders. Divorce, unemployment, destitution.

A lot of people who ‘proof text’ the Old Testament tend to leave out the places where ‘God’s People’ were cursed because of their wickedness. The Pilgrims who arrived here were seeking religious freedom—from the Anglican Church of England at that time. It’s probably an exaggeration to state that the Pilgrims came to bring religious freedom to a new land. They weren’t seeking religious freedom for everyone—they were seeking the freedom to practice their own religious beliefs.

We tend to rewrite history to make it sound much better than it really is. It appears today that the Founding Fathers, in declaring their independence from England were really saying that “we hold these Truths to be self-evident—that all [white males] are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…’ However, history has caught up with the Founders and the Supreme Court has ruled that these rights mostly apply to all American citizens, without regard to gender, race or religion. One of the ‘problems’ of a Democratic Republic—the rules can change.

Tonight I’m thinking about the huge number of Native Americans who were slaughtered by European emigrants who believed they could own land [“On 8 September 2000, the head of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) formally apologized for the agency’s participation in the “ethnic cleansing” of Western tribes]; about the Japanese-American citizens who were sent to American concentration camps during World War II; and the hundreds of thousands killed in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which included the murder of thousands of children. How do we overlook such wickedness…

It is far easier for me to see the world today as being under a “curse”—I’m a 21st Century enlightened American Christian who has trouble thinking of the literalness of “curses and blessings’—than it is to see the results of blessing in our world.

And then there is another quotation from the movie: “There is another road that runs beside warpath, a secret road, only known to the Christ worshippers…” for me, it is important to distinguish between the religion and the followers…they aren’t necessarily the same.

Medicine Bottle


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 77: Imagination and Inspiration

August 18, 2015

Martian landscapeImages:

 These are aerial photographs of the landscape of Mars.

This statement blows my mind. It ought to blow yours.

Not Hollywood. Not CGI. Photographs made with a camera that sits aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite that’s been orbiting Mars for about 10 years; shooting photos of strangely colored sand dunes, enormous ‘dust devils’ that extend thousands of feet into the air, and create strangely beautiful shadows; avalanches near the snow-covered Poles of Mars.

However, we live in the 21st Century; and the world of the Internet. All sorts of wonders happen all of the time, and we yawn and scroll down to the next item on Facebook…

When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I read the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read of Barsoom and its canals and an adventurer from Earth who found himself a stranger in a strange land. The books are better than the movie was.

I was 10 years old when JFK spoke these words at Rice University:

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man…”

Full speech below

 We went to the Moon by the end of that decade; and we have gone far beyond that goal. Astronauts have inspired children the world over to “seek out new adventures and to go where no man has gone before…”

I read the works Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov as well as dozens of other science fiction authors. Tom Swift Jr. was one of my literary heroes, and the subject of many of my internal adventures—a young inventor traveling the world and outer space, seeking to make life better. And now I can view photos of Mars, I can watch videos of Mars and its moons…as easily as I can watch Facebook.

Should we be trying to go to Mars? I’d rather see us fix up the planet we have, than to encourage us to continue wrecking this one while we find a new planet to wreck…

The problem isn’t money.

cost of war

The bottom number starts with One Trillion. A number, when applied to money, that none of us can accurately imagine. You can probably find a graphic somewhere on the Internet. These numbers of course are significantly smaller than the numbers are at this moment, as you are reading these words. You can find current numbers here.

There is no lack of money in the US and in the world for solving most of the problems of mankind; what is lacking is the willingness to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of people we don’t know. We can take pictures of Mars!—surely we can provide clean water and electricity to the planet. Can we reverse global warming? Probably not. Maybe we can slow it down.

You can inspire a child to dream; you can inspire a child to do something for good that no one in their history has ever done. You can inspire a child to become a better person than you are. By training your mind you can become a better person than you are now.



“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

President John F. Kennedy in front of a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962.


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 76: It’s always too soon to quit…

August 10, 2015

peacock window

A dear friend of mine recently posted some quotations from Marcus Aurelius on Facebook; a mutual friend, a woman we don’t know all that well, in reading his post remembered inspiration she received by reading the writings of this this long-dead Roman Emperor; and baby Aurelia was given her name. In the annals of history, being the instrument of the naming of a child is probably a small thing; however, she is only a few weeks old, and has her entire life ahead of her. Who knows what the inspiration from a Roman Emperor of 1900 years ago might have upon her life? The naming of each of our children was a well-thought-out experience, and I imagine it’s the same for many parents. We can never overlook the possibilities that our smallest acts contain.

This dear friend of mine has a lot of reasons for doubting the value of his life; he battles a chemical imbalance in his brain; probably a result of genes—something he cannot control. One of my ‘fears’ is that one day the chemistry will win out over what he knows in his heart-of-hearts to be true. When such ‘fears’ come upon me, I turn them over to the Author of Life, in whose name my dear friend was raised. Whatever events happen in our earthly lives, I know that we will meet again in the Life to Come. This is a promise from the Author of Life.

Sixty-three years of life; forty-two of them walking with the Author of Life. I rather wish I’d kept a list of the ‘small things’ that have happened in my life that ended up being extremely significant. Many of the ‘small things’ were barely noticed; like the song that just happened to start playing as I’m writing this paragraph [statistically, a 1/1340 chance]—The Impossible Dream, which caused to realize that there is more to live for in this life than the stuff we find around us. The story of the ‘Man of La Mancha,’ presented in a Senior AP English class in high school by “Captain Bob” Bonniwell opened the door to faith in my life. The older I get, the larger the pile of ‘stuff’ gets, and the more potent-smelling it becomes. And still I contend that it is better to live life as it could be, to live life as it ought to be lived; rather than to live life as it often presents itself in our circumstances. I never made the opportunity to thank Captain Bob. Should have.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to create a life for myself that allows me a lot of time to think, to ponder, to hope and to dream. The dreams are harder now, partially because the Dreambuilders I once surrounded myself with aren’t around. But I still am able to ponder and hope. I too often fail to realize what a gift my lifestyle has become for me. Most people have little time to think about LARGE concepts, such as faith. I wish I had the ability to download faith into all those who need it; I’d post it in a Dropbox and plaster the URL across the internet. Sadly, I can’t do that. By “faith” I’m not talking about religion; it often starts with religion; however, there is a Faith that transcends religion. I’m not there yet, but I can see it in the distance.

One of our shortcomings as human beings is that we tend to think that we are something special; just by being human. In today’s world, “American Exceptionalism” is probably the most insidious version of this curse—at least within the American culture. I believe that when the Creator said, “let us make man in our own image,” the Creator wasn’t talking about form. I believe that the gift we were given, that gift which is in the Creator’s image, is our ability to Create. There are other creatures that use tools; creatures like the spider that can build a web we can’t even begin to replicate—and these abilities are hard-wired into their tiny brains and neurological systems. Birds make nests; I don’t know if there are birds who have realized that all that plastic garbage we leave lying around can become weather-proof roofs over their heads…

We have the ability to create our own realities; and by this gift we are human, slightly lower than the angels. As animals, humans display a lot of behavior that is far from special. We are more than animals.

I’m in an *interesting* place in life. I don’t have ALS—it’s clear that I don’t have ALS—and yet I can’t help but wonder if what I experience is similar to those with ALS: watching my body ‘dissolve’ around me. I end most evenings [early mornings to much of the world] watching ‘hero stories’ on DVD. I find that drawing-time seems to work best after 10p or 11; and lasts for 3-4 hours; after which it simply hurts too much to keep sitting down. So I move to the couch, and watch a couple hours of ‘hero’ stories; and then I try to figure out how I’m going to get off of the couch, and make my way to bed. I was at a friends’ house yesterday, and sat down on a footstool; I immediately realized that this was a bad choice, because the footstool turned out to be much squishier than I expected it to be. When it was time to leave that room, I waited until I was the last one there, so I could figure out what method I’d use to get myself from footstool to standing up… I honestly can’t tell if it’s a strength issue or a function [lack of] issue. Getting up from the footstool was awkward, and I am innately self-conscious.

There are a couple of old guys in my life, guys who cannot [yet] cope with the idea of ‘new normal’—a new set of conditions in their lives that make their former plans extremely difficult to achieve. Neither of them live with the difficulties that one of my heroes lives with; a woman who has lived most of her life in a wheelchair, with a body that mostly does not respond to her control. She’s endured more operations than she has years in her life. Her physical abilities are far less than those of the two old codgers I’m writing about; and yet they have trouble finding a reason to stay alive. My hero-friend has been making that choice for a long time.

We make choices as to how we will live our lives. Some of us have horrible crap to overcome; some of us merely have inconvenience to overcome; and we think that it’s ‘horrible crap’ because our view of life is too small… Each day above ground is a gift, whether or not we want to see it that way. And we are given tremendous flexibility as to how we will use this gift.

How will you use your gift, today?

How will I use mine?

Summer King


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