Chronicles in Ordinary Time 102: Bravery

August 26, 2016

whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind

Krissy's spice 4 life_smlI would like you to meet Krissy.

She’s one of the bravest persons I’ve ever met. I am not at liberty to tell you her story; it has a lot of bad parts, and the ‘bad’ isn’t over yet. She has countless reasons for giving up; and no desire to do so. She has a spices-and-food-related products business that she has begun to crowdfund. More about that when I know more.

You can find her products at:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/krissyspice4life

https://www.linkedin.com/in/krissyspice4life

and email her at:

krissy.spice.4.life@gmail.com

she can also be twittered at: @krissyspice
We are living in strange times; difficult times filled with pain and betrayal and heartbreak. And yet… and yet… There are stories of heroes.
PBS tells of the Syrian volunteers who rush to bombed buildings to save victims:
Once tailors, bakers, pharmacists, some 3,000 ordinary Syrians are now the unwitting heroes of the Syrian war. Nicknamed “the White Helmets,” members of the Syrian Civil Defense work under the harshest conditions to claw through the remains of buildings flattened by barrel bombs, the Syrian regime’s weapon of choice…
We meet some of them now, thanks to special correspondent Marcia Biggs, who reports from Turkey.

MARCIA BIGGS: We all saw this heartbreaking video, 5-year-old Omran pulled from under the rubble of his flattened home, his photo going viral. Stunned, bloodied, and caked with dust, his face a symbol of so many others.

But the faces you didn’t see in this video are of those who have been pulling people out of the rubble for five long years. This is the call to work for the brave members of the Syrian Civil Defense, an ad hoc grassroots first-response unit within rebel-held Syria.

Over the last five years, they say they have learned, saving almost 60,000 lives, working throughout all parts of one of the most fractured areas on Earth. Even some of the most radical groups allow them into their territory…

MARCIA BIGGS: Abdul Rahman, a 30-year-old volunteer from Aleppo, says the food shortage is a main concern and half of the men in the unit are trying to learn to farm.

Are they worried that they might starve? Are they worried that they’re going to run out of food?

ABDUL RAHMAN, Rescue Worker: Of course, but they’re still working, because we believe in our job. They lost the hope. This is the bigger problem. Now, in Aleppo city, all the world see the besieged. And all the world just watching what happened, and no one do anything.

MARCIA BIGGS: Despite all the deaths and the failures of the international community, the White Helmets soldier on.

RAED AL SALEH (through translator): It’s difficult to talk with our team every day, and most of the time, we have no answers to all the questions they ask. We are doing an important humanitarian job, and we will be rewarded by God.

The Koran says, in the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful, whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. If you save a human who was under the rubble, it’s like you saved all mankind.

Do you feel proud when you wear that?

For Radi, his uniform a symbol of pride, and for the young man who dreamed of one day getting out of Syria, a renewed pride in his country, which he and the others hope to someday rebuild.

RADI SAAD (through translator): Before the revolution, we didn’t have a sense of belonging to this country at all. But now we feel that, if we don’t build this country, no one will.

MARCIA BIGGS: A small glimmer of hope for the future. For now, every airstrike brings more devastation, and the men, like this one, Fares Mohammed Ali, who dig with their hands and their hearts to raise people out of the ruins and into the light.

One can only wonder how long this light of hope can burn. Fares died last month after an airstrike.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/syrian-volunteers-rush-bombed-buildings-save-victims/?google_editors_picks=true

 

I was going to write more words, but at the moments words are failing me.

Fhff7_4

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 101: Reinventing Oneself

August 26, 2016

INCREDIBLE STORIESIllustration Envy…

Society 6, the company that hosts my retail store https://society6.com/mjartscom has ads floating all over the Internet—you’ve probably seen them—for a terrific artist that has created a bunch of comic-book-nouveau images. Unfortunately, that artist isn’t me. The company tells me that a few of my images are in their catalog [something like 1000 images of the 10,000 images in their ‘warehouse’; I haven’t seen them published in their advertising. So, acting upon the “I can do that,” message that floated through my brain, I fabricated the above from some images in my stockpile.

I watched Chappie a couple of weeks ago, a sci-fi story that takes place in a future Johannesburg, where no person in their right mind would want to live—unless going somewhere else wasn’t an option. To solve their crime problem, they bring in an army of robot droids. The lead designer of the police droids, in his off-hours, is attempting to create a computer program that will become conscious—a sentient robot that can think for itself. The experiment gets hijacked by some gang bangers, and the experiment goes seriously awry. However, Chappie is born—a computer with the mind of a child; a mind that can learn exponentially.

What caught my attention was the fluid grace of Chappie’s movements—a robot that moves exactly like a human. Motion Capture has grown exponentially, as well.

There was a moment—certainly not much more than a moment—when I felt like I could see the front of the digital art pack—we commercial artists who are running a marathon with no fixed end. I was at an SCBWI Conference in Seattle, wandering around some hotel, drinking a $7 glass of Guinness [I kept the glass]. I passed by a guy who was working in 3-D [early 3-D], who was explaining how one needs to draw all sides of a character, not just from one viewpoint. I had realized then one of the shortcomings of my illustration career—that moment when I realize the character needs to be in a different spot in the frame, and because of that, the character can’t be facing the viewer. Do I do the ‘correct’ image, even though it means I have to do a lot more drawing? Or do I live with the original idea, even though it’s ‘wrong’? It would be so much better to have the character in 3-D, so I could ‘simply’ rotate the character…I have 3-D software I’ve never used.

I wandered by another conversation that night, where the [presumed] art buyer was saying, ‘I like that character, but can you make it digital?’ At that time, when the last dinosaurs were dying off, ‘digital’ characters were easy to spot—they all had a ‘look’. By that time, I had learned that I could digitize my hand-drawn illustrations and manipulate them digitally. The conversation was about a cartoon image, and I really don’t do cartoons. My brain doesn’t think in ‘cartoon;’ my brain doesn’t think in ‘whimsy’—the reason I’ve largely quit marketing my work in Children’s Book venues with the expectation that I’ll get hired. The Art Buyers I was running into at SCBWI events wanted ‘whimsy’. And my work ‘wasn’t photographic enough’, ‘it wasn’t accurate enough’—yet they loved Nightmare Before Christmas—go figure.

Then the rest of the pack came running past me; and I’m now among the slower-moving of the digital art world [as I am in the real world]. I’m a member of a CGI website, but feel like I’m too ancient/too unskilled to participate much…I did just enter some stuff of mine into a Competition—attempting to boost my ego.

 

I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want my blog to be about stuff I didn’t know about. One can find any kind of advice all over the Internet on ‘reinventing oneself’. I can provide input as well, but I have to make the disclaimer that I don’t necessarily feel successful in my reinvention. The experiment is still running…

My father reinvented himself throughout his adult life; business ventures failing through unexpected disaster or unexpected lack of ability on his part. He ended his working life in a settle-for career; he might not have used that language. His last career was fairly successful—just unexpected, and nothing like the one he wanted when he was making dreams for his life.

I’ve mirrored his efforts to some degree; the ‘success’ of this present life is more by the Grace of God than by my efforts. I nearly killed myself by working as a Public Servant rather than as a City Employee, and I now get paid for breathing. I got older, and again get paid for breathing. For all this breathing I ‘bring home’ less than half of what I would be earning if I had continued to work for the City. Because I’ve borrowed so much, in order to adapt our life to that ‘half-income’, I still need to bring in money; it just isn’t the main goal of my life anymore.

So what can I share of value?

  1. You are what you think you are.
    You will never improve your circumstances while keeping the same old thoughts in your head. You have to learn to think in better ways, ways that will enlarge your self-image, before you begin to experience more favorable circumstances. Through a sales organization [I only had modest success in sales—I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’], I took a five-year ‘course’ in possibility thinking. I read books about imagining a new life, and listened to taped [dinosaur] seminars all the time; tapes by people who had changed their lives.
  1. You can never ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.
    You can ‘fake it’ in order to get through the door; but you’ll have to actually become someone different in order to survive in that situation. I faked my way into my job with the City. I ‘exaggerated my skill set’ [lied about my abilities] in order to get my job; and at the same time knew that I was replacing someone who hadn’t made it through their probation.   So I began studying the Building Code in the same manner that I made it through my Structural Engineering courses—I took notes, and I took-on the job no one else wanted—answering Building Code questions over the phone. In that way I could look up the answers [‘let me call you back in five minutes’] in the book; and I started highlighting the sections that people often asked about. In time I had a color-coded Code book; one that kept getting revised every three years. I found myself having to copy all of color-coding because I have a visual memory [‘the answer to that question is on the page with three yellow stripes and a green one’].
    I had to become good at my job just to keep my job.
  1. The job has to become a job about the people you serve.
    Everyone has a job that involves customers in some fashion. Every business has to have repeat customers in some fashion. No one will come back if they receive crappy service—unless your job is with the Government—people ‘come back’ because they have to. The Government has a monopoly on some business functions; people have to deal with the Government, and only the Government, in order to get something done. We had awful clerical people working for the Bureau where I worked [not always, just often], and they were able to keep their jobs simply because they met the minimum standards. In Real Life, one doesn’t continue with a job by meeting minimum standards. In today’s economy, there are PhDs working at fast-food joints because it’s the only job in town. There’s always someone who can do your job better, waiting to take your job. You have to become better than average; and you can become better than average—but it requires work on your part.
  1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping.
    It’s found all through the Bible, because it’s found all over the world. You reap what you sow, later than you sow, and more than you sow. Put a kernel of [uncooked] corn in a good patch of ground, water it, tend the shoot that grows into a stalk of corn, and when the corn is ripe you’ll reap hundreds of kernels of corn. Great example of how banking and interest worked, generations back.
    Not all ground is equal, not all corn is equal. Droughts and flooding and freezing occur; sometimes tornadoes. There are a bunch of fables that used to be taught in school, about humanized insects and animals who save for winter, and exemplify ‘sowing and reaping’. The teaching used to be hard to avoid. Boring… and I bet it doesn’t happen in today’s world.
  1. “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”
    My favorite Steve Martin quotation. Not-being-ignored doesn’t automatically mean success. If you are so good that you can’t be ignored, someone will mention you to someone else. Possibilities.

the universe in his hands_1

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 100: More Politics

July 29, 2016

More PoliticsAn Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Nixon was President when I was in college; the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the Nixon Presidency were where I lost my ‘political virginity’. There I learned that nearly everything I’d learned in school about our political system, nearly everything I’d learned in Cub Scouts, nearly everything I’d learned during the years of attending American Legion functions with my parents, was fictional. When I watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” I realized it wasn’t fictional; it was a true story. Power Corrupts; Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.

When I first started paying attention to the campaign of Bernie Sanders, I was skeptical. In time, I realized that Diogenes could put out his lamp; an honest man had finally been found, and we were going to elect him President.

Tonight I read the Rolling Stone interview with Jane; where she makes the statement that you knew you wouldn’t become President on June 7th. Today is July 29th. Maybe we were dense; it’s taken us nearly two months to figure out what you already knew. We believed that you believed; and we are told that belief can move mountains.

The scenario you embedded into the hearts of a million young people, people who had been politically disenfranchised, but thought they’d discovered something different in Bernie Sanders—that you would take the Delegate Fight to the Convention Floor, and Hillary would be defeated on the second vote. That scenario vanished when you resoundingly endorsed Hillary for President. This wasn’t a ‘well, this is the best we can do; and Trump mustn’t win’ endorsement; this was a ‘Hillary MUST Become President’ endorsement.

For months you have carefully, thoughtfully and sincerely putting forth the message that Hillary Clinton must NOT be elected President. Her ties to corporate America are too deep; there are too many policy issues she favors that will not help the working poor of America succeed. You did your job very well. We researched the non-Mainstream media, and discovered that Hillary is a lousy candidate for President. In recent weeks we learned from the FBI that she perjured herself before Congressional Committees when she said there was no classified information on her private, basement, email server. The FBI clearly stated that there was classified information on her server, and her email shows she knew about it. It appears that no one in Congress is seriously concerned about Perjury, which is a crime, for those not named Clinton.

The FBI stated that if the person being investigated was anyone else, they would be subject to Administrative Disciplinary Actions. Clearly, Ms. Clinton is answerable to a different set of standards than those answerable by Naval Lieutenants:

[ https://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/weekly-updates/clinton-email-case-update/#anc3 ]

Do you seriously believe that Hillary has made a 180° turn and become a Progressive, because you endorsed her? That by adding Progressive planks to the Democratic platform, that the platform won’t be scrapped when it becomes inconvenient?

My favorite personal scenario died tonight when Hillary was coronated. I had hoped that Assange would do his fabled ‘next leak’ which would pull the plug on the coronation, and Bernie would be pulled in from the bench.

You’ve stated that the Progressive Movement you inspired, the Movement that brought tens of thousands of young Progressives to rallies all across the country, wasn’t about you. The Progressive Movement must continue into State elections, and the morons who are currently serving in the House and Senate [“Congress of baboons”] need to be removed, in order for change to occur. If Bernie was elected President in November, and Congress remained the same group of baboons, Bernie could accomplish nothing.

President Obama, the first President in my 64-year history to be scandal-free [Carter was vilified over not going to war with Iran over the Hostage Crisis], hasn’t accomplished the stuff he said he would. Given the Congress of Baboons, I doubt that any Democratic President could accomplish what he promised, even if he wasn’t African-American. He promised Change We Could Believe In. Not so much. I have a serious moral problem with his Drone War. I’ve been reminded that I don’t know what happens in the White House War Room.

We have a Black President, and a noble First Family; and White Supremacy is stronger in the US than it has been since I was a child. That idea didn’t work, either.

Movements need a leader.

When you endorsed Hillary, after all of the hours of speeches about how she should NOT become President, you gave up the role as leader of the new Progressive Movement. And now you want the people who valiantly supported you to vote for Hillary; and to not seek a candidate among the Independent parties that have Presidential Candidates. Why would you have that expectation? The Progressive Movement has gone back to being leaderless.

A million young Progressives lost their ‘political virginity’ this week.

Welcome to political life in the 21st Century. Maybe Diogenes needs to relight his lamp.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 99: Politics

July 17, 2016

PoliticsI had somewhat decided that I was going to avoid politics in my blog for a while; the air is too thick with the smell of a feed lot. However, I’m helping my son and daughter-in-law with painting at their house; and house painting provides a lot of time to think about things…

I fill part of my mind with what I call ‘Brain Food’ while I paint—a collection of songs whose lyrics speak in the way I want to think. Lyrics from ‘popular music,’ for the most part, don’t contain the words I want to hear coming from my brain—they aren’t useful. Clapton is a great guitarist; “Cocaine” isn’t a song I like listening to. I enjoy the blues; but find few blues musicians I can stand to listen to for very long. Eric Bibb is a notable exception. I have a great fondness for baritones—nearly the only place one can find baritones is in country music, and I really don’t want “my girl done left me, my dog don’t like me, so I’ll go have a few beers while I drive around in my pickup” running through my brain. Most of the music I listen to is ‘faith-based,’ with the exception of some Opera arias, and ‘New Age” instrumentals and traditional jazz; but even in faith-based music I find a lot of lyrics ‘about God’ that I can’t tolerate. I’m a music snob…

Since he kept slaves, clearly, Thomas Jefferson didn’t really think that “all men are created equal” or, he didn’t think that people of color are ‘men’. But the Founding Fathers put the language into Law. I love the concept that America is built on the Rule of Law; one of the few things I enjoyed about working for the City of Portland. I had Law to rely on, with its restrictions and its limitations. In the movie, A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More is arrested for treason by King Henry the Eighth because More, a devout Catholic, would not acknowledge the legitimacy of Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn—and the subsequent start of the Church of England. A scene in the movie shows More asking his daughter for the exact language of a certain proclamation, to see if the words of the proclamation provided an ‘out’. More could accept the provisions of the Proclamation, if the proclamation was written in such a way that the words did not conflict with More’s personal beliefs. Politicians often do not proofread their legislation carefully; one can get around legislation, including City Codes, if the language allows for deviation.

“All men are created equal”. Our Supreme Court, on a number of occasions, has affirmed that “all men” means “all homo sapiens born in the United States, and those naturalized as citizens.” I don’t think Jefferson would agree with that interpretation. There are still far too many in this country who believe that “all men” ONLY refers to White males. The Constitution and its subsequent statutes created through a governmental process are also intended to apply to “all men” as stated in italics above.

What a country we find ourselves in; the two Presumptive Candidates for the President of the United States, from the two major parties, are a racist lunatic who appears to never think about what he is saying before he says it; and a champion of women’s rights, and hailed as ‘Mama Clinton’ in Third World countries; who apparently believes that the Law that applies to a Naval Lieutenant does not apply to the Secretary of State. The Presumptive Candidate is said to be under possible indictment for fraud and perjury; and a request has been made by the GOP for the removal of all of her Security Clearances.

Neither of these candidates deserves to hold the Office of the President of the United States.

Then we have my formerly-personal favorite, the Democratic Socialist who seems to have abandoned his principals by endorsing the woman above. Note: Bernie Sanders is still an active candidate for President; he did not concede to Ms. Clinton. In his endorsement speech he caused her to ‘smile and nod’ while he listed all of her concessions to the Progressive Movement he inspired. She would have to deal with all of these concessions. During his first 20-minute speech for Ms. Clinton, he didn’t mention her name once. His endorsement could be a political ploy that makes it possible for him to still become President, should Ms. Clinton be indicted before the General Election; it could be a ploy that will enable him to be the Democratic Candidate after the upcoming Democratic Convention. However, his many statements about bringing his campaign “to the floor of the Democratic Convention” were negated by his endorsement of Ms. Clinton. To endorse something means to accept that it has value. It appears that Bernie, too, after decades in Washington, has determined that Truth and Promises are flexible commodities when it comes to politics. Maybe Bernie should have paid more attention to the words he used.

There are other viable Presidential candidates to whom I have paid little attention. The first President I voted for was Richard Nixon [for which I am eternally regretful]; the last Republican Presidential candidate I voted for was the incumbent George W. [another eternal regret]. During those decades, Independent candidates were never elected. While it may very well be Time for a viable Third Political Party, I don’t have faith in the American electorate as a Third Party people. Which Independent Party would be chosen?

How did we get here? The religious blame the current political situation and the waves of violence that wash over the world as evidence of our collective “turning away from God”. I won’t argue with that idea, but I think the idea is inadequate. Buddhism and non-Abrahamic faiths predate most of Western Culture. There was a lot of World before Abraham.

I think the major problem of today’s world is that we collectively have decided that Honesty and Honor are flexible commodities. ‘Honesty is only worthwhile when it benefits you.’ For much of the history of this country, at least in more rural times, “I give you my word” meant that it was a ‘done-deal’, forever sealed. If I went back on my word, I was forever shamed. My knowledge of Asian history comes mostly from Asian “hero movies” [the definition of which will escape many]. To Dishonor someone or to Dishonor one’s family is a crime of epic proportions. Perhaps it’s mythical. I like the myth.

Those people who decry our ‘turning from God’ do not acknowledge that the Muslim world prays to the One God who is the Creator of the entire Universe. That when you ‘dial’ Allah, you are “dialing” Yahweh, the God of the Jewish Nation. The Primary tenant of the Abrahamic faiths is that there is One God Alone. Those same people seem to forget that Jesus was not Christian; Jesus was a Jew. I believe that our entrance into Eternity is based ENTIRELY on the fact that Jesus died on the Cross and was Resurrected. As a somewhat-Lutheran, I believe in Salvation by Faith Alone and not Salvation by Works. Jesus NEVER told anyone that they were going to Hell because they did not believe He was the Messiah. In fact, when people called Him Messiah, He asked them to keep that information to themselves. He apparently knew that “Messiah” had overtones, perhaps political, that did not apply to His purpose on earth.

If one spends enough time reading Facebook, one finds that a lot of people seem to believe that if God receives enough ‘Likes’ it will mean that God is real. The Earth is a flyspeck on the backside of the low-rent portion of the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s barely visible across our Solar System. The portion of the Universe that we can see with the Hubble is filled with millions of Galaxies. All created from the Mind of the Creator. I have a great advantage over most people—I spent much of my life designing things and then making the effort to build them. Creation is not accidental, is not random, nor the product of Fibonacci Spirals and the like. Look at a helicopter, and the thousand parts that make up the machine; then look at this guy:

dragonfly“Dragonflies are predators, both in their aquatic larval stage, when they are known as nymphs or naiads, and as adults. Several years of their lives are spent as nymphs living in fresh water; the adults may be on the wing for just a few days or weeks. They are fast, agile fliers, sometimes migrating across oceans… they have a chitinous exoskeleton of hard plates held together with flexible membranes. The head is large with very short antennae. It is dominated by the two compound eyes, which cover most of its surface. The compound eyes are made up of ommatidia, the numbers being greater in the larger species. Aeshna interrupta has 22650 ommatidia of two varying sizes, 4500 being large. The outer part of the ommatidium is overlaid with a transparent cornea. Each ommatidium is innervated by one axon bundle (usually consisting of 6-9 axons, depending on the number of rhabdomeres)[2] and provides the brain with one picture element. The brain forms an image from these 22650 independent picture elements.” Wikipedia

Hatched as an egg, starting life as something like a worm, and growing into this wondrous creature. No flying lessons, and yet can fly across an ocean. An eye made up of 23000 separate ‘lenses’ providing a constant stream of video information; with a brain the size of a grape seed. I’m sorry; I do not have enough faith in science and evolution to accept the possibility that there is no ‘design’ involved in its creation; that this is simply a product of centuries/millennia of selective adaptation.

mites_eyeThe Creator has absolutely no need for our approval of [His]* existence. We are like mites crawling across the head of the wondrous creature above. And yet, as the Bible tells the story, the Creator was willing to become one of these mites in the form of Jesus, so that He could teach us how we are supposed to live. Through some mysterious ‘changing of the rules,’ Jesus’ death on the Cross can be applied to each one of our lives, if we so choose. Jesus died and was resurrected so that we can do the same. No matter how badly we screw up our lives, Jesus died so that we don’t have to; He has taken any punishment we are due, in His own body. I don’t understand how this works, any more than I understand the wonder of a flying bug. The bug is real; so was Jesus. Hundreds, thousands of people died because they believed it as well; murdered for their faith.

Thomas More believed it. Henry the Eighth couldn’t have cared less. Anne Boleyn’s opinion didn’t count, she was little more than a slave. Simple fishermen became orators. An Enforcer for the Jewish government became one of Christianity’s greatest evangelists, changing the course of history and Western Civilization.

All who seek the Creator with their hearts and minds and their spirit will find the Creator; regardless of the religion they follow. Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian. His life and His death was foretold long before Judaism came into being. Christianity could only spread as far as the Roman roads would take it.

…And politics in America has become a crap shoot, embodying everything Mark Twain ever wrote about politicians. Politics in America is an extremely bad joke; and the worst part of the joke is that there are people who believe that the inherent importance of the Survivors and those with the Most Talent; that living their lives for video games and Games of Thrones, is more important than attending to the activity of those who are running our country.

And I am as guilty as anyone else.

 

* I use [His] because I don’t believe that gender applies to the Creator. The Bible refers to the Creator as ‘she’ when speaking of Wisdom, or the Holy Spirit. Jesus was definitely a “He”. I believe He had XY chromosomes, and was the result of the Creator implanting a single cell into the womb of a teenaged girl. Christian theology speaks of the Creator as being Three Persons, but One individual. Sort of like [visually] broccoli or a 3-leafed clover. Jewish theology can be read in the same fashion, but they generally don’t.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 98: My 12-hour nosebleed; and what I learned…

July 11, 2016

watson's brain_sinusesInside Dr. Watson’s Head

I’ve never had a 12-hour nosebleed before.

For years I had a sticker stuck to our bathroom countertop: DO NOT NAIL HEAD

This came about after a project involving the installation of vinyl windows in my sister’s house. When one installs a vinyl window, it is very important to not nail the topmost horizontal portion of the window: the ‘head’. The window is not designed to carry any vertical loads; if the top of the window is nailed to the house, and the house settles, the window panes will break. Consequently, window manufacturers attach a sticker: DO NOT NAIL HEAD

Prior to getting to the ‘install’ part there was some demolition needed. I pulled down a sheet of paneling attached to a ceiling, and one of the nails in the plywood caught me in the middle of my forehead, around my hairline. There was a fairly impressive puddle of blood on the ground before one of my sons could get my forehead bandaged. Head wounds bleed A LOT, because of all the blood vessels in our heads.

I had gotten out of bed around noon last Thursday [I’d gone to bed after 3a], got ready for my daily walk, and blew my nose… I’d been having 2 nosebleeds every 2-3 weeks for a few months. Figured my CPAP machine was drying out my sinuses. The nosebleeds stopped in a couple of minutes. I opted not to take my walk [something about an old guy with Kleenex up his nose, dripping blood…too early for Halloween]. When the nosebleed wasn’t stopping, I figured that a larger blood vessel than usual, or maybe a number of blood vessels were involved; and the nosebleed had evolved into ‘head wound’. I wasn’t overly concerned.

I tend to get focused on tasks, so I wasn’t surprised when 3 o’clock had rolled around [several trips to the bathroom for new Kleenex]; I had to leave around 4:15p, so I decided it was time to get serious about the nosebleed—I laid down with a block of ice on my nose. Around 4:30p I called the guy I was meeting with, to tell him I’d be late. Around 5:01p I called my Family Medicine clinic, and was informed that I should have called a few hours before… I was advised to go to an Urgent Care clinic. After an hour’s wait, I saw a doc who introduced me to a ‘Rhino Rocket;’ also known as a ‘nasal tampon’ [ladies, my respect for you has grown immeasurably].

Because of my Idiopathic Polyneuropathy, and the sensory nerves I continue to lose, having a bunch of fabric shoved up my nose wasn’t that uncomfortable, nor was the second one, when the overflow started coming out of the other nostril. The Doc told me I needed to go to an ER. I declined the ambulance; drove to 2 miles to my house, and my wife drove me to the ER. It’s now around 7p. The particular hospital I went to has a Triage section set up in the waiting room. I was checked in, and asked to wait until I could see a Medical Assistant. That was about an hour. She added notes to my chart, and sent me back to the waiting area.
About that time, the nasal packing became saturated, and my wife started bringing me Kleenex. Not wanting to be a spectacle of leaking blood in public, I covered my nose with my hand…and used more Kleenex every few minutes. It was Midnight by the time I saw the ER doc, who is not an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist [they didn’t have an ENT on call]. The doc sprayed my nose with Afrin, a decongestant [which shrinks the blood vessels, causing the sinuses to open up, allowing for breathing]; and had me clamp my nose for 20 minutes. The bleeding had stopped; although I think it might have stopped somewhere after 11p; the Kleenex saturated more slowly… By the time we got home at 2a, I was ready for bed.

So why didn’t my platelets do the job they were supposed to? I clipped a hangnail a little while ago, and the platelets are working fine. The bleeding finger stopped bleeding. Maybe when I see the ENT this week, I’ll learn something.

So what did I learn from this exercise?

  1. If your bloody nose lasts more than an hour call for medical assistance/advice. You’ll probably be told to lean forward and clamp your nose, below the bone, for 10 minutes on the clock. If that doesn’t work, do it again; and do it one more time if that hasn’t stopped the bleeding.
  2. This, of course, only works if you have a doctor you can call. If you have health insurance, you can probably call a doc.
  3. If you do not have health insurance, your physical condition will steal A LOT OF TIME. Time you won’t get back. Emergency Rooms are required to treat patients that need medical assistance, regardless of insurance coverage. No one asked to see my insurance card until after Midnight, around 5 hours after I arrived at the ER.

The ER has become the Primary Care facility for a vast number of people who need medical attention. It isn’t just for accident victims and ‘poor slobs who don’t want to work’ –homeless people that don’t have medical insurance. A large portion of Americans cannot afford medical insurance; even with the assistance of the Affordable Care Act. The Emergency Room has become ‘the doctor’s office.’

America is the ONLY ‘developed’ country in the world that does not provide medical care to its citizens, as a right. In America, medical care is a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Yes; I am retired, working part time, and on a global scale I am wealthy. I don’t foresee yachts or even canoes; I don’t foresee Cruises or a second home in a warmer climate; yet I am wealthy because I have a home. I have food in the refrigerator and the freezer. I have health insurance. We donate to charity. I am able to assist my adult children financially, when they need it; and I do it gladly. My wife and I made it through our child-raising years with a lot of financial help from our parents. We are passing on the gift.

Our country can afford to spend $1,699,458,350,999 fighting wars since 2001 [the number will have changed drastically by the time you read this] but “we can’t afford” public health care.

https://www.nationalpriorities.org/cost-of/?redirect=cow

There is no shortage of money to solve our social problems; the problem is in the way our spending priorities are arranged. Every hour, taxpayers in United States are paying $3.42 million for cost of the Pentagon Slush Fund. The total as of this writing: $124,225,890,000. It will have changed drastically by the time you read this. This isn’t $124 BILLION budgeted for defense spending; this is the slush fund—the ‘tips’ can sitting on the sidewalk. The ‘oops’ fund. The ‘let’s save money for a vacation’ fund.

$2 BillionPallets of $10,000 bills. A semi can carry $2 Billion

We have spent more than a Trillion dollars on War in the last 15 years and have only created corpses; we have not created peace anywhere in the world. Yet we still make War.

This isn’t a problem of ‘too little’ money; this is a problem of Will. This isn’t a problem of ‘can’t afford’; this is a problem of ‘don’t want to.’

And we wonder why God does not bless us; surely we trust in Him. It says so on every one of those $10,000 bills. No, it doesn’t. Apparently we don’t trust God for more than $1000…

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 97: God as a ‘helicopter parent’

June 30, 2016

Fhff7 crop
One of the PBS shows I enjoy watching ended a recent episode with the main character entering a church for the first time in years, and ranting against God and his claim to be a loving father…‘What kind of Loving Father would allow evil to happen?’

People seem to want God to be a ‘helicopter parent,’ always intervening in their lives… and yet no one likes ‘helicopter parents.’ We want our freedom from our parents; we don’t want our parents telling us what to do. We want to cheat on our taxes and not get caught; and not receive a lecture from our parents. We want to drive faster than the speed limit; and not get caught; and we do not want to receive a lecture from our parents. We want to live our lives in happiness; and we don’t want our happiness shattered by a man with a gun…

People ask God why [He]* allows evil to occur, and why [He] does nothing to stop it.

I watch a lot of ‘cop shows’—stuff that friends of mine would not watch because it doesn’t follow Paul’s direction as to how Christians should think, and what they should fill their minds with. Paul is correct; it would be much better if I didn’t watch cop shows, and a lot of the movies that I watch. The ‘problem’ is that most of the world is watching this stuff all the time, and far worse. I believe there is a great disconnect between Believers and the World that causes great misunderstanding as to the motivations of those who follow Christ. It’s better when I can believe the best in people. I can do that more readily when I am filling my mind with better things. It isn’t that I am better than anyone else; it’s a matter of choosing what I fill my mind with. I watched three movies the other night in 15 minutes; I turned each of them off after the first 5 minutes—I’ve watched a thousand movies in the years since the eighties; movies have standard plot devices—people aren’t that creative—I could tell that the behavior of the protagonists was only going to get worse as the movie progressed.

It’s a matter of choice as to how I want to think.

My wanting to think this way does not mean that people who make different choices are bad. I think it makes it harder for them to find hope in the world; there’s very little hope in what they see.

In a world where death becomes a video game, there is little cause for hope.

I just watched a PBS documentary about an optometrist traveling through Indonesia, without revealing his identity, to confront the men who butchered his brother during the genocide that happened in the Sixties; a genocide to ‘fight Communism,’ encouraged by the American government. He asks leaders of communities, people living in comparative wealth and authority today, if they have any remorse for the evil they did, and for the evil they condoned. His interviews included his uncle; a guard in the prison where his brother was taken before being butchered. Absolutely no remorse. ‘It was political. I didn’t actually do the killing; it was ordered by men who had more authority; it was ordered by the government; it was ordered by the Americans.’
Two men captured on film, explaining in graphic detail exactly how they had butchered his brother, finding humor in the situation. They did not appear to feel the slightest remorse. ‘The past is the past.’ They were under orders; they have no remorse. ‘If I had refused, I would have been killed, too.’

Genocide is happening today. I know it is happening; I am doing nothing to stop it. I am no better than the men in the documentary. I want to pretend that there’s nothing I can do; therefore, I have no responsibility for these crimes. I believe that when I stand before the Creator at the end of my life, I will have to accept this responsibility; and that all I can do is fall on the Creator’s mercy.

I believe that the Creator vomits when [He] witnesses the Evil that WE do. I believe [He] vomits over the fact that we don’t vomit.

And we want [Him] to bless us with prosperity.

Jesus didn’t just talk about behavior being evil—such as the act of adultery or theft being evil—Jesus said that lusting after some other person, coveting their stuff, was itself evil. Intentions can be evil, motivations can be evil; and that part of Jesus’ teachings we aren’t comfortable with. We want to be able to justify our behavior based on the behavior of someone else; not because some book says we should behave differently.

Psychology suggests that our brains really can’t tell the difference between an actual event, and a vividly-imagined event. The same brain activity occurs…it’s only the self-governing portions of our thinking processes that separates the two.

We don’t want to believe that we are evil, or are capable of evil…
Civil Religion called ‘Christianity’ has little to do with Jesus.

Donald Trump supposedly has recently become a “Born Again Christian” [a concept in itself that will become hateful to most Trump haters]; the dark part of me assumes that this is a method to gain votes. If Trump is serious about his faith, and his pronouncements don’t start sounding like the words of Jesus, I think his philosophical concepts shouldn’t be part of his rhetoric. I think the biggest problem for Evangelical Republicans today is that ‘their’ candidate is supported by White Supremacists. Where does that leave them?

The only candidate who is using the language of Jesus is the ‘atheist Jewish’ guy… How ironic.

 

Jesus doesn’t edit the words that are spoken from Church pulpits. Ideally, the preacher will prayerfully submit his sermon to Jesus for ‘editing;’ using the teachings of Jesus as the source of the preacher’s wisdom. Preaching doesn’t automatically create Church doctrine; but from a functional perspective, most ‘Christian’ teaching doesn’t come from the Bible, it comes from the pulpit, or from the songs that are sung in church, or the ‘dumbed-down’ versions of the Bible that are taught to children. From what I’ve observed over 40 years, in different congregations and denominations, most Christians’ ‘Bibles’ really only have a few chapters—the parts of the Bible they like. They ignore the parts they don’t like or don’t understand. The same observation applies to me.

So where does that leave us? The majority of the world either wants God to be some sort of magic genie who will protect them, but knows He probably won’t; or they give no thought to God at all, because they can see no evidence for God.

I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens again last night; I continue to believe that The Way of the Creator is far closer to ‘The Force’ than most people can imagine. And like most people in that far away galaxy, a long time ago, it is only a strange few who actually believe the Force exists…

Jesus shed his authority as the One through Whom the Universe was created, to become like one of the beloved creatures over whose behavior He vomits, so that He could walk with us through our tortured lives; trying to speak love and hope into our broken minds…He died, mutilated, so that we don’t have to. He rose from the dead, and said that we can, too. Real life isn’t here; this life is simply a bad parody of the Life we were designed for.

Brendon Manning, that Ragamuffin Saint, believed that the only question we will be asked, when we stand before our Creator, is, “Did you believe that I loved you?”

Joshua Ryan Butler, another Ragamuffin Saint, wrote that when we stand before our Creator, the only question we will be asked is, “Will you let me heal you?”

ecstacyEcstasy, Maxfield Parrish

 

* I don’t believe gender applies to the Creator; it’s somewhat important to written English. I prefer [He] to ‘Shim’.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 96: The Choices We Make

June 24, 2016

heroes horizThere’s an old platitude that ‘art imitates life’. It’s probably true.

I think it’s also true that life imitates art.

What we experience on a daily basis becomes our ‘new normal’ unless we aggressively work to change ‘normal’. Sometimes we have to adjust to the fact that ‘new normal’ will be the story of our lives for the years to come. This happens with physical limitations, emotional stress/PTSD and a host of other maladies. Nonetheless, we do not have to become victims of ‘new normal’. It’s a choice. Sometimes an awful choice…

I watch movies and DVDs every day, always looking for ‘hero stories’. There are some Marvel Comic Book Movies I enjoy; but a large number of them are what I call ‘Property Damage’ movies. I often wonder if the creators ever put themselves in the position of the inhabitants of the destroyed buildings. At the end of the movie, Metropolis looks like Syria… Mostly bombed out buildings where no one can live; precious memories destroyed; precious lives destroyed.

Recently I read Philip Yancey’s The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? Philip’s attempt to address the problems of terrorism and disaster as it strikes cities. Philip, in his preface, comments that the books he writes are usually attempts to understand a question he does not understand. Much of the book deals with school shootings, and mass killings by terrorists. His search for answers began with his first book, Where is God When It Hurts?

Philip does not provide an answer; there really isn’t an answer that we can understand, to the question: Why does a loving Creator allow violence to occur?

Why does the Creator allow you to hate your neighbor?

Why does the Creator allow you to hate?

To stop you from hating would have required the Creator to make you into a robot, pre-programmed from birth.

I watched the first five minutes of three movies tonight and turned them off. I knew from the outset that this might be my reaction. Each of the movies had cast members I’ve admired in previous performances. Makes me wonder why these “A List” people would take part in such crappy movies…

I’ve spent the last hour or so perusing Facebook and associated news blurbs, and what I keep seeing is hatred and fear…

I don’t know nearly enough about the Animal Kingdom to make any pronouncements…I have yet to see posts on Facebook or in news blurbs about how Scientists have discovered that those creatures we call ‘lesser’ animals hate. “Lesser” animals rarely go on rampages, destroying all the life that is in their path. “Lesser” animals are pre-programmed with some of the most amazing behavior—birds that are not that far from being newborn, flying across continents to some location they’ve never been to. Butterflies, whose brains are about the size of the period in this sentence can fly across continents to go to locales where their ancestors have flown for centuries. It’s programmed into them.

We have very little pre-programming.

We hate because we choose to hate. That’s it. Pure and simple. We make the choice.

We choose fear because we choose fear, rather than faith. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about trust. To choose to trust that the stranger will likely believe in the same things we believe in. My family, if they read this, will know that I am writing words I haven’t often demonstrated. I am a hermit; a curmudgeon; one who doesn’t like strangers. My family, for years, has been showing me the reality is that we need to trust. We need to trust that in their heart, the people we don’t know believe the same kinds of things we believe in. We will frequently be disappointed. We still need to trust.

Terrorism is the responsibility of Free Will—we can shoot/blow away anyone we feel like killing. The Dark Side of Freedom; my guess is that in order to stop humans from killing, the Creator would have to start with every kid who pulls the legs off of an insect. Or a bored kid in Eastern Oregon who can’t find anything better to do than spend hours destroying ants; sort of like playing with toy soldiers… Children play at killing each other. As a whole, we don’t seem to feel that this is odd…or evil.

We humans choose to be inhuman. We choose to throw away the gift of our Creativity, that aspect of our being that I believe makes us ‘a little lower than the angels’ and we choose chaos. When we are wounded, our natural reaction is to wound others. As Jason Gray chooses to say, ‘the wound is where the Light gets in.’ We are vessels of clay, fragile and easily broken. If we are wise, we realize that the wound is where the Light gets in.

The Creator’s answer to our inhumanity is to become a human, so that He can be with us when the terror comes. I once realized that this is a lot like what happens when I turn over a rock—a whole bunch of squiggly things start crawling and wriggling around. Critters that are as unlike me as I am unlike the Creator [I don’t believe ‘made in the Creator’s image’ has anything to do with our physical appearance].

The Creator became one of those squiggly critters living under the rock called Earth; an act of Love so huge I can’t really begin to understand it. I would NEVER become a centipede, so that I could be with the centipedes while stupid children kill them without thinking.

School shootings don’t shock us anymore. We have come to accept them as part of life in America. Why?

I grew up with a television as my babysitter. I grew up with hero stories. My heroes were the characters in the image above. Most of them had weapons. Marksmen who didn’t aim for the 10-ring when they fired. Too improbable? The stories have been rewritten now, and the heroes are hard to find. We couldn’t stand the thought that we can’t be heroic; so we used the heroes for graffiti.

Somewhere along the journey, we decided as a nation to stop looking for heroes; we don’t really believe they exist. We talk about the heroism of the 19-year old kid who gets sent across the world to ‘defend freedom.’ We talk about his heroism when he comes home in a box.

When he comes back broken because of what he witnessed of man’s inhumanity toward man, we ignore him. We act ashamed because we don’t know how to fix him. Thousands of homeless veterans wander our cities; and we consider them a blight upon the landscape. We sue City Government because City Government allowed them to camp on the rights-of-ways during winter, rather than kicking them out of town… We curse them for using our yards as toilets…simply because no one offered them to use a toilet in their house.

We have choices. We can be heroic. It takes a lot of effort.

We can choose to welcome the refugee, imagining that they are just like we are; or we can decide to build a wall and keep them out.

In Jesus’ parable, the listeners ask, when did we ever mistreat you? ‘When you mistreated the least of these, you mistreated me.’ There are no Exceptions to this concept. Whenever you mistreat another, you mistreat the Creator of all life; whether or not you believe there is a Creator. There’s a t-shirt floating around the internet: ‘Science does not care whether or not you believe in Science’. The same thing holds true for MUCH LARGER concepts than Science.

angel.grief_mj

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 95: restarting my creative engine

June 11, 2016

MJ Arts announces the opening of its retail store!

https://society6.com/mjartscom

  jazzI started writing this a month ago; much has happened in the last month. Our political climate really bothers me. According to polls, the American people currently have two choices for President, and 3/5 of the country don’t like either of them. The one who hoped for change seems to have been outgunned by Wall Street and those corporate entities who seem to functionally run the country. Life in an oligarchy.

The last few days have been challenging for my body. I’ve been sleeping 3-4 times per day. Fortunately, I get paid for breathing, so it hasn’t been problematic for my business….
everything keeps revolving around my business… I identify myself by my business, and have never been able to shake the disorder…

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ “Jazz;” something I do when I need to restart my creative engines… Jazz was born of the blues; born of discontent; the discontent of a people who were constantly under the foot of the white population. So many stories of tragedy, geniuses who never made it into their 50’s’; geniuses that didn’t make it much further than their early thirties. Some of my favorite quotations come from Artie Shaw, one of the ‘rock stars’ of the Swing era:

“I’m not conditioned to be an entertainer. An entertainer pleases others while an artist only has to please himself. The problem with that is artists are misunderstood by all. I’m not interested in the clarinet but in music. we speak our emotions into music. An artist should write for himself and not for an audience. If the audience likes it, great. If not, they can keep away. My situation is the same. Let them concentrate on my music and not on me. I like the music. I love it and live it, in fact. But for me, the business part of music just plain stinks.”

“Whatever you do in life, aim at perfection. It will not be understood or even appreciated by most people. However, in the long run, the closer you come to achieving your own inner standards of perfection, and they’ll be rising all the time, the better you’ll be. In your lifetime you will come reasonably close (two or three times) to perfection. I’ve come about twice where I can say that is as close to perfection as I can get. I consider myself an 80-percent loser, of which I am proud. So, have fun. Get into your life and do what you enjoy and be the best at what you can be. Maybe you won’t be successful and rich by the world’s standards, but you will have the best life capable of having. If you don’t do that, you’re cheating yourself.”

“I did all you can do with a clarinet. Any more would have been less.”

“I wanted to resign from the planet, not just music. It stopped being fun with success. Money got in the way. Everybody got greedy, including me. Fear set in. I got miserable when I became a commodity.”

Back in another lifetime, I was a General Contractor, building and remodeling houses. I aspired to be a craftsman in wood. I made custom moulding, and wanted to build furniture. More often than not, I would come down to the tail end of a job, when I was doing the finish work, and would discover that I had used up all of the time that was allocated to the job—at least in terms of dollars. I was doing the work that I enjoyed most, and for all intents and purposes, I was ‘working for free’. Every hour spent on finish work would reduce my hourly wage for the project. All of the time had gone into the invisible, but necessary work that enabled the visible work to be seen. It was the finish work that would ‘sell’ the job, in terms of customer satisfaction. The money got in the way of the work. Like Artie Shaw, I become miserable when I become a commodity.

Several years ago I illustrated a Korean-language version of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories: A Scandal in Bohemia. The story used a very simplified version of the original text; the illustrations were hurried; and the company eventually went out of business. I would like to think that my book wasn’t the cause—I didn’t get paid all that much. Again, illustrations as a commodity.

I decided to publish the book myself, using the original, now-in-Public-Domain manuscript and the now-available world of digital publishing. My goal has always been to illustrate great classics. Since the publishing world isn’t willing to cooperate with my goals, I’ll take the desire on myself.

This was the original page 1 illustration:
sherlock p1 old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided on a new page 1 illustration:
sherlock p1 new

 

 

 

 

 
And now the whole book needs to change…

 

…but it’s my choice. The primary difference between the two books is time. Am I willing to invest the time to make a better book? It’s not what I’d planned. I get paid for breathing now; so it’s not about money; it’s letting go of the concept of commodity. If the story is a commodity, then it needs to be placed on the market in the near future; rather than the far future. If the story isn’t a commodity, it needs to go on the market when it’s done.

Every day we have choices between the good and the better. I know, sometimes it seems like we only have choices between the crappy and the not as crappy. At the end of the day, I cannot control the political process; I probably can’t even make a dent in it. But at the end of the day I can look at what I did and either be pleased with my choice, or regret my choice.

I think this is one of the keys to a good life.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 94: This is your moment. Be extraordinary.

April 16, 2016

MJ Arts announces the opening of its retail store! Marty has dug through the image vaults from his 30 year illustration history, and combined his efforts with Society 6. Wearable art in various sizes and formats.
https://society6.com/mjartscom

 

The Doctor finally shows up in Amelia Pond’s life, twelve years late. The Doctor is trying to save the world from oblivion—
DOCTOR: … why should you trust me? I’ll let my best man explain. (sotto voce): Jeff, you’re my best man.
JEFF: Your what?
DOCTOR: Listen to me. In ten minutes, you’re going to be a legend. In ten minutes, everyone on that screen is going to be offering you any job you want. But first, you have to be magnificent. You have to make them trust you and get them working. This is it, Jeff, right here, right now. This is when you fly. Today’s the day you save the world.
JEFF: Why me?
DOCTOR: It’s your bedroom. Now go, go, go.
(The Doctor runs out.)

The Doctor always encourages people to be the best that Humanity can offer. Sadly, they don’t always live up to the expectation.

BeExtraordinary

Be Extraordinary. I first heard these words my Senior year of High School, thanks to ‘Captain Bob’ Bonniwell. One of the teachers that changed my life.

At some point in the year, he played a long-playing record [yes, the dinosaur age] of the stage play, Man of La Mancha. The story awakened me. For the first time that I realized that my life didn’t have to just be about me and my parents, and the ordinary stuff of life. I learned that one can live life for a higher purpose.

“I will impersonate a man. His name… Alonso Quijana.
A country gentleman, no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night till morn again.
And all he reads oppresses him fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways towards man.
He ponders the problem: How to make better a world where fraud, deceit, and malice are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and 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 to roam the world in search of adventures; to right all wrongs, to mount a crusade to raise up the weak and those in need…”

Be Extraordinary. I heard these words again, three years later, from the most unlikely source I could imagine. Like Jeff, the explanation was that it was my dorm room.
The story of another man, one who had not lost his sanity, but one who was filled with the same indignation. We might call him Joshua; he’d been trained as a craftsman. One day he decided that he would lay down his tools and set out ‘to roam his world, to right all wrongs, to mount a crusade, to raise up the weak and those in need.’

I met him in Eugene, Oregon in 1973, during the 3rd of my 5 years at University.

I’d heard about him earlier, while in Corvallis at Oregon State. Some people called him a god. I wasn’t interested in that; religion wasn’t any part of my upbringing. His followers were arrogant, rude and judgmental. I wanted to have nothing to do with him, or with them. I crossed the street when they approached.

In time I met Joshua. The odd thing being that he had been executed as a criminal some 1,940 years earlier. He’d also been brought back to life, and was still alive…Science Fiction right before my eyes.

I was watching “Poirot” tonight; he was chastising the characters in the story about believing in superstition—it had to do with murders associated with the opening of a 3,000 year old Egyptian burial chamber.

“Superstition” is a word I generally ignore [Stevie Wonder being one exception]. I started doing some googling and reading on the subject, and the unwelcome thought came to me—‘There are probably people in my life who consider me to be superstitious in my belief that there is a Creator of the Universe; and that [He] sometimes interacts with the world we know.”

To me, the idea of my being superstitious is preposterous; I know the struggle I had with accepting the concept of a Creator. C. S. Lewis was probably the biggest bridge I found—enabling me to overcome the unwilling suspension of my disbelief. Then the ‘incursions’ started coming. Odd things in my life, unexpected situations and strange timings; each being fairly innocuous by itself, but when added up over a period of time, fairly difficult to ignore, or accept as being merely coincidental…

I eventually started going to church, which was really odd. There are a lot of strange religious people in the world, and they go to church.

Mostly I was interested in the gatherings of this group of college students who seemed to have a different way of living life. A life as a follower of Jesus, [the transliteration of the Hebrew term, “Yehoshua”/Jehoshua (contracted to “Joshua”), which means “Yahweh saves” (or “Yahweh is salvation”)]. The next three to five years brought amazing insights into a world that has been surrounding me for my entire life; a world I hadn’t seen, would not have seen but for the Grace of the Creator. Science Fiction right before my eyes…

Following Jesus became the pattern of the rest of my life. Church, not as much, a statement which may surprise my children, if they read this. Nearly 40 years of Sunday mornings. All sorts of Sunday mornings. I attend Church because that is where people talk about following Jesus. Doesn’t happen all that much, elsewhere in my life. Not, that is, prior to Facebook…

There is a lot about church that I ignore or overlook.

It’s harder to overlook, in these days of unGrace.

I think this time in history is one of the things that brought tears to Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He didn’t die so that religious hatred could flourish.

jesus leaves the tombFrom “Passion of the Christ”—the only shot I really enjoyed.

“Be extraordinary.”
Why do I write so often about the Man in the Blue Box?
Because he encourages people to be extraordinary. The world needs extraordinary people to bring us out of the mudhole my generation has dug ourselves into. I don’t find a lot of people in popular culture encouraging people to be extraordinary.

I believe that the Millennial Generation has the ability to change history; if they will simply get out and vote. There are a lot of people investing huge amounts of money in making sure that they don’t.

Be extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 93: Easter/Holy Week

March 25, 2016

Christ Washing Peter - FM BrownChrist Washing Peter’s Feet – Ford Madox Brown 1852–56

An innocuous scene, to the eyes of those in the 21st Century. The controversy innate in the scene isn’t obvious to modern viewers. The controversy is a little more obvious if one has followed the Papal career of Pope Francis—the Pope who began washing the feet of women seeking an audience with the Pope—and who compounded the controversy this week by the washing of the feet of refugees, including women and those of the Islamic faith. The Donald was no doubt unhappy. Not that I particularly care about his opinions.

Feet washing—a kindness given to those who wandered about the unpaved landscape in sandals. A kindness assigned to servants. Not one of the kindnesses expected from the Messiah, the King of Israel—as Peter believed Jesus to be. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. I was a ‘public servant’ for 14 years, working for the City of Portland. One of the memorable debates that often arose was the question as to whether we were ‘public servants’ or ‘City employees’. There were many who rebelled at the concept of being servants. I came there to serve.

I grew up an atheist. Never heard about God, but my [favorite] Grandmother called my parents and I ‘heathens’. We did not go to church; she seemed to overlook the obvious-to-me-fact that she didn’t go to church either. She couldn’t find a Norwegian “Hellfire and Damnation” church in Portland. So she watched church on TV on Sunday mornings. Apparently there was an adequate amount of “Hellfire and Damnation” available on television. From what I can tell, there still remains an abundance—and more channels.

I came to faith, kicking and screaming, during my 3rd year of University. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the religious people I encountered on campus. Religion has never had much meaning for me; still doesn’t, after 40+ years of doing church. I encountered faith among a handful of students on campus, a philosophical concept I studied fairly thoroughly. Over the next 3-5 years, I encountered Belief. I encountered the Intangible, the Unexplainable. In Church terms, I encountered the Holy Spirit; in more non-Church terms, I encountered ‘windows’ between this dimension and the dimension of the spirit. I can’t prove it to anyone. I see the openings between these dimensions all the time. There are many who can’t see them at all. A concept I do not understand.

For much of my life there has been a connection between Cosmology and Theology—the study of the Cosmos and the study of the Creator of the Cosmos. Stephen Hawking and others are fairly convinced that the nature of the Cosmos is such that it could come about without a Creator—the Laws of Physics are sufficient. I tend to wonder how the Laws of Physics came into being. How gravity came into being. For some, the concept of God is unnecessary; as if God was some sort of ‘great and powerful Oz’—with a man behind the curtain. I doubt that we have the capacity to perceive the Creator with our senses.

Jesus was a failure as potential monarchs go—being crucified meant that one failed. This is why Pilate posted a sign over Jesus’ head—“King of the Jews”. Pilate didn’t understand; Peter didn’t understand, nor did any of the other guys at the table above.

The Doctor would understand, if his creators understood. A scene from The Zygon Inversion:
“DOCTOR: No, it’s not a game, sweetheart, and I mean that most sincerely.
CLARA-Z: Why are you doing this?
KATE: Yes, I’d quite like to know that, too. You set this up. Why?
DOCTOR: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.

CLARA-Z: I will not change my mind.

DOCTOR: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box, you can walk right out of that door and you could stand your revolution down.
CLARA-Z: No! I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it. I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go, after what I’ve done?
DOCTOR: You’re all the same, you screaming kids. You know that? Look at me, I’m unforgivable. Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.

CLARA-Z: You don’t understand. You will never understand.

DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”

On this night called Maundy Thursday, some 2000 years ago, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He knew what was ahead of Him, and had known it for a long time. Scripture says that Jesus was sweating ‘drops of blood’ for a long time, while his best friends slept instead of praying with Him. I am of the opinion that during this time of prayer, the Creator of the Universe, the One who lives outside of Time, the One that could never fit into the body of a human being, allowed Jesus to see the barbarity, the cruelty, the hatred that would take place in His name for the centuries to come; and Jesus wept.

He said to Himself, to the Creator whom He was, “when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”

And no one has to. In our foolishness, and our arrogance, we decide to do it anyway.

Until we find release.

May you find release.

christ-the-redeemer

 

 

 

 


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