Posts Tagged ‘heroes’

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 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 92: Storytelling, Part II

March 12, 2016

For those of you who are keeping score, and don’t recall a Part I, don’t worry. Part I was written and published here in 2011…

Storytelling…

   To me, this is the heart of illustration– to tell a story; to make a story more clear and understandable by the use of images.

   My fear, and my frustration, is always that I haven’t served the story well enough with my illustrations. This sometimes happens when I have to rush to meet a very short deadline.

   Jesus told parables- stories- so that those who chose to listen to his stories would ask, “…why is He saying that? what does it mean?”

   The ultimate answer to all of our questions is I AM– the story the Eternal told Moses. “You shall know this day and place it in your heart that the Eternal is God in heaven above and on earth below; ain od.” [Deuteronomy 4:39]

   “ain od- a Hebrew expression in this verse meaning there is nothing else.” [Dr. Gerald Schroeder, The Hidden Face of God]

     I believe that one of our purposes here on earth is to share our stories with others; to build stories with others; to pass on our stories to those that follow us.

 

Since all the world is but a story, it were well for thee to buy the more enduring story; rather than the story that is less enduring.

The Judgement of St. Colum Cille
[St. Columba of Scotland]

Manpupuner rock formation2_webI just finished my evening session with the Man in the Blue Box. I don’t always watch ‘special features,’ but tonight I watched a commentary on The Doctor’s Companions and their growth journeys. John Barrowman explaining how his journey on the TARDIS has forever changed the story of his life; and his gratitude. I don’t usually watch the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff because I don’t really want to look behind the curtain. The important part for me is the story; not the details involved in making the story come about. The stories of The Doctor are brilliant in that they make connections through 50 years of storytelling.

We are each in the midst of our own Neverending Story.

Every person on this planet is a miracle. It’s estimated that 108 Billion souls have traveled through the time that Earth has supported human beings.

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

Each one unique and like no one else on this planet. Created from the stardust of the Universe; acknowledged by the words that are often said at the end of life—“from dust you were made, and to dust you shall return’. Each of us is one out of billions of others; each as unique as the combination of millions of genes from two different parents. My Mom and her sister were identical twins; like so many other twins, they each had distinctly different personalities; and yet they came from the same fertilized egg.

There has never been another person like You; there never will be another You.

I don’t know that ‘Neverending’ is a requirement of our individual story. As with The Doctor’s Companions, I believe the Neverending part of our stories is voluntary. I believe we will be presented the question—‘do you want to come along?’ And we will make our choice.

I realized tonight that the stories of The Doctor remind me of the stories of the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They encountered “I AM WHO I AM”—the Creator of the entire Universe, and they never did quite understand. The Patriarchs and their predecessors lived for really long times, living out their lives based on an idea they received; One that no one else really understood.

The Doctor has traveled the Universe for 1,000+ years, from Beginning to End; and still does not understand the nature of the Universe and Time. I believe The Doctor encounters The Creator all the time; but he can’t see this because he spends so much of his time being ‘sciencey’. I don’t know that the creators of The Doctor have any knowledge of The Creator of the Universe, but they continually write stories that cause me to see attributes of the Creator.

Storytelling…

greentree

This is Grady, and his Mom. Grady was created a long time ago for a story that abruptly ended because our government invaded Iraq. I’ve used Grady in several other illustrations; as well as his sister, Aspen.

The above illustrations were created for a non-profit in Colorado; and they never used the images. There’s another story embedded within these images. The image on the right, a larger version of the photo on the wall behind Grady as he watches his seedlings grow, is a photo of his Mom [far left] and her Grandfather planting trees.

We each have a story; and we usually don’t know where that story will take us. Because we don’t know The Doctor, and don’t have time machines, we’ll never know how our story turns out; not until we are Home. A curmudgeonly Grandfather, aware that his work of planting trees would go much more easily if he didn’t have a Granddaughter ‘helping’ him; and the Great-Grandson he’ll never know, whose life will forever be different because he discovered the wonder of planting trees, passing on new life. Trees that will last for dozens, perhaps hundreds of years; trees that become the focus of a child’s lifetime.

Cigar boxes filled with memories, hidden within trees.

Thank you, Ms. Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 90: The Doctor

February 10, 2016

These days, I spend time, nearly every night, with The Doctor. The Doctor brings Grace to a world that knows little Grace.6 Doctors_webThe world is so crazy. Tonight the Republicans of New Hampshire nominated for President a man who will horrify the leaders of every country on the planet; perhaps with the exception of North Korea… The sort of American President so often presented by the BBC…

I was ill for a couple of days, and to keep my mind from spending too much time thinking about my belly, I did a Torchwood marathon. The creator of Torchwood commented that the production company wanted to create ‘an adult science fiction story with more sex and violence than is usually seen on British television.’ I haven’t figured out why; but I’m not yet done with the series. Maybe I’ll figure it out. However, from what I’ve seen in life, ‘office affairs’ always screw up the working of the organization involved; and I guess the violence is the part of the ‘logical progression’ of our aggressive societies. I think what surprises me most is the notion that the same production company produces both Doctor Who and Torchwood. To me the two series are nearly the opposite of each other in terms of ‘guiding philosophies’. In Torchwood, at least in the first two series, the end of life is darkness. While there are glimmers of hope, that hope is that maybe luck will turn.

To me, Doctor Who is a story about Faith, and The Doctor is a ‘type’ of a Christ figure.
[Type—a: a person or thing believed to foreshadow another]
[            b: one having qualities of a higher category: model]

Not that The Doctor has any real similarity to the Incarnation of the The Creator into time and space. However, The Doctor was at the Incarnation—as David Tennant’s Doctor comments in one episode:
Astrid: This Christmas thing? What’s it about?
The Doctor: Long story. I should know. I was there. I got the last room.
Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned (2007)

As near as I can tell, neither Russell T. Davies nor Steven Moffat would consider themselves as persons of faith; I suppose that means that the two creators of the series are brilliant writers—they write about something they really don’t understand…

I’m not talking about religion; I rarely talk about religion except when I’m with religious people. Faith is about believing that there is some order in the Universe, even when all we see is chaos. Faith is about believing in ideas like redemption and forgiveness. I believe there is a Creator of all life; I believe the Creator loves everything [He] has created. Much like I ‘love’ every illustration I’ve ever created. They are labors of love, and every detail has a purpose. Not all of my illustrations reflect my original intent—I sometimes reach beyond my grasp and I fall short. But I still love the work, even when it flops.

The most common objection to the concept of the love the Creator has for us is, ‘if God loves us so much, why is there so much shit in the world?’ We cause most of the shit. We don’t like to admit it; we like to blame it on other people—shifting the blame doesn’t usually shift the truth. We cause most of the shit.

Earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes… we each live on a large chunk of rock, floating on molten lava, grinding against other chunks of rock; spinning at 1,000 miles per hour and rotating around the Sun at a speed of 67,000 miles per hour. Shit happens. Thank God we don’t ever come to a stop. We live in a closed environment into which we have been pumping pollutants and radiation for most of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Why would we imagine that there might be negative consequences for such stupidity? There are a lot of children in Flint, Michigan who will never have a ‘normal’ life because some politicians made some disastrous decisions about water. They can’t be fixed. Thousands of children today will never live a normal life because a virus is being spread across the world by mosquitoes. They can’t be fixed either.

We want the world to operate like a simple mechanical engine. We want every doctor to have the technology we see in Star Trek—Dr. McCoy runs a tricorder over us and can diagnose every medical problem we’ve ever had. Instead, we live in a world where all life starts with two cells; those two cells start dividing and subdividing and multiplying as needed, to form bones, organs, eye balls and the brain. Sometimes the cells forget to stop multiplying. The two cells create creatures who don’t even have a recognizable brain and yet have information programmed into them that we can’t even understand. One of our greatest flaws as humans is that we fail to recognize our shortcomings, our lack of understanding.

Enter The Doctor—
“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?”

10 th Doctor_bust_webThe Doctor brings Grace to the world; and he offers forgiveness. Rather than automatically killing his enemies, he offers them the opportunity to stop the evil they are doing. He offers them the possibility of a different life.

Clara Oswald: You’re going to help me?
The Doctor: Well, why wouldn’t I help you?
Clara Oswald: Because of what I just did, I just…
The Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust. You betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything… you let me down!
Clara Oswald: Then why are you helping me?
The Doctor: Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

12th Doctor_col2_bust_szdI would like to think that The Doctor learned this from the Creator.

I recently ‘discovered’ Brennan Manning; priest, alcoholic, author of the Ragamuffin Gospel, mentor to Rich Mullins and thousands of others. Brennan wrote:
“Some have labeled my message one of “cheap grace.” In my younger days, their accusations were a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge. But I’m an old man now and I don’t care. My friend Mike Yaconelli used the phrase unfair grace, and I like that, but I have come across another I would like to leave you with. I believe Mike would like it; I know I do. I found it in the writings of the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon. He calls it vulgar grace.”
“In Jesus, God has put up a “Gone Fishing” sign on the religion shop. He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it-to trust the bizarre, unprovable proposition that in Him, every last person on earth is already home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and reciting the correct creed-no nothing….
“The entire show has been set to rights in the Mystery of Christ-even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s wild, and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn’t sell worth beans. But it is Good News-the only permanently good news there is-and therefore I find it absolutely captivating.”

“I am truly convinced that when each of us stands before the Lord, He will ask us one thing, and one thing only: ‘Did you trust me when I told you that I love you?”

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 89: A Renaissance of Civility

January 26, 2016

Last week the British Parliament debated the question of whether or not the leading GOP candidate for President of the United States should be banned from entering the UK because of his hate-speech. Today I watched a video from a 13-year old who said that he did not want to grow up in a country that elected this kind of person as President. ‘Adults—you are better than this.’

I would ask the question, ‘Do you really want Donald to have nuclear launch codes? What if he decides to do some nuclear testing, like the ruler of North Korea decides to do, when he feels like flexing his muscles?’

I don’t know if the UK could ban the President of the United States from setting foot in their country; it would make for some very awkward discussions regarding foreign policy. Does anyone remember how the GOP ruined the Dixie Chicks’ career for disrespecting George W? Congress disrespects President Obama every day he’s in office. The voting public can destroy Congress’ career, if they so choose…

A scene from outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Perhaps the beginning of the modern political environment.

1968 Demo_ConvI was in high school in 1968; it was another two years before the attitude above became ‘up close and personal’ in my life. I was raised to respect authority. My generation championed disrespect for authority.

My generation also championed peace, love and hope. And drugs…

I don’t remember us planning a world where we get our kicks from ridiculing others. Lifting ourselves by tearing others down.

I also don’t remember any of my contemporaries suggesting they go to Wall Street and rip off the 98% by taking pension money they didn’t own, and gambling it on the stock market, and betting they would lose, and making money off the loss. All done ‘legally’ because some of my contemporaries entered politics, and Congress, and voted away the provisions incorporated by earlier, wiser politicians to protect the 98%… Somewhere along the line our country threw out ethics.

I’d use the word, ‘morality,’ but that word has become something far beyond the simpler word, ethics. ‘Is it right?’ NOT, ‘can we get away with it?’

We are born knowing right from wrong. Birds don’t get taught how to build nests, it’s pre-programmed. Salmon are programmed to return to the water of their birth, after a lifetime of swimming in other waters, in order to spawn. Horses can walk around, minutes after they are born.

Why is it so difficult to believe that we can be pre-programmed with the knowledge of right and wrong? Sure, it gets refined as we grow—babies can’t understand adult concepts. We know when life isn’t fair to us…I was astounded at finding out how quickly our baby girl learned the concept of ‘not fair’ and ‘I really don’t want to do that.’

I’d even suggest that this knowledge is part of what it means that we are created in our Creator’s image. In the Biblical story, the Creator wasn’t surprised or outraged that Adam and Eve screwed up. The Creator knew from the moment of Creation that Adam and Eve would screw up. It’s not in the Biblical passage, but Adam and Eve had to watch an animal being killed and skinned in order for them to have clothing—they had discovered that they were naked, and knew shame; their behavior led to the first death. I don’t think the shame was from being naked; they were ashamed because they were fully aware that they broke the One Rule that they were given. I don’t believe that one can truly understand Grace and Forgiveness until one has become fully aware and fully ashamed of their behavior; behavior that we know is wrong, and we can see how much damage occurs as a result.

 

I watched the last three episodes of The Newsroom the other night, while I should have been sleeping. In the final episode Don Quixote is mentioned frequently—the old man with dementia who believed that by pretending to be a knight, he could bring civility to the world…

I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined—to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha!

“…I’ve been a soldier and a slave. I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I’ve held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning “Why?” I don’t think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams—this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all—to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

Dale Wasserman

We could be better.

The story of Don Quixote is probably the most important story in my life; important because it led to all of the other Important Stories in my life, including The Most Important Story—the story of the Innocent Man Who Died because human beings screw up all the time. He took my shame, and told me that I don’t have to worry about it anymore; the debt I owe the world has already been paid, and I don’t deserve the gift; and that is okay.

The only thing He asked is that I be kind to other people, even when I don’t want to. And I am unkind more times than I like to count; and it’s okay, for I am still a child, and I’m still learning how to walk…

We could be better.

Summer KingThe Summer King” from
Stephen Lawhead’s Arthur

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 85: Rest

November 21, 2015

Magi_p7

“…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

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2015/07/a-sermon-on-no-time-to-rest-and-also-no-jetpacks/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nadiabolzweber_072015UTC040719_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=49138571&spUserID=Nzg4MDU4MDc2MzkS1&spJobID=722569057&spReportId=NzIyNTY5MDU3S0

 

“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.

n6914mcquillan

 

 

 

 

 

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

October 3, 2015

From: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/oregon-shootings-the-map-that-show-all-264-mass-shootings-in-america-this-year-a6677411.html

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: https://library.stanford.edu/projects/mass-shootings-america

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.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/rides/

Fhff7col.

 

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 77: Imagination and Inspiration

August 18, 2015

Martian landscapeImages: http://mars.nasa.gov/mro/multimedia/images/?s=326

 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.

 JFK_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, 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.

 


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