Posts Tagged ‘heroes’

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.

 

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

August 10, 2015

peacock window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will you use your gift, today?

How will I use mine?

Summer King

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 70: The Battle of Bedford Falls

April 29, 2015

klara_holdenfrom The Book Lover

   The title of this entry is from a movie reference, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey of Bedford Falls opts to take the role of Rescuer instead of the role of Adventurer; and the decision changes the course of his life. He takes on a job he doesn’t want, in order to rescue his family; he marries, ends up living in a drafty old house, takes on the role of father and ends up taking the fall for a mistake supposedly made by a daffy old uncle. On the verge of bankruptcy, he attempts suicide; and is rescued by an unlikely [and non-Biblical] angel. Clarence the angel gives George the gift of seeing what his world of Bedford Falls would have been like had he never been born…

The Battle of Bedford Falls is the battle of making it through another day when everything inside of you wants to opt out of the experience. There are a lot of other options to suicide that accomplish a similar task—‘opting not to play the game’ one more day; and immersing oneself in a variety of activities that postpone the inevitable.

When I started writing for public consumption—this venture into online journaling—I decided that I would only write about things I know about; things in which I have some expertise. I don’t write to gain “followers”—although they are appreciated; and I don’t write to ‘monetize’ my thoughts. I write as a way of exploring my life and myself, and hopefully express in words some thoughts that others may not be able to find the words for. Occasionally using bad grammar…

My only areas of expertise are subjects related to the Building Code; and a very particular style of illustration. These aspects of my life don’t offer a lot of practical wisdom [I wish I’d had more of the former, when I was building the house I’m in]. I’ve built houses, written City policy, raised kids into adulthood and stayed married for nearly 39 years. I’ve rarely left Portland; and at the same time have traveled to the Gulf Coast and to Mexico a few times for construction-related mission work.

I have years of training in how one can change their life for the better, and I’m happier with ‘me’ than I was 30+ years ago; but I only know how to change me—I can’t change other people. The most that I can do is create an environment where people can change, if they desire change. I can offer suggestions [many of which are for me, facts]—but until someone accepts my ideas as their own, they are simply ‘suggestions’. I can provide people with a list of books to study, but I can’t make them read the books or try to implement them into their lives.

There’s rioting in Baltimore; perhaps not tonight, but there has been rioting over the last few days. Rioting in lots of cities, reminding me of the late 60’s—the rioting then had different causes. Throughout the Twentieth Century and overflowing into the Twenty-first, we have become a people who prefer antagonism to mediation. Despite a century of bloodshed, people still pick up weapons in order to feel safe. The proliferation of weapons isn’t making us any safer.

The Battle of Bedford Falls—how do we get through today?

I feel shitty most days, at the start of my day; I start the day, these days, feeling like I did at the end of the day in the past. Due to my neurological issues, my entire body feels wrong; my legs, from the knees down feel wrong, but I’ve been walking for something like 60 years; my muscles know how to walk. I choose to ignore how I feel and walk anyway. The reality is that I know of dozens of people who are in worse shape than I am. So I start my day in prayer, listening to music that turns my mind toward the Creator and my inner self. I ‘lift people up’ in my prayers—I’m not smart enough to tell the Creator what His creation needs. Praying for others takes my mind off of myself. Do my prayers change the world? I have no idea. They change me, over time. Among those changes are a growing list of people—I pray for people I don’t know, I pray for people I’d rather not talk with.

I make sense out of my life by the belief that this life is but an eyeblink in the span of Eternity. I was told long ago, that we are minds with a body, rather than the reverse. Over time I have come to believe that we are Eternal souls that have a mind and a body. That Earth is a place where we are intended to learn how to live well with our fellow creatures. I believe there is another ‘plane of existence’ that isn’t tied to bodies and disease and suffering; and that we arrive at that plane when we leave these damaged bodies behind. I also believe that we could do a much better job of living with each other than we do. It’s our greed, our stupidity, our selfishness that makes this world a garbage heap…We blame God for not stopping us from doing the things we can do by our own choice.

And this is a lousy way to end this entry…probably indicative of my mood—I’ve been repairing a washing machine over the last couple of days, and I dislike the toll it’s taken on my body and mind. It used to be a lot easier.

In spite of a lot of evidence to the contrary, I look forward to seeing what another few years will bring into my life. I’ve met people I would not have met before; there are people I care about now that I didn’t know a couple of years ago. Granted, I’m not seeing a lot of points on the ‘win’ side of the ledger these days, but I lack the ability to see into the future. I have to wait for the future to show up. I see my kids overcoming huge obstacles, and I believe they will continue to move forward. Every day I see indicators of positive change for the future of mankind—if we will stop fighting each other long enough to pay attention. We walk in the shadows of giants; and I believe we will see more giants in the future, if we will simply pay attention.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 67: The Miraculous

March 12, 2015

Today is my sister’s 27th birthday. Birthday 2.0.

Happy Birthday 2.0 Donna

I’m not sure why I’m feeling compelled to make a bigger deal about this birthday 2.0, more than any of the others. Perhaps it’s because the story has expanded to include others… including very young Evan Junior [EJ] and Austin. 5 weeks today at 37 weeks gestation; they were born 8 weeks early. Another transplant story… Nicole is a transplant recipient, also.

 

A clarifying disclosure: Donna isn’t my ‘real’ sister; I ‘adopted’ her when I was around 29 or 30. I lettered an Adoption Certificate, stamped it with my Building Designer stamp, and had it witnessed by my wife and the fingerprints of our new daughter. I’d always wanted a sister; Donna needed a brother—many of her family members had died, like clockwork, at 2-year intervals; including her brother. Her sister had just been diagnosed with cancer.

That was in the early ’80s; the next part of the story begins late in 1987, when Donna was diagnosed with liver cancer. Self-employed, widowed, no medical insurance, nothing in the bank; and Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, Texas wanted a check for $180,000 before they would let her enter the hospital for a liver transplant. What’s a mother to do? She lets her friends take over.

We started a fund-raising campaign called, Save My Mom, and put donation containers on the counters of businesses all over Portland. My 4-year old son, Rob, made the first donation—he emptied out his life savings–his piggy bank. There was a lot of money in it [for a 4-year old].

Not much happened until we asked our church to get involved. Our Pastor, Dale Galloway, was compassionate, but didn’t want his church to be the place where people needing transplants came, to raise money. One of the Elders, Tom Peterson [the furniture guy], felt that Dale needed to reconsider; he was seconded by Representative Drew Davis. We held a press conference; maybe 5 people showed.

At the same time, another group was asking the State of Oregon to fund the transplant of another mom; we distanced ourselves from that group—Donna did not believe it was the State’s responsibility to fund her transplant. Nonetheless Dale Galloway, Donna’s 14 year old son Evan and I went down to the State Legislature to add information about what happens when the uninsured have to deal with life-threatening diseases like liver cancer. Evan had the last words; he said, “I just want you to save my Mom,” and a tear rolled down his cheek.

A segue about miracles:

Do I believe in miracles? Yes, a broken ceramic refrigerator magnet hangs over my desk—”I don’t believe in miracles; I rely on them.” The fact that the magnet is broken is significant for me. So am I.

A friend of mine has a problem with believing in a God who ‘plays favorites’ with his Creation—bringing good to some, and really bad stuff to others. I’d have to agree. This isn’t my understanding of miracles.

I believe in an infinite and eternal Creator of the entire Universe, who entered time and space on earth, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. This is, in some ways, like lifting up a rock, looking at the little squiggly things down there, and deciding that I am going to become like one of those little squiggly things, so that I can explain how the Universe works. To the Creator, the Universe is, in some way, small. When I design a building, and watch it being built, the building is ‘small’ in one sense. I know every nail, practically, in the house we live in. I designed it for my parents and then built it. It’s a large house compared to my size; but I know everything about it; including all of its problems. I, being human, and freshly out of Architecture school, didn’t know much about building houses. I’m the squiggly thing under the rock.

Have I witnessed miracles? Probably. There are several incidents in my life where the outcome defied logic. Do I believe in ‘parking space angels’? Not really, but I remember to thank the Creator every time a parking space opens up when I’m running late.

I believe that the Creator has a Purpose; and that my life is part of that purpose. Do I know what that purpose is? Nope; I’m not omniscient—I don’t know my future. The Creator is infinite; ‘infinite’ doesn’t mean ‘really big,’ it means that size is irrelevant. I think there are times when the Creator’s purpose and my desires overlap. I believe there are occasions when I am called to witness something that can’t be understood by human logic.

Back to Donna:

The day after our trip to the State Legislature, I received a call from Michael Specter of the Washington Post. He ‘happened’ to be in Salem, Oregon the day that we were there, and wanted to learn more about Donna’s story. I also received a call from CNN; their camera person ‘happened’ to be in Salem on the day we were there. They wanted to hear more about Donna. Then things started to happen:

WashPostIf you are reading this, thank you Michael.

Dale was big on dramatics.

The story is really long; I won’t go into all of the details.

The short version is that money started coming in from as far away as Belgium. The wife of the Governor of Colorado wrote a column in the Denver Post. There were people at church that counted money all day long—ones, fives, tens, twenties. Checks. It was amazing to watch. I did some interviews on local TV.

Shortly before we were ready to leave for Baylor University Hospital, I received a call from a hospital in San Francisco; they offered to do Donna’s transplant for free. The doc that headed up their brand-new transplant program had seen the CNN coverage while on vacation in Hawaii [who watches CNN while vacationing in Hawaii?]. I told the CNN people that we were already committed to Baylor; but there was this other woman who needed a transplant, that the State of Oregon wouldn’t pay for…

NYTimes

Do I believe in the miraculous? Yes. Do I believe that the Creator will create a miracle whenever we desire one? Nope. They happen for a Larger purpose that I can’t understand. I am finite and time-bound.

Has Donna done something Large with her life? Not in terms that I understand. She’s a fairly ordinary, miraculous, Christian woman who believes in the power of prayer. She’s a cancer survivor; her anti-rejection medication caused cancer twenty plus years after her transplant. Breast cancer came after that…

Save My Mom happened because Donna wanted Evan to have a Mom.

Evan married a woman who needed a kidney transplant.

Nicole received a transplant, thanks to her brother, James.

Nicole has given birth to spontaneous twins, who had to be delivered early, due to her diminished kidney production. They are hard at work, learning to breathe and ingest food from bottles, and stiffening their bones–they aren’t quite ‘fully baked’ yet.

Donna considers EJ and Austin to be miracles.

Works for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 63: Small Town America

January 26, 2015

Freedom of Worship-dwg

My version of Norman Rockwell’s
“Freedom of Worship”

   I don’t know a lot about Small Town America; I’ve lived nearly all of my life in Portland, Oregon. Portland used to be much more like Small Town America; the site of my uncle’s farm is now 5 miles from a major shopping center, and a mile away from suburban housing. When I was a kid, the fruit and vegetable guy drove his truck through the neighborhood; milk got delivered to the houses in the neighborhood. My grandmother lived in a small town in Eastern Oregon, we went there frequently. If my father had had his plans for his life, he would have been a wheat rancher. Economics and human greed stole that dream from him. I was shipped out to Eastern Oregon on two occasions, in order to learn farm life.
I didn’t learn much.
I grew up a city kid.

Much of my time is invested in watching a lot of DVDs—background sounds while I draw; it used to be VHS videos. I’m back in a “West Wing” phase. The fictional characters are heroes of mine. One of their shortcomings is that they, too, are city kids. They don’t comprehend Small Town American life; and a large part of our country is Small Town America. I watched a faith-based movie tonight that reminded me of my past; and at the same time, our present. The faith-based lifestyle is much like Small Town Life. Churches are communities; the expectations for life and living are very similar.

I sometimes fear that urban America and Small Town America will never understand each other—the mindsets are so different. Ultimately the goals are very similar—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness; how one achieves these things are very different, depending upon one’s perspective. I know that the faith-based way of life is a place where those differences can be met; it’s hard to communicate this when the urban world thinks that religion is the problem. I am able to see the difference between faith and religion; apparently others can’t see that as clearly.

I have adult children that apparently think I’m delusional. That I see something that doesn’t exist. This is the only explanation that makes any sense to me; I’m not annoyed by the notion, more a frustration that my life hasn’t been the example I’ve wanted it to be. I’m not done yet.

How do I effectively communicate the fact that there is a Creator, an Infinite, Eternal Creator who loves His Creation enough that He would enter time and space in order to show us how to live. A statement more than a question. Free Will and Arrogance have prevented that message from making any comprehensive headway in life for very long. But the Message keeps growing and expanding, in spite of our incomprehension.

I was a witness to a joyous event this weekend; the retirement from public service, of the man who is probably the most influential person in my life. He led me to Jesus. He didn’t drag, or push; he simply was himself, a person of integrity and caring. He believed something I found to be preposterous, and he shared that belief in me. His friendship was enough for me to follow him down a Path from which I have never left. Brad led me to a ‘burning bush’ [I often wonder how many people before Moses passed by that bush? Or was it lit for Moses alone?]; he led me to a “Damascus Road” where I got knocked of my horse… Some sort of metaphor. It wasn’t Brad alone; Brad had friends, his friends were sincere.

The Path hasn’t been fun in these last years. I don’t know what ‘last’ really means; I can’t remember this Path ever feeling ‘fun’ for very long. But I’m thankful, Brad, that you gave me the opportunity; even if you don’t know what you did.

 

More marketing: my new gallery at Artistically Social:
https://www.artisticallysocial.com/users/mjartscom/gallery/


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