Posts Tagged ‘surviving’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 152: The Question that Doesn’t Go Away

May 17, 2018

Who are you?
Who am I?

watson's brain4

My old friend, Doctor Watson, contemplating the soul

An old guy that I know keeps asking the question, where is my soul? Someone once told him that the soul is “the breath of God”. His response is that it has to be more than a breath.

I can’t prove anything that I’m about to write; consequently, I won’t argue with you if you disagree.

In Chronicles in Ordinary Time 149, I wrote about Thought, and how the image below is a visual representation of a single thought, somewhere in the brain. The funny plant-root like things are the neurons in your brain, which are basically microscopic; they vary in size from 4 microns to 100 microns in diameter. Their length varies from a fraction of an inch to several feet.

thought_50

Every interaction you have with the world happens through your brain. You aren’t a body with a brain, you are a brain with a body. The sole purpose of your body, from a physiological perspective, is to enable your brain to function, and to tell you about your world.

I’m restoring an old picture frame for a client. Tonight, I was working on the creation of some of the decorative plaster ‘carvings’ that are attached to the frame. An experiment in how I can replicate the curlicue on the corners of the frame. I went out into the ‘debris pile’ that once was my workshop. To be honest, it hasn’t changed all that much—I have never been tidy with my work space. However, items are placed in certain places in the chaos, and I know where those places are.

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is that I should really get rid of lots of the stuff that’s out there—ideally, given away to someone who needs it—and I asked myself the question why it’s been sitting there for 9 years. 2009 was the year that I realized it was no longer safe for me to work with sharp things.

The neurons above run throughout our bodies and provide the brain with information about our environment; my sensory neurons are deteriorating for no known reason. My sense of touch has been significantly reduced; and I can damage myself without knowing it—I first called it ‘leprosy’. Hansen’s Disease is a deterioration of sensory neurons. People can’t feel pain when injured, and can just continue working, while creating significant damage to the body. Left untreated, the injury becomes infected, and can cause parts of the body to fall off.

That workshop, and all of its tools and clutter are part of my life. Probably 20 years of my life, if I was to add it all up. I used to build things out of wood. Houses and furniture, mostly.

An amazing thing occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, one night in 2008, when I was working with Medical Teams International. My fifth trip out of Portland to help build and repair things. My ‘high-functioning sociopathic’ personality had come to the realization that in spite of the noise and chaos of the Oaxacan night life below my balcony, in spite of the fact that I only knew a few words of Spanish and very few people in Oaxaca spoke English, I was willing to keep going on these trips. For a few days, I had a ‘vision’ of the life I could have in the years to come—traveling around the Americas fixing what man and nature had damaged.

Then came the Sensory Polyneuropathy [description, not diagnosis], about nine months later. It took a year for me to give up that carpenter ‘identity’  I had acquired; although I realized tonight that it’s not really gone…It’s just buried in memories. Memories scattered around my brain in connections between neurons, like data on a hard drive. I can clearly recall the buildings I worked on and the furniture I built; even though I haven’t seen them for decades.

To a large degree, what you are is the sum of your memories.

The other evening, I was talking to some friends about memories from my life. Memories, and absence of memories that have shaped my life and my faith. Faith is a huge part of my life at this time; although it doesn’t take the form that many Americans-of-faith share. Some things that people of faith consider crucial to faith don’t exist in my life; or they come with an entirely different package. My faith didn’t even come into being until I was in my twenties; it may not have come into ‘maturity’ until my fifties. I’m not sure what ‘maturity’ means when it comes to the subject of faith, because I don’t believe faith is a static thing.

To a large degree, your memories are patterns of electrons traveling through your brain. A connection between neurons. A pathway across which the electrons in your brain travel. Your memories don’t have a ‘structure’ in your brain. They are ‘recorded’ in connections between microscopic pieces of your brain.

‘Surely, our memories must be more than that.’ We think this because of our linear nature; at best we think in 3 dimensions, or possibly 4 [time]–what if the Universe is made up  with 5, or 10 dimensions? We talk about Infinity as if it means ‘really, really, long’; and we speak of Eternity as if it means, ‘a really, really long time.’ What if Eternity is an absence of time; and Infinity is an absence of distance, or an inclusion of all distance? I believe the world beyond this one defies our imaginations.

I believe that we communicate with the Creator of the Universe by way of a non-physical connection between our brains and the Spirit of the Creator. This is how a ‘high-functioning sociopath’ would ever conceive of the idea of spending time around people with unfamiliar customs and unknown methods of communicating. Working among the poorest of the poor, living in deplorable conditions. Being uncomfortable for days at a time; longing to return to my safe ‘cave’… Why would I ever consider this as something I would choose to do?

There have been a lot of these experiences in my life. Choosing to do things I would have never expected myself to participate in. I believe these experiences are the urging of the Creator’s Spirit. I suppose some will think that it’s indigestion.

This is my answer to the question, do I have a soul, and where is it.

My soul is in my mind; my soul can’t be weighed on a scale, because my soul consists of the connections between electrons. The day I die is the day when my soul is released from this very difficult body.

I believe I am a soul, with a brain. And a deteriorating body. The latter is the part that is temporary. The rest of my life is endless.

Stars [1926]sm

Stars [1926] Maxfield Parrish

 

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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 151: I Saw Jesus Tonight

May 9, 2018

Voices of Our City Choir
Voices of Our City Choir, San Diego, California

Jesus is in the photograph. He doesn’t look like that picture that hangs on the wall in lots of churches. He never did. Jesus, on Earth, was a Jewish woodworker; probably with curling black hair, probably with brown eyes; skinned darkened by the sun, if not by melanin.

Jesus is in the face of nearly every person above; the homeless who have found a family amidst people broken like themselves; singing in a City Choir. The Veteran who sleeps on a bus bench, and does his homework for his Master’s degree in Neuropsychology. The guy who had a solid business when the economy got to him, and he ventured into drugs to keep himself working; and then couldn’t get out. The people who have lost their homes, their prized possessions and their entire way of life. Most of them are in the 40s and 50s, some in their 60s; they had ‘normal’ lives until life dumped on them. “If they don’t have PTSD when the get to the streets, they’ll have PTSD after a week.”

Their singing is showing them Grace; their singing is showing them Jesus in themselves. They mostly aren’t religious. They may not even understand the phrase, ‘showing Jesus in themselves’… I saw Jesus.

https://www.voicesofourcity.org/

http://ironzealfilms.org/homeless/

I saw Jesus in the lives of two women who would not want to be singled out.

My adult life has mostly been about seeing Jesus; I often do a crap job of it. It’s difficult to see Jesus in people when you don’t want to be around people. It’s taken 40 years, and I’m not done yet; but I’m better.

I honestly don’t expect to find Jesus in churches; I’ve missed very few Sundays in the last 45 years. Today, now more than ever in the last 45 years, it seems hard to find Jesus in a church. Our whole political culture, so NOT about Jesus, is so invasive that Jesus isn’t very welcome. One of my best friends left the professional ministry because people weren’t looking there to find Jesus. He will continue to find Jesus, just in different places.

After watching the PBS documentary, “Homeless Chorus Speaks”, I realized that Jesus is out in the streets of our cities. He left with the promise that the Spirit of the Creator would be with us; and the Spirit can be in many places at the same time.

21st Century humans are so anal… We don’t understand metaphor, and life is mostly metaphor. We protest violence in the schools and we watch violence at night when we get off work, in movies or in video games; we create violence in the latter—‘but it isn’t real’. I used to use that line with my children, when they were getting scared in movies—it isn’t real. My wife told me that our brains can’t tell the difference, and I didn’t understand. Movies and video games, 2D and 3D attempts to duplicate ‘real’—my whole illustration career has been about duplicating real—there is no screen in our brain. Light waves travel into our eyes; our retina converts the light into electro-chemical signals which travel into our brains via the optic nerves, and imagin-ary images—‘appear’ in our minds. Not through a screen, but through our brain; and its network of neurons.

Our bodies react to graphic images.
Any guy KNOWS this, whether or not they admit it. I presume there’s a similar response in women, but I’ve never know what goes on in any woman’s brain. Including my wife of 42 years, in June. I’m told that some of the connections between the two halves of the male brain are dissolved by testosterone, early in a boy’s life. I’ve never made the time to research the premise. Seems plausible.

We see the homeless every day in a metropolitan city like Portland. Neighbors in my ‘Neighborhood Social Media Bulletin Board’ complain about the homeless who live by a nearby creek, until the police chase them out. We who are far more fortunate and have roofs over our head—and only by hard work every day—earn enough money to pay rent, pay utilities, and find something to eat. Hard work isn’t always enough.

State of Oregon Facts
Minimum Wage         $10.25
Average Renter Wage $14.84
2-Bedroom Housing Wage   $19.78
Number of Renter Households      593,793
Percent Renters         39%

Affordable Rent for Low-Income Households
Minimum Wage Worker       $533/mo
Household at 30% of Area Median Income       $491/mo
Worker Earning Average Renter Wage    $771/mo

Fair Market Rent
1-Bedroom Fair Market Rent        $839/mo
2-Bedroom Fair Market Rent        $1,028/mo
http://nlihc.org/oor/oregon

People are out on the streets because working 50 hours a week at two minimum wage [extremely few minimum wage jobs pay overtime] jobs won’t pay rent, utilities and food. Do the math.

It appears to be very difficult to see Jesus roaming the marble and oak walls of Congress and the White House.

 

And then there’s this:
There are at least three world leaders tonight, probably more, who think that this can somehow be considered a win…

Ashes of Hiroshima
The Ashes of Hiroshima

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 150_Complicity

April 30, 2018

Twin ISIL suicide blasts kill 29 in Afghanistan’s Kabul
At least nine journalists among the dead as ISIL suicide bombers launch double bombing attack in Afghan capital.”
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/twin-explosions-kill-20-afghanistan-kabul-180430051432828.html

I just watched a horrible movie, In The Land of Blood and Honey https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1714209/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

–horrible in that it really happened; and mankind can be abominably cruel. The sort of film that I understand that ‘good Christians’ are not supposed to watch because it goes against Pauline wisdom about mental purity… The Bosnian ‘civil war’ in the early 90’s—the genocide of the Muslim Bosnians. I checked it out because Angelina Jolie wrote and directed the film, and I admire her.

I wonder if I am complicit. I know that can’t be, in that it happened half a world away from me; and it was something that I never would have participated in. But it happened in my lifetime, and I did nothing to stop it. No one did anything to stop it…

My reaction is the question: “Am I complicit?” I was in my 40’s when it happened, and I only have a vague recollection. I see the barbarity and can only ask, how can the Creator love us when we are this cruel, and so much worse? Knowing that the Creator does love us; in spite of our lack of deserving love. When I stand before Jesus, having arrived Home, will He ask me why I stood by, doing nothing? He already knows how and why—the question, if it comes, will be for me; and for me to see myself.

One of my best friends commented, “the greatest surprise is that God hasn’t judged the whole lot of us by now. This isn’t unique to America or our time in history. We are all complicit. We are all felt offered grace. Even those who raped and murdered or sent others to do so. You are feeling the feelings of God. Feel the anger and heartbreak, but feel the mercy and forgiveness and coming victory too.”

This barbarity is going on today, somewhere. Women getting raped and brutalized, people being tortured; people being ordered to do abominable things. The history of the entire human race. It IS happening today, somewhere.

We Americans sit on our fat asses [speaking of myself] as if it doesn’t matter. And I’m sitting here writing about asking myself the question, instead of heading to the airport to get on a plane—where I can do little. We live retirement checks to retirement checks—can’t even write checks with lots of zeroes.

I’m ashamed of my complacency; I’m ashamed of my country’s complacency and complicity. Americans are complicit in that our government takes the money we earn, and use to pay taxes, to murder the innocent—by other names of course, we don’t murder…we supply governments with money to keep them from doing the horrible. And they do the horrible to someone else. We sell them weapons so that they won’t use them against us. We invade countries without their permission, without their even suggesting; we invade countries without Advice and Consent. We spend the largest amount of money in the world on “Defense”—the same Department of Defense that in 2017 started the first-ever financial audit of in history, “despite receiving hundreds of billions of dollars annually and having more than $2.2 trillion in assets.”

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/08/569394885/pentagon-announces-first-ever-audit-of-the-department-of-defense

Note the two highlighted boxes in the upper right corner, above. The one that uses the same terms I find on my W-2s—those monies so ridiculously called ‘entitlements’ in Congress are actually taxes that we pay, every pay period. And the box that shows $1.8 Trillion of tax revenue from individuals; compared to $342 Billion [17.1% of Individual] from corporations.

Is it trickling down yet?

When do we say No!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 149: Thought

April 28, 2018

This is a visual representation of some of the neurons of your brain, and the highlighted area is a thought.

thought
thought
What is the thought? You tell me, it’s your thought…

As ‘unflattering’ as this image may be, what differentiates you from the other primates walking around, is this thought. Connections between neurons comprise all of the thought and action that occurs in our bodies; all the ‘internal diagnostics’ that occur in our bodies.

When you watch an image on a screen, there is no comparable ‘screen’ in your brain on which the image is shown. Light travels into your eye, is converted to electro-chemical signals by your retina, and the information travels up your optic nerve into your brain. The information in the signal is processed by thousands of neurons in various parts of your brain, and the resultant processing creates an ‘image’ in your mind that really doesn’t exist in one spot in your brain. That image is no more complete and cohesive than the words on the digital ‘paper’ on which you are reading these words. The words and images are flashes of light on a screen; those images are created by data on hard drives; and the data is stored in dozens of places within the hard drive, in separate ‘fragments’ in the drive. This is why ‘old-style’ hard drives need to be de-fragmented.

To be honest, I have no idea how solid-state drives [aka flash drives] work. I do better at understanding moving parts.

Most of my illustrations these days are digital—my fingers don’t respond to my commands as well as in the past, and it’s easier to control a big, bulky ‘mouse’. The created image I make only exists as ‘ones and zeroes’ in a number of external hard drives in my office; and those ‘ones and zeros’ [on/off switches] are actually in the form of ‘computer language’ rather than Arabic Numerals.

I have philosophical discussions with myself as to whether or not digital images that have no tangible reality until they get printed, can be considered as Art. No winner yet.

thousands of digits

The primary difference between human brains and the brains of [lower] primates is the size—size does matter, sometimes, as shown in the illustration below. Size relates to the potential number of neural pathways and neural connections.

Comparison of Primate BrainsOur brains are made up of the same general components as lower primates [greatly simplified explanation]; the overall size of our brains is what somehow crossed us over from the point of being an animal in the field to being animal that was aware that it was a being in a field; and that this animal had choices about how it would behave. In his chapter on The Fall of Man in CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain [incredible book], Lewis describes a theory of primitive man, as he probably was, when Mankind became cognizant of the concept of “me”. One day, a man/hominid that the Bible calls Adam, made a decision to follow a choice of his own, one that was not pre-programmed. Adam decided to do what he wanted; and that choice was different than the way he’d lived his life before that day.
The Fall. The choice to live as this hominid wanted to live, over the programming that was part of its ‘upbringing’. Lewis does a much better job of explaining the process.

There is nothing in Torah/the Tanakh [the Hebrew name for what we gentiles call the Older Testament] that precludes Adam and Eve from being hominids as opposed to homo sapiens. Harder on the ego, perhaps. Rabbinical scholars did not have a problem with the idea in centuries past. There are some verses in Genesis that make a little more sense if there were indeed hominids that hadn’t made the same leap that Adam and Eve had made. When Cain went to the Land of Nod, and took a wife, where did she come from?
Sadly, here in America, there are a lot of people who believe that Adam and Eve were blue-eyed blonds. sigh

Returning to the neurons in your brain and mine, I have a belief that I cannot prove; one that says the Creator communicates with us through our subconscious. Connections between neurons occur without our realizing it, and new ideas are born. That phenomenon when you have worked on a problem until you are exhausted; you lie down to go to sleep; and suddenly you realize the answer to the problem. Am I saying that every time this happens, this is the Creator communicating with you? Of course not. What I’m saying is that sometimes in my life [I can’t speculate about your life] ‘strange’ ideas have popped into my brain; and sometimes those ideas have led to amazing results.

My work in Stephen Ministry is one of those strange notions. I was taking part in a Prayer Vigil at our church, reading little cards that people had written prayer requests upon. After an hour or two of this reading, I had the firm conviction that I needed to become a Stephen Minister—me, the ‘high-functioning sociopath,’ volunteering to enter the lives of hurting strangers…

It’s changed my life.

Since Stephen Ministry’s primary commitment is to Confidentiality, I cannot tell you how the experience has changed my life.

Neither can I prove it to you.

watson's brain3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 148: Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me

April 26, 2018

Scandal pg2

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator…
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1
…you may be able to understand how I relate so well to Sherlock’s self-definition: “high-functioning Sociopath”—I think if Sherlock was alive, he, like me, would find himself in the INTJ category. INTJs make up about 1% of the population—if I walk into a room of 200 people, statistically, there may be one other person who sees the world ‘through my eyes’—because we are both Introverts, neither of us will seek out the other. In my church, I have been led to one INTJ and one ENTJ; my guess is that I’ve used up my quota… however, new people arrive. This changes the odds.

I don’t particularly like being around people. It becomes more apparent to me, with age, and my greater willingness to express my feelings, rather than burying them.

I forced myself to be around [usually annoyed] strangers for 9 years while I worked in Portland’s Permit Center. When I burned out, I went upstairs and worked mostly with large sets of construction documents, and fewer strangers. But I burned out from that as well—too many chemicals needed to keep me ‘whole’. After 14 years, it had become far less painful to be around strangers, and I eventually taught groups of people about Building Code stuff.

For most of the last 20 years, my only consistent company has been my wife, and we are on different schedules. I love my children; and I am fairly content to be peripheral to their lives. There are a few individuals I meet with on a regular schedule. In church, my wife and I sit up front; ‘church’ for me is made up of the people in my visual field, mostly on the platform; I don’t hang around to talk with people. One of the current factors in my life and my behavior is that my Neurological issues affect my hearing and my ability to speak. Words come out about as well as my typing, these days; unfortunately, my mouth does not seem to have spell-check.

There are 15 songs on a CD that are the only music I listen to while driving; they are selected to remind me of attributes I long to have as part of my personality. One of the 15 songs is by Salvador—‘Aware”—”Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me.”
‘Huh’, I thought, ‘it’s working’. The same methods I used to train myself to interact with strangers all day long, while working in the Permit Center. The reality is that I’ve never stopped feeding my brain; some of the ‘food’ has changed. Financial success isn’t an issue for me anymore. Not that I achieved it; we simply have too much stuff.

I have ‘begun’ to care about people outside my family; strangers are becoming important to me. It’s strange.
It is possible to change the way you view the world.

I had no inclination for sales, beyond wanting to be with the ‘upline’ people I met. I read from a specific list of books, and I listened to motivational tapes; every day, every opportunity—because I wanted to be with people who seemed to have a facility to go through life with more ‘ups’ than ‘downs’. I talked to groups of strangers as often as I could force myself to do.
I had no real ability to be a salesman; but the books and tapes helped me to function as a person of governmental authority in a world of strangers—many of whom had no desire to secure Building Permits.

The other night I was meeting with a group of truly exceptional people [I am the oddball] people who dedicate portions of their busy lives to total strangers; applying what some call, Redemptive Listening, to broken people [we are all broken at some time or other]. We listen; we don’t try to fix. In our training meeting, we were reading some material from a famous evangelical organization. This Biblical verse came up, in a somewhat ‘Universal’ context, as how people come to Faith:
Romans 10:17
New International Version
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

The Newer Testament was written in Greek and/or Aramaic; was translated into Latin; from Latin it was first translated into German; followed by Latin or Greek translated into Middle English. The Older Testament starts with Hebrew.

Nothing Biblical, in English, is quite what it seems. Nothing in the Bible was ever written in English. King James may have Authorized an English version of the Bible, but it’s accuracy has always been questioned by people who know the original languages.

The same verse, in a different translation:
Weymouth New Testament
And this proves that faith comes from a Message heard, and that the Message comes through its having been spoken by Christ.”
Nearly everything spoken by Jesus came from the Older Testament; and a lot of what He said was consistent with what was said by the early Greeks.

I did not come to Faith through the Bible.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started with The Man of La Mancha. Alonso Quihana/Don Quixote taught be about living for a purpose beyond myself.
‘Captain Bob’ Bonniwell at Benson Polytechnic School, taught me about Critical Thinking; Existentialist writers taught be about the concept of Faith, as a thing—and the problems of believing in Faith. Marcus Aurelius, Socrates and Plato taught me about having Faith, long before I got to a Bible.

A small group of college students taught be about communicating with the Creator of the Universe.

The other night, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Darmok”, gave me greater understanding into the difficulties in communicating with the Creator of the Universe. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a race of people, ‘The Children of Tama’ whose language is understood by the Universal Translator. The crew members heard words from these people in English [presumed]; but the wording made no sense. The Tamarian language is based on metaphor, rather than on specific words.

Lt. Commander Data: Their ability to abstract is highly unusual. They seem to communicate through narrative imagery, a reference to the individuals and places which appear in their mytho-historical accounts.
Counselor Deanna Troi: It’s as if I were to say to you… “Juliet on her balcony”.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: An image of romance.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Exactly. Imagery is everything to the Tamarians. It embodies their emotional states, their very thought processes. It’s how they communicate, and it’s how they think.
Commander William T. Riker: If we know how they think, shouldn’t we be able to get something across to them?
Lt. Commander Data: No, sir. The situation is analogous to understanding the grammar of a language, but none of the vocabulary.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: If I didn’t know who Juliet was or what she was doing on that balcony, the image alone wouldn’t have any meaning.

The Creator of the Universe exists outside of Time and isn’t encumbered by [only] three dimensions. While we are ‘created in the image of the Creator’, this definition is a metaphor. Throughout history, human beings have attempted to understand this metaphor as if the Creator is ‘made’ in the image of us. Consequently the ‘Bible-believing church’—this is a subset of Christianity as a whole—has established a male-dominated, binary society with a strict moral code—a shorthand definition of the Bible. The Twenty-first Century Church does not know how to deal with a non-binary, less-male dominated society, with a different sense of morality.

Curiously, if one begins with what Jesus taught, a non-binary, less-male dominated society with a different sense of morality is much easier to understand, than the ‘book of rules’ that describes the rest of the Bible.

The Pauline and Apostolic Letters of the Newer Testament were written to the ‘called-out ones’—ecclesia—‘church,’ in Greek—the people who heard something about living that they had never heard before; and they wanted to join their lives with the people teaching this new ‘Way’. It was first called The Way. These Letters from Jesus’ closest followers weren’t written to Roman society or to Jewish society—the Romans worshiped the Emperor; the Jews could not swallow the idea that the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space as a man. The followers of Jesus were a tiny percentage of the national population. The Apostolic letters weren’t written for the general population.
Paul did not expect the average Roman on the Appian Way to live his life in the Way taught by Jesus.

At first, the followers of Jesus were Jews—as was Jesus—they were told by Prophesy that they no longer had to ‘live Kosher’; and that Circumcision was no longer a requirement for men to be identified as being of the People of God. Jesus turned many of the Jewish rules upside down, because the Religious leaders of His day had made the rule more important than the desired result of the rule. All of the rules were designed to lead to the Creator.
Remember, the Jews had lived in Slavery for generations. Moses led a people into the desert who hadn’t had to make a significant decision about much of anything for most of their lives. The Older Testament created a ‘road map’ for this People of God who had been released from Slavery. Most of the sayings of the Prophets are expressed-frustration by the Creator of the Universe, for this stubborn people who could never seem to get it.

Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Jesus was always a Jew. He probably had brown skin [if for no other reason than that He spent a lot of time in the sun]; and he probably had black hair and brown eyes—as do most of the people of the Middle East. Not many blue-eyed blonds at in Palestine at that time.

Followers of Jesus, followers of the Way, first began to be called Christians in the town of Antioch, a significant time after Jesus was Crucified. This event was recorded by Luke, some 30 years after Jesus’ Resurrection. The Newer Testament does not include dates; and many of the proper nouns mentioned in the Newer Testament are not included in other writings that have survived the centuries. There were no wire services.

Then came the people of other faiths, or of no faith at all. People like me.

Is the Bible irrelevant for the Twenty-First Century? Not at all. However, I apply the same Critical Thinking to the Bible as to all other works of literature. This does not make the Bible less True; it does make the Bible less Factual. To MANY this idea is heresy. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but I also believe that it is more like the Journal of God. The Book of Job, for instance, is about 2/3 wrong, according to God, when God shows up at the end of that Book. For many, the notion of The Word of God containing ‘Wrong’ cannot be swallowed. Many Biblical Literalists really only read the portions they like, and they avoid the difficult parts.

One needs to take a step off of the soapbox and learn to listen.

Saul of Tarsus, a renowned persecutor of the followers of Jesus, was knocked off of his soapbox once, on the Road to Damascus; on his way to capture some of these hated renegades. Bright light; knocked off his horse; and blinded. There was a follower of Jesus named Ananias; the Creator appeared to him in a dream and told him to look after the feared and hated Saul. Ananias did; scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and the Apostle Paul was born again.
Me, too.

Saul draft2

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Belief

April 23, 2018

P45_mj

I have been given the gift of new followers lately; I’m not sure why, but I appreciate the gift of your time.  However, this one may drive you away again…

Why am I writing this one?

My goal, with my Chronicles, is to help bring some sense, some order, to the nonsensical, seemingly random nature of the country as it has come to be. I use ‘country’ instead of “world” because I am nothing close to a ‘world traveler’ and know little about real life outside the US.

The character above keeps interfering with my thought processes; and I find it difficult to write something meaningful because of my anger and disappointment…

I’m an old hippie. When I was sitting around in college dorms, talking about what the world would be like after we had converted our parents to the concept of Love and Acceptance and an end to War, our current President, and his kind, did not enter our conversations. He is 5+ years older than I; he eventually received a high draft number [coming the long way in his avoidance of military service]. I, too, had a high draft number and did not serve in Vietnam. Nor did we enlist. I don’t think I would have found the nerve to head for Canada. I missed a Draft number in the twenties by about 6 hours—I was a 10-month baby [‘when the apple is ripe, it will fall from the tree’]. When I first understood the concept of Grace, I experienced gratitude for my birthdate.

The other morning, I was reading in CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain [incredible book], and read the following in his chapter on The Fall of Man. He writes of primitive man, as he probably was, when Mankind became cognizant of the concept of “me”:

“…Hence pride and ambition, the desire to be lovely in its own eyes and to depress and humiliate all rivals, envy, and restless search for more, and still more, security, were now the attitudes that came easiest to it. It was not only a weak king over its own nature, but a bad one: it sent down into the psycho-physical organism desires far worse than the organism sent up in to it.”

The above was written in 1940, around 7 years before DJT’s birthday. So, Lewis wasn’t writing about him.
People who are offended by James Comey’s assessment simply weren’t paying attention.
I’ve been hanging around the “evangelical” community for about 45 years; having been introduced to Faith in college.

Disclaimer #1

I am a follower of Jesus.
I was an atheist, into my twenties; only I never used that word, because “faith” or “religion” was not part of my vocabulary. I was, at best, a Not.
I did not come to Christ because of the Bible.
I did not come to Christ because of a church.

I came to Christ because one guy who lived across the hall from me, became my friend. And he introduced me to his roommate, and a handful of other Believers; college students, like myself. Sane, fun-loving, seemingly well-educated, well-spoken college students. These people introduced me to the Creator of the Universe.

I had avoided Christians like the plague, because for the two years at my previous campus, I was told by people on street corners that I wasn’t living a ‘godly life’—these people didn’t even know my name. I was told that if I led a ‘godly life’ I could be ‘saved’. I had no desire to live a ‘godly life’, nor did I desire to be ‘saved’.

I came to Christ, ‘kicking and screaming’—CS Lewis describes his search for God to be like ‘a mouse searching for a cat’.

For 45 years I have heard men on platforms declaring to their congregations about how they should live and what it means to live a moral life. Not one of those men would hold up DJT as an example of a moral man, and a model for a young person’s life. Men like him were used as examples of what not to be.

I get sickened when I see “Leaders” in the Evangelical community standing firmly behind the President, and being willing to excuse him his indiscretions, because after all, he is a ‘baby Christian’ and he stands up for the pro-life agenda.

Hmm…Maybe Psalm 139:9 was written for these “Leaders”…
  Young’s Literal Translation
  O the happiness of him who doth seize, And hath dashed thy sucklings on the rock!
  New International Version
  Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Oh, the problems of being a pro-life Fundamentalist…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Holy Saturday

March 31, 2018

My favorite frame in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ:

jesus leaves the tomb
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIS0IjLIjDc   [the last minute of the video]

Being the snarky person that I can be, the thought occurs to me—was Jesus naked when Mary thought He was the gardener; and then, why would Mary think that a naked man was a gardener?…
The American Church, of course, shudders at my suggestion that Jesus might have been naked when He left His tomb; American traditions don’t do well with nakedness. Motion picture history aside, indications are that those who were crucified were naked—compounding the shame.

Jesus, the ‘second Adam’ was naked, the new creation; and he was not ashamed…

Holy Saturday– “He Descended into Hell”
Somewhat to my surprise, these words in the Apostle’s Creed aren’t supported that well by Scripture [google: “He Descended into Hell”]. As with nearly all of Scripture, it can be used to prove or disprove almost everything. The concept of Jesus descending into Hell on Saturday appears to have been part of ‘popular culture’ in the centuries following Jesus’ death on the Cross; but there are a lot scholars who will say that this is a misinterpretation of Scripture. Nonetheless, the Apostle’s Creed is foundational to most Christian confessions.

I personally like the concept that Jesus preached release to those captured in Hell, on the day between His crucifixion and His resurrection; and in my thinking, Hell would have then been emptied—unlike politicians on earth who will preach freedom and allow captives to remain in bondage.

The reality is that ‘after death’ is something beyond our capability to understand. It is hard for modern humans to believe that anything can be beyond our capability to understand; it only takes a few steps backward from the drama to see that we aren’t nearly as sophisticated or accomplished as we imagine.

The concept that governments are considering the possibility of ‘winning’ a nuclear war is totally absurd.

Nuclear winter is the severe and prolonged global climatic cooling effect hypothesized[1][2] to occur after widespread firestorms following a nuclear war.[3] The hypothesis is based on the fact that such fires can inject soot into the stratosphere, where it can block some direct sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. It is predicted that the resulting cooling would lead to widespread crop failure and famine.[4] In developing computer models of nuclear-winter scenarios, researchers use Hamburg, Tokyo, and the Hiroshima firestorms in World War II as example cases where soot might have been injected into the stratosphere,[5] as well as modern observations of natural, large-area wildfires.[3][6][7] wikipedia

The ‘winning’ of a nuclear war is being discussed nearly every day in the news; and there are at least two world ‘leaders’ who believe that it needs to be considered.

Medical researchers realize that humans have the capacity to kill millions invisibly:

Disease X is the code name for an unknown pathogen which may cause disease and potentially an epidemic in future. It was added to the list of Blueprint priority diseases as a “known unknown” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018.[1] The purpose of this addition is to acknowledge the fact that a new epidemic might be caused by an unknown pathogen and to seek R&D preparedness.[2][3] Wikipedia

Genocide and ethnic cleansing exist today in a spectrum of assaults on nations or religio-ethnic groups. Humans apparently have a need to destroy ourselves.
The mere reading of news headlines on any day prove that humans in political groups cannot imagine living in peace in the world. For some, the need for power and control can outweigh all other considerations.

Easter proposes that the Creator of the Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell, implanted in the womb of a teenager. From that womb a man grew, became a woodworker; and then began a three-year career as a teacher, a healer, and an outcast from the rulers of society. These rulers had this healer tortured and hung on a cross on the outskirts of town, with a sign calling Him “King of the Jews” nailed on His cross.
Easter proclaims that this broken body walked out of a sealed tomb, in the presence of Roman guards. Easter proclaims that He met with His disciples, ate with them, walked along the road with them; was present to hundreds of witnesses; and told the story about how death is not the end.

Forty-five years ago, He entered the life of a cynical, arrogant, atheist; and showed him that the world is more than we can see and understand. Thankfully, having seen, I cannot unsee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 146: An Unfundamental Easter Story

March 25, 2018

I’ve been writing this particular Chronicle for years; and have written versions of it in years past. In part this is inspired by Michael Gerson’s excellent narrative on Evangelicalism in America, featured in the April 2018 The Atlantic magazine:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/

Quoting Gerson:
A prominent company of evangelical leaders—including Dobson, Falwell, Graham, Jeffress, Metaxas, Perkins, and Ralph Reed—has embraced this self-conception. Their justification is often bluntly utilitarian: All of Trump’s flaws are worth his conservative judicial appointments and more-favorable treatment of Christians by the government. But they have gone much further than grudging, prudential calculation. They have basked in access to power and provided character references in the midst of scandal…

It is the strangest story: how so many evangelicals lost their interest in decency, and how a religious tradition called by grace became defined by resentment. This is bad for America, because religion, properly viewed and applied, is essential to the country’s public life. The old “one-bloodism” of Christian anthropology—the belief in the intrinsic and equal value of all human lives—has driven centuries of compassionate service and social reform. Religion can be the carrier of conscience. It can motivate sacrifice for the common good. It can reinforce the nobility of the political enterprise. It can combat dehumanization and elevate the goals and ideals of public life…

It is difficult to see something you so deeply value discredited so comprehensively. Evangelical faith has shaped my life, as it has the lives of millions. Evangelical history has provided me with models of conscience. Evangelical institutions have given me gifts of learning and purpose. Evangelical friends have shared my joys and sorrows. And now the very word is brought into needless disrepute.

This is the result when Christians become one interest group among many, scrambling for benefits at the expense of others rather than seeking the welfare of the whole. Christianity is love of neighbor, or it has lost its way. And this sets an urgent task for evangelicals: to rescue their faith from its worst leaders.

Evangelical faith has shaped my life as well. At Forest Home, a Christian camp in California, I stood by a plaque: “I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but … I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.” – Billy Graham, Forest Home.

I have been disappointed by religious leaders so many times during my 45 years as a Believer, that Franklin Graham’s fawning in the presence of the President doesn’t surprise me, but it saddens me…

“Holy Week” as many call it.
The week between Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” marked by the one man/one donkey ‘parade’ where cheering people paved the roadway with palm branches [Palm Sunday]; ending with Jesus’ tortured death, cheered-on by many of the people in the crowd earlier in the week [Good Friday]; and His Resurrection on the following Sunday [Easter].
At least, that is how the Church calendar has it laid out. Scripture can be a little loose, when it comes to dates and times. Dates and time weren’t the priority. The priority was Story. Story can be true; story can tell truth beyond ‘facts’. Would it have mattered if Holy Week actually went from Tuesday to the following Wednesday? Probably not. More difficult to schedule.

Michelangelo's Pieta_Omega Nebula
Michelangelo’s Pieta

When I write stories, it is required that I have an image to illustrate the story. The placement of Michelangelo’s Pieta against the background of a Hubble image is deliberate. Scripture refers to Jesus/The Creator as ‘the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end.’
I believe the story of Jesus’ last week is True; I don’t argue over ‘facts’. From the first chapter of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome a [Or ‘understood’] it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [emphasis added]

The Greek word for ‘receive’ is λαμβάνω, transliterated as ‘lambanó’. It has many meanings. Generally, the definition applied to this passage is (a) I receive, get, (b) I take, lay hold of. There are a couple dozen different uses of the word, when translated from Aramaic to Greek to English.

I was raised as an atheist, although this wasn’t a word we used, because the subject was never discussed in our household. I knew that my beloved grandmother called us heathens—I did not know what it meant, but it didn’t sound good. It apparently had something to do with our not going to church; the confusing part for me is that she didn’t go to church either. On Sunday morning, she watched ‘hellfire and damnation’ preachers on television; her Norwegian Bible on her lap. She apparently grew up with ‘hellfire and damnation’ in Norway; and we didn’t have that particular Norwegian flavor in Portland.
I came to Christ in my third year of college; I ‘missed out’ on all of the Sunday School classes Christian children are sent to [including my own]. I was never confirmed. I was baptized as an infant; when I told my parents about this ‘new’ belief I’d never heard of, they told me they weren’t interested. I eventually was baptized as an adult. My church ‘upbringing’ was largely by way of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I think the ‘pilgrimage’ to Forest Home happened during the summer of my 4th year of college.

And here’s where I move into ‘heresy’.
I’ve been studying theology for 45 years. As happens so often in the Church in America, I think we missed the whole point of Faith. The Darkness that is now becoming Triumphant has not Understood.

nevernding

In the film, The Neverending Story, the Great Warrior [teenaged] Atreyu, attempts to defeat the Darkness and its minion, G’mork; the Darkness that is destroying the world of Fantasia.

But why is Fantasia dying then!?
Because people began to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So, The Nothing grows stronger.
What is The Nothing!?
It’s the emptiness that´s left…it is like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
But WHY!?
Because people who have no hopes are easy to control… And whoever has the control…has the POWER…!!!
Who are you really?
I am the servant of the power behind The Nothing. I was sent to kill the only one who could have stopped The Nothing. I lost him in the Swamps of Sadness. His name was Atreyu.
If we’re about to die anyway, I’d rather die fighting. Come for me G’mork! I am Atreyuuuuu!!!

Consistently through these 45 years, I have been hearing a message that the story of Easter is about Personal Salvation—that [only] those who are Christians will be saved from Hell. The odd thing is that Jesus never really says this; the idea is an interpretation of Scripture, from the whole of Scripture as it is read and interpreted.
From the Gospel of Mark:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So, he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The ’faith’ mentioned here is on the part of the four guys who dug through the roof; and the passage does not spell out why the people were coming to see Jesus. Stories of miracles, perhaps; free food; always good entertainment. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man [He doesn’t mention the four], and basically says, ‘oh, by the way, you are healed.’ Then Jesus tells the guy to go home. No altar call. No Baptism. No promise to attend synagogue. No Four Spiritual Laws.
Most of the Evangelical preachers I’ve listened to and read, are consistent in their belief that the Creator of the Universe has known each of us from the moment of Creation. The real miracle of Easter is the Incarnation—the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space in the form of a single sperm cell in the womb of a teenaged girl. Why do people have trouble believing that the Creator of the entire Universe created one cell? Yes, Stephen Hawking said that gravity is all that was needed for Creation to occur; a Creator is not needed. Stephen Hawking would be the first to admit that some of his theories had been incorrect, or incomplete. Gravity could mean that The Creator doesn’t need to constantly crank the starter…

Commentaries on the passage, Romans 5:6, are perplexed by the awkward language used by the Apostle Paul.

“For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Young’s Literal Translation
For in our being still ailing, Christ in due time did die for the impious;
GOD’S WORD® Translation
Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But surely because of our weakness, at this time The Messiah has died for the sake of the wicked.

Why it was the ‘right time’ has always puzzled me.
Substitutionary Atonement [dying for the ungodly] and personal salvation are simply added benefits for us, in the Creator’s decision to enter Time and Space. From the beginning of Creation, the Creator was aware that in creating Man, the time [Greek: kairos] would come when Jesus would be born, and the time would come when the Creator would experience the pain that comes from the loss of a child before that child’s time. In today’s world, parents experience the loss of a child every single day. The feeling of being shattered; the feeling of the world no longer making any sense. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. It’s an unwritten Law of the Universe. Tens of thousands of children and adults marched today, across the world. The March For Our Lives. Children are not supposed to be killed for simply being children. Without Regard to Skin Color.
We are ‘powerless’ because of Free Will—we all have the choice to pick up a weapon of mass destruction and destroy, as fast as possible, the people standing next to us. Banning assault weapons will not stop school shootings; Free Will will always be in our makeup.
Banning assault weapons will reduce the carnage. Someone will still be able to pick up a rifle that shoots five or more bullets without reloading; or a hand gun that can shoot 32 bullets. Fewer people will be killed and the Second Amendment will still be in the Constitution. People will have the right to bear arms; they will not have the right to use rocket launchers for target practice, simply because they were invented.

The Creator volunteered to be shattered, when it could have been avoided by simply filling the world with ‘the lesser creatures’ as we call them. The ‘lesser creatures’ who kill for meat. Or to stop disease. ‘Lesser creatures’ do not kill for the hell of it. Only Man does that. The purpose of the Incarnation [enfleshment] appears to have been in order for the Creator to truly understand the nature of the Creator’s creation described as ‘a little lower than the angels—Mankind.

Why would the Creator do this? I really have no idea. Would I want the characters in one of my favorite illustrations to come to life? Probably not. Aspen and Grady [the two in the middle] are two of my favorite characters:

wonder

I dearly love my children. I am grateful that they are adults, with their own lives.

The Creator of the Universe, from the first moment of Creation, has known your entire life. Since the Creator is outside of time as we know it, the Creator can see today as it happens, while at the same time sees today as it already happened, ‘in the past’.
You always have a choice as to what you do, what you think and what you say. At the same time, you can NEVER surprise the Creator. ‘Never surprising’ is NOT the same as ‘having a plan’. The Creator does not plan destruction. We live on one of many stone plates, floating on a sea of molten rock, spinning at 1,000mph, orbiting the Sun at 67,000mph. Stability is an illusion. Here in Oregon, we’re about 100 years overdue in a ‘major geologic disturbance’ that happens about every 300 years. If the epicenter is in the ‘proper’ location, downtown Portland will slide into the Willamette River.
I live on the side of a volcano.
Stability is an illusion.

The Creator also knows everything about the great-grandchild of the baby sleeping in the other room. Think about that for a while.

At the right time, Christ died for those without God.
Your sins are forgiven; be healed.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 145: Life is difficult.

March 18, 2018

rain clouds

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, there was a comic strip the dinosaurs read, called “Lil’ Abner”. The series took place in somewhere called Dogpatch and would probably be considered as highly inflammatory in today’s culture. One of the characters in the strip was Joe Btfsplk, a fellow who carried a black cloud over him all the time, and unfortunate things continued to happen to him all the time. The other two characters above should be far more familiar; they too had misadventures.

This has been me for the last two months…

MJ cartoon2

Only the problem has been a desktop computer, rather than a laptop. First World problems, rather than Real problems. I have 5 computers, which is why I only carry a semi-smart phone. If one wants to connect to the Internet, it’s possible, but one REALLY needs to use the Internet, to make it worth the trouble.

In mid-January I edited what was to be the first of four classes that I had filmed. My editing computer of several years died on me. Since the local company that built the computer has gone out of business, I didn’t make the effort to have it repaired. I instead ordered a computer from the only computer store of size left in Portland. It turned out to be the first of four desktop towers I purchased in six weeks. The first was inadequate to my needs, I broke the middle two, and almost broke the one I’ve decided to keep. The story is long, and includes dinosaur-Firewire technology…

I’m a control freak.

In the last six weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my life, waiting for computers to restart and load and restart. Not particularly liking the world I’ve found surrounding me, I attempt to create a space where I am in control—fully realizing that I’m never in control of my circumstances—the thought is merely an illusion. Nonetheless, I’ve been aware of a black cloud raining on my First World parade. Mostly it’s a black cloud because it’s something I can’t control…

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
M.Scott Peck


For the most part, I can only tolerate reading headlines from news stories; perhaps reading only three or four articles on any given day. We seem to be living in a time of cruelty; and the cruelty seems to have escalated to a large degree in the last year. Lies and deceit have become common, and accepted, which is the part that baffles me. Why do we tolerate such behavior?

I read an article about a dying whale on a beach, which was used as a selfie prop; people standing on this dying creature; people carving their graffiti into its side, the whale’s eyes moving around as all of this bestiality is taking place. But bestiality cruelly dishonors the beasts of this world…

Canticle above

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

I fully believe and cling to Grace and forgiveness in Christ; the Creator’s choice to enter time and space and experience life as a human being—a life ended in torture. When we experience pain, a feel a need for healing, we have a Creator who knows exactly how we feel.

At the same time, I feel that we humans will have much to answer for when we arrive Home. The way we have squandered the wonder of this world. Yesterday, as I write this, was the 50th Anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, which took place on March 16, 1968. American soldiers decimating the population of a Vietnamese village, with hundreds of deaths including women, children and the elderly. A shooting that occurred for no reason beyond that they could. A massacre stopped by one man, Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot who threatened his fellow soldiers with death if they continued the massacre.

We humans have much to answer for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 144: Yet, still I persist…

February 27, 2018

valley of the shadow_crop

Today [Monday, when I started writing this] is my birthday; at least the one that really counts—the day I realized that I had been born again. Not in some crazy religious way; not the kind of being born again that makes for really bad headlines and bizarre comments from the ‘religious right’. Instead, the kind of being born again that Jesus talked to Nicodemus about [third chapter of John’s Gospel—BTW, verses 16 and following are not usually printed in red ink, for those who understand the jargon]. Seeing the world in a new way—the real meaning of that poorly-used word, “repent”—not some word to use for beating others; a word that simply means, ‘change the way you see’.
I find it difficult to write without images. At present, my life is largely about struggle—not only my own, but also the struggles of the people who are part of my life at this time. One died recently. People struggling with that awful C-word; and the even more awful treatment for that word. People who hate their life; people who fear the results of the life they’ve made for themselves. I created the image above for someone I’m close to, and also for myself. I feel as though I’m picking myself up, all of the time; lately I’m even more aware of the ‘wolves’ that are hounding me; and the ‘Fear Not and Behold’ angels that follow me. I know that they are the reason the wolves stay out of reach. Metaphor.

I never expected to be living in this world. This world is very different from the world we lived in a year or so ago, when we actually had a President, rather than some guy who only knows how to run a business [bankrupt six times, called, “smart business decisions” [http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/21/hillary-clinton/yep-donald-trumps-companies-have-declared-bankrupt/]; and giving enormous tax breaks to billionaires while cutting off the ‘safety nets’ for the poor. A guy who only understands ‘zero-sum’ business decisions. A guy who has shredded most of the protections that his predecessor managed to put in place, so that the country could be closer to that which we’ve advertised in movies for decades…

A Civilization that Spends More Money on Warhttps://me.me/i/a-civilization-that-spends-more-money-on-war-than-education-13669421
Must be some sort of ‘sh**hole kind of country’…

Image2

However, these aren’t the images I like to be known for [I did not create the above two images; part of me wishes I had].

This is the kind of image I want to be known for:

greentree3

One of my favorites—a tribute to Vermeer; and the client didn’t like it. Too often, the story of my professional life as an illustrator. I found it amusing that I was contacted a few days ago about being part of a listing of “Top Artists To Watch in 2018” or something like that… I told them that while I appreciated the compliment of their interest, I didn’t consider 40 years as a ‘starving artist’ as qualifying me for their list. Fortunately, in 1984 [the other 1984], I was led into a job that I didn’t really want; one that has provided me with an income for the last 34 years. Life is full of surprises.

My intention was to become a full-time Children’s Book illustrator. I grew up with Classics Illustrated, and magazines illustrated by such artists as N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Frank E. Schoonover, and my hero, Norman Rockwell. They were ‘merely’ illustrators at the time they created their images.  [http://www.artcyclopedia.com/history/golden-age.html]  Life is full of surprises. Rockwell never considered himself as an Artist. Commercial art was always the bane of Fine Art.

When I decided to ‘get serious’ about becoming a Children’s Book Illustrator, I started collecting images [pre-digital] that I wanted my work to be like. I metaphorically put my head down and focused on my illustrations for about 10 years, when my health caused me to make a new career choice. I had been involved with SCBWI for most of that time, and considered the ‘rejections’ at Conferences to be the particular tastes of the editors who were looking at my work. Eventually I looked up from my work and discovered the illustration world had changed— Children’s Book illustrators were becoming cartoonists, and photographers were becoming illustrators like those found in ‘the Golden Age’. I have a pile of rejections that basically say, ‘we really like your work, but it’s not what we’re looking for’. Somewhat soothing to the ego, but hard on the checkbook. Sometimes I feel like I’ve specialized in illustrating Edsels…

Another image that I’d like to be known for:

tattoo

Due to my particular personality [INTJ for those who understand the jargon], ‘whimsy’ is something I lack in my work. I can copy ‘whimsy’ but I don’t find myself creating it. This is about as close to whimsy that I create—the tattoo above is on her back:

woman_with_the_dragon_tattoo

I consider my Doctor Who obsession to be a form of whimsy…

Doctor images

A friend of mine described science fiction as helping him to believe that the impossible is really possible.

However, Children’s Book editors have a different understanding of whimsy…

Yet, still I persist.

Different context from Elizabeth Warren’s.

 

 

 

 

 


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