Chronicles in Ordinary Time 183: I don’t believe in ‘random’.

Not an original image. My hope is that 2019 becomes the year that is worth talking about again. When the guilty are brought to justice.

I don’t believe in ‘random’.

I handed the idea of ‘random’ over to my Creator in the late 70s, when I gave back to my Maker, the life I had been given. So, when one or two songs out of the 1689 songs on my ‘random’ playlist start up at the exact moment I’m writing someone, or thinking about something specific, I am no longer surprised. From the seemingly inane to the incredibly portentous events of my life, I believe things happen for a reason. I also believe that I am probably not yet wise enough to understand what that reason might be. Small things; huge things; ‘miracles’, by which I mean events that seem to happen in an ‘interventional’ way, for no discernible reason. I believe the Spirit of the Creator intersects with moments in my life, moments that may have nothing to do with me, beyond allowing me to be a witness…

And then there are the Awful Things that the world has plagued with from the beginning:

The Human Propensity to F*ck things Up

I know a lot of people who say that it all happens according to a Plan. I believe that is a mistranslation of Scripture. I believe that we, our souls, the part that makes us, us, is made for Eternity. The Creator exists outside of Time. We are incapable of understanding the concept. The beginning of time [Kairos] is happening simultaneously with the end of time here [Chronos]; The Creator knows about our lives here–in all of its ugliness and all of its wonder. The Creator is never surprised by our actions or the things that happen. Bad stuff happens; it is not ordained; it is not permanent. Our souls are permanent, and we are not able to understand what this means.

Clive Staples Lewis was a brilliant man, a scholar of English Literature, which also made him a scholar of history. While at college he encountered Faith; an encounter that came within a dislike he describes as ‘a mouse looking for a cat.’ He and I encountered Faith at much the same time in our lives, with much the same opinion. One of my favorite works of C.S. Lewis is an anthology of his writings, which filled volumes. One of the works that makes me wish I had an eidetic [photographic] memory; so many ideas that I would like to be able to quote at will…

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.

Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch. 10

I love movies. I think I began watching visual stories as a means of understanding how other people think. The reality is that I don’t understand things that the mass of people seems to understand. Within the realm of visual storytelling is my love for science fiction and time travel. ‘How would my life have been different if…’

Within the realm of understanding of the nature of the Universe are the people Lewis mentions above—the people who take the religious Scriptures literally—these people exist throughout the Abrahamic faiths; and are, in truth, the cause of war and terrorism in the Middle East today; and for centuries across Europe. The idea that only one idea can be the correct idea. A source of discord in American society.

There are those who believe that the Universe consists of an infinite series of parallel universes where each of our decisions create separate realities. I can’t wrap my head around that one. There are those that believe we are each, ‘ideas within the mind of God.’ I have less trouble with that one, when I realize that none of us are solid creatures; solidity is an illusion. Every atom is composed mostly of electromagnetic forces; we are each composed of atoms; therefore, we are each composed mostly of electromagnetic forces.

Getting back to ‘random’ and my lack of belief in ‘random’.

An intersection of my seeing someone across the room, a person I wanted to meet, but lacked the nerve; who, years later, was still in the same place when I returned. The person I eventually ‘adopted’ as my sister; who was plagued by the deaths of family members every other year. The person who had her own ‘death warrant’ delivered to her; the mother of the son who would become an orphan because the hospital that was willing to transplant her liver would charge $185,000 in 1988—an impossible sum of money. She had no insurance, worked part-time and had a retired mother of her own, living on Social Security. I took her son to the State Capitol one day, to be part of an explanation to State Legislators about the challenges of people in dire health situations who do not have health insurance. We had started a fundraising campaign [the internet did not exist] with beef jerky containers on countertops, asking for spare change. On that day in Salem, Oregon, there was a reporter from the Washington Post looking for an interesting story, and a reporter from CNN on the same mission. Two people from far away who ‘happened’ to be in Salem, Oregon on the afternoon when my sister’s son cried for his Mom in front of the State Legislature. He was 12, then; he’s in his 40s now.

We did interviews with the two reporters in the following week; within a couple of weeks, money started pouring in from across the world. The Post article was on the front page of their ‘Living’ Section; that article inspired other articles from writers across the country. Newspaper stories about the working poor and the high cost of medical expenses [again, 1988, before the internet]. Having made all of the arrangements with Baylor including preliminary medical tests, when the reporter from CNN contacted me about an offer of a free transplant from a California hospital that was beginning a liver transplant program [the doc in charge saw the CNN report while in Hawaii—who watches CNN while vacationing in Hawaii? Pocket computers did not exist]; I gave the CNN reporter the contact information for an Oregon woman in the same condition as my sister. I recently learned that she had received the transplant, around the same time as my sister’s.

My sister was turning green when I wheeled her into Baylor University Hospital with a check for $185,000 taped to my belly. She was nearly dead when an organ donor ‘turned up’ and once again, a life was given for another. Something like 30 years later, the drugs that kept my sister alive caused Cancer. She survived chemo. Only to come up against Breast Cancer. She survived again; chemo and radiation. Then she learned that blood transfusions over the years had led to Hepatitis C. She survived that as well. Her joints are damaged from the steroid use.

Her grandchildren turned four, recently. A miracle she never expected [their survival had not been guaranteed].

Every now and then I send an update to that Washington Post reporter. He saved two lives. According to the Talmud and the Holy Quran, the saving of one life is the saving of the entire world.

My sister’s story is the most dramatic ‘interventional’ story; there are countless smaller ones.

What I call my ‘Re-birthday’ is today; February 26th. My ‘end-of-random’ happened a few years later, when I better understood how the ‘interventional’ had happened in my life. So, I now also realize that the ‘dissolving’ of my body due to a “polyneuropathy of an unknown cause” also is not random. I do not understand ‘why’ but it is not required that I do. What is required is Trust. Every week, new heroes come into my life. People who, for me, are dealing with much more awful ‘train wrecks’ than I deal with. I subscribe to the ‘shit happens’ School of Theology. It happens; I don’t try to explain why. Job dealt with that issue 8,000 years ago.

If I could see, with greater perspective, much of my life might actually look like these images—a chaotic scene of dreadful moment, that is virtually invisible from a distance…


Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #6:

Work for which I was not paid.

See image below. If you do Work for Hire; if you troll Craigslist for illustration/graphic arts jobs; if you subscribe to job boards, you will probably be asked to provide some sort of sample imagery to demonstrate that you can do the desired work. Sometimes I’ve created images specifically for a project posting that was different from work I’d done before; and the investment of time proved to be a poor investment. The client bails for some reason. It may be something that doesn’t have anything to do with you. The image below was created for a real project for a greyscale image book jacket; it didn’t happen. I never learned why.

I keep a folder of images called “Service Provider Samples” and have separate folders within the master folder, for specific types of work. Not that it’s particularly important, but I have over 1300 images in the folder. Twenty years.

I’m sure that there are smarter ways to work than I’ve used. However, I did not know what those smarter ways were. Next week I do a ‘Networking gig’; haven’t done one of these in several years. One of my most frequent clients retired last month. Serious dent to my income. So, I need to start looking for new clients again.

For one who prefers to spend solitary time in a room, interacting with ‘art’—however that may be described—rather than human beings; sometimes for a week at a time, it is not surprising that this person does not find interaction with like-minded professionals to be a positive thing. There are a lot of introverted artists in the world. The creation of art requires a different set of ideas, from the marketing of art.














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