Posts Tagged ‘artist’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time: The Post [2017]

October 22, 2018

RMN

“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”
Justice Hugo Black, Concurring in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)

“Humiliation” was much on the minds of those involved in the making of American policy for Vietnam during the spring and summer of 1965. The word, or phrases meaning the same thing, appears in countless memoranda. No one put it as starkly as Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, who in late March assigned relative weights to various American objectives in Vietnam. In McNaughton’s view the principal U.S. aim was “to avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).” To this he assigned the weight of 70%. Second, but far less important at only 20% was “to keep SVN (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.” And a minor third, at but 10%, was “to permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.”
[From The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, Chapter 1, “The Air War in Vietnam, 1965-1968”]

Daniel Ellsberg, in The Post:
“Someone said this at some point about why we stayed when we knew we were losing. Ten percent was to help the South Vietnamese. Twenty percent was to hold back the Commies. Seventy percent was to avoid the humiliation of an American defeat. Seventy percent of those boys just to avoid being humiliated? That stuck with me.”

“The Hanoi bombing was one of the worst acts in the history of civilization. And I don’t say that rhetorically. I wouldn’t bother to argue whether it was precisely worse than one or another act of mass murder in our history. It’s not a matter of body counts or scale. In terms of the exact political and cultural context, above all in terms of a war that had been essentially settled in October, by a country whose public not only accepted such a settlement but had just given the man who had announced that settlement the largest election landslide in our history – that B-52 bombing in highly populated areas was one of the coldest, most murderous acts that any ruler has ever undertaken.”
― Daniel Ellsberg, The Rolling Stone interview

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 170: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?

October 9, 2018

My wife mentioned to a friend of ours that ‘even after 45 years together, I still can’t read Marty’s mind’. Our friend’s response was, ‘read his blog’. Thanks, Eunice; it’s true.
I write because my digital self is far more sociable than my physical self. I think this means that part of me wants to be a different person than I am. The hope is to mix my ideas about the Universe with my life as a commercial artist.
This particular chapter was ‘inspired’ by a general request for a column; this will no doubt be far too long…

unfinished sketch River PilotIncomplete sketch, Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

Mine isn’t a story about how to succeed as a commercial artist. At this point in history, I’m not even sure what ‘succeed’ even means. As a country, ‘we’ [the American Republic] have just confirmed to the Supreme Court the least popular jurist in the history of the Court, by the closest margin in history:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/06/senators-representing-less-than-half-us-are-about-confirm-nominee-opposed-by-most-americans/?utm_term=.d5c4393fa61e&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

This confirmation process made the Clarence Thomas confirmation seem like a ‘cakewalk’ and displayed one of the most partisan processes ever witnessed; and the possible coverup of criminal actions. Ironically, last Friday morning when the Senate had their first vote of Confirmation of the new Justice, the Nobel Committee issued the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to two figures who have worked to bring attention to ending sexual violence in armed conflicts: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege.
I am reminded of the quotation by Thomas Jefferson:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Our President has managed to twist reality by comments made at campaign rallies that have caused the Victim in these last uncivil weeks to become a punch line; and the Accused to become some kind of hero. Trevor Noah has some very astute comments that probably derive from his living in South Africa during Apartheid:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LZ3P1sv9jE

The political trials of this week were simply a backdrop and a distraction from my office trials. I have been my own Tech Support for most of this century; mostly because I’m unwilling to pay for services I can learn. Up until last week, I’ve had 5 computers: two desktops and 3 laptops. I recently upgraded one of my desktops; it had become annoyingly slow. It now hibernates in a closet. Last weekend, my oldest laptop, a Sony VAIO, died peacefully of old age. One of the laptops was inherited, and as a backup, it went into service. In various ways unknown to me, I managed to kill the Operating Systems in 3 of my computers. I have spent the entire week doing 18-hour days, wrestling with Operating Systems and reloading computers. I owe a debt of gratitude to a Dell Tech Support person in The Philippines. One week later, I’m back up and running, and am trying to remember what I was doing a week ago. ‘Fortunately’, this has been one of those ‘0 billable hours’ weeks—no client work needed. Due to overlapping backups, I didn’t lose any data beyond a few days’ worth of email. Just lost a lot of sleep; and there is a residue of snarkiness.

I have worked as a full-time commercial artist [a term that only dinosaurs remember] and Building Code consultant since 1998. Something like twenty years.
Disclaimer #1: ‘full-time’, to an independent contractor working in the image-creating world does not mean the same thing it means in the normal business world; and the meaning is centered in the term ‘billable hours’. When I use the term ‘full-time’, it means I don’t have another job. ‘Billable hours’ per week vary from 0 to 30-something, most of the time. Time in my office? Basically, from 2p to 3a, six days a week, with breaks for eating, and for spending time with my wife before she goes to bed. She works permanent part-time for a local School District and lives on ‘day shift’. My circadian rhythm has been off-kilter for decades. I don’t do mornings. Working for the Bureau of Buildings was a pain. I kept moving my arrival time as far back as I could, preferring to work after the office had officially closed.
Disclaimer #2: I am a dinosaur. I began my commercial art career in the 1970s while in college, when computers did not exist, and the only means of communication beyond the telephone [attached by a wire to a wall] were pieces of paper upon which one wrote words, or possibly typed words. These pieces of paper were tucked into something called an envelope; and a small sticky rectangle was applied to the outside, before dropping the envelopes into a blue box. The world was very large and distant, back then.

I nearly died in 1988 at age 36, from a ruptured appendix. It changed my life.
For a number of years prior, I was continually confronted by mentors with a question:
What would you do with your life, if you knew you could not fail?
The reality is that I fail, all the time—I don’t meet my expectations, which, by my nature, tend to be unreasonably high. I’ve learned that apparent failure does not have to be final.

I’ve been a freelance commercial artist and designer for over 40 years; primarily working on commission for individuals as sort of a “professional hobby” while working at college and construction jobs, until 1998, when I took a Medical Layoff from my fourteen-year career with the Bureau of Buildings in Portland. There I worked as a Commercial Building Plans Examiner. During my college years, I exhibited my artwork in non-juried shows but found little time for “serious” illustration until my brush with death caused me to re-evaluate my goals and priorities. I realized that my future wasn’t as predictable as it appeared; and that the Creator has given me a talent intended to be used for the benefit of others. In 1990 I decided it was time to get “serious” about my career as an illustrator. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators [SCBWI] and began learning about the career of Illustration.

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

My goal was to emulate the illustration style of the Golden Age of Illustration; Norman Rockwell’s paintings became my mentors, as well as the work of Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I spent about eight years focusing on my illustration skills; when I left my work with the City, I discovered that the world of Illustration had changed. Children’s Book illustrators had become cartoonists and photographers had become illustrators. There’s nothing wrong with cartoonists; I just don’t have the talent to be one. I’d spent something like twenty years studying drafting and Technical Illustration.

I’ve illustrated five children’s books that few have read; illustrated books for adult audiences that few have read, created book jackets, illustrations for cable television; worked as a web designer; created videos; have my own website [mjarts.com], and have portfolios on a bunch of retail sales sites [Society 6, Redbubble, for example]. I’ve designed houses across America and one in England. I’ve designed schools. I am a digital publisher, with books on Amazon US and UK.

From the perspective of fame and income—the primary measurements of ‘success’ in America today—my experiment with self-employment has largely been a ‘failure’. I’ve had one-man art shows that few remember; I have illustrations in a museum in Dallas, Texas I’ve never visited [I don’t even know if they are on display]; I’ve created thousands of images as a commercial artist. I’ve spent so much on advertising over the years—money I borrowed from creditors—that I can’t afford to ‘retire’, now that I am at that age. My dependence on pain medication to enable me to meet my own overly-high expectations may have caused permanent damage to my body. I thought I would become famous, in spite of the fact that I am ‘asocial’ to the point of being antisocial. I have a hard time imagining how I would respond to actually being famous. I’m not comfortable around strangers; unless I am able to put my ‘public’ mask on…the mask I learned to wear while working for the City of Portland. I’ve often said that writers and illustrators are people who are comfortable in, and accustomed to, working alone in a room for days at a time. This isn’t a career for those who thrive on social interaction.

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

My wife and I survive because I worked for the City of Portland. My Medical Layoff was ‘supposed’ to become a partial disability retirement. Six months after I was ‘kicked out’ [I did not fully understand the nature of setting a ‘retirement’ date], during which time I could not work [it’s hard to justify a disability retirement while working], I finally learned that my partial retirement, and its Appeals, were denied. I had, upon my doctor’s orders, given up a very-well-paying job, at age 46, with no other job options at hand. Once again. Never leave a job without knowing where you are going.
In 1999 became a consultant. Architects who called me every day at the City, for [free] Building Code advice, weren’t interested in paying for my advice. Over the years, it worked.

I sold my first book jacket that year. My first b/w children’s book was published in 2000; my first color children’s book was in 2002 for a major publishing house; the book was sold only as part of an elementary school curriculum. I was the third choice for the book, because the first choice had to back out. I don’t know what happened to #2; I learned about the existence of #1 & #2 because an agent tactlessly sent the ‘score sheet’ along with the manuscript. Two names crossed off ahead of mine, and the list wasn’t in alphabetical order. My favorite project was the illustration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia for a Korean publisher. The book had a Korean manuscript, but the publisher wanted a Western illustrator. The Korean book design was better than I imagined…and the company went out of business. My contract gave me ownership of the original art; I am in the process of remaking the book, now in Public Domain. My plan is to republish the book on Kindle by next summer, using Doyle’s original manuscript.

When I turned 62, I finally started collecting that ‘partial disability retirement’. When I turned 65, I started collecting Social Security, and experimented with not doing Code work. Another failed experiment. I have a collection of failed experiments. Now, at 66, I have more time for illustration.
I have a degenerative neurological condition that is affecting my ability to draw. I can still hold onto a computer mouse. More of my work has become digital. I draw faces; I rely heavily on a collection of hands, eyes and faces created over the decades.

I enjoy creating illustrations with female heroes. I grow tired of old white men running the world. They suck at it. I am an old, white man; an immigrant son. Second Generation on my Mom’s side of the family; Third Generation on my Dad’s side. My family emigrated here from Norway and Sweden.
I recently created a Wonder Woman illustration protecting a woman from Cancer, a tall ugly looking creature. A gift for a very brave woman, I know; one of many in this world and in my family.

My fascination with BBC’s Doctor Who is part of the reason I’ve been so engrossed in creating “The Unwritten Adventures of the 13th Doctor”—illustrations I began creating during the summer of last year. One of my latest illustrations has become a favorite of mine—Jenny Flint of the Paternoster Detective Agency, located in Victorian London:

Jenny Flint

In this unwritten story [you can find illustrations from other Unwritten Stories at my Redbubble store [https://www.redbubble.com/people/mjartscom/collections/971115-the-13th-doctor]. The Doctor returns again to Victorian London, shortly after regenerating; as The Doctor did once before. Having overcome their confusion, The Doctor begins an adventure with The Great Detective and her Paternoster Detective Agency: Madame Vastra, the lizard lady from Earth’s ancient past; her companion Jenny Flint, martial arts expert and swordswoman; and their Sontaran servant, Strax. He looks rather like a baked potato in a suit. Sontarans are cloned; Strax has difficulty understanding genders. Once again, The Doctor has managed to bring prehistoric creatures forward in time.

I’m not often pleased with my work. I managed to get this one right. The original is something like 2ft wide.

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

The reality is that I fail, all the time—I don’t meet my expectations, which, by my nature, tend to be unreasonably high. I’ve learned that apparent failure does not have to be final.

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 6]

September 30, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC in the last week.
The Confirmation Hearing appeared to be about politics; the composition of the Supreme Court is intended to be above politics. The Human Propensity of F**k things Up.

Ford Kavanaugh GrahamWe once again know that one person can change the world.

I don’t know which one is telling the truth— Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or Judge Brett Kavanaugh; one is, one isn’t. Hopefully an unbiased FBI investigation will provide the answer. It’s already rumored that an unbiased investigation won’t occur. Rumors say that the President is limiting the scope of the FBI investigation. Sadly, the rumors seem credible, based on the President’s past behavior.
Lindsey Graham is a mystery to me. The impassioned Congressman who waxed eloquent about ‘restoring the honor of the Office of Presidency’ during President Clinton’s impeachment hearing, does not seem to see the Office of the Presidency in the same light, now that he is a Senator. But he was right in his pre-election opinion of above; the Republican party won’t be the same again.

The selection of a new Justice to fill the 9th seat in the the Supreme Court does not appear to be about bringing impartiality to the Court; perhaps it hasn’t been about impartiality for a long time. If I ever had to appear before the Supreme Court—and I can’t think how that might happen—I won’t care about conservative vs. liberal; I will want impartiality.
To confirm as a Supreme Court Justice, a sexual predator with an anger and alcohol problem would be a crime, in my opinion. If the Judge proves to be innocent of all the allegations made against him, he will be owed a large apology by the American people. The American people may never be able to forget the allegations, true or not. Based upon his most recent appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I would never want to appear before him on a bad day.

It is possible that the Judge has grown beyond past failings but fears the exposure of the man he used to be. People can change, people can receive Forgiveness; but real Forgiveness is a Gift from the Creator. Humans are generally rubbish at offering Forgiveness without some form of retribution—especially when it comes to politics—Forgiveness doesn’t often happen in public life. The true nature of Forgiveness is not about retribution. Retribution is a human failing; one of the prime examples of HPtFtU. The Creator provides Redemption.
If the allegations are true, the family of the Judge may not know about the man he used to be. A ‘panic mode’ reaction may have been the cause of his angry display last week; he may not believe he can be forgiven for his past. In human terms, and in the terms of those who have been damaged, forgiveness might not be given. The important part of Forgiveness is not its effect on a job opportunity. Forgiveness is a pathway toward wholeness.

If the allegations are true, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s life will never be the same again. I imagine that this last week has been a second assault on her psyche—another memory lodged in her hippocampus, one that will also not be forgotten. If the allegations are true, her attacker cannot remove the fear, the guilt, the shame of that incident. Only the Creator can help her to make new connections in her neural pathways.

However, nothing can happen without Confession. Not necessarily Confession to a public audience; the important Confession is that between person and their Creator. The other Confessions are window dressing.

We tell our children that in America, one can be whatever one wants to be, if they put enough effort into making that goal happen. A large part of the ‘doing’ is Character. There is a myth that says people of bad character will always be found out. It’s a myth.
History shows that one person can change the course of ‘the world’—be it a nation, or a people or a time—by their actions in the world. Despots, tyrants, heroes of both genders, leaders of nations…or one woman who faced death threats against herself and her family, in order to fight for justice. One woman in many parts of the world facing unforgiving male dominance, young girls who have been assaulted and blamed for their being attacked. My hope, especially for my daughter and granddaughter, and for all women, is that finally the world will realize that the time for Equality has come. Treating all people in the same manner without regard to race, religion, political affiliation, or wealth. A time when the Tribalism will end. The planet Earth needs for Tribalism to end. We need to work together to effect global change.

We all share the same Earth; and it is severely damaged. There is no Planet B.

Earth Scientists warn that natural disasters will increase, as the planet warms, as greenhouse gases become trapped in our atmosphere. Polar ice caps are losing their volume far faster than predicted. The level of the sea is rising, and coastal communities are losing ground.

Religious people of the Christian persuasion have a tendency to consider the state of the Earth as being somewhat unimportant; because Scripture says that when the End of Days comes, the Earth will be remade. If we ruin the Earth we have, we will simply make the End come sooner…
Scripture teaches that we were created to be Stewards of this world that the Creator gave to us. If the Creator remakes the world, that’s the Creator’s decision; remaking does not give permission for destruction.

We now know again that one person can change the world.

We know that a President can, by strokes of a pen, destroy all of the progress made in the previous eight years toward slowing the damage to the Earth. Protection for the environment granted by Presidential Executive Order can just as easily be torn up by his successor.
Somehow, the super-rich don’t seem to realize that all their wealth won’t buy them environmental security. The United States is the only country in the world that has rejected the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and has promised to withdraw from it. That withdrawal, unless it is stopped by Presidential order, will occur next year.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/syria-is-joining-the-paris-agreement-now-what/545261/

In the last few days I’ve spent several hours reading and responding to the concerns of victims of sexual assault; women who are reliving their assault because one woman has the ‘audacity’/bravery to stand up to a room-full of old white men determined to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, whatever it takes. The bravery to relive an attack that happened thirty-ish years ago. When I write comments to other people on Facebook, I always hope that my comments will be ‘messages in a bottle’—messages I send out with hopes that no one will comment back. I don’t enjoy conversations with strangers. At the same time, I have decided, in my personal life, to reach out to those who are damaged in order to help them to heal.

Fearless Girl

The only way that I know to help is prayer.
Not ‘magical thinking’, not waiting for some supernatural genie to grant my wish.
Prayer helps us align our thinking with the Creator of the Universe. We do not ask the Creator of the Universe to align with us.
People ask the question, ‘how could a loving God allow the awful things in this world to happen?’
I think the better question is, ‘how could a loving Creator even bother with human beings? As a mass, we are cruel, we are divisive. We are tribal. But, as individual human beings, I believe, with Dr. King, that we can do better…

“I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice… With this faith we will be able to hue out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood…”

The Creator of the Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell embedded into the womb of a teenaged girl. The Creator of the Universe experienced the life of woodworker, an itinerant preacher and His undeserved death in the Roman Empire’s harshest form of execution. Just to show us that death isn’t final. We can be renewed.

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 5]

September 24, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.

There, but for the Grace of God, go I…

I knew a guy in college, I was a Freshman, he was a Sophomore [it means ‘wise idiot’]. His brain, which was very well-functioning—he was a Pre-Med student—his brain was located slightly behind his bladder. His plan was to become a gynecologist; so that he could grope women all day long. I never saw him again after that term. I don’t know if his brain ever made its ascent to where it belonged…

A man in his eighties, a venerated man in Federal government; who has spent nearly his entire adult life wandering the halls of Congress, the halls of the Senate. A man who can’t remember the last time he ever broke a sweat, other than being horizontal or on some sort of recreational activity. Living most of his life being deferred to. A man who stands in judgement of his fellow human beings, nearly every day of his life. Or not. He may just live for the giving of opinions, based on his credibility of having wandered the halls of Federal government every day, being called by his title… And he judges his fellow human beings, who actually have to work for a living.

When old white men talk about not ruining a career of another man, because of what happened in college, decades ago, they seem to ignore the damaged life of the woman; the damage that was created by ‘boys will be boys’… And these are the men who are determining the course of our National honor. Do we still have National honor?

Angel of Grief 3

The image above, for me, is a metaphor. Scripture tells me Angels exist; Scripture also tells me that they probably have little in common with the angels found on television and movies… Humans have a need to view theological matters as if they are human in scale.

Perhaps it is true that we are living in an era of anger. An article I read says that most people dislike the anger of today’s America; but don’t really want to stop being angry… Anger is a choice.

A life of Faith did not come easily to me. The study of Architecture and Illustration actually leave the mind with a great deal of time to think about larger issues—so much of drawing is hand/eye coordination—it either looks like it’s supposed to, or it doesn’t; if it doesn’t, you erase. A lot of mental time during my 5 years of college was involved in the ‘meditation’ over things I had been reading. Being a total stranger to the concept of Faith, I read a lot. I still read theology every day.

I am a follower of Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus]; for me, the life of following Yeshua leads me to a life of progressive, democratic socialism [no caps]. The capitalist society our government affirms is diametrically opposed to the life of Yeshua. I believe that Government has the responsibility to deal with the societal ills that society—usually in the form of local government—refuses to deal with: affordable health care, affordable housing, affordable education, the mending of damaged Veterans, homelessness. Areas of responsibility that most of the developed world manages to deal with, because these things are considered ‘human rights.’ In America, “the Land of the Free,” ‘human rights’ need to be the result of legislation; and the argument always arises that we don’t have enough money to care for those who need help from others. In spite of the fact that other developed nations seem to operate well, taking care of their nation’s population. Of course, most of the developed world has military expenditures far less than ours. The United States spends more on its military than the next seven highest spenders combined:

US military budgets

In America, failure is often ‘final’. If you screw up, ‘you’re done for.’ If your own personal HPtFtU is bad enough, you wear an orange jumpsuit for much of your life [under Florida law, Grand Theft is “any intentional and unlawful taking of property valued at $300.00 or more. Grand theft is a felony offense, with penalties that may include prison, probation, fines, restitution, and a permanent criminal record” [ www.husseinandwebber.com/crimes/theft-fraud/grand-theft ]. In this day and age, how easy is it for something to cost $300? Theft is wrong; but is stealing an Xbox or a laptop or a smartphone something that deserves a prison term and a lifetime criminal record? Especially when stealing innocence—something that occurs every day in this country; on a huge scale—the stealing of innocence is considered as ‘boys will be boys.’

Our current President was allegedly told by his attorney “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/fear-trump-in-the-white-house-bob-woodward-sessions-mattis-assad-cohn-kelly-us-president-a8523396.html

This is something new in our country. A clueless President, when it comes to matters of Fact and Truth. ‘Fact’ and Truth’ become flexible terms that mean what one wants them to. Nixon knew that sanctioning the break-in at the Democratic Headquarters was wrong; he simply felt he was above the law. I don’t get the sense that anything our current President says or does is seen by him as being wrong.
The President, in a recent campaign speech, told the people in the hall that if he gets impeached, it will be their fault—for not voting. He seems to overlook the part where his behavior is involved. Only two other Presidents have been impeached; neither of them was an unnamed co-conspirator in multiple felony investigations. In the weeks ahead, it will worsen. The President’s financial secrets are becoming far less secret; lifelong allies are making plea bargains. They didn’t sign-on for life in an orange jumpsuit.
https://mic.com/articles/191163/trump-impeachment-will-be-midterm-election-issue#.PdG115fzr

My recollection of the Watergate scandal [I was around 18 at the time] was that what bothered my parents’ friends the most wasn’t the break-in; what truly bothered the average citizen when the Nixon tapes were released, was the extreme amount of profanity used by President Nixon, in the White House [the ‘sanctuary’ of our Civil Religion]. Nixon’s language, offensive at the time, was less offensive than the dialog of many R-rated movies today.
It was a matter of National honor. Do we still have National honor?

Do you ever wonder why your own HPtFtU happens?

Most of my errors are from not adequately thinking about alternatives; a feeling that my impulse is correct. Then there’s always the issue of hiding shame when my choice turns out to be wrong. One of the problems of a life of Faith is that it seems as though one who seeks to follow a life of honoring the Creator encounters something like Divine Intervention. My own experiences of ‘Divine Intervention’ have been something that affected me alone, and that I could never show or prove Divine Intervention to someone else. As if some event in my life, that really had no impact on anyone else, was a result of something that has no explanation. As a follower of Yeshua, I don’t believe in ‘accidents’ or coincidence. Everything that happens in my life is known by the Creator. Miracles continue to happen.

I have often made a choice that seemed like a good one, one that in some way could honor the Creator even if it stretched conventional wisdom; and it blows up in my face. A bad choice that often leaves me with long-lasting consequences. Money I never should have spent on ‘good ideas.’ For all I know, my debilitating neurological disorder could be a result of my overuse of chemicals—mostly pain medications. In recent years I have again learned how willing I am to depend upon chemicals to enable me to overcome pain and consequently sacrifice my health in order to meet commitments I never should have made in the first place. I have a tendency to be an enabler and a rescuer.
My foolishness does not reflect on the Creator.

‘How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?’

To begin with, I’ve never met a good person. I’ve met lots of people; they have all had the HPtFtU. A lot of them haven’t had to deal with the consequences of their HPtFtU; or they didn’t bother to tell me about it.

For decades, scientists have been warning us about global warming and the problem of too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. We’ve ignored them. It was better to build some new industrial facility—one that would bring jobs to some part of the country. I have a hard time believing that framers of the Constitution envisioned school- and other shootings as a positive consequence of the ‘right to bear arms;’ or a necessary reality of American life. The Constitution grants the right for Americans to be stupid; it does not mean that we can’t have a Constitutional alternative that is wiser. But people would then need to sacrifice their own concerns for the benefit of others.

I have a friend who was a child during World War II; one of his frequent complaints is that when people talk about ‘the greatest generation’ they are usually talking about the soldiers who fought in the War. In his opinion, ‘the greatest generation’ refers to the citizens who sacrificed their own pleasures in order to make sure that the soldiers had the tools they needed to do the fighting. Rationing at a level that most of us would find offensive. We Americans today are not in the practice of sacrificing our wants for the needs of others...

blue dot

Carl Sagan labeled the Earth as a ‘pale blue dot’ in an image taken in 1990 by Voyager I, as it was leaving the Solar System. The planet Earth is the barely visible dot within the circle above. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, orders of magnitude larger than the Earth, is also shown. The Sun dwarfs them both.

Lagoon Nebula (Infrared-light View)

The Lagoon Nebula is a giant interstellar cloud within the constellation Sagittarius, about 4100 light years from Earth. A ‘cloud’ within one constellation in the night sky.

Our Sun is the size of one of the orange dots above. Earth is invisible. Does this make you feel small and insignificant? Good. We are small and insignificant. However, the Creator of the Universe is Infinite; the concepts of ‘large’ and ‘small’ are virtually non-existent.

The Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space [where size is significant] in the form of Yeshua—a single cell implanted in the womb of a teenage girl. He grew to become a carpenter in a tiny town in a tiny country ruled by the Roman government. Yeshua did not come to save us from Hell; in spite of all the words spoken by preachers across the world. Yeshua came to make us whole. Whole, in spite of our HPtFtU. Yeshua came to save us from ourselves. Yeshua lacked the HPtFtU; but was treated as if He had it. He was killed because He made the ‘religious right’ uncomfortable. But He didn’t stay dead. You don’t need to, either.

What would you do with your life, if you knew you could not fail?

There is a wonderful legal term most often used by coroners: ‘misadventure: an accidental mishap or misfortune.’ Apparent failure does not have to be final.

What would you do with your life, if you knew you could not fail?

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 168: HPtFtU [part 4]

September 17, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.

Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth

Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honour among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose, further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant-a jolly, ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable …. Supposing he will not be converted, what destiny in the eternal world can you regard as proper for him? … Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion.
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [1940]

Elsewhere, Lewis suggests that the ‘gates of Hell’ are locked from the inside—to keep the Creator out.
Quoting again from Unapologetic:

I’m a very this-worldly Christian. I am averagely afraid of dying, but I don’t believe because I expect, or want, to have an unlimited future, tweedling about with a harp while the stars of the Western Spiral Arm burn out one by one. I believe because I know I’ve got a past and a present in which the HPtFtU did and does its usual work, and I want a way of living which opens out more widely and honestly and lovingly than I can manage for myself, which widens rather than narrowing with each destructive decision. Like the Christian Aid slogan says, I believe in life before death. For me and for everyone else. I don’t care about heaven. I want, I need, the promise of mending.

Mended is not the same thing as never broken. We are not being promised that it will be as if the bad stuff never happened. It’s amnesty that’s being offered, not amnesia; hope, not pretense. The story of your life will still be the story of your life, permanently. It will still have the kinks and twists and corners you gave it. The consequences of your actions, for you and for other people, will roll inexorably on. God can’t take these away, or your life would not be your life, you would not be you, the world would not be the world. He can only take from us—take over for us—the guilt and the fear, so that we can start again free, in hope. So that we are freed to try again and fail again, better. He can only overwhelm the HPtFtU with Grace.

Which we can now define. Grace is forgiveness we can’t earn. Grace is the weeping father on the road. Grace is tragedy accepted with open arms, and somehow turned to good. Grace is what the wasteful death on Skull Hill did.

When I want to explain the concept of Faith to someone who does not believe in such things, I understand completely. I remember my days of adulthood without Faith—mostly clinical depression that I never would have thought of having diagnosed—granted, this was 45 years ago. The recollection isn’t as clear as I’d like—but I don’t want to forget the nights of lying on my bed, under a red ‘night light’ listening to the folk music of the late 60s and the early 70s—trying to understand how the world in the Vietnam era was ever going to improve; how could we recover from the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. King? I saw no hope of improvement; many of my generation felt the same way.
This current era of Feckless Politicians, Unending War and Climate Change feels much the same. Post-apocalyptic movies and gaming—the concept of War being a game that children play is beyond my understanding—a sense of hopelessness in the media. Evangelistic Preachers who for decades preach to their congregations about the Moral Code they should instill in the children; only to find out that these Preachers are racist, misogynistic and supportive of politicians that break every aspect of the Moral Code they’ve been preaching about—simply because they want conservative judges on the Supreme Court. I keep coming to this quotation from Thomas Jefferson:
“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

I am a heretic.
I’m a Presbyterian Elder serving in a Lutheran Church with a large number of politically-conservative people in its membership. The words of the Magnificent Nadia Bolz-Weber come to mind:

There’s a refrain I hear from the lips of many Christians these days, whenever the subject turns to the growing dumpster fire in DC and the resulting unrest in our nation:
“Relax, God is in control.”
The words are designed as a conversation stopper; an iron-clad, sanctified mic drop, exempting them from further discussion on the matters at hand and supposedly assuaging all my fears in four simple words.
The only problem is—it’s not true, at least not in the way they might like it to be right now.
In these days, with so much that is untenable and threatening and worrisome, tossing off a quick “God’s got it” is a subtle bit of heresy:
It imagines that God engineers election outcomes the same way as football scores.
It exonerates people from any culpability for a vote they perhaps now feel was regrettable.
It nullifies any concept of personal free will, by giving God ultimate veto power over us.
It excuses inaction in the face of other people’s present suffering.
In matters of injustice and suffering and evil—it essentially passes the buck to God.
But the story of the Scriptures is one of this same God, granting Humanity the power over their choices; giving them the ability to be co-creators in this world by the decisions they make. Though God is all-powerful, God does not exercise that power to coerce us. We are not mindless robots simply performing the tasks we are pre-programmed to—we are fully responsible for the stuff we do and say and think.
What this means, is that saying God is in control, while doing little or nothing to alter the planet in any meaningful way is spiritual rebellion. It is a willing abdication of our calling to be makers of peace here. It expects that God will clean up whatever horrible mess we make—and that our prayers alone will serve as the sole request form.
I don’t believe this is true and it isn’t Biblical. I don’t believe Jesus spent three years imploring people to love their neighbors as themselves, to feed the poor, to protect the vulnerable, to love our enemies, and to bind up wounds of strangers—if God had already written the script and we’re all just playing the whole thing out in flesh and blood without getting to improvise and change lines.

The image below is not a picture of God; this is a portion of a painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted from the imagination of Michelangelo; and altered by me.

God-Sistine

There are many who apparently can only imagine ‘things of God’ in the context of our human lives. Because they can’t find some guy who looks the image above, floating somewhere in Space, ‘God cannot exist’. The problem is that this view of the Creator is far too small.
The Creator has taught me many valuable lessons during the *interesting* journey of raising children into adulthood; the Creator uses my children to teach me many things I could never learn in a church. One day, when my two small sons were ‘helping me’ repair the short ‘bridge’ my children used to cross the drainage ditch alongside the road in front of our house, I told the Spirit of the Creator that I could have made the repairs much faster, and possibly ‘better’ without my sons’ help. I distinctly heard the still, small voice of the Creator’s Spirit in reply: “I know exactly how you feel.”
One of the boys picked up a rock from somewhere in the yard and was looking at all of the wiggly critters running for cover. I realized, at that moment, that the Creator’s entry into time and space in the form of Jesus would be like me choosing to become one of those multipedes in order to show them how to live…
We imagine, somehow, that being created ‘in the image of God’ implies some sort of equal footing between us and the Creator of the entire Universe.

This is possibly a more accurate image of the Creator; since the Creator was here about 12 billion years ago, creating galaxies:

COSMOS-AzTEC-1 12 bilLightYears
The galaxy designated COSMOS-AzTEC-1

The image below is a graphic representation of Human Understanding about the nature of the Universe. You have to look carefully to see the tiny, tiny dots representing Earth, Mercury and Pluto [it’s now a planet again].

Solar System_mj_2

The church has been playing ‘catch-up’ with science since Copernicus, in the 16th Century, or thereabouts. Copernicus upset the Church by theorizing that the Earth orbits the Sun, rather than the other way around…he was considered a heretic. An uncomfortable place to be, at that point in time.
Metaphorically, in the image above, the Church’s understanding of the Universe, compared to the diameter of the Earth, puts the Church around the size of Mars; always a little behind. Science on the other hand, has been more like the diameter of Uranus [pun intended] compared to Earth. However, the Sun is ENORMOUS compared to the almost invisible Earth, labeled as “the blue dot” in a famous photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe, as it was leaving the Solar System. We simply aren’t even in the same order of magnitude as the Creator.

‘If the Creator of the Universe is that ENORMOUS, how could we possibly be of any significance?’ The problem is that our concept of time and space is sequential. If Time [Kairos] isn’t merely sequential, and the Creator is Infinite, then size is irrelevant. What could possibly be large to an Infinite Creator?
People get hung up on the concept of ‘being created in the image of God’ as having something to do with physical appearance. When society opens its eyes to see, we find that our physical appearance is about the least important part of our being. People spend millions of dollars attempting to stop the advancement of time; the fact is that Time batters the heck out of all of us—often at a ‘too early’ age. I can pretty well guarantee that given an ordinary human that has gainful employment and other activities in life to use up Time, that human will fare poorly when the sixties and seventies roll around. If you haven’t been able to devote large amounts of your energy holding back time, you will look old. Even Jackie Chan, a professional athlete if there ever was one, is visibly bearing the ravages of time, and the abusing of his body [Jackie is two years younger than I].

I believe that ‘being created in the image of the Creator’ refers to our ability to create; our ability to make choices about our behavior. Our decisions about how we will live. One of my never-met mentors, Tim Hansel, once wrote:

I’m still convinced that if you have to move even ten inches from where you are now in order to be happy, you never will be.

Tim was a mountaineering instructor who fell one day from an ice bridge. He dropped 30 feet vertically, landing heavily on his upper back and neck. Although he got up and hiked the 20 miles to the car, the damage was done. Cracked vertebrae. Crushed discs. Fragments of bone lodged in his neck. The result was chronic, debilitating pain that would be with him for the next 35 years. His vertebrae having fused arthritically, he was advised by a neurosurgeon to quit worrying about hurting himself, and do whatever the pain would allow him to do—all the damage that could happen had already happened—and to ‘live to be a hundred’. He died at the age of 68, probably a fulfilled human being.
To a large degree, happiness is a decision.
This ability to decide is a gift from the Creator.

What would you do with your life, if you knew you could not fail?

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 167: HPtFtU [part 3] A Cautionary Tale

September 15, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.

BOGUS

I was scammed out of $450 this week. The good news is that the intention was for me to get scammed out of $3300; thanks to my dinosaur brain, it didn’t happen.

I received an email purporting to be from someone at the San Francisco office of Landor Associates, an international graphics and branding business. The email said they liked my work and wanted me to be interviewed by someone in their HR section via Google Hangout; and they gave me a name and a landoronline@gmail.com address.
The ‘interview’ process was very well rehearsed. They asked me to walk them through my online portfolio; they asked the reasonable questions to ask, for someone looking for a remoted contractor for work. Then they dropped the magic words:

We will pay you $55/hr (USD) with benefits and you will receive your pay via Direct Deposit or Check bi-weekly, taxes are taken out of your pay as you will be an employee. Working Days are Monday-Fridays and you may work remotely for us. You can work overtime hours on Saturdays if desired and we will arrange working equipment for you to get started ASAP.

I told them that this sounded like full-time language, rather than part-time language, and they assured me that my hours would be flexible. Then they asked me about the work that would be needed, and whether I felt confident doing these sorts of tasks; which I am.
Then they provided me the list of ‘toys’ they were going to provide me with, for which the above check was being provided. The plan was to take a pdf of the front of the check, and a png of the back of a check, and deposit the money with my banking app on my smart phone.
Rescued by dinosaur brain—I have 5 computers. While it would be convenient and fun to have a computer in my pocket, the reality is that I do not need a computer in my pocket. So I have a Bluetooth compatible cell phone that does texting, and if one is really desperate or patient, will connect to the internet. It’s about the same level of sophistication as dial-up; and it does not do apps.

When I finally got them to understand that I am one of the last 12 people on the planet with out a cell phone that does apps; ‘she’ told me that the check would arrive in the mail. The following day, I was informed that to get started with Landor, I would need the program that keeps track of time, for my training. So, I needed to send $400 to someone in Texas via Western Union. Given the presence of the above check in my email, it seemed like a little flexibility was in order. BTW it was explained to me that Landor worked as a payroll company for the State of Oregon, consequently the money was coming through the State of Oregon.

After all of the folderol with getting Western Union to like a card from my collection, I was then told that there was a bargain available to me:

The iMac is of 2017 and it will cost you just $698 and it will come with a brand new printer and we will reimburse you all the total amount next week…

At which point, the conversation went as follow [I’m in red]:

You realize this is all rather weird…
I answer an email; I get hired via a chat; you send me a pdf and a photo of a different check; the check is from the State of Oregon, not Landor Associates; you have me send $400 to some lady in Texas; and you are now asking me to send her money for equipment you want me to use.
If someone told me I was getting scammed, I’d be inclined to agree with them.

No, this is all legitimate
You need to trust this, we have lots of others working for us and the reason why we sent you the check is to assure you that you will get the full reimbursement.
We can call you and also re-assure, we have a lof of others who go through same process and none has ever had a bad experience
I will not deceive you Marty.

So are you instructing me send Mandy more money to buy last year’s iMac?

Yes.
and she will buy and ship all the items to you
I need you to trust me
You will get the tracking # to the package coming by tomorrow via FedEx and it will all be delivered to your door step
Trust me ok
You will see everything arrive in the mail
Are you with me?

OK, when your check arrives here, and is deposited, I’ll send her the money.
You may need me to trust you, but at this point you are a name on a screen.

The $400 software [presumed] did not arrive. Before that confirmation, I did a bunch of research and sent messages and a FAX to various executives of Landor [no one has email addresses when you want them]. I heard back from one of the execs, who assured me that the name wasn’t associated with Landor, and they never hire remote employees…

So, why am I sharing this embarrassment? So that hopefully you, dear reader, will avoid the scam. I’ve contacted the State of Oregon, the FBI, the Internet Fraud people, as well as a few others. I did not give them a SSN, nor did I give them any information that isn’t already in the public domain. I did send them a high-res image of my new driver’s license [birthday in July]; which concerns me. The Landor exec told me that they were contacting authorities in San Francisco. The authorities have the transaction information from Western Union; and I’ve contacted my bank. The reality is that I voluntarily sent money to a private individual, who did not provide me with the stuff I was supposedly paying for; but I wasn’t coerced.

The State of Oregon responded to an email, and told me that the check would bounce, after a few days. So, I would order $3300 worth of toys, from my account, to be reimbursed by the bogus check… Big surprise—I don’t have $3300 lying around in my checking account.

I’ve been full-time self-employed for 20 years; including a part-time gig for the City of Salem, which was my last W-2 job. I assumed that I really wasn’t looking for another W-2 job. It was a surprise to find that a part-time job with benefits was so attractive. The money was better than I charge graphic art clients, a little less than I charge for architectural work.

For a few hours, I was hooked.

sheepish

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 165: HPtFtU [part 2]

September 6, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.
I’m going to quote, frequently, from Spufford in the coming weeks…but not quite yet.

A Facebook page I’m a member of had the question, “how can God and evolution both be true?’ I was tempted to write an answer, but I get tired of people commenting on my comment, who really haven’t given it much thought. So, I’ll do it here.
How can God and evolution both be true? Because a large portion of Scripture is metaphor:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It:
    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances …
    —William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7
This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor

Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus] said that He was the living water, and those who drink from this water will never thirst. This is a metaphor. Water is not alive, unless one considers microbes—and the people of Yeshua’s time did not know about microbes. Followers of Yeshua get thirsty, particularly in the summer. The operative concept is “thirst.” Yeshua was addressing the ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’ we feel when we try to understand ourselves; when we try to fill the emptiness we sometimes feel.

Creatio_of_Adam2
Creation of Adam [modified] by Michelangelo; stained glass by Michael Greer

This painting is a metaphor; Michelangelo did not travel back in time, to the “sixth day of Creation” and snap a photo. However, many Christians seem to accept the concept that God is somehow like us [more, next time]. Many/most Christians’ theology is a mixture of Bible verses, songs they like, sermons they’ve heard and Bible Study texts they’ve read.
Some Christians apparently have very thin Bibles—those who manage to completely ignore Isaiah 58, and all of the similar passages which clearly spell out the Creator’s expectations for ‘the followers of God’—the way we are supposed to treat people who are not like us. At present, America is rubbish at meeting this expectation. There are other readers of Scripture who manage to not comprehend the nature of the if/then, Conditional nature of Scripture—“if you do this, then you will be blessed’. They prefer to quote the ‘then’ portions of texts while ignoring the if. “If you do your homework, then you get dessert.”
Getting back to Michelangelo, he was not intending to teach for centuries, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, that God looks like a buff older man with a beard; surrounded by naked beings. If one looks at this portrayal of the Creator for too long, one can get all sorts of ideas about the Creator that are probably wrong. Michelangelo’s painting is a metaphor for Genesis 1:27; and Genesis 1:27 is a metaphor for the creation of human beings. One of the reasons that Genesis 2:7 differs from 1:27 [both are descriptions of the creation of humans on the sixth day of Creation] is that this is all metaphor: figures of speech, “providing clarity or identifying hidden similarities between two ideas”.

Does this mean that the words of Genesis aren’t true? No. It does mean that the words of Genesis should not be taken literally, as if it was a science text; nor as a history text. Scripture is the story of the Creator’s actions with human beings; and it tells the story of the beginning of the nation of Israel, and its downfall; and most importantly, Scripture tells how the Creator of the entire Universe entered human time and space in the form of a single cell implanted in the womb of a teenaged girl—basically the first “In vitro fertilization” (IVF).  

Scripture [meaning the Scripture of the Jewish, Christian and Islam faiths] does not teach about the Creator’s interactions with the human beings of the Western Hemisphere/ the Americas. These people ‘did not exist’ to those in the Mediterranean world. Scripture also leaves out Asia and most of Africa [except by inference]. Why? Because Scripture isn’t a World History text. There are ~400 years between the end of the Book of Micah and Yeshua’s entry into the world, where the Creator sent no prophets to guide Israel. The Creator was silent. Four centuries–most of American history, as a reference. The Temple, the seat of the Jewish faith, was destroyed in about 70 A.D. Consequently, the Hebrew Scriptures have very little to say about the modern state of Israel, and its creation after World War II. There are prophecies: again, metaphors. People who want Israel to be considered an act of the Creator, read the prophecies in the manner they want to read them.

It’s our HPtFtU that causes war, and violent death, and poverty, and shame. These four words create a circle of death.
It is my HPtFtU that causes me sleepless nights, and my FEARs [False Evidence Appearing Real—I am not omniscient]; it is very possibly the cause of the constant pain I deal with. None of my Neurologists have come up with better answers.
It is our HPtFtU that causes us to have broken relationships with other people who have their own version of HPtFtU; we are all broken, we are all in need of mending.

Finally, the quotation from Francis Spufford, from his wonderful book, Unapologetic. I could have written these words, but I lack the talent:

I’m a very this-worldly Christian. I am averagely afraid of dying, but I don’t believe because I expect, or want, to have an unlimited future, tweedling about with a harp while the stars of the Western Spiral Arm burn out one by one. I believe because I know I’ve got a past and a present in which the HPtFtU did and does its usual work, and I want a way of living which opens out more widely and honestly and lovingly than I can manage for myself, which widens rather than narrowing with each destructive decision. Like the Christian Aid slogan says, I believe in life before death. For me and for everyone else. I don’t care about heaven. I want, I need, the promise of mending.
Mended is not the same thing as never broken. We are not being promised that it will be as if the bad stuff never happened. It’s amnesty that’s being offered, not amnesia; hope, not pretense. The story of your life will still be the story of your life, permanently. It will still have the kinks and twists and corners you gave it. The consequences of your actions, for you and for other people, will roll inexorably on. God can’t take these away, or your life would not be your life, you would not be you, the world would not be the world. He can only take from us—take over for us—the guilt and the fear, so that we can start again free, in hope. So that we are freed to try again and fail again, better. He can only overwhelm the HPtFtU with Grace.
Which we can now define. Grace is forgiveness we can’t earn. Grace is the weeping father on the road. Grace is tragedy accepted with open arms, and somehow turned to good. Grace is what the wasteful death on Skull Hill did.

The one thing that I would add is that my encounters with the Spirit of the Creator, over 40+ years simply can’t be considered anything else. I’ve tried. Do I mistake ‘chance’ [something I don’t believe in] for the Spirit of the Creator? Probably; sometimes. I too have to address my own HPtFtU. I can’t convince you of what I’ve experienced; it’s something that one needs to experience themselves.

garden gethsemane rev2
Peter’s HPtFtU in The Garden of Gethsemane

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 165: The Human Propensity to Foul things Up

September 3, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his absolutely wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses a different four-letter F-word than I’ve used above; I have readers that remember, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, that this word [historically accurate or not] stands for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge; aka rape. I remain amazed that such a vicious word has become common grammar in the 21st Century; particularly in the light of the #MeToo situation in our world. It raises the question as to whether the way we speak can change the world…

I’m going to quote, frequently, from Spufford in the coming weeks:

    “Christianity parts company with the other two monotheisms. Unlike the oldest (Judaism) and the youngest (Islam) of the one-god religions, the middle sibling isn’t interested in coming up with a set of sustainable rules for living by. Jewish laws of behavior and Muslim laws of behavior may be demanding to keep at times, but they can be kept. That’s the point of them, that’s what they’re for…
    “The idea is to have a set of laws like a wearable coat, a coat that everyone can put on if they are willing to make the effort. In Judaism and Islam, you don’t have to be a saint to know that you are managing to be an adequately good woman, an adequately good man. Islam and Judaism accomplish this livability, this wearability, this sustainability, by paying more attention to what people do than to what they feel about it. They’re religions of orthopraxy, right doing, not orthodoxy, right thinking or teaching. Do the right actions, and you can be hissing and spitting inside, or bored senseless, or going through the motions to please your family, and it still counts. Virtue has still been achieved. The result is in some ways a lot more moderate, a lot more stable than Christianity; and it can be very humane too, with plentiful opportunities for the unvirtuous or ex-virtuous to rejoin virtue’s ranks. But it does, indeed, produce a judged picture of the world. It produces a moralized landscape in which the good people can be told from the bad people; in which all human actions can be split into two categories, pure or impure, clean or dirty, permitted or forbidden, kosher or trayf, halal or haram.
     “Christianity does something different. It makes frankly impossible demands. Instead of asking for specific actions, it offers general but lunatic principles. It thinks you should give your possessions away, refuse to defend yourself, love strangers as much as your family, behave as if there’s no tomorrow. These principles do not amount to a sustainable program. They deliberately ignore the question of how they could possibly be maintained. They ask you to manifest in your ordinary life a drastically uncalculating, unprotected generosity. And that’s not all. Christianity also makes what you mean by your behavior all-important. You could pauperize yourself, get slapped silly without fighting back, care for lepers and laugh all day long in the face of futures markets, and it still wouldn’t count, if you did it for the wrong reasons. Not only is Christianity insanely perfectionist in its few positive recommendations, it’s also insanely perfectionist about motive. It won’t accept generosity performed for the sake of self-interest as generosity. It says that unless altruism is altruism all the way down, it doesn’t count as altruism at all.
    “So far, so thrillingly impractical. But now notice the consequence of having an ideal of behavior not sized for human lives: everyone fails. Really everyone. No one only means well, no one means well all the time. Looked at from this perspective, human beings all exhibit different varieties of fuck-up. And suddenly in its utter lack of realism Christianity becomes very realistic indeed, intelligently resigned to our vast array of imperfections, and much more interested in what we can do to live with them than in laws designed to keep them segregated. Christianity maintains no register of clean and unclean. It doesn’t believe in the possibility of clean, just as it doesn’t believe that laws can ever be fully adequate, or that goodness can reliably be achieved by following an instruction book.”

Many Christians do not understand the teachings of Yeshua; they remain stuck in a rule book, one I’ve heard described as the “Owner’s Manual” more times than I can count.
Human beings, in spite of our best intentions, have a Propensity to F**k things Up [HPtFtU]. Not always, not because we intend to do so, but because we are fallible human beings. If someone tells you they never exhibit their HPtFtU, they’ll lie about other things as well.

Religion states that you can follow rules that will ensure that your HPtFtU does not occur. Since we all fail at some points in our lives, this notion is a lie. When Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus] began teaching, he angered all of the religious leaders in the vicinity. When they became angry enough, they persuaded the local Roman government to execute Yeshua as a heretic and an inciter-to-violence. More lies.

kids in cages
Case in point: the Human Propensity to F**k things Up

The United States has become a country that kidnaps children and does not believe it’s a crime because those children have brown skin. We are back in the first half of the 20th Century. We don’t lynch the children; we steal children from their parents and put them into the overworked Foster Care system; often to private corporations whose sole business is the incarceration of human beings. Pundits talk about how their lives are so much better than in the cardboard shack where they lived; ignoring completely the fact that Home is first of all, the family. The mother who carried these children in her body for 9 months; the siblings who teach each other about love. The father that guides.
Depending upon the news service you choose, the number of stolen children our Administration is ignoring is 500, ± 20. The government is making no effort to reunite these children with their parents. Many of the parents were deported without their children; having signed documents they did not understand, which stated that they were giving up their children as a condition of their deportation.
The major problem that too many seem oblivious to: you and I are complicit in this crime. We, the citizens of the United States, without our consent, have become kidnappers. We have possibly ruined the lives of at least 500 children, who were ripped from their mother’s arms with no explanation; and having committed no crime beyond the crime of being born.

Let this settle in for a few minutes.

This crime was committed on purpose, one more crime among many:

There are currently five separate investigations into Trump and his associates from four different investigative bodies. An additional lawsuit brought by two state attorneys general challenges whether Trump is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. There are further reports about probes into the financial dealings of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his second eldest son, Eric Trump.
The worst may be yet to come for Trump. Zephyr Teachout, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to be the next New York attorney general, has made a promise to fully investigate Trump’s business the central thrust of her candidacy. “Donald Trump’s businesses are here,” Teachout told The Atlantic in August. “What the New York attorney general can do, and as attorney general I’ll make a priority, is investigating those businesses. That power extends to, in the case of extreme illegality, dissolving businesses.”

Democrats also have compiled a massive list of subpoenas targeting the Trump administration and the Trump Organization they hope to file if they win control of the House of Representatives in November.
The number of investigations and lawsuits targeting the president could easily ― and quickly ― metastasize to more than six.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-investigations_us_5b85861de4b0511db3d229d7

Is the President a bad man? Probably; as are we all. It isn’t my job to make these determinations about other people. In my opinion, he’s an incompetent man, who had no idea what was needed to lead a country. He seems to have not made the intellectual leap of realizing that a country is not a business. Given that he’s bankrupted five businesses in the past, is acumen as a businessman is in doubt.
Not only has our country kidnapped a large number of children, we have also turned our backs on the brown-skinned American citizens who live in Puerto Rico:

The latest attempt to get an accurate death toll in Puerto Rico following last year’s Hurricane Maria paints a grim picture: 2,975 “excess” deaths could be attributed to the storm, according to George Washington University researchers. That’s 46 times more than the 64 deaths first reported last fall.
But the counting is far from over, and nobody should be surprised if the death toll in Puerto Rico reaches or exceeds 4,000 by the end of the year.
Here’s why: Many of the conditions responsible for continued excess deaths remain and are unlikely to be appreciably ameliorated anytime soon…
Hurricane Maria has been one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history, killing roughly the same number of people who perished on 9/11 and about 40 percent more than the number who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. If Congress doesn’t help the more than 3 million American citizens who live in Puerto Rico recover from this catastrophic disaster, who will be held accountable?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-puerto-rico-death-toll-will-only-get-higher/2018/09/02/7b5d2eec-ad51-11e8-a8d7-0f63ab8b1370_story.html?utm_term=.9a5ad91d0647

I worked on the Gulf Coast for a brief period of time, after Katrina; the devastation can’t be adequately described.

Spufford again:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me . . .
There! Did you hear that? He just called himself a wretch. He’s beating himself up in public. Sorry, mate: lovely tune, loony sentiment. Except that “wretch” is actually a very polite word for what John Newton, the eighteenth-century author of “Amazing Grace,” was. John Newton was a slave trader. He made his living transporting cargoes of kidnapped human beings, in conditions of great squalor and suffering, to places where they and their children and their children’s children would be treated all their lives as objects to be bought and sold and brutalized. Some of John Newton’s contemporaries (the ones who weren’t chained below decks in their own shit) may have thought that his profession was only a bit unrespectable; we, on the other hand, recognize that he was participating in one of the world’s great crimes, comparable to the Holocaust. Wretch? John Newton was a horror.
But at least he came to know it. At least he made the journey from comfortable acquiescence in horror to an accurate, and therefore horrified, sense of himself. At least he learned that something was wrong. And “Amazing Grace” is a description of the process by which he began to awaken. The wrinkle is that he wrote it before he gave up slaving. He wrote it under the impression that he had already seen the stuff he should be worrying about—booze and licentiousness, presumably, and playing tiddly-winks on the Sabbath, and not running his slave ship with a swear-box screwed to the mast. In the Holocaust analogy, it’s rather as if a death- camp guard had had a moral crisis, but over cheating his colleagues at poker, and then continued to come to work stoking the ovens, while vowing shakily to be a better person. Yet Newton’s guilt, once found, wouldn’t leave him alone. It went on gradually showing him dark, accurate visions of himself; it went on changing him, until eventually he could not bear the darkness of what he did daily, and gave up the trade, and ended his life as a penitent campaigner against it.

John Newton found Grace.
I found Grace.
Hopefully our President will find Grace.

Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer
Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer

In June of last year, I was working on an image based on the story of Saul, who was blinded and thrown off his horse, on the way to hunting down the hated members of The Way—followers of Yeshua, who were becoming greater in numbers, and more bothersome for the Religious leaders of Israel. I was pondering the notion of what it would have ‘looked like’ to be there in Damascus at the time Saul was knocked off his horse; or even the more currently applicable incident found in Daniel 4, where:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar [who was king of Babylon c. 605 BE – c. 562 BCE, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire]. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird…

King Nebuchadnezzar ended up living in a pasture, eating grass like a donkey, for a very long time, until he finally was ready to admit his arrogance, his wretchedness.

 And the King found Grace…

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 164: Accused

August 24, 2018

Accused
The Unindicted CoConspirator in the Oval Office

Korea.
Vietnam.
Few who know me would ever accuse me of being patriotic.
Nearly 100,000 soldiers lost their lives fighting ‘to make the world safe from Communism’. The Commander in Chief dishonors every soldier who has ever fought. He calls the European Union ‘our greatest foe’ and sides with the Russian government over his own Intelligence services and the Department of Justice.

The 16 Republican Senators serving today, who so eloquently demanded the impeachment of President Clinton, who was acquitted on all charges,
remain silent.

I am ashamed of what our government has become.

From Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-trump-cohen-manafort-guilty-20180823-story.html

“There is one apparent reason the president of the United States was not indicted Tuesday in the same case that yielded a guilty plea from his longtime personal lawyer. It’s not because prosecutors think he is innocent. It’s because he is President.

“The U.S. Justice Department has long taken the position that a sitting President is exempt from indictment. Only after he leaves office are prosecutors free to pursue criminal charges against him. Unless that policy changes, Donald Trump will serve the remainder of his time in office under the specter of prison.

“Let that sink in a moment. Prosecutors may postpone his indictment. Congress may refuse to impeach him or convict him. But Americans will be living under the administration of someone who has been implicated in a crime by a close associate — and who they may eventually learn is guilty of one or more felonies. The nation is being governed by an unindicted co-conspirator.”

President Donald Trump told the Fox News Channel that Michael Cohen’s payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump were not illegal because they “came from me” and not his campaign.

“They weren’t taken out of campaign finance, that’s the big thing,” Trump said during an interview on FOX & Friends that will air Thursday morning. “That’s a much bigger thing.  Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign; they came from me.”

The fact the payments didn’t come from the campaign coffers and were not reported in campaign finance reports is exactly why the payments were illegal.

https://mic.com/articles/190900/today-in-trumps-america-trump-may-have-unwittingly-confessed-to-a-felony-on-fox-and-friends#.hjQGq5nyp

According to the Federal Election Commission:
    If any person, including a relative or friend of the candidate, gives or loans the candidate money ‘for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office,’ the funds are not considered personal funds of the candidate even if they are given to the candidate directly. Instead, the gift or loan is considered a contribution from the donor to the campaign, subject to the per-election limit and reportable by the campaign. This is true even if the candidate uses the funds for personal living expenses while campaigning.

And given Trump’s own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, admitted the payments were intentionally made and then concealed in an effort to silence women and prevent them from negatively impacting Trump’s electoral hopes, the payments should have been reported and should have adhered to federal campaign spending limits.

I wasn’t paying attention the first time an Unindicted Co-Conspirator sat in the Oval Office. It was 1974, I was in my fourth of five years in college; and I only watched television on rare occasions—back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the only televisions at colleges were in the dormitory lounges. My first shock, when delivering our daughter to Oregon State University [my first college] was finding that portable televisions were in every room…

I’m paying attention this time.

There is very little ‘Fake News’ in journalism these days. Journalists still exist; they painstakingly research every story; they only publish these stories when multiple sources have verified the evidence. The story going on today started in late 2015, when most Journalists couldn’t believe that DJT could actually become President. A man who declared bankruptcy 5 times and could no longer find financing from American lending institutions. Nearly all of his recent projects were financed by entities outside of the United States. There’s a reason he hasn’t let the American people see his tax returns. Now that those closest to his campaign are being indicted for numerous felonies, and some of his longtime business associates have been given Immunity from Prosecution for the information they have, the American people will probably learn where the Trump Corporation has financed their businesses. The Trump Corporation itself is being investigated by the State of New York, as well as the Trump Charitable Trust. The President of the United States has no power to pardon those convicted of State felonies. The Trump Corporation executives—the children of DJT, and their father may all face jail time. This does not even begin to address violations of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution.

The President’s statement, “that Michael Cohen’s payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump were not illegal because they “came from me” and not his campaign,” contradicts records from the Trump Campaign, that have already been submitted in a Civil Suit by the New York State Attorney General.

The Unindicted CoConspirator in the Oval Office

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 163: That’s just Fiction, isn’t it?

August 12, 2018
Lagoon Nebula_Smiling Galaxy Cluster
A Galactic View of my Wife and I When I Start My Day

Leaving Presidential politics for a moment and returning to one of my favorite topics: the make-up of the Universe. On the left is the HST-Smiling-GalaxyCluster SDSS-J1038+4849-20150210 with an Einstein–Chwolson ring; on the right, the Lagoon Nebula [my wife could not see the frowny face—hence the sketch]. An Einstein–Chwolson ring…

“predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Instead of light from a source traveling in a straight line (in three dimensions), it is bent by the presence of a massive body, which distorts spacetime. An Einstein Ring is a special case of gravitational lensing, caused by the exact alignment of the source, lens, and observer. This results in a symmetry around the lens, causing a ring-like structure.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_ring

Einstein never expected that we would see this effect; the optics of telescopes being what they were in the early 1900s. The Hubble enables such marvels.
My usual statement about things astronomical—I’m a follower of Jesus, and not very religious. I believe the Universe has a Creator. Stephen Hawking determined that the only thing necessary for the Universe to exist is gravity [which no one really understands]; therefore, a Creator is not necessary.
—Or, an example of good engineering design. Creating a system that is self-sustaining.

However, this isn’t something I’m dogmatic about. I don’t believe that humans are fully-capable of understanding the nature of the Creator of the Universe; we don’t have the brain power, nor the imagination to understand.
The Big Bang theory is believed to have been first proposed in the 20th century, but was actually proposed much earlier by biblical scholars, taken from information in the Old Testament/Torah/The Tanakh.
The earliest existing reference is in a commentary on the book of Genesis written by Nahmanides (1194-1270):
From Gerald Schroeder: Genesis and the Big Bang:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005KB0V62/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

“In the thirteenth century, Nahmanides quoted a commentary on Genesis written 600 years before him, noting that prior to the existence of the universe, time did not exist. This was learned from the wording of Genesis 1:5, “. . . and there was evening and there was morning, day one.” It is not stated “the first day.” For the use of first would have implied an already existing series of days or a continuum of time when in fact on this “day one” there had been no prior time to this one day. Not a before and not an after. There was nothing to which one could relate this day. It stood alone as “day one.” For all the remaining days in that week of Genesis, the ordinal terms, second, third, etc., are used and. logically so. By day number two, and thereafter, a series of days had been established. Although it is difficult to comprehend, the creation of the physical universe brought with it a concurrent creation of time…

Nahmanides’s account of the first seconds of the universe reads like this:
At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was so thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudo-substance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.

 “Nahmanides’s reference to a grain of mustard is the traditional way of saying, “in the language of man,” the tiniest imaginable speck of space. Nahmanides taught that at the beginning, all that is on and within the Earth and all the heavens, in fact all the universe, was somehow packed, compressed, squeezed into this speck of space, the size of a mustard grain.”…

…and became, the Big Bang/the Expanding Universe.
And the Beginning of Time.
Okay, you don’t believe that Time could have a Beginning. Why not? The nature of Time is a progression.

Assume for a moment, that Time began at the moment the Universe began Expanding. All things being relatively equivalent, this would imply that Life began at about the same Time throughout the Universe. Consequently, those processes that eventually created Life and Evolution happened at about the same Time throughout the Universe. I don’t know; how long does it take for a Universe to expand? It appears to be expanding still, away from us.
At this point in Time…

The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans are from the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago such as the Omo remains of Ethiopia and the fossils of Herto sometimes classified as Homo sapiens idaltu.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human

…we are unable to travel space at faster-than-light speeds. We really aren’t able to travel within our own Solar System with any human efficiency.
So, these aliens we keep hoping to see—they either need to travel in not-as-fast-as-light craft comparable to cruise ships—travel to our Solar System is going to take decades or centuries. Or, they have managed to accomplish something with much greater facility than we have and have cracked the Code to faster-than-light travel with Warp engines or Einstein-Rosen Bridges [wormholes] or some technology that Earth’s scientists and science fiction writers haven’t figured out.
Maybe the Expansion of the Universe involved some great amount of Time, and we are on the tail end of the Expansion; enabling some lifeforms from galaxies far, far away to be heading to our neighborhood.

Solar System_mj

One of my favorite theories is that somewhere beyond the Kuiper Belt, perhaps around the relative location of that galaxy sitting above the Sun, there are space beacons warning all incoming visitors to avoid this Solar System, because we carry an infectious plague of violence and hatred not found in other star systems.

Look at our country after a year-plus [I did say earlier, only for a moment]:
1 year, 204 days, 6 hours, 24 minutes and 15 seconds from when I typed this.

http://howlonghasdonaldtrumpbeenpresident.com/

Yes, someone is keeping track.
The infection runs deep; it was not caused by the man that sits behind the Resolute Desk, but it has been enabled by him. The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has become the country that kidnaps children from their parents and does not have the courage to stand up against our enemies, both foreign and domestic. Many of those enemies have well-padded lives in the Senate and in Congress.

Aliens: stay away, lest you become infected.
There’s a reason it’s called Science Fiction.
Science fiction is written by humans that are limited to their knowledge at the time; and there is no book of rules that determines what information is included, and what information is omitted. Science Fiction is ideas. Ideas about how life could be; both could be good and could be bad. We always hope for the former. People in this country with skin colors other than pink have always found the latter and are a long way from finding the former. Northern European Stock is greatly outnumbered by people of color; birth rates among office-oriented job types are much lower than those whose occupations are more agricultural; it’s simple economics. Children within a family make for free labor [if you’ve ever had children, you know it’s not all that free…]

Klaatu Gort_First Contact
Gort and Klaatu from the 1951 movie    | Zefram Cochrane and unnamed Vulcans, Star Trek First Contact

If you watched the original Star Trek series, Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the Warp [faster-than-the-speed-of-light] engine, was portrayed by Glen Corbett, and presented more-or-less like NASA’s version of the Right Stuff. First Contact’s version of Cochrane is more like the not-so-right stuff. He did it for the money he’d make.
In 1951, Klaatu the astronaut, and his space-cop companion Gort [he does not give out traffic tickets—you disappear] arrived on Earth after we had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and therefore posed a threat to the Universe, which apparently had some sort of Federation of planets…
In the Star Trek universe, explorers from the planet Vulcan arrived in the Solar System shortly after Zefram Cochrane made his first faster-than-light trip across the Solar System. The Vulcans came to usher us into the Universe that eventually contained the United Federation of Planets. But, without Gort’s limited interventions, the Vulcans were basically space-cops. The Vulcans were aware of our Infection. We had been broadcasting our Infection by television broadcasts for centuries, by the time the Vulcans showed up. Star Trek First Contact takes place after Earth’s Third World War, which wiped out hundreds of millions of inhabitants.

But, that’s just Fiction, isn’t it…

 

 

 


%d bloggers like this: