Posts Tagged ‘cancer survivor’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 162: Hero Stories

July 29, 2018

People who read these writings on a regular basis know how angry I have become that one man could inspire so much damage to our country. It isn’t all on him; there are hundreds of Senators and Congressional Members who share the responsibility for the loss of American stature across the world. And all of the haters that support these people.

For decades, accurately or not, America was seen as the hope for the free world. No longer. We have become one of the “sh*thole countries”—a label that would have never applied before this description became part of our Presidential lexicon.

To deal with my anger, I turn to ‘hero stories’. When I don’t have client work to invest my time into, I work on heroes. Lately, The Doctor, Sherlock Holmes, and now Wonder Woman. She is the about only ‘superhero’ I value these days; Captain America has lost some of his gleam because of the Marvel/Disney epics of collateral damage that is given very little thought.

I watched Star Trek: First Contact (1996) last night as my ‘hero fix’; in the Star Trek universe,
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The economics of the future are somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century.
Lily Sloane: No money? You mean, you don’t get paid?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.

This incredible change of perspective from our world today, developed by Gene Roddenberry and his successors, was that when we first make contact with intelligent life forms from other worlds—

It unites humanity in a way no one ever thought possible. When they realize they’re not alone in the universe, poverty, disease, war – they’ll all be gone within the next fifty years…

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117731/?ref_=nv_sr_1

There is a desperate lack of intelligent life in our solar system.

WonWom_valley of the shadow2_mer
Wonder Woman—Valley of the Shadow

Three women have inspired the image above. The “Valley of the Shadow” image is one I created a few years ago, inspired by the health issues dealt with by a couple of guys I know well. One of these women is a ‘c-word survivor’; two are still dealing with the process—the chemicals and radiation that are almost worse than the disease itself.

I deal with my own stuff; I would not trade.

I believe in Guardian Angels. When I think about angels, it’s in the context of ‘Fear Not and Behold’—the words spoken to Mary, when she learned what the next 9 months of her life, and all of the rest of it, would hold. Angels that watch over us; and sometimes intervene. After 40+ years of studying the nature of the Creator, there is still much I do not understand.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 151: I Saw Jesus Tonight

May 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

https://www.voicesofourcity.org/

http://ironzealfilms.org/homeless/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ashes of Hiroshima
The Ashes of Hiroshima

 

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

February 27, 2018

valley of the shadow_crop

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

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

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

Image2

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

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

greentree3

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

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

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

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

tattoo

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

woman_with_the_dragon_tattoo

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

Doctor images

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

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

Yet, still I persist.

Different context from Elizabeth Warren’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 102: Bravery

August 26, 2016

whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind

Krissy's spice 4 life_smlI would like you to meet Krissy.

She’s one of the bravest persons I’ve ever met. I am not at liberty to tell you her story; it has a lot of bad parts, and the ‘bad’ isn’t over yet. She has countless reasons for giving up; and no desire to do so. She has a spices-and-food-related products business that she has begun to crowdfund. More about that when I know more.

You can find her products at:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/krissyspice4life

https://www.linkedin.com/in/krissyspice4life

and email her at:

krissy.spice.4.life@gmail.com

she can also be twittered at: @krissyspice
We are living in strange times; difficult times filled with pain and betrayal and heartbreak. And yet… and yet… There are stories of heroes.
PBS tells of the Syrian volunteers who rush to bombed buildings to save victims:
Once tailors, bakers, pharmacists, some 3,000 ordinary Syrians are now the unwitting heroes of the Syrian war. Nicknamed “the White Helmets,” members of the Syrian Civil Defense work under the harshest conditions to claw through the remains of buildings flattened by barrel bombs, the Syrian regime’s weapon of choice…
We meet some of them now, thanks to special correspondent Marcia Biggs, who reports from Turkey.

MARCIA BIGGS: We all saw this heartbreaking video, 5-year-old Omran pulled from under the rubble of his flattened home, his photo going viral. Stunned, bloodied, and caked with dust, his face a symbol of so many others.

But the faces you didn’t see in this video are of those who have been pulling people out of the rubble for five long years. This is the call to work for the brave members of the Syrian Civil Defense, an ad hoc grassroots first-response unit within rebel-held Syria.

Over the last five years, they say they have learned, saving almost 60,000 lives, working throughout all parts of one of the most fractured areas on Earth. Even some of the most radical groups allow them into their territory…

MARCIA BIGGS: Abdul Rahman, a 30-year-old volunteer from Aleppo, says the food shortage is a main concern and half of the men in the unit are trying to learn to farm.

Are they worried that they might starve? Are they worried that they’re going to run out of food?

ABDUL RAHMAN, Rescue Worker: Of course, but they’re still working, because we believe in our job. They lost the hope. This is the bigger problem. Now, in Aleppo city, all the world see the besieged. And all the world just watching what happened, and no one do anything.

MARCIA BIGGS: Despite all the deaths and the failures of the international community, the White Helmets soldier on.

RAED AL SALEH (through translator): It’s difficult to talk with our team every day, and most of the time, we have no answers to all the questions they ask. We are doing an important humanitarian job, and we will be rewarded by God.

The Koran says, in the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful, whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. If you save a human who was under the rubble, it’s like you saved all mankind.

Do you feel proud when you wear that?

For Radi, his uniform a symbol of pride, and for the young man who dreamed of one day getting out of Syria, a renewed pride in his country, which he and the others hope to someday rebuild.

RADI SAAD (through translator): Before the revolution, we didn’t have a sense of belonging to this country at all. But now we feel that, if we don’t build this country, no one will.

MARCIA BIGGS: A small glimmer of hope for the future. For now, every airstrike brings more devastation, and the men, like this one, Fares Mohammed Ali, who dig with their hands and their hearts to raise people out of the ruins and into the light.

One can only wonder how long this light of hope can burn. Fares died last month after an airstrike.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/syrian-volunteers-rush-bombed-buildings-save-victims/?google_editors_picks=true

 

I was going to write more words, but at the moments words are failing me.

Fhff7_4

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 101: Reinventing Oneself

August 26, 2016

INCREDIBLE STORIESIllustration Envy…

Society 6, the company that hosts my retail store https://society6.com/mjartscom has ads floating all over the Internet—you’ve probably seen them—for a terrific artist that has created a bunch of comic-book-nouveau images. Unfortunately, that artist isn’t me. The company tells me that a few of my images are in their catalog [something like 1000 images of the 10,000 images in their ‘warehouse’; I haven’t seen them published in their advertising. So, acting upon the “I can do that,” message that floated through my brain, I fabricated the above from some images in my stockpile.

I watched Chappie a couple of weeks ago, a sci-fi story that takes place in a future Johannesburg, where no person in their right mind would want to live—unless going somewhere else wasn’t an option. To solve their crime problem, they bring in an army of robot droids. The lead designer of the police droids, in his off-hours, is attempting to create a computer program that will become conscious—a sentient robot that can think for itself. The experiment gets hijacked by some gang bangers, and the experiment goes seriously awry. However, Chappie is born—a computer with the mind of a child; a mind that can learn exponentially.

What caught my attention was the fluid grace of Chappie’s movements—a robot that moves exactly like a human. Motion Capture has grown exponentially, as well.

There was a moment—certainly not much more than a moment—when I felt like I could see the front of the digital art pack—we commercial artists who are running a marathon with no fixed end. I was at an SCBWI Conference in Seattle, wandering around some hotel, drinking a $7 glass of Guinness [I kept the glass]. I passed by a guy who was working in 3-D [early 3-D], who was explaining how one needs to draw all sides of a character, not just from one viewpoint. I had realized then one of the shortcomings of my illustration career—that moment when I realize the character needs to be in a different spot in the frame, and because of that, the character can’t be facing the viewer. Do I do the ‘correct’ image, even though it means I have to do a lot more drawing? Or do I live with the original idea, even though it’s ‘wrong’? It would be so much better to have the character in 3-D, so I could ‘simply’ rotate the character…I have 3-D software I’ve never used.

I wandered by another conversation that night, where the [presumed] art buyer was saying, ‘I like that character, but can you make it digital?’ At that time, when the last dinosaurs were dying off, ‘digital’ characters were easy to spot—they all had a ‘look’. By that time, I had learned that I could digitize my hand-drawn illustrations and manipulate them digitally. The conversation was about a cartoon image, and I really don’t do cartoons. My brain doesn’t think in ‘cartoon;’ my brain doesn’t think in ‘whimsy’—the reason I’ve largely quit marketing my work in Children’s Book venues with the expectation that I’ll get hired. The Art Buyers I was running into at SCBWI events wanted ‘whimsy’. And my work ‘wasn’t photographic enough’, ‘it wasn’t accurate enough’—yet they loved Nightmare Before Christmas—go figure.

Then the rest of the pack came running past me; and I’m now among the slower-moving of the digital art world [as I am in the real world]. I’m a member of a CGI website, but feel like I’m too ancient/too unskilled to participate much…I did just enter some stuff of mine into a Competition—attempting to boost my ego.

 

I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want my blog to be about stuff I didn’t know about. One can find any kind of advice all over the Internet on ‘reinventing oneself’. I can provide input as well, but I have to make the disclaimer that I don’t necessarily feel successful in my reinvention. The experiment is still running…

My father reinvented himself throughout his adult life; business ventures failing through unexpected disaster or unexpected lack of ability on his part. He ended his working life in a settle-for career; he might not have used that language. His last career was fairly successful—just unexpected, and nothing like the one he wanted when he was making dreams for his life.

I’ve mirrored his efforts to some degree; the ‘success’ of this present life is more by the Grace of God than by my efforts. I nearly killed myself by working as a Public Servant rather than as a City Employee, and I now get paid for breathing. I got older, and again get paid for breathing. For all this breathing I ‘bring home’ less than half of what I would be earning if I had continued to work for the City. Because I’ve borrowed so much, in order to adapt our life to that ‘half-income’, I still need to bring in money; it just isn’t the main goal of my life anymore.

So what can I share of value?

  1. You are what you think you are.
    You will never improve your circumstances while keeping the same old thoughts in your head. You have to learn to think in better ways, ways that will enlarge your self-image, before you begin to experience more favorable circumstances. Through a sales organization [I only had modest success in sales—I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’], I took a five-year ‘course’ in possibility thinking. I read books about imagining a new life, and listened to taped [dinosaur] seminars all the time; tapes by people who had changed their lives.
  1. You can never ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.
    You can ‘fake it’ in order to get through the door; but you’ll have to actually become someone different in order to survive in that situation. I faked my way into my job with the City. I ‘exaggerated my skill set’ [lied about my abilities] in order to get my job; and at the same time knew that I was replacing someone who hadn’t made it through their probation.   So I began studying the Building Code in the same manner that I made it through my Structural Engineering courses—I took notes, and I took-on the job no one else wanted—answering Building Code questions over the phone. In that way I could look up the answers [‘let me call you back in five minutes’] in the book; and I started highlighting the sections that people often asked about. In time I had a color-coded Code book; one that kept getting revised every three years. I found myself having to copy all of color-coding because I have a visual memory [‘the answer to that question is on the page with three yellow stripes and a green one’].
    I had to become good at my job just to keep my job.
  1. The job has to become a job about the people you serve.
    Everyone has a job that involves customers in some fashion. Every business has to have repeat customers in some fashion. No one will come back if they receive crappy service—unless your job is with the Government—people ‘come back’ because they have to. The Government has a monopoly on some business functions; people have to deal with the Government, and only the Government, in order to get something done. We had awful clerical people working for the Bureau where I worked [not always, just often], and they were able to keep their jobs simply because they met the minimum standards. In Real Life, one doesn’t continue with a job by meeting minimum standards. In today’s economy, there are PhDs working at fast-food joints because it’s the only job in town. There’s always someone who can do your job better, waiting to take your job. You have to become better than average; and you can become better than average—but it requires work on your part.
  1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping.
    It’s found all through the Bible, because it’s found all over the world. You reap what you sow, later than you sow, and more than you sow. Put a kernel of [uncooked] corn in a good patch of ground, water it, tend the shoot that grows into a stalk of corn, and when the corn is ripe you’ll reap hundreds of kernels of corn. Great example of how banking and interest worked, generations back.
    Not all ground is equal, not all corn is equal. Droughts and flooding and freezing occur; sometimes tornadoes. There are a bunch of fables that used to be taught in school, about humanized insects and animals who save for winter, and exemplify ‘sowing and reaping’. The teaching used to be hard to avoid. Boring… and I bet it doesn’t happen in today’s world.
  1. “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”
    My favorite Steve Martin quotation. Not-being-ignored doesn’t automatically mean success. If you are so good that you can’t be ignored, someone will mention you to someone else. Possibilities.

the universe in his hands_1

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 58: The Examined Life

November 24, 2014

valley of the shadow_crop

Yesterday, I thought I’d seen it all
I thought I’d climbed the highest wall
Now I see the learning never ends
And all I know to do is keep on walking
Walking ’round the bend singing

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
And why, why, why
And all I can say

Is somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
And somewhere down the road
Tho’ we cannot see it now

Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers
At the end of the road

Oh, keep on walking

Somewhere Down the Road Amy Grant, Wayne Kirkpatrick

“Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living — that you are still less likely to believe.”

Plato, Apology

Possibly the one advantage to living with pain for several decades is that it has given me a lot of time for examining my life. When all one can do is get horizontal in the dark, and hope that whatever method of pain relief one is using will kick in soon, one has a lot of time to think… I’ve spent a lot of time examining my life, and I have decided to cultivate faith in things that many people are unable to see; ideas they can’t understand.

One of the things I’ve learned is that I can’t fix people. The most that I can do is provide an environment where ‘fixing’ can occur, if someone is inclined to becoming ‘fixed’. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of being broken. I think there are probably a lot of house pets that would object to the concept that the trip to the veterinarian ‘fixed’ something that wasn’t broken. It was merely inconvenient. ‘Fixing’ a human is far more complicated than some minor surgery.

I started realizing that the world is really messed up while I was in high school. High School, particularly an all-male high school in the sixties, was so different from high school today. At a guy’s high school in the sixties, if a food fight developed in the cafeteria, a coach simply went up to one of his players throwing food, and decked him. End of food fight. No counseling, no lawyers, no fuss. There were switchblades in my high school, and chemistry students making explosives [contact explosive on the legs of the teacher’s desk, which went off when the teacher slammed his briefcase onto his desk—probably the last time he ever did that to get his class’s attention].

During my senior year, I started reading stuff I never would have thought to read, and had to start writing essays on “Appearance vs. Reality as Demonstrated in Kafka and Camus.” I was also introduced to transcendence, in the form of “The Man of La Mancha”:

“I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined – -to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha.”
“I’ve been a soldier and a slave. I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I’ve held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning “Why?” I don’t think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams – -this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

Being mostly a geek through my childhood and high school, my behavior stayed within certain boundaries because life worked better within those boundaries. In college, I learned that there really aren’t any boundaries. By the end of my sophomore year, I spent a lot of time in depression—like Senor Quihana, my brains began to ‘dry up’ as I witnessed man’s inhumanity to man in Vietnam, and in Chicago, and at Kent State… “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams–this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all-–to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

During my third year, at a different college, I discovered my Creator; and I learned that the idea of ‘life as it should be’ wasn’t simply some sort of behavior that my parents had tried to instill in me. One can instill behavior in another person, either in a positive way, or by coercion. To discover a way of living life that transcended behavior, and for me, was the beginning of a journey on ‘the road less traveled’. The vast majority seek a different road.

There are two people in my life who I wish I could help. “Help” in this context means to see life through my perspective. Seeing life through my eyes would not ‘fix’ them; their bodies betray them in ways that are similar to my 30+ years of pain. I’d like them to know that there is a reserve. That no matter how many times they find themselves stumbling on their paths, no matter how many wolves are waiting in the wings, Goodness and Mercy are always following them, protecting their souls. I believe their souls are protected, even if they don’t believe they have souls. Somewhere down the road, they will learn this. In the span of Eternity, our lives here, no matter how broken, are like the blink of an eye. We are as eternal as the stardust from which we are created.

Created. Such a strange concept in today’s scientific world. We learn so much and the learning costs us perspective. The explanations imply that we are machines of some sort, with predictable outcomes. We grow from the joining of two microscopic cells, in much the same manner as all life on this planet exists. Because we are grown, rather than manufactured, there are flaws; there are limitations. I believe that enough generations have passed to cause more flaws to occur. There has been enough contamination to the original strains that more of us are susceptible to breakage; more of us that experience life as it was not intended to be. Bad design? Perhaps. Perhaps it is simply that the raw materials are so fallible. And we are taught that life can be guaranteed. It can only be guaranteed to bring trouble.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 57: we are all mortal

October 8, 2014

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet.
We all breathe the same air.
We all cherish our children’s future.
And we are all mortal.”
John F. Kennedy

My daughter-in-law [11 days from now] has cancer. Surgery has just been done; more treatment will be required. Being diagnosed with cancer, a month before one’s wedding, is bad; major surgery 12 days before the wedding dampens the joy a bride and groom are supposed to be able to feel at this time. Fortunately, further treatment can wait until after the wedding. The discussions with oncologists may not be able to wait… It’s challenging to think about the joy of weddings—two families becoming one larger family—in the midst of cancer.

“In 2014, an estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,570 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.”
http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

A friend of mine, who started as a client, is in remission from liver cancer; and his current health challenge may be a result of his treatment. He is angry with god; he doesn’t accept the idea of a god who allows people to suffer. For me, the problem with his concept is that the Creator doesn’t create cancer. We do. We, the human race; specifically the human race in the 20th Century… we are a cancer.

“Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells…”
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-036845.pdf

Uncontrolled growth and the spread of abnormality. Not that I’m a big fan of ‘normal’…

we are all mortal

Over two thousand nuclear weapons have been exploded in our shared atmosphere or in our shared oceans or in the earth itself. Particulate matter from these tests falls onto the soil of the earth, or upon the surface of the oceans.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJe7fY-yowk

“As of 1993, worldwide, 520 atmospheric nuclear explosions (including 8 underwater) have been conducted with a total yield of 545 Megaton(mt); while the estimated number of underground nuclear tests conducted in the period from 1957 to 1992 is 1,352 explosions with a total yield of 90 Mt.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_weapons_tests

In World War II cities of Germany and Japan were fire-bombed by allied forces.

“In a meeting with the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Vice Marshall Harris enunciated his boss’s policy: “We shall destroy Germany’s will to fight. Now that we have the planes and crews, in 1943 and 1944 we shall drop one and a quarter million tons of bombs, render 25 million Germans homeless, kill 900,000 and seriously injure one million.”
“The bombers pounded Germany with 48,000 tons of explosives in 1942, and with another 207,600 tons in 1943. Night attacks escalated, targeting Germany’s most populous regions: the Ruhr, March to June, 1943; Hamburg, July to November, 1943; Berlin, November, 1943 to March, 1944…”
http://www.century-of-flight.net/Aviation%20history/WW2/bombing%20raids.htm

German forces, determined to stamp out ‘undesirables’ destroyed Warsaw.

“The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.”
—SS chief Heinrich Himmler, October 17, 1944, SS officers’ conference
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_destruction_of_Warsaw

Cancer does not come from the Creator.

 

According to the laws of physics, there is no darkness; there is the absence of light. There is no cold; there is the absence of heat.
Perhaps there is no evil on earth, only the absence of goodness. There is a spiritual side to evil, and there is a greater spiritual side to goodness. However, physics has little to say on this subject.

Somehow we assume that our planet is self-sustaining; that all of the debris from thousands of bombs is somehow cleaned from the atmosphere. The garbage in our air does not go into space; it goes into the soil and into the oceans.

However, we have also polluted that part of space inhabited by our planet. This is essentially the same view of the earth as the idealized view above. The planet earth is in the center, underneath the dots:

space debris

Debris plot by NASA. A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item.

Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three-Mile Island. Chemical pollution, depletion of the ozone layer, those who believe that mankind is not significant enough to affect the environment.

If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he stop us from doing all the damage we do?

Where would he start? Stop all of the scientists who learned to split the atom? Stop all of the generals, all of the politicians who feel power is more important than people? Stop all of the children who pull legs and wings from insects, for their own amusement?
We were created with Free Will—the ability to make choices about what we do. The science community, who in their search for knowledge decide to do that which is very unwise to do. The military leaders who decide that ‘collateral damage’ creates ‘acceptable losses’ in wartime. Leaders who decide that carpet-bombing is the most effective method of dealing with civilian militia on ‘the other side.’ There are no more ‘non-combatants’.

Greed, addiction to power. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In one century, mankind in his ‘wisdom’ brought the world to the brink of destruction during the Cold War [which really hasn’t ended], have destroyed huge amounts of wilderness, plowed-away the American plains, caused the extinction of thousands of creatures on land and on the sea and in the air. In today’s news, war rages over much of the earth; ebola is killing thousands of people; with no end in sight. During the 20th Century, political and ideological zealots killed hundreds of millions of people for not looking at the world in the same way that the zealots see. Fourteen years into the 21st Century, I don’t see much improvement.

I am becoming of the opinion that most of the behavioral injunctions written in Scripture were the Creator’s effort to enable the human race to survive long enough to create the wonders that have come about in the last 114 years.

Wonders are being created every day. We just have to make the time to see them.

Some quotations to end with:

It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.
Albert Einstein

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
Helen Keller

Everything difficult indicates more than our theory of life embraces.
George MacDonald

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 51: Teleology

May 12, 2014

Part of me keeps wondering why I bother to write this stuff. Part of it sharing stuff that I’ve learned, that seems important to me. I suppose that mental health is involved in some fashion.

Teleology…a new word for me. “…ology” always means ‘the study of…’ so, at first glance my inclination is to think that it means something like…

media_head…the study of television.

But it isn’t. Teleology is the study of Purpose.

Do we have one…what might it be…why it would be…all of those kinds of questions.

I seem to be thinking about this a lot these days. I have a client who appears to be in remission from liver cancer. I spend more time listening to him, and discussing “purpose” than I would have imagined. Illustrating his book appears mostly to be a reason for me to be in his life. We have a lot in common. He’s in a lot of pain and discomfort most of the time, as am I, but for him it’s a new thing still. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t figured out how to integrate it into his life; and he wonders how much he has left. As do I…

I believe that my life is in the Hand of my Creator; my client is angry with God, and doesn’t want him to be in his life. I know I have a purpose, even if it isn’t clear to me; because I was created for a purpose. My client isn’t sure he has a purpose, now that his life goal may not be realized due to illness.

I was talking with my friend, Marilyn Keller, a couple days ago; she’s getting ready to head to Australia for her annual international jazz/gospel tour. I’m watching one of her performances in Perth, as I write this. To my surprise, in earlier years she worked with her dad in a chlorine gas manufacturing plant. They manufacture chlorine gas by running extremely high voltage through brine [saltwater]. She was telling me about the precautions needed in order to work on the machines, and being around 20,000 volts of electrical current. How much of the work is simply that of resisting the magnetic current that is created by high voltage. Having to force the giant wrench to stay on the giant bolt, when magnetism wants to suck it away from the bolt.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of the Creator as pure energy. The Bible doesn’t contradict science, although there are a lot of people who seem to think that it does. At times in the past, I’ve felt that way myself. One has to realize that the Bible had to make sense to people who were very literal about life, thousands of years ago—what you see is what you get—the earth is mostly flat; the sun revolves across the sky, which is something that is possibly held up by tall mountains. The stars are lights in the sky; the sun and the moon are bigger lights…Some people feel that in order for the Bible to be True, it has to match our understandings of science today…Only, it’s not a science book. The Bible is a multi-thousand year ‘journal’ of man’s interaction with our Creator.

I’ve written of this idea a lot, I may be repeating myself—I was sitting in the yard one day, and turned over a rock; and all of these squiggly critters started running around. A couple thousand years ago the Creator entered time and space in the form of a human. Not unlike the concept of my deciding to enter the world of those squiggly critters under the rock; in order to help them understand how to make sense of their world. Only I wouldn’t do that. I have trouble leaving my office and interacting with friends; reaching out to strangers is extremely draining. The Creator entered time and space as a human infant, about the most defenseless creature on the planet; in order to understand our lives, and to give us some instruction as to how to make our lives better. And the message started getting messed up, as humans do, shortly after His time here was completed.

To the Creator, in some sense, the Universe is small. In the same sense as with the people who design an aircraft carrier. To a naval architect, in some sense an aircraft carrier is small enough to fit into the imagination.

The Universe is so immense that the planet Earth is a flyspeck in a small suburb of one of the millions of galaxies in Creation. We are so infinitesimally small that the Creator would have absolutely no reason to pay any attention to us. Sort of like those critters under the rock. But if the Creator is Infinite, what is Large? For that matter, everything, including flyspecks, are small, compared to Infinity. I believe the Creator is still Creating today; that’s what Creation is about. I’m losing my ability to draw; I’m losing my ability to write legibly, and pressing these keys requires more effort. And I keep looking for ‘work-arounds’ that will enable me to keep making illustrations. I can’t stop. My life only makes sense to me if I’m creating images. I expect that this is a gift from the Creator; part of my being Created in [His] image. I apparently also need to learn how to make sense of my life when I can’t to this stuff anymore. I’m not there yet.

I’ve created some characters in my career; they’ve never been famous. I still keep using these characters over and over again in other illustrations. I like them. In some sense, I love them. They are important to me. At their most tangible stage they are lines and shading on pieces of paper; at their most developed, they are bits–electrons on a monitor, or ink/toner on a piece of paper. I rarely throw drawings away [I have stacks and gigabytes of them]. Small images that are a part of some larger image remain in my files, and only leave when absolutely necessary. Like when I spill coffee on them, and the ink runs…they become ‘broken’ and I dislike losing them. They aren’t evil; usually they didn’t even choose to become scrap. But that’s what they’ve become.

There are a ton of people who are angry at God, and those who blame/credit God for nearly everything, no matter how nonsensical. I don’t blame them; I used to be one. Religious people can be very annoying, even if one shares their views. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the life of the religious is like a bubble—self-contained and purified. the universe in his hands_1

But the modern Urban world is a bubble as well. Not as pure, not as simplified as the religious life. And I walk a road that wanders in and out of both bubbles. There is no gate between the two, although some think there is. One can wander in and out.

The Creator is Infinite and Eternal; we are very finite and very time-bound. While we are Created in the Creator’s image, it is a large mistake to believe that the Creator exists in our image. The Bible makes a lot of statements that are generally interpreted to mean that the world is filled with ‘bad’ people—“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. That Jesus, the Creator’s presence in this world, somehow absorbs the Creator’s anger over our wickedness. He protects us from…Himself? Seems like that would mean that the Creator is schizophrenic. While the world is no doubt filled with a lot of bad people—read the headlines on any day—I think that the reality is that while Created in the image of the Creator, it is our human limitations/liabilities that are incompatible with the nature of the Creator. Like humans and high-voltage.

I’ve done a lot of electrical wiring over the years. I have this tendency to choose not to flip the breaker before starting to install electrical outlets. It works, if one is careful, and insulated. With 110v, one can get zapped if one does the wrong thing, but if one isn’t standing in a puddle of water, and is wearing rubber-soled shoes, one can get zapped and still get reminded that it would have been much smarter to flip the breaker… I’ve never been this stupid with 220v—I’ve heard too many stories. Suppose the nature of the Creator is more like high-voltage than it is like being human. Grab hold of high-voltage and you are toast. The Bible talks about how, at the end of time, all that we are will be burned as if in fire, and that only ‘the gold’ will remain [remember, this was written so that people living a few thousand years ago would understand—it isn’t necessarily wrong, but there was no electricity when Jesus was doing carpentry in Nazareth]. The smelting of metal made sense as an illustraton. To me, this seems to be consistent with the idea that the Creator is pure energy—high voltage—and we need to be changed in order to be compatible with Eternity. Turning our Free Will toward the Creator, rather than our own foolish pleasures. Things I do for myself vs. things I do for others. I think maturity is learning to focus my attention on others, and on things that will last, rather than things that fade with time. Like bodies.

the universe in his hands_mer
There’s a part of me that wants to write something that will solve most of the world’s problems–that will bring peace where there is anger. That will bring the assurance that we are Loved as we are; and that everyone doesn’t have to agree with each other in order to live together. That my having doesn’t take away from you, and vice-versa. We’re making a mess of this world, and we don’t need to; but it requires a ton of cooperation and a willingness to change for a higher good; a willingness to make some sacrifices. It means sharing, and that, in human beings, does not appear to occur naturally. It has to be learned, because sharing means overcoming the fear that there won’t be enough. That sharing means that we all deserve to live harmoniously with our world.

But I doubt that this will occur in my lifetime.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 6: Passages

October 13, 2011

I’m not sure that Lydia was into gospel, being a life-long Lutheran.  These lyrics remind me of Lydia:

Your name is written in the book of life
Keep walking in dominion and his might
You serve the Son you serve the One
Who knew you long ‘fore you begun
And you are worthy, and you are worthy
Go ahead, encourage yourself
Look inside and draw from the well
The water flows and heaven knows
That you can’t make it on your own
He said you’re worthy so lets be worthy

So as a man thinketh so does he believe
Faith is not about what you see
It doesn’t matter how you feel
His word is right His love is real
He said you’re worthy, so lets be worthy
Don’t worry; be happy and just say
The light is going to lead me all the way

Lydia was a survivor: she endured the death of her father at an early age; survived being fostered into abusive situations; was a cancer survivor [two mastectomies]; a recover[ed-at last] alcoholic;  had endured twenty or so years living in and raising four children in somewhat primitive conditions in various parts of the world [her husband, Wayne, was a dam engineer]; she endured a number of surgeries, losing some normally-vital parts; and yet, served God in her own way, most of her life. At her funeral, her pastor/friend of 30+ years listed some of  her quiet accomplishments that I’d never heard about, and yet they were not surprising to me–that was what Lydia was about.

I will miss her. I lost my Mom years ago, first to dementia and then in death; Lydia has been my Mom-at-a-distance for a long time. And, I of course, wonder if I ever let her know how important she was to me. Something else to do, when I get Home.
And now she is Home, where there is no more pain, no more suffering.

I created this image several years ago; it’s inspired by an obscure Norman Rockwell illustration for a magazine; an image from his vast collection of art.


In a way, the image represents my daughter’s life [symbolically, the one in the middle]. Kat is now 9 years old; I don’t know that she roller-blades. If I were being literal, the one on the left would be my wife, but she’s not there, yet. The woman is closer to Lydia than to Judy; but again, it’s symbolic, today. So, Kat, Jen and GrammaGreat.

Home.
I read “The Shack” during the week we were in Colorado. I’ve avoided the book since I first heard of it–lots of Church people were reading it. I knew the book was controversial, and that should have been my clue to pick it up. I discovered that Wm. Paul Young and I have many of the same ideas. I’m a heretic, in terms of contemporary Evangelical Christianity, so I don’t share a lot about my real understandings of God and my place in the world.

Today’s church world is so anthropomorphic. Taking literally all of the Truth in the Bible, and expecting, to some degree, literal streets of Gold. Believing in a literal bodily resurrection, when most of our bodies are really emptiness.
I believe that our presence with God will be at more of a quantum level; our energy returning to the source of all energy; with, somehow, our personalities intact. We’ll still be us, but without these annoying bodies…
An atom expanded to the size of a football stadium would have a grain of sand in the middle of the 50 yard line; that grain of sand would be the nucleus of the atom. Somewhere orbiting the stadium would be a few more grains of sand, representing the electrons in the atom. The rest would be emptiness. We are composed of millions of atoms, millions of emptiness.

Lydia felt that emptiness at one point, details I won’t get into. And she knew that she needed to turn her life around. AA was a major part of that turning. The emptiness became full; more love for her family, more love for the people in her world, and for the people beyond her world. Love is what fills the emptiness; for God is Love. She didn’t preach, she did get bossy. Her bossiness in my life was an encouragement to become a better person.

God, I will miss Lydia’s presence in my life; I’m glad I’ll see her when I get Home.

forward to:
www.mjarts.com


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