Posts Tagged ‘commercial’

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 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 155: He thinks that morals are paintings on walls

June 18, 2018

P45_mj

From the movie, Sabrina [1995]
Sabrina Fairchild: You know, you are not exactly what people say you are.
Linus Larrabee: Oh yeah? [beat] What do they say I am?
Sabrina Fairchild: Oh, you know.
Linus Larrabee: No.
Sabrina Fairchild: Well. . .that you’re the world’s only living heart donor.
Linus Larrabee: Oh. That.
Sabrina Fairchild: And. . .how does this one go? Um, “He thinks that morals are paintings on walls and scruples are money in Russia.”
Linus Larrabee: Well, that’s droll.
Sabrina Fairchild: And then there’s my favorite. . .
Linus Larrabee: No, no, no. I get the picture.

Many of us in America believe we are witnessing the Presidency of the Amoral Man. Not necessarily immoral—one who behaves in an immoral manner; but one who lacks morals altogether.
Is this a first? No, of course not; I lived through Nixon and all of the immoral Presidents that followed him. Most of our Presidents lived in a time where their every statement was not published by the Press. To a large degree, we have no means of comparison.

We are living in a moment of time where ‘the leader of the Free World’ has called one of the worst dictators in history ‘an honorable man’ and has afforded him the equivalency of the President of the United States of America. A President who justifies Kim Jong Un’s murderous dominance over his people as being ‘tough’. A President who insults our allies and fawns upon dictators.
It is well documented that the President lies all the time.

In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.
That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/05/01/president-trump-has-made-3001-false-or-misleading-claims-so-far/?utm_term=.9b1ca6bb375f

And now, the children…

More than 2,300 children were taken from their parents at the border between May 5 and June 9, according to statistics released Monday by the Department of Homeland Security, with the pace of family separations growing over that period to nearly 70 a day.
The separations were roundly condemned — including by all four living former first ladies — as cruel, inhumane and un-American. Administration officials rejected former first lady Laura Bush’s comparison of the detention centers to Japanese American internment camps during World War II.

The President is lying about this, also.

The situation has become a moral test for President Trump and his administration. The president on Monday voiced defiance and continued to falsely blame congressional Democrats for what he decried as a “horrible and tough” situation. But Trump is empowered to immediately order border agents to stop separating families as a result of his “zero tolerance” enforcement policy.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-defiant-as-crisis-grows-over-family-separation-at-the-border/2018/06/18/210c78ca-730f-11e8-805c-4b67019fcfe4_story.html?utm_term=.e438f94bb60b

Attorney General Jeff Sessions brings the Bible into the argument:

“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime — as it should be,” he said. “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/06/15/what-jeff-sessions-got-wrong-when-quoting-the-bible/?utm_term=.82c7eabfa8a2

One article talked about how the parents are told that the children will be taken to the showers… and the children are never returned. Parents are told that their children will never be returned to them.
I haven’t read this notion yet; I think it’s probably too volatile to suggest in print:
To my way of thinking, the current way of dealing with immigrants is one, admittedly large, step from ovens—to get rid of the evidence. For all of the Holocaust deniers and all those who believe ‘it could never happen here’—we now see how it can happen.

I keep waiting for a National Guard company to have the guts to disregard their orders and to start defending the children. I’ve probably watched too many movies.

If you’re horrified by news of families being separated at the borders, here’s a bit of news you can use.

First, the policy: It helps to be incredibly clear on what the law is, and what has and has not changed. When Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders say that the policy of separating children from their parents upon entry is a law passed by Democrats that Democrats will not fix, they are lying.

There are two different policies in play, and both are new.

First is the new policy that any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused. The parents then typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor and are given a sentence of the few days they served waiting for trial. But then when the parents try to reunite with their children, they are given the runaround—and possibly even deported, alone. The children are left in HHS custody, often without family.

Second is a new and apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves at a border-entry location, seeking asylum—that is, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law—the government is snatching the children away from their parents. Here, the government’s excuse seems to be that they want to keep the parents in jail-like immigration detention for a long time, while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The long-standing civil rights case known as Flores dictates that they aren’t allowed to keep kids in that kind of detention, so the Trump administration says they have to break up the families. They do not have to break up families—it is the government’s new choice to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws that is leading to the heartbreaking separations you’ve been reading about.

So that is what is happening. Whether or not that is what the Bible demands is the subject of a different column. Good explainers on what is and is not legal detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers can also be found here and here and here.

The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

You can find more information here:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/06/how-you-can-fight-family-separation-at-the-border.html

A man without a sense of morality. Only a sense of winning. His win is our loss.

angel.grief_mj

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 154: The Plan

June 15, 2018

Inconceivable

For decades, I have heard religious people say that “God has a plan for your life;” and the worst one, especially after some sort of calamity, ‘it happened for a reason; it’s part of God’s plan for your life’.
I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride:
Vizzini: He didn’t fall? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think ‘God’s Plan’ is often used in the same sense as INCONCEIVABLE!

Some include ‘calamity’ in “God’s Plan”, as if somehow God desires to destroy the innocent. As if it is the Creator’s desire that homes are being destroyed by the eruption of Kilauea, that non-combatants in Syria are being destroyed by American missiles; that the Rohingya people are suffering tortuous persecution; that one of the foulest dictators alive at this point in time has just been given the legitimacy of being an equal to the President of the United States [something no other President has stooped to doing] and the list goes on and on, to the killing of individual students in schools and the murder of people-of-color carrying cell phones, by white policemen who aren’t punished…
These calamities are not designed by the Creator.

I have to interject here—I was raised by an authoritarian father. He was a good man; I don’t think I can go so far as to say he was a kind man. I doubt that he was ever taught much about kindness. In many ways, I feel as though my life ‘began’ when I left his house and went off to college.
Having been raised this way, I was never partial to simply accepting what some guy on a platform was attempting to teach about “God’s Word”. I struggled with some guy telling me what I was supposed to believe. I rely instead on critical thinking.

“God has a plan for your life.”
“Plan”
Isaiah 14:26
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. …

Original Word: עֵצָה  [Hebrew]
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
NASB Translation (instances used)
advice (11), consultation (2), counsel (52), counselor* (1), counselors* (1), counsels (1), designs (1), plan (8), plans (2), purpose (6), scheme (1), schemes (1), strategy (1).

Young’s Literal Translation
This is the counsel that is counselled for all the earth, And this is the hand that is stretched out for all the nations.

52 times in the Bible, the word translated as ‘plan’ means counsel; 11 times it means advice; nothing here implying ‘requirement’.

And then there is ‘God’s Will’
In Hebrew, that which is translated as ‘God’s Will’ in English, actually means ‘to inquire of God’. A question, not a statement.

When it comes to understanding Scripture, English sucks. Being the only language with which I am fluent, this is problematic. Other languages have better meanings. For another example, in Greek there are four distinct words [and meanings] that are translated in English as “love”. Statistically, we get it wrong 75% of the time.

This is a “plan”; I’ve been drawing plans for most of my life—over 50 years.
plan

I have no idea whether or not anyone actually followed this plan… the cabinet maker is a continent away from me. What’s more, I don’t know if this bizarre idea actually worked. A kitchen counter with something like a plank or a diving board off the end. I envisioned the possibility of some very large person standing on the end of that plank, at was about to be the end of a drunken evening… The plank attached to steel tubing attached to steel plating attached to the floor of the kitchen. I guess it was supposed to look cool. I wanted to design it to support a rhinoceros.
A very expensive ‘plan’ that may have had disastrous results.

I know a few people who probably snickered when they read the words above, I rely instead on critical thinking. To them, Faith is totally incompatible with Critical Thinking.

Some will ask if I believe that the Bible [however they define this word] is the Word of God. I believe that the Hebrew Scriptures, and teachings of the New Testament are the Word of God, in their original languages, for the purpose they were intended. The mere fact that one can find a verse in the  Bible that justifies their particular understanding of the world does not mean that this was the intent of the verse.
Do I believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God? No. The KJV is a translation/interpretation of the Word of God. The Word of God is so much larger than a shelf-full of books.

I came to an understanding of the Word of God, but not because some guy on a platform told me that the Book was God’s Word. I mostly came by way of C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness and Philip Yancey, to name a few. Moses Maimonides and Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Nadia Bolz-Weber to name some more… People whose writing, and whose understanding of the Universe shaped my understanding of Scripture.

One of the primary tenets of the Abrahamic Scriptures is that mankind was created with Free Will; and that this Free Will is an aspect of being created in the Image of the Creator—the Imago Dei.
Imagine a chess board. You can move your pieces anywhere you want, on the ‘chessboard’ of your life. Also imagine that you are playing chess with the all-time Great Master of the game of Chess. No matter what move you make, the Master will know what move to make, in order for the Master to win the game. For the Creator, ‘winning’ the Game of Life in which you play, has nothing to do with you losing. We aren’t playing with the President, who only counts his success as winning—the ‘zero sum’ game.

the chess game

The Creator’s greatest joy is for you to accomplish the purposes for which you were designed. That is why you were created.
This eventually leads to the next, highly understandable question: “If God loves me, how could he let [my loved one] die?” “How could he allow this calamity to fall upon us?”

There is no simple answer to this question.
Your life isn’t simply about you.

Your life is also about a thousand interactions with other people, with other creatures on this earth. Your life is about the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of interactions with people and creatures throughout the whole of your life. Everything you’ve ever done, ever read, ever seen, ever touched, is stored in the cells of your brain.
Your life is more than your life here on planet Earth. You have a soul; your soul isn’t limited to the days and months and years of your lifetime. Your soul consists of electromagnetic forces that are formed by all of the thoughts of your brain. You are more than a brain with a body; you are a soul with a brain and a body. Your soul goes on forever, in a form that the human brain can’t possibly understand, as long as we are trapped here in three dimensions, trapped here in space and time.

You are intended to live forever. Even the longest life, lived by the oldest person to have ever lived on this earth, is short, when compared to forever. The longest life will seem like the blinking of an eye, when we are on the other side of this Life. Even the shortest life, lived here on earth, will continue forever. Seconds or decades won’t have an appreciable difference when compared to forever. Life without the limitations of Time.

The most horrid lifetime on this planet will be but a moment in eternal time.

Does this mean we can ignore the most horrible of circumstances on this planet, because they are simply a moment in eternal time? No, because you are affected by everything that touches you. The most horrid experience that happens to someone else, once you know about it, also happens to you. How you respond. Whether it builds you or tears you down. You don’t really ignore the things you want to ignore. This is merely a fiction your brain creates. The reality is that you never forget the things you want to ignore. If you’ve heard it or seen it or heard of it; it is recorded in your brain.
This is part of the reason why we struggle so much with our past. It’s never really our past; it’s part of who we are now.

piggy back draft 5

My vocation, and my avocation [paid and unpaid] is the making of images. Sometimes, when ‘the streams of the Universe’ are running well, I am able to serve The Work. A lot of times I don’t serve the work well. The image above is from a work I didn’t serve well, because of time pressures. A Hiroshima Diary, the true story of a young woman who came to Hiroshima after the Bomb, looking for her niece and nephew. She found hundreds of children, wandering around, looking for their parents. Every child she encounters, dies in her arms from radiation poisoning. It was a story I wanted to tell; I didn’t have the time to serve it well.

We cannot ignore the suffering we bring to this planet by our actions or our inaction.

If you are not incensed by the results of the Summit between our President and the Dictator of North Korea, you may not be paying attention.
This is why it is so important that you vote in the next election; even if you don’t like the person you vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 153: Sh_t Happens

June 4, 2018

Die,Primitive
Die! Primitive!

One of the major problems in trying to live a life of Faith is the fact that shit happens. And because it happens, religious people feel compelled to attempt an explanation of ‘how could a loving God could allow this to happen?’ Most of the answers aren’t helpful. Some are just plain wrong.

A life of Faith is almost entirely an ongoing metaphor; and religious people want to make that life literal. Literal doesn’t work very well.

“A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect.[1] 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[3] Wikipedia

The world isn’t a stage, in spite of all the time we in the Developed World spent looking at digital stages on video screens. Technology is such that we illustrators can create images that look so much like reality that one can forget they are watching a story; a play… We can learn from these stages, but we must not allow an imaginary ‘life’ to replace the actual life we have—even though there are many who dive into an imaginary world as a shelter from the world they live in.

All one needs to do is read the news agency headlines [most of it isn’t fake] for an hour or so and read occasional articles; do this in order to realize that humans treat each other horribly all the time. Individuals killing other people for some of the most absurd reasons; governments persecuting their own citizens, because the government doesn’t like what they do, or where their parents came from.
When I take a few steps back, so that I can look at the human race in a larger perspective, I can’t imagine why the Creator allows us to live. We humans are in the process of killing all of the life on this planet; without regard to the warnings being given to us by scientists of all kinds. In the ‘Developed World’, we mostly kill off this planet for our own convenience. When I look at the world my granddaughter is growing up in, I feel ashamed. I feel appalled that so many in this country [America—the only one I know] want to hide their heads in the sand.
This is not the world I grew up in. Were the people in that world more enlightened than we are now? I don’t think so. We knew far less about the world. People acted from cherished beliefs [some of them wrong] rather than media instructions. I mean, does it really matter what Kim and all of the other celebrities with opinions do with their lives? Do have a direct connection to their lives?

In an Emergency Room recently, I was talking with a nurse that grew up in Sandy, Oregon, when Sandy was tiny. Like me, her family had a cabin near Brightwood. She was the nurse that brought in all the Consent forms. She said, “I grew up rural. With rural people you had a handshake, a look in the eye, and that was enough. They knew who they were.”
My comment to her was that maybe the problems today are largely because people don’t know who they are.

The question about ‘why does this happen?’ needs to be re-framed—how could the Creator of the entire Universe possibly love one individual on this ‘little blue dot’ of a planet, located in a bad neighborhood in the Milky Way galaxy? How could the Creator of the entire Universe possibly love one individual in this mass of people so prone to violence and hatred? It’s absolutely absurd. On the order of picking up a large rock in the yard and looking at the squiggly things under the rock; and deciding that one of them is so worthy of Divine Love and Concern that the Creator of the Universe would choose to become one of those squiggly things.
Which is exactly what happened. The Creator of the Universe implanted one cell into the womb of a teenager; that cell fertilized another cell, and nine months later Jesus was born.
Thirty-some years later that same Jesus began a ministry that was almost entirely metaphor. He taught by telling stories; He did not teach by dropping sound bites. The Gospels were written decades after His death; His stories were remembered. There wasn’t a reporter following Him around to capture every word. There were people who dedicated their lives to remembering. There were no pencils and notepads. In order to write something down for posterity, one needed pen, ink, parchment, and something like a table to hold everything.

Literal does not work very well, especially in English; but that doesn’t stop some people. Jesus certainly did not speak King James English. Jesus spoke in First Century Aramaic, a dialect that most likely didn’t exist when the New Testament was compiled in the 2nd or 3rd Century. The dates are always under dispute.

It is generally agreed by historians that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic), the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_Jesus

Jesus was tortured, executed and placed into a hole in a hillside. Three days later Jesus returned. He promised that this could happen to everyone. Jesus didn’t die to save you from your sin; Jesus died that you might enter into Eternity with Him.

The story is about Redemption.
The story is always about redemption and nothing more.

“Following the tragic Amish school shooting of 10 young schoolgirls in a one-room Amish school in October 2006, reporters from throughout the world invaded Lancaster County, PA to cover the story. (You can read the full story of the Amish school shooting here.)  However, in the hours and days following the shooting a different, an unexpected story developed.

In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

It’s ironic that the killer was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter. He never forgave God for her death. Yet, after he cold-bloodedly shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family.

In a world at war and in a society that often points fingers and blames others, this reaction was unheard of. Many reporters and interested followers of the story asked, “How could they forgive such a terrible, unprovoked act of violence against innocent lives?”

The Amish culture closely follows the teachings of Jesus, who taught his followers to forgive one another, to place the needs of others before themselves, and to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control and can bring good out of any situation. Love and compassion toward others is to be life’s theme. Vengeance and revenge is to be left to God.          https://lancasterpa.com/amish/amish-forgiveness/

So, what…are we all supposed to become Amish?
No. The answer is to stop hating. Stop hating the totally unlovable.
Give every person a shot at redemption; especially those who deserve it least.

Like me.

The Prophet Isaiah_3

 

 

 

 

 

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 148: Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me

April 26, 2018

Scandal pg2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not come to Faith through the Bible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul draft2

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Belief

April 23, 2018

P45_mj

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

Why am I writing this one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclaimer #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Holy Saturday

March 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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