Posts Tagged ‘freelance’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 179: Unexplainable Happenings

January 20, 2019

Okay… I changed my relationship with WordPress, and things have not come out, yet, as I had hoped. I hope to return to https://mjarts.blog

CPO John Seidman was my wife’s nephew; he died in a failed Coast Guard rescue in October of 2009…a tragic accident.
http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2009/11/photo-essay-memorial-service-for-rescue-1705/
Members of the US Coast Guard have a special place in my heart.
Today, the spouses of members of the US Coast Guard are figuring out where they will get their family’s next meal because members of the Coast Guard are working without pay, due to heartless politicians who have forced the country into a Shutdown. Legislation in Congress to stop the Shutdown has already been passed, Legislation that will allow the Shutdown to end; but these approvals are not being passed on to the President for his signature, or his veto of the Legislation; a veto which can be overridden by the two Houses of the Legislative Branch. The Shutdown can end today, if certain people will swallow their pride and do their duty to Serve. As do those Federal workers you and I employ to serve us.
You can support Furloughed Federal Government workers by donating to your local Food Bank:  
https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank

First Heroes For Freedom, Silver Moon Press, Spring 2000

Physical Pain.
It started in a PE class in high school. I was on a trampoline, with the goal of jumping upwards and landing on the lower part of my chest; what actually happened is that I landed on the upper part of my chest, causing my legs to fly over and behind my head: Э I heard my spine pop like my desk chair rolling over the bubble wrap on my office floor [I am by nature untidy]; for the next few weeks, when I turned to face someone, I rotated my body like a door on hinges. My parents probably did not have health insurance, and it seemed like, if you could get to a doctor, you didn’t really need one. From that point onward, I lived with continual pain in my low back, and recurring sciatica—burning pain in the outer part of my thighs from damage to the Sciatic nerve.

There was a significant amount of time when the pain stopped. My fiancée and I went to a crusade here in Portland; some evangelist whose name I forgot. The first evening contained some profound teaching on the subject of Faith; the second or third evening, he was ‘giving out the Gift of Tongues’—glossolalia. Glossolalia is found in a variety of religious experiences—speaking in unknown languages. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, refers to ‘speaking in the tongues of angels’—and most importantly, if there is no one around to interpret this language, when spoken in public, it has no value. Glossolalia runs counter to my personality; but I felt compelled to go down to that stage…where I found myself lying on the floor, with babbling people rubbing their hands over me. After a few minutes, I asked the Creator if I could go back to my seat; the experience was getting embarrassing. On my way back to my seat, some gal with a clipboard asked me if I had ‘received the Gift of Tongues’ and looked confused when I said that I hadn’t. A day or two later, I realized that my back didn’t hurt—first time in years—when one deals with chronic pain, it tends to have a habitual aspect—I expected to be in pain, ‘so I was’. My awareness of ‘no-pain’ wasn’t immediate.

One more experience of Unexplainable Happenings in my life. Things for which I cannot find a logical explanation; things that seem to be a result of an act of faith. I cannot articulate ‘why’ the Creator would intervene in my life; nor can I predict when such things might occur. I know a guy who has heard voices that directed him out of events that would have cost his life. I’ve never heard voices; but I have ‘sensed’ that I was supposed to do things. These events add some weight to the results of my inner mental wanderings.

Three totaled cars, years working as a carpenter—the back pain came back. The reality is that I now have two stenoses in my spinal column. Damaged vertebrae and a narrowing of the hole through which the spinal nerve pass. I don’t know if the damage occurred in high school or is caused by some other deterioration. There are no past records I can check.
Some ‘good’ news is that I don’t feel Sciatic pain any more—those nerves are damaged by my ‘idiopathic polyneuropathy’—doctorspeak for ‘your nerves are messed up, and we don’t know why’. The reality is that Neurology is still in its ‘childhood’—Neurologists don’t know nearly as much as they pretend to. My understanding is that most neurological conditions have no label because the nervous system isn’t very well understood.
What appears to be occurring is that my nerves’ outer sheathing/protection is deteriorating. I liken it to wiring with its insulation damaged. If you connect the exposed wiring to something that conducts electricity, you get a short circuit. At the same time I have this growing superpower of being impervious to external pain/sensation, I also have my own Kryptonite; my damaged nerves provide a burning pain of their own, which never stops. Diminished by medication.
We each have the option of choosing our own self-identification; while I deal with constant pain, I work at not letting it become my self-definition. I believe in possibilities; my Faith tells me that Pain won’t be my self-definition when I end my journey here on this world.

Enough of that.

Promotional image for the Man of Steel

I decided, when I started this blog, that I wasn’t going to write anything, in terms of working as an illustrator, that wasn’t accurate. Consequently, I haven’t written a lot about being a freelance commercial artist. I know a lot of things that don’t seem to work very well. As a freelance commercial artist, I’ve wasted a lot of money on print advertising, I’ve wasted a lot of money on digital advertising and a lot of time trolling Craigslist. Most of my income, for the last twenty years, has come from my other business—Building Code consulting. The enjoyable part of that business is that I always need illustrations to explain Building Code concepts; and I have this in-house illustrator who makes my technical writing more understandable. I bill him out at an hourly rate

I cannot tell you how to become successful as a freelance commercial artist

I create images that people admire, but don’t particularly want to buy. When I started this gig—having been told by my doctor that I needed to change careers in order to keep my health—I collected a folder full of images that I admired. I mostly focused on ‘the Golden Age of Illustration’ plus other examples of realism that border on fine art. I invested something like ten years into being able to create the kind of image I want to produce, consistently. In those ten years the world of illustration changed. Illustrations for children’s books became cartoony and photographers became illustrators.
A reality that I do not like to admit is that as in the rest of my life, I am a dinosaur; and I have no desire to change what I do. Refer to my last post, with Illustration Tip #1.

  • Illustration Tip #2:

Portfolios, digital and otherwise: back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth, all advertising was done on paper. Color made of ink-on-paper can be very different from color-made-from-light. Not only is it important to set the ‘gamma’ of a monitor [yes, even today], it is important to know what sort of color setting [Printer Profile] the printer is using. Print images use CMYK [Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, black] inks and monitor images and photocopiers use RGB [Red, Green, Blue] toners and diodes.

First Postcard | Second Postcard | Third Postcard

Hire an Illustrator is a company in the UK who hosts one of my portfolios and sends out postcards to art buyers. The first time I sent them a card design, I neglected to find out what Printer Profile they use. The second card was better [too much green] and the third was tolerable [the other side is too dark, but tolerable].
Does this sort of advertising work? My usual measurement for ‘working’ is whether or not I’ve gotten an inquiry or work as a result of the advertising. I’ve gotten work through this vendor, so I keep using them [beside which, I like the people]

  • Illustration Tip #3:

If you are going to use online advertising via digital portfolios, you will need to provide the vendor with a title, a description of the work, and Keywords to locate your work on their website:

Third Postcard, above:
Doctor Who at Rainbow Canyon
fan art; promotional image, Digitally-colored graphite drawing, digital
Keywords: Fantasy, Children, People, Realistic, Children’s Book, Comic Book Art, the Doctor, TARDIS, Dr-Who, whovian, doctorwho manipulation

I keep a Keywords.txt file in my Windows-based office network, for every image I post online. In time, you will find that you do this A LOT.
Setting up illustrations for a new-to-me vendor is very tedious. I assume that Apple has some sort of equivalent to a text file.

  • Illustration Tip #4:

As an editorial note regarding Windows:

That grey rectangle after the colon: is not simply a blank space. In that space are all sorts of instructions for Windows in terms of font, spacing, and a bunch of other stuff. When you transfer the words in that box to some other format, such as WordPress in their new iteration, the phrase is messed up. The same thing happens from transferring Word to html and other machine languages. It’s best to do your copy and paste from a text file, which has no hidden attributes.
This can become a problem when creating a digital book through Amazon or some other vendor. If you attempt to create a digital book using a Word manuscript, you will encounter strange things within the text—that information in the grey rectangle. When I create digital books, I use Adobe InDesign- there are no grey rectangles. More tedious; better results.

Coast Guard Rescue












Chronicles in Ordinary Time 178: Abstraction

January 12, 2019
Nebula NGC 3627

ANY TIME that a human being writes something that is intended to somehow describe the nature of God, that human being is using an abstraction. The problem with many religious people is that they really have no idea what an abstraction is.
Abstraction, the cognitive process of isolating, or “abstracting,” a common feature or relationship observed in a number of things, or the product of such a process.

The term abstract is sometimes used to refer to things that are not located in space or time; in this sense, numbers, properties, sets, propositions, and even facts can be said to be abstract, whereas individual physical objects and events are concrete. The capacity for making and employing abstractions is considered to be essential to higher cognitive functions, such as forming judgments, learning from experience, and making inferences.
https://www.britannica.com/science/abstraction

This lack of understanding is the reason I refer to the Creator, rather than ‘God’—when people use the ‘God’ word, I really have no idea what they actually mean. The Creator is not located in Space or Time. I don’t even think the Creator is corporeal in any sense that a human can understand. Humans are trapped in Space and Time; nearly everything we know is concrete—things we can understand or experience directly; experiences that involve the five senses. There are some common experiences that go beyond the concrete—Love being a primary example. No one knows what Love looks like until they experience it. A baby begins to experience Love while in the womb; the bond between a mother and their unborn offspring [Love seems to exist beyond the human].
This Love becomes tangible at birth; or not. Not every child experiences Love. One of the saddest creatures on earth is the child who has never known Love. People who are Pro-Birth tend to forget this; not every child is born into a loving environment; not every child is adopted into a loving environment; not every child experiences Love in her or his life. While possibilities always exist, being born is no guarantee that a positive outcome will occur. People talk about being Pro-Life; I am of the opinion that if people were really concerned about the life of a child, they would show a greater concern about solving the societal ills that end up forcing a girl to deny her baby’s life. I walk through a cemetery almost every weekday; there are portions of the cemetery that are set aside for those who die early in life. Clearly one can see that even in death, the remembrance of the child is filled with Love. The Book of Ecclesiastes touches upon this notion.

In my last post, I raised the idea that I was going to write about my life. To fully understand me, one needs to understand the idea that I believe in the Creator; that everything in my life stems from my relationship with my Creator. This relationship extends from the most inane aspects of my life to the most far-reaching ideas of my life. This hasn’t always been true; I was raised as an atheist. Even that phrase is inaccurate; the Creator, in whatever form that concept is used, was absent from my early life. While I heard the word, ‘god,’ this word had no real meaning for me. Even less meaning than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I was in my twenties when I first began to understand the Creator.
I really don’t care what you believe; my intention in life is not about convincing others as to what they should believe. My goal is to share possibilities.

One, I don’t believe that we are supposed to be uniform in our understanding of the world we live in; two, as the BBC’s Sherlock describes himself, I am a ‘high-functioning sociopath’. More academic descriptions, such as INTJ [if you are aware of Myers-Briggs] appeal to my wife. My ‘natural’ self really doesn’t like people very much; that self that I have been working on for forty-plus of my sixty-six years is more open to people. My digital self is more personable than my physical self.

I am a follower of Jesus. The Creator of the entire Universe created a single cell and implanted that cell into the womb of a teenage girl named Mary. Mary [Miriam in Hebrew] was a 1st-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran. The Creator entered Time and Space as Jesus so that humans could have a more concrete idea of the nature of the Creator
I don’t ascribe to a particular denomination of Christendom; at the same time, I’ve missed very few Sundays in church, during these forty-plus years. “Church,” I find, is one place where I can converse with other humans about the Creator. Generally speaking, if I comment about the Creator on social media, I find a lot of hostility. I have little room in my physical life for hostility—one of the reasons I vent about our government so much—it was never intended to be functioning so ineptly—the venting helps me to be the person I want to be; rather than that other guy.
My digital self is far more open to interaction with other humans.

I am in pain all the time. This situation began in high school. Pain is an indisputable fact of my life that, like my belief system, can’t be separated from the rest of my life; however, I do not like to define my life by my limitations. I prefer possibilities…

Enough of that.

An early sketch, pre-1970

I began drawing in the seventh grade, or something like that. I was bored, spending another weekend at my grandmother’s, in Condon, Oregon. Condon was small then; I think it may be smaller now. My grandmother had an old refrigerator box sitting on her porch, filled with magazines. In my boredom, I began copying photos from magazines. I had some talent.
In high school, pursuing the drafting proficiency I began in my elementary school shop classes, I was introduced to Technical Illustration and found the occupation that I thought I would pursue all of my life. It didn’t exactly work that way. In college I found out that it’s really important to plan one’s life. The college I chose did not offer Technical Illustration; that college was the only one I considered, because my cousin was going there. See all of the words above Spock. There, my choices were architecture and art. “Starving Artist” seemed to be a poor choice for an academic career. I didn’t want to draw houses [limited imagination], but I selected architecture anyway. Of course, the college I was attending didn’t really have an Architecture program. It took me two years to understand that; and I transferred to the State University that offered an Architecture program. After five years of college, I had a degree in Architecture. I had no desire to be an architect. I still didn’t want to draw houses [intentionally-limited imagination]. If one likes to draw, an Architecture major is a good choice.
Years later, in my third career, I began working as an Illustrator and Building Code consultant [the occupation that has allowed my wife and I to eat, for the last twenty-one years].

  • Illustration Tip #1: find a career that will provide you with an income while you begin your illustration career. The reality is that if you can’t juggle two occupations at the same time, you won’t likely survive as a commercial artist. The ‘day job’ won’t feed your soul, but if you don’t feed your body, you won’t be able to pursue a career that feeds your soul…

Further Tips in the future.
Watch this space.









Chronicles in Ordinary Time 177: I’m tired of this [expletive deleted].

January 6, 2019
Canticle of the Sea [Wooden Boat]

Moving Forward.
This is what ‘New Years’ should be about.

New Years come with promise; sadly, there is so much HPtFtU [Human Propensity to F*ck things Up] in our world that by this time, 365 days from now, we will probably be thinking about the year just past, and all its disappointments. We are better at remembering disappointments than we are at remembering hope. Remembering hope is hard.
Perhaps we will be able to look back and see that this was the year that we started growing up. “We” means nearly everyone on the planet; “growing up” means taking responsibility for our actions. Humans dislike taking responsibility for our actions.
The idyllic scene above is becoming more impossible each day. We are destroying the oceans, and the creatures who call the ocean their home.

Growing up when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I lived with what seemed like a mythic image of the “Greatest Generation”. A friend of mine, in his eighties, gets annoyed with the junk mail he receives about the “Greatest Generation” and how the message is about the soldiers who fought. In reality, the “Greatest Generation” was the civilian population of the Allied powers who endured years of rationing and simple ‘going without’ so that soldiers had the resources to fight. In America, the majority of major factories became dedicated to producing the machinery of the war effort. Very few new cars were built in America during World War II. When paid-up orders for new cars reached a certain level, the factories would stop making airplanes, and went back to making cars for a short time. When those orders were filled, the factories would return to the War Effort. People had ration books that enabled them to buy the hardest things to purchase in wartime—gasoline, meat, eggs, milk, dairy products. If one used up all their gasoline allotment before the new ration books were produced, one simply walked, or rode bicycles. The car stayed idle, in the garage.
The governments of the world have not yet internalized the extent of our Climate Change problem; they have not yet realized that a worldwide ‘war effort’ will be needed in order for the human population to be sustained on the earth. World War III may be fought against ourselves. People will have to start doing without, in order for us to stop the worsening effects of Climate Change. Modern people don’t like doing without. We in urban America live in a world dedicated to convenience and immediacy.


One of my favorite images of this last week:

I’m not a particularly a big fan of Nancy Pelosi. I wasn’t paying much attention to her activity during the ‘W’ years, and the first years of the Obama Administration. However, she is the only woman, ever, to be elected Speaker of the House. She is also the only woman to have achieved this distinction, twice. This counts for something.

I enjoy the above image because I have a granddaughter, a teenager who will be able to vote in her first election in 2020. Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House, surrounded by all the children present in the House Chamber that day, her own grandchildren, and the children of the new Members of the House being sworn-in this week. She dedicated her swearing-in to the children of America. The children of today, across the world, are likely the last hope of keeping our planet safe for human existence. As long as we adults get off of our complacency and stop making the situation worse.

A collection of photos of the ‘Democrat’s Class of 2019’ looks like a cross-section of America. A cross-section of the Republican House looks like a bunch of old white men. I am an old white man, and I am tired and outraged at the Legislative Branch’s decision to not-govern during the first two years of the current Administration.

There is a disease spreading across our country. It isn’t a new disease, it’s a disease as old as mankind: HPtFtU. However, there used to be a semblance of resistance to this disease—only ‘bad’ people treated other people like dirt. It wasn’t true, but it acted as a barrier. Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, if you were white, and growing up in Portland at the same time as I, there was a cultural stigma of ‘being bad’ that was to be avoided. Stealing, swearing, sex before marriage, underage drinking and others, were things to be avoided because the penalty just wasn’t worth the short-term benefits that could be imagined. At least, that’s how it was in the world of my family and in my schools.

The world I grew up in no longer seems to exist in urban America. Maybe it still exists in rural America—I’m not there.

The only reason the President of the United States of America is not in prison is the nature of his job. He is an Unindicted Co-Conspirator on multiple felony charges. His Indicted Co-Conspirator, his former attorney, is looking at three years of Federal Prison time. He got off easy, because he ‘cooperated’ with the Special Prosecutor in the Mueller Investigation.

The President of the United States of America is an Unindicted Co-Conspirator on multiple felony charges. Just let this sink in for a moment of historical time.
Nixon was never charged with a crime. He was pardoned without having anything proven. He was shown the information collected against him, and he resigned, with nothing proven. He had tapes of everything that happened in the Oval Office.

The current President of the United States is under at least a dozen State and Federal criminal investigations. His Charitable Foundation was dissolved by the State of New York for having made only one $7.00 charitable contribution to the Boy Scouts—for Barron’s joining; the rest of the time, he used the millions of dollars in his Foundation as a checkbook. The State of New York is pursuing a lawsuit against the Trump Corporation. In the meantime, the President is banned from serving on any New York Foundation for ten years; as are his children. The President who ‘is proud to shut down the government for border security’ has been found out to have regularly hired undocumented immigrant workers at his resorts—the names of the employees lacking documentation were removed from the computer systems, to avoid Secret Service scrutiny.

This is the man leading our country; the man who represents our country to the world. The man who has single-handedly, with his ‘America-First’ Doctrine, cost our country its respect across the world. The world now knows that the United States cannot be counted on to preserve justice in the world

I’m tired of this.
I also realize that my being tired of this doesn’t change the world.
I also realize that there are millions of people in this country who also are tired of this.

A friend of mine suggested that I am contributing to the divisiveness in the country, by the nature of what I share on Social Media. Therefore, I’m changing the nature of this blog

I applied for a Grant once, to provide external funding to enable me to spend more time illustrating, and less time being a “Code Guy”—it pays much better, but I’m tired of dealing with the government. I have been tired of working with and for the government, since the 80s. The Grant application wasn’t approved; one of the comments made by someone on the committee was that, as my application was being read, people ‘lit up’ when I was talking about my story, rather than the Sherlock Holmes story I’m creating.
I don’t often share my story; to me, it doesn’t seem helpful, because it really isn’t duplicatable. I may be mistaken. I’ve battled chronic pain for 40 years; I’ve battled addiction. I haven’t won, and I’m still ‘losing’—physically. I’m stronger, emotionally. Maybe it’s time to share…

Watch this space.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 176: Xmas in America, Part II

December 23, 2018
A Christmas gift from NASA, RS Puppis:
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed the variable star RS Puppis over a period of five weeks, showing the star growing brighter and dimmer as it pulsates. These pulsations have created a stunning example of a phenomenon known as a light echo, where light appears to reverberate through the murky environment around the star. RS Puppis is over ten times more massive than our Sun, and around 15,000 times more luminous. It lies around 6500 light-years away from us.

I spend a lot of time following the news; current events via MSNBC and the dozens of commentators and experts available to them. Frequently former Cabinet members, Ambassadors, and Military officers that have served previous Administrations.

People are stunned; and do not know how to react.

A Global temper tantrum.
Shutting down the Government on the weekend before Christmas…

It shouldn’t surprise me; it’s about par for this course. A President currently under 17 Criminal investigations with a Cabinet of corrupt officials.

A President who is probably acting a lot like King Herod, using a metaphor from this time of year. Instead of killing the children they are still being stolen from their parents; and they still haven’t been returned. Stolen children are being held in a DHS facility near my house; I pray for these children every time I drive by. What a lot of people do not understand is that the parents of these children have no idea where their children are. In recent weeks it has been discovered that if children are finally allowed to return to their families, they may not even recognize their parents, and may no longer be able to speak Spanish, or whatever dialect their family speaks.

A President who loudly spoke from the Oval Office, to the cameras, that he would proudly shut down the Government for the sake of Border Security, who now blames the shutdown on the Democrats…

A Gofundme site is raising money to help build the Wall. The Wall that supposedly was going to be funded by the Mexican Government.

A counter Gofundme site is now raising money to buy ladders.

And still, the Light of the World shines in the darkness. It takes work to remember this, sometimes.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 175: Xmas in America

December 16, 2018

It appears that we are in that time when the season of Christmas in America lasts for a solid month, beginning with Thanksgiving. One thing I find interesting is that in the Catholic Church [I’m not], the Season of Advent begins December 2nd, and the Season of Christmas begins on Christmas Day. No Christmas carols before Christmas. Advent music, yes; Christmas carols, no.
When I worked for the City of Portland, I took my lunch to an atrium on the 5thfloor of a nearby office building, and often listened to KBVM, the local Catholic radio station. On KVBM I could listen to peace-restoring music that WASN’T Christmas songs. Advent, the time of waiting for the Savior to appear, precedes Christmas. For me, Advent is largely all year.

Those who know me well [a relatively small number], know that I really dislike this time of year. The celebration of Christmas is ostensibly about the Creator entering Time and Space in the form of a single cell embedded into the womb of a teen-aged girl, the first InVitro Fertilization in history; in America, the celebration instead glorifies the Having of Stuff, More Stuff, and Stuff you don’t want, but it was on sale…

Consequently, I find this image incredibly appropriate to this Season in America:

Mary, Joseph and the young child Jesus, left Bethlehem and traveled to Egypt [without papers] in order to protect Jesus from Death by Roman Soldier, in what artists have called The Slaughter of the Innocents. King Herod, fearing his being supplanted by the foretold ‘King of the Jews’, prophesied by the Magi who visited him, ordered the murder of every child in the land that was under the age of two years.

Our own Autocrat wants the children stolen from their parents at the border and placed in Foster Care for the rest of their childhood. Our Autocrat readily admits that the idea is to make emigrating to America completely undesirable.“America is closed” for immigration business…

My take on a not-original idea that floated around Fb recently:

Are We There Yet–Mary and Joseph At the Southern Border

My forebears arrived by boat, from Scandinavia. My Mom became an American citizen when she married my Dad.
Too few Americans are aware that the notions held by our current President regarding immigration do not match the provisions of our Constitution. It is not illegal to enter our country at someplace other than an Immigration station. It is not illegal to enter our country without a Visa or even a Passport. Our Constitution guarantees the right of refugees to enter our country from anywhere on our borders, in order to seek asylum. It is merely inconvenient for thousands of immigrants to seek asylum en masse at one location.

Soul Nebula in Infrared from Herschel
The little-known nebula IRAS 05437+2502 an Enigmatic Cloud
Madonna with Protective Cloak
The image of the Madonna of Mercy first emerged in a collection of saints’ lives written in the 1230s by the Cistercian hagiographer Caesarius of Heisterback. Marian devotion was starting to include the idea that Jesus’ mother shared some of her son’s powers to protect and even redeem sinners. Caesarius wrote dozens of tales about Mary protecting priests, nuns and monks from thunderstorms and devilish temptation, and then closed the collection with a Cistercian monk’s vision of the Virgin Mary surrounded by many high clerics. the monk was disturbed when he could see no Cistercians, but when she was asked why, she threw open her cloak to reveal a host of Cistercians in a privileged place under her mantle. This proved an extraordinary compelling image, and clergy in particular competed for that favoured place under the Virgin’s protective cloak. Many late frescoes and paintings show Franciscan and Dominican nuns or friars under the mantle…
The Misericordia [Mercy] image spread rapidly through the fourteenth century, when plagues like the Black Death in 1348 drove Christians to seek shelter under Mary’s cloak. By the end of the century, recurring plagues, a widening split in the church, and growing fears of the devil’s work on earth made many fear that final Judgement Day was coming.
Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation
Nicholas Terpstra

On this Third Sunday in Advent, I read the following headlines and summaries:

Mounting legal threats surround Trump as nearly every organization he has led is under criminal investigation.
The Atlantic reported last week that the Trump administration is renewing its early efforts to deport thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades — many of them having fled the country while at risk of becoming political prisoners during the Vietnam War.
7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox had criticized Trump for the death of a seven-year-old migrant girl and for his handling of the migrant caravan.
More than three years into Yemen’s civil war, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed and injured, the vast majority by airstrikes, the U.N. human rights office estimates, adding that the figures are likely to be far higher…the United States is playing an essential role in the war, supporting the coalition with intelligence, refueling, technical assistance and billions of dollars in bombs and other weaponry…Despite the concern, President Trump announced $110 billion in new arms sales last year to the kingdom, weapons that most analysts expect will be used in Yemen.U.S.-made munitions, including banned cluster bombs and Paveway bombs, have been used in attacks that have killed and injured civilians.
Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is considered the worst in the world. With more than 3 million people displaced by war, and with the economy besieged and in ruins, the United Nations says the risk of famine could imperil 22 million people – about three-quarters of the population.
At least 1 million Yemenis have contracted cholera in the largest outbreak of the disease in history and pose a threat of an international epidemic.

I especially find the legend of Santa Claus, center-stage of everything Xmas in America, to be especially inappropriate this year. Before you complain about how children need the Christmas story, think about 22 Million Yemeni children,women and men dying from famine or cholera.

The US Senate has voted to stop funding the Arab war against Yemen. The Speaker of the House refused to allow the legislation to be presented to the House of Representatives; and it is likely that the President would veto the legislation—he’s a big fan of the $110 Billion arms sale. He does a lot of business with the Saudi government.

While I do not consider Mary to be the Third Person of the Trinity, I do, in my illustrator-brain, think of Mary as a vehicle for the work of the Spirit of the Creator. The Greek word used to speak of the Spirit of the Creator is a feminine noun.

Our broken world needs the Protective Cloak of the Madonna.


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 174: a new way of seeing

November 22, 2018

Our troops will be coming home from our Southern Border; they have finished their task; we are now safe from the pestilence-ridden, terrorist-infiltrated, rock-throwing Caravan Horde that arrived at our border and required a force of nearly 6,000 soldiers to protect us.

The Caravan Horde has not yet reached our border; they are still walking
The deployment was a political stunt; intended to raise fear in the electorate
Estimated cost to the Taxpayers: $210,000,000
I don’t find any outrage in the national press
apparently, we have run out of outrage

Have we, as a nation, simply run out of Outrage? The current President’s political party seems to have run out of Outrage; and consequently, has refused to perform their duty of “defending the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Refugee Thanksgiving | The American Way
Norman Rockwell

We are all familiar with Norman Rockwell’s most famous Thanksgiving painting—the one with the family surrounding a table; the Grandparents serving a large Turkey. However, this isn’t the only Thanksgiving painting that Rockwell painted; the two above depict what the world grew to expect from America, back when ‘dinosaurs ruled the earth’. In those few years between the Korean Police Action, and the Vietnam Police Action; before we started becoming ‘the country of endless war,’ we reached out to the refugee, fleeing their country of birth to find sanctuary in the United States of America. My grandparents were fleeing famine and unemployment in Scandinavia. My mother became an American citizen when she married my father. His father’s family had come from England, by the way of a few generations crossing the country. His mother’s family also came from Scandinavia. Dan Fogelberg’s “Forefathers” could have been written about my family.

We enter our country’s ‘holiday’ season—that time when families gather, and, in this era, families decide who will be invited, based on political opinions and ethical/religious choices. In this era, when the most diverse population of new members of Congress that the country has ever seen has been elected, we are still constrained by widespread voter suppression and the ‘Jim Crow’ South.
I’m writing this early in the morning of November 22; the 326th day of 2018. As of today, there have been 317 mass shootings in the United States. There have been 50,822 gun-related incidents and 13,040 deaths due to gun violence.

https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/ 
the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up

Concluding the series I’ve been writing…
If we ever encounter a sentient species from another world [I’m of the opinion that there are “WARNING: PLAGUE” signs floating in the space around our Solar System], I believe we will find that they, too, will have a totally improbable story about how the Creator of the Universe entered their time and space in the form of a single cell…

My experience with faith is not the ordinary pattern. I never attended Sunday School, never went to a church service, never even talked about faith issues until late in my second year of college, when the stoner across the hall smoked something he ‘shouldn’t have’ one night and became a clean and sober evangelist/street preacher. He began to understand what he had learned in past Sunday School and Catechism classes; he adopted a new way of seeing. He agreed, however, to quit preaching to me and I continued to be his audience as he quietly performed Neil Young songs on his guitar in the hallway at night. The music probably changed after his revelation.
During my third year, I lived in a Graduate student dorm [down the hall from now-Senator Ron Wyden]; and I was once again living across the hall from Christians; but they did not attempt to proselytize. We became friends; I explored this ‘Christianity thing’, and it eventually made sense. I experienced that phenomenon called ‘being born again’. No lights and whistles, no fanfare; one day I experienced ‘a new way of seeing’.
The late, great, Rich Mullins describes his ‘born again’ experience [many in the Gospel Music business doubted his profession of faith because of his bare feet, t-shirt and torn blue jeans]. He became ‘born again’ as a child, and again as a teenager, and again as an adult, and again as an adult alcoholic, and found that he needed to become born again just about every week. In this world, it’s easy to stop seeing in a new way.

Luke Skywalker must come to a place where he could ‘see in a new way’ so that he could utilize the Force in his adventures. The Spirit of the Creator is much like the Force, in terms of analogy…

…there is a Dark Side to the Force, and there is a dark side in the world that contends with metanoia—the word so often and misleadingly translated in the Bible as “repent”. The Greek word simply means, ‘to see the world with new eyes,’ without all the moralizing attachments that come from religion. I’ve experienced the Dark Side as well; and the overnight street preacher mentioned above was my Yoda, that day.

The Spirit of the Creator intervenes in human life, though not as often as we imagine. The Spirit intervenes when it suits Her Purposes. Sometimes those Purposes include me. The Spirit is not some genie in a bottle that grants wishes. The Spirit has no interest in sports matches, in spite of claims to the contrary. In every ‘I-can’t-explain-it-any-other-way’ intervention in my life, the intervention did not include any other person, and could not provide to someone else, ‘evidence’ of the Spirit’s Presence. I have been ‘healed’ in the past, as in “Jesus healed the blind man”. It did not include mud and spit in my eyes [John 9:6].

I connect with the Spirit of the Creator in my mind, by the thoughts I think, the books I read, the words that flow into my head by way of electronic media; by Prayer. Prayer is talking to the Creator; frequently recapping that which is already Known, because we constantly mess things up. Prayer is not instructing the Creator; the Creator does not need our help to make the Universe work. The Creator is not a genie that will grant our wishes. Can the Spirit change one’s thinking? Absolutely. I would not have written what I’m writing today, twenty years ago.

Does God have a Plan for my life?
Not in the sense that religious people use the phrase. Humans experience life on a minute-to-minute basis; and while I would love to have a time machine, I don’t expect one will ever get made [unless one includes the Hubble Space Telescope—it looks into the past all the time].
The Creator exists outside of time. ‘Eternity’ does not exist as ‘a really long time.’ For the Creator, Creation did not happen millennia ago; it’s happening right now, even as I type. The Creator knows when I will die, and how; the Creator knows exactly what I will do shortly, when I have to stand up and move around because sitting hurts too much. The Creator knows exactly how I developed an “ALS”-like disorder of my sensory nerves [ALS is a disease of the motor neurons; Lou Gehrig eventually stopped breathing because his autonomic motor nerves stopped working—his muscles stopped acting like a bellows; or because the muscle that is our heart, stopped beating]. My deteriorating sensory neurons have adventure ahead for me; and because I Trust my Creator, I need not FEAR that ending. Nonetheless it’s crap, going through it. Though I need not FEAR, I still do.

How can God allow terrible things to happen?
I believe in Difficult Grace.
There are people who believe in ‘the Victorious Christian Life’. I’ve never seen it. I’m going on 40 years of chronic pain in a variety of forms. My first migraine was in 1979; they almost-daily continued into this century. There is nothing in Scripture, read in context, that promises that our lives will be without struggle. I get pain, I get a connection with the Spirit of the Creator. That’s the deal; the two are not two sides of the same coin. Two coins; both known by the Creator of the Universe, ever since the beginning of creation.
To my way of thinking, our HPtFtU as a race, is so excremental as to be outside of the Creator’s ‘concern’, if these words make any real sense. However, our excremental race is made of up of billions of individuals who suffer; and are already invited to spend Eternity with the Creator, whether or not we realize it—we win in the end—so from an individual standpoint we each matter. Adversity will End. All that is broken will be remade.

Does God send non-Christians to Hell?
Again, not in the sense that most religious people use the phrase.
Jesus saved** the world on the Cross.
The sentence above stands on its own; without conditions. Many religious people add conditions.
** “saved” [4982 (sṓzō) is the root of: 4990 /sōtḗr (“Savior”), 4991 /sōtēría (“salvation”) and the adjectival form, 4992 /sōtḗrion (what is “saved/rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety”).]

What about Greedy Politicians Who Allow Injustice To Continue, or Who Create Injustice?
Connection with the Creator requires submission. This is the real meaning of ‘born again’—submitting my will to the One. We have to stop voluntarily exercising our HPtFtU [by definition, we will still continue to so do, whether or not we will it] and seek the good of others. I have trouble imagining the man who sits behind the Resolute Desk ever submitting to another Will; and voluntarily setting aside his nature. If one will not submit to the One who wants the best for us, it would be cruel to imprison someone to Eternity in the Presence of the Creator. The logical alternative is being out of the Presence of the Creator for Eternity.

“hell” cannot be found in Scripture. The Hebrew/Aramaic word Gehenna is usually translated as ‘hell’. Gehenna actually refers to the Valley of Hinnom, outside of Jerusalem, which used to be where all the trash was burned. ‘Trash’ of all sorts. It’s probably covered over by buildings or soccer fields now. The Book of The Revelation, which contains lots of weird descriptions, uses the words, “the Lake of Fire” several times, as being part of the Death/Judgement process. This is the only ‘book’ in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures to use this phrase.

I would consider being out of the Presence of the Creator for Eternity, as being in some sort of hell. Flames are not required. Picture the astronaut forever floating through the blackness of space, but never dying. C.S. Lewis once wrote that the Gates of Hell are locked from the inside. We will be able to leave, when we are willing to submit. Contrary to many religious people who seem to have lists as to what ‘submission’ means, I find that ‘submit’ merely means letting go, as much as possible, of my own HPtFtU.

I know an old guy who appears to have been raised in a religious environment, but never seems to have been introduced to Faith. In spite of my continual refutations about his ‘not being good enough’ to enter Eternity in the Presence of the Creator, he persists in his guilt feelings. No one is ever good enough—the human condition. The Creator knows this old guy far better than he knows himself. His future, in the Presence of the Creator [I’m not fond of the typical concept of ‘Heaven’] is not about him. It’s all about the Creator, and the totally inconceivable Love for humans who continually demonstrate HPtFtU.

The images for me, which come closest to describing the Creator, are the vastness of the galaxies and nebulae.

lagoon nebula

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 173: HPtFtU vs. Theology

November 12, 2018

I’ve been on a ‘theology’ theme for a while; it really hasn’t been planned, not in the sense of, “I’m going to do a series on theology’. It’s been a response to this Time in our country, and because of the ever-growing flight from the Church that I’ve been seeing in Social Media. The reality is that when the Church stops following the teaching of Jesus, then leaving is appropriate. But where does one go…

Christ_Pantocrator_Deesis_mosaic_Hagia_Sophia

Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me
“Son, stop fighting a fight that’s already been won”

Redeemed
Big Daddy Weave

I’ve known a lot of people who have felt trapped in the darkness of their soul. A lot of them doubted that they even have a soul. Trapped by the memories of all the crap they’ve lived through.
I too have felt trapped in the darkness of my soul, and this was before I knew I had a soul. “Having a soul” had been left out of my training as a human being. Having been raised by an authoritarian father I didn’t want to be angry with me, I hadn’t acquired a very large pile of crap that I regretted—he was paying for my college education, in a ‘world’ he did not control. I had experienced freedom for the first time. I wasn’t about to mess that up for some minutes of pleasure.

Nonetheless, I felt trapped in a world I did not like; and I could see no way to fix it. I had evaded the Draft by something like 6 hours; being a 10-month baby born on a day that was assigned a very high draft number. The day before those 6 hours had a very low Draft number. Some would call this chance; I now call it Grace.

Today is Veteran’s Day; while I value the choice that soldiers in all branches of the Armed Forces made to serve their country, I’m angry that our government threw away the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers for reasons that had nothing to do with national defense.
When I started college, and had to address the subject of the Draft, I began to look at the ‘god and country’ patriotic environment of the American Legion, which was my parents’ ‘church’. I never had any sense that there was a God—‘God’ was a word in a sentence, and I had no idea how God might be involved in war and patriotism. God, as a subject, was never raised in my hearing. The subject was not unlike my being White in a largely-White environment, without ever realizing I was White in a largely White environment. I knew very few brown-skinned people. That was my ‘normal’.

“Having a soul” became something to consider when I entered college; the subject had been raised in my high school studies of Existentialist writers; in college I began reading the writings of earlier philosophers. Over time, as a result of a lot of research and thought, I discovered that I do have a soul; that we all have souls; that the soul is a gift from the Creator.
The soul speaks to us all the time; sometimes we hear, when the soul isn’t drowned out by modern life. Sometimes we listen. In some people the soul seems to flourish; in others, the soul seems stunted and damaged by Life. I believe that the soul remains undamaged; but our ability to ‘hear’ is damaged. Not unlike my tinnitus—there’s a background ‘noise’ in my head that is ever-present—this ‘white noise’ often interferes with my ability to understand what people are saying. I hear everything, non-discriminately, in a crowded room. I hear a person on the other side of the room; but I can’t understand the person in front of me. People with tinnitus also have a challenge with vowel sounds.

Sometimes, when we perform what I consider an ‘act of Grace’, we reach out to someone we would normally ignore; and for a moment we bring Light to someone in darkness. This is our soul speaking to us. The soul is that ‘best’ part of you; the joy you once felt as a child. But the soul is not intended to be only for children. We are intended to carry that ‘child-likeness’ into adulthood.

I’ve also discovered that, in general, religious people are just plain weird.

My goal, with these writings, is explaining this bizarre world, as I see it. I don’t claim great wisdom; however, I am a ‘control freak’ and therefore require Explanations so that I can make some sort of sense of my world. I believe the Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space on Earth in the form of a single cell implanted in the womb of a teenaged girl; that cell divided and subdivided and in about 9 months’ time became the infant who grew to be a 30-something guy that changed all of human history. All of the HPtFtU that preceded and followed this event was humans being humans…
I’ve visited a lot of churches in my adult life—the process of learning how this strange life I’ve entered functions. There’s a huge disparity between the various denominations [including the ‘non-denominated’ denomination] and what they practice. Black churches can go on for hours, as the Spirit moves; Presbyterian worship seems to be run by a clock. My experience is that people in one denomination don’t realize that people in other denominations do ‘church’ differently. And I’m not going to begin to discuss Doctrine.

A lot of religious people will tell you that the above song lyrics only apply to “those who have confessed Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior”. I believe this interpretation is not what Jesus taught.

John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save** the world through him.” emphasis added

** “saved” (sṓzō) is the root of: sōtḗr (“Savior”), sōtēría (“salvation”) “(what is “saved/rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety“)” emphasis added

God either accomplished the task for which Jesus came to Earth; or God failed, and only partially-saved the world [an Impossibility]; and all of the rest is religious claptrap. God saved the world through Jesus. Period.

Disclaimer: My opinion, plus $5, will probably buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  

One of the most famous verses in the Bible precedes the above verse; one sees the reference in the grandstands of every televised sporting event. This verse, and others, taken out of their context—sometimes called ‘proof-texting’—imply that only Christians will find themselves with the Creator in Eternity; and that something over 75% of all the humans that have ever lived will find themselves in a very hot place… I think it’s probably a very cold place. Read the disclaimer above.
Somehow, these people believe that only Christians will spend Eternity in the Presence of an Omniscient [all-knowing], Omnipotent [all-powerful] Loving God; who burns up all that don’t believe the way this god believes; but he still loves those who believe properly.
Man, I thought my Dad was tough…

The Human Propensity to F*ck things Up.

The Prophet Isaiah_3

There seem to be Christians who miss a few things:
* The New Testament only recounts some of the things Jesus taught and did over His three-year ministry, written from memory, decades after the events. No computers, no scratch pads. Writing took a lot of preparation and work. In no instance was there someone taking dictation from the verbal utterances of God. There were no journalists at hand to take notes about what happened.
* Jesus practiced the Jewish faith, and when He used words like, ‘Scripture,” and ‘it is written’, He was referring to the Jewish Scriptures, not the New Testament. Some will argue that Jesus was speaking the future into existence.
* Jesus never commanded his followers to begin a new religion; He never told anyone to convert to Judaism. He told people to follow Him. There is no mention of the [hated by Jews] Samaritan woman going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Scripture says the people in her village believed in Jesus. There is no description of what they believed. In theory, the Samaritans in that village, and all ‘who believed’ in Jesus, believed He was the foretold Messiah—but many had no idea what that name meant. The same applies to all of the people Jesus healed, and sent on their way, usually with orders not to tell anyone what had happened. Because of HPtFtU, they didn’t follow Jesus’ orders, and Jesus was followed by crowds. Jesus had trouble getting away from the crowds.
* When Gentiles started to follow the teachings of Jesus in large numbers, the Jewish leaders of what became called “The Way” [of Jesus], had to figure out what to do with these uncircumcised [the identifier of the Jewish male] people who had never followed the Mosaic eating restrictions. Through visions given to these Jewish leaders, by the Spirit of the Creator, Gentiles were given ‘a pass’. They were directed to not eat food that had been dedicated to idols. We aren’t told what mental gymnastics these Jewish leaders went through to ground their belief without two of its mainstays.
* Christianity, as a religion, got its formal birth about 300 years after Jesus was crucified [compare today, to Revolutionary America]. Prior to the pagan Emperor Constantine’s deathbed conversion, “The Way” was what we today would call a Movement. It wasn’t a new religion.

The first chapter of John makes it clear that all things were created by/through Jesus—a statement about Incarnation on Earth; but also, a statement about the entire Universe. I believe that everywhere in the Universe where sentient life forms exist, they will either have their own ‘improbable’ Incarnation and ‘crucifixion’ stories; or they would be so ‘naïve’ [unfallen] that we couldn’t adapt to/understand their way of life.

John 14:6, Berean Literal Bible
Jesus says to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, if not by Me.

I believe that everyone who spends Eternity in the presence of the Creator does so by the Creator’s adoption of humanity in Jesus. The above statement does not present Christianity as the means of coming to the Father/Creator. That idea is an interpretation.

Crucifixion was the common method the Roman government used to get rid of opponents of Roman rule—people were nailed to a wooden beam suspended in the air. Crucified people died by asphyxiation. The crucified Jesus died; Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb and started appearing to people three days later. He could walk through walls and could eat fish without the fish falling to the ground. He apparently could control His solidity [see my earlier writings]. The important part of the story is not how Jesus died; the important part is how Jesus lived, and lived again.

There are people who really get hung up on sin and repentance; people come into adulthood damaged; and demand punishment for that which they call sin. Sin has many definitions.
From And Now I See by Robert Barron:

Jesus’ opening speech in Mark’s Gospel: “repent and believe the Good News.” The word so often and misleadingly translated as “repent” is metanoia. This Greek word is based on two words, meta [beyond] and nous [mind or spirit], and thus, in its most basic form, it means something like, “go beyond the mind that you have.” The English word, “repent” has a moralizing overtone, suggesting a change in behavior or action, whereas Jesus’ term seems to be hinting at a change at a far more fundamental level of one’s being. Jesus urges his listeners to change their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective, their mode of seeing…

 There will be people of every faith and none, in Eternity; these souls will be there because of the Creator’s becoming human in Christ. There are Believers who will have to change their ideas about Forgiveness.
The idea that someone’s belief system is the dependent factor in their spending Eternity with the Creator, is what is known as Salvation by Works. I’m not a Lutheran, but I believe in Salvation by Grace; not by Works.

As to determining who is with- and without the Creator for Eternity—that’s not my job.

condon-1930s

The Human Race is at a crisis point.

If we in the U.S. continue as we are going [the desires of the President], in a few decades, we will have helped bring the world to a point where the world is unsafe for human life.
I know a lot of people who say, ‘just relax, God is in control; God will take care of things. “Let not an angry word proceed from your mouth…”
Well, I am angry. Look at American history—not in a school textbook—and see what we Americans have been guilty of. You will find a history of total annihilation of those we consider enemies; regime change of democratically-elected governments by invasion, and forty years of war, in my 66-year lifetime. There are service men and women still serving in the Middle East whose children are getting close to enlistment age. This is wrong.

Some people believe that our destruction of this world will usher in the New Earth the Creator will bring into existence; based on interpretations of the Book of Revelation.
Some people don’t open their eyes—because they refuse to watch/listen to news reports [‘they are all full of lies’] and consequently have no idea of just how much the world ISN’T FINE. Some people ‘put their trust in God’ and are blind to the injustice that surrounds us. Some foolish people believe that because such prophecies exist, we bear no responsibility for being the stewards those writings command us to be. To truly be stewards we need to coexist with each other; which requires an acceptance of The Other’s beliefs that sometimes we simply can’t accept. Human history is the history of greed and non-acceptance. We were not made to live this way, we choose to live this way.

Human beings throughout the history that is recorded on walls, on clay, on shards of stone, in carved rocks—human beings throughout history have known that there is more to us than ourselves. We don’t have the vocabulary to properly describe that which we [collectively] know; but we know that it is More than us. Newton’s Laws are an attempt to describe The More. Quantum physics is an attempt to describe The More. Scientists who are wise know that we have only begun to scratch the surface of an understanding; and that nearly everything we now know will be replaced with new knowledge, if we manage to not destroy ourselves by our negligence.
Earth scientists have given us until 2030 to get our act together and reduce the damage we have done in the last century. Otherwise, this world is toast, and the world we know will become extinct. I know Believers who think this is a good thing. Those same Believers believe that we will all be Judged at the end of time.
How do they think they will fare, when asked what they did to be a steward of Creation? Stopped using plastic bags at the supermarket?

globular cluster NGC 1898, which lies toward the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud
globular cluster NGC 1898, which lies toward the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time: The Post [2017]

October 22, 2018

RMN

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

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

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

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

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Flint

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

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

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

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

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 6]

September 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearless Girl

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

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

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

 

 


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