Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 199: Time and Space, Part Two

September 8, 2019

I spend a lot of time [perhaps too much?] being at least peripherally aware of the current events of the world; and the mess that the American Government has become. Including the madness of [would be] king Donald… I want to state, for the record, that using Nukes for any purpose is truly Madness; especially for the inane purpose of dissipating hurricanes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What angers me most is our nation’s duplicity in believing that America is a godly nation; and our incredible short-term memory when it comes to the decisions that have driven the American Story.
I am a man of Faith. I did not pursue Faith; it ‘hit me upside the head’ in my third year of college. I can’t say that I was raised as an atheist—the concept of ‘god’ was associated with the ‘godandcountry’ patriotism of the American Legion—that which served as ‘church’ for my parents. Forty-six years later, Faith is what defines my life; Faith drives all of my decision-making.

I think that the one thing that the American Church does, that annoys me the most, is to express the idea that belief in [the Christian] God somehow makes a person ‘special’. In the Book of Hebrews [written in Greek] one finds the text, translated literally:

Thou didst make him some little less than messengers, with glory and honour Thou didst crown him, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands and placed everything under his feet. When God subjected all things to him, He left nothing outside of his control. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him…

A lot of the translations use the word, “angels” instead of “messengers”. Hollywood has messed with the concept of “angels”—I’m not sure that 21st Century ‘pilgrims’ [like myself] truly understand the nature of an angel. There are a number of Hebrew words that are translated in English as “angel”. In context, “angels” do the work of communicating with humans.
The text goes on to say that Jesus, Himself, was also a little less than messengers. “A little less than the angels” may not have the same ‘special-ness” attributed to the human race and the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up [aka ‘sin’]. After all, we humans destroy entire cities to make a point.

Truman apparently felt that incinerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians—men, women and children—was ‘better’ than letting American soldiers die by attacking the Home Island of Japan. Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese-American citizens here in America based on where their parents were born. There were no Germans imprisoned in Concentration Camps, here in America.

Humans are able to make the distinctions between ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people based on features of humanity that are entirely beyond our control. Soldiers today return home with PTSD, often resulting from the horrible things that they have been ordered to do, in the name of National Honor. What honor exists in destroying a child out of fear that she may be carrying an IED?

My immigrant family members came here from Scandinavia; where the ultraviolet rays of the Sun do not require the human body to create additional Melanin to protect the skin. The ultraviolet rays of the Sun are the most harmful in the Equatorial regions; the Creator enabled the human body to produce Melanin as needed for skin protection. This is why pink-skinned people pay money to turn their skin brown, in order to sunbathe; and yet they treat people with naturally brown skin as being lesser in value. Currently, the Government of the United States treats children that come from places the President has called “shithole countries” as criminals, locking them away in cages. The President now wants these children locked up for an indefinite period of time; causing the United States to truly be a shithole country… the only ‘developed’ country in the world that publicly locks up children for the ‘crime’ of being born. And the American people, with the exception of a few brave souls, does nothing to stop this from happening.

I, too, have my own excuses for not forcing change.

Today we use words that were not part of the vocabulary when dinosaurs ruled the earth before the invention of Social Media; and words that were not used in ‘polite society’. For the President of the United States to use language in his speeches that must be censored on television by FCC regulations was unheard of. The biggest controversy over the ‘Nixon tapes’, in the Watergate era, was not that the President authorized the break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters; the biggest shock to American society was the profanity he regularly used while in the Oval Office. A type of language that offended ‘polite sensibilities’—the language used [in the thinking of the time] by people of low moral character.

What is staggering to me today, is that the Evangelical Church in America is willing to accept with little criticism, a President’s language in campaign rallies that matches the language Nixon only used in private. Having not been raised in a church environment, hearing speeches/sermons on a monthly if not weekly basis, that the ‘moral decay of America’, was evidenced by celebrities who occasionally ‘cussed’ on camera; or by celebrities who ‘cheated’ on their spouses; the Evangelical Church’s acceptance of the ‘Porn Star President’ puts my brain on ‘TILT’. [BTW, one of the leading media outlets in 2018 discovered that Donald J. Trump has a cameo in 3 porn films from the 90s; another first for an American President]. He is also one of the most investigated Presidents of our American history, suspected of criminal activity:

https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/elections/presidential-profiles-2020/donald-trump-maga-orlando-president/

Consequently, I have had to come to new understandings of language, when referring to the Eternal; the Creator of all that exists in the Universe. Most of the language of the Church I find to be inadequate.
Human beings are selfish, hateful people with the possibility of living more in touch with those who are downtrodden; and more in touch with the world we were given stewardship over. I’m not an expert, but I can’t think of many species on Earth that devour each other with such abandon as human beings.

I cannot think of any reason why the Creator of the entire Universe should pay any attention to humans at all; and yet, the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space in the form of One created cell, implanted in the womb of a teen-aged girl. The boy that was born lived among us—we have very few accounts of His life before His thirties, when He gave up carpentry and became an itinerant preacher and Healer.
Having pissed off the Conservative religious leaders of His day, by teaching and by healing ‘without a permit’, He was arrested and executed as a criminal, by the most offensive method of His day. He died and was buried in a tomb, guarded by professional soldiers. Three days later, He walked out of the tomb, and for the months that followed, entered and left buildings without using the door… He said that Death could not hold us, either.

We are not special. We are the insects that live under rocks, in terms of the entire Universe; somehow, we are Loved with Abandon. The Creator of the Universe came to live with us under our rock; and our ancestors killed Him. Yet, we are still loved.

Jesus never said a word about entering time and space in order to save mankind from our Human Propensity to F*ck things Up [aka ‘sin’]. Jesus taught a new way to live.

 

Enough of that.

Advertising moment:

RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World is an electric look at Native American influence in popular music, going deep into the Indigenous foundations of blues, rock, and jazz. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/rumble/

We live in a three-dimensional world [four, if one counts time]; and yet we only have two-dimensional tools for creating ideas [holograms work in movies, but it’s mostly cgi]. In high school, my drafting teacher would have us work on Technical Illustration during Spring term. I fell in love with the concept of emulating three-dimensional objects with two-dimensional media; and expected to be a Technical Illustrator for the rest of my life. Didn’t happen as planned…

For us to imagine new ways of understanding life and Creation, we need a different ‘vocabulary’ with which to describe our observations. This happens continually in the sciences, in the field of Physics. Physicists now accept the concept/fact that light operates as both a particle and a wave—two concepts that were impossible to consider before their mental ‘vocabulary’ was able to rearrange their understanding of their observations. Non-scientists experience the same sort of effect in language.

For centuries, mathematicians have understood how to locate a point in space, using the three axes within a square space [x, y, z coordinates]. Basic geometry.

It wasn’t until the launching of communication satellites around the Earth that we had a Global Positioning System; using three separate satellites to locate any point in space. The GPS project was launched by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973 for use by the United States military and became fully operational in 1995. It was allowed for civilian use in the 1980s.

We can also locate the position of any star [largely nebulae] in the sky. The Constellations with which mankind is familiar were ‘graphic’ representations of pattern recognition. The human ability to find faces in tortillas and pancakes, the grain of wood, and the random patterns in floor coverings.

One of the shortcomings of our ‘advancement’ and ‘invention’ is that we still see the Universe from our own perspective. A tabloid in the UK seems determined to have the Earth colliding with asteroids. Nearly every day I see headlines about new Black Holes and galactic collisions that are occurring as astronomers view these events through space telescopes. The articles almost always forget to mention that these events being witnessed in our time frame actually happened millions of years ago. The light from these events is just now reaching us. Possibly habitable planets tens of light years away from us. Only, we are nowhere near being able to have humans leave our solar system, much last travel at velocity near the speed of light…

Soul Nebula

The center of the Universe is nowhere near us.

We are in a low-rent corner of the Milky Way Galaxy. One of the multitude of Galaxies in the Universe.

  • Illustration Tip #22:

Next year, I think I will simply skip August; and go from July to September.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 198: Time and Space

August 9, 2019

1] No, Star Fleet has not left its mark on Mars; it probably is just a sand dune.
2] Yes, The Doctor and the Martian Warriors are fictional.
3] Yes, this is actually Mars; viewed by the Rovers sent to Mars. The scale is inaccurate.
4] Yes, it is ‘photoshopped’ without assistance from Adobe…

When I was young, reading John Carter of Mars, Tom Corbett and the Space Cadets; Robert A. Heinlein, and dozens of others, I never imagined that I would actually have photographs of Mars available to me. Sending tourists to Mars? Well, I guess that’s what Billionaires do…I’d rather they supported the battle against Climate Change, cleaning up the oceans, etc. Mars is not our Planet B.

“Milky Way is warped and twisted…”

I know that Earth is warped and twisted. I see this every day.

Imagine, if you will, that the Universe had a Beginning.
I realize that there are physicists who have theorized that we are in a Universe that expands/contracts/repeats. This is a theory that may, or may not, ever be proven. Now there is a dispute about the age of the Universe. Gravity exists, no one can prove how or why—physicists continue to come up with possible explanations; however, gravity appears to be one of the Laws of Science/Laws of the Universe. Gravity affects space, gravity affects light and gravity affects time.

Imagine a Creator who is so vast in Existence, that the Universe is, in some respects, small. To an architect—the designer of a huge skyscraper—that skyscraper is in some sense, small; every element of the skyscraper’s construction is contained within the architect’s mind. It isn’t a question of distance, it is a question of volume and content. The Creator of the Universe is constantly aware of all that happens within the Universe, because the Creator is outside our ideas of Time and Space. A Creator with an Infinite Mind.

I think humanity has an innate belief in the existence of “the Other”. There is so much in life that is inexplicable—life sometimes makes no sense when we think it should. What one does with this sense of the “Other” is based on society, culture, sub-culture, family, education. It is common in America today, to find people who been ‘educated-out’ of this sense of ‘the Other’—the idea is viewed as superstition, or “things people believe that no one believes anymore,’ to paraphrase someone I don’t recall.

I had a brief online discussion recently, where I received the following comment,

“I’m a firm believer in a God or supreme being or whatever you choose to call it. The evidence is all around us. Quantum Physics proves there is something more powerful than anything we can imagine out there controlling everything.
“My problem with religions is that they all preach peace, but they all kill people if they don’t believe the way they each want you to believe.”

There are many in the Church whose idea of God is much like the concept of a local god whose image rests on an end table shrine. Scripture’s overt lack of information about the nature of the Universe leads these people to only a grudging acceptance of current scientific views of the Universe. This, in spite of the fact that in the thirteenth century, the Jewish scholar Nahmanides quoted a commentary on Genesis written 600 years before him, noting that prior to the existence of the universe, time did not exist; he goes on to describe the Big Bang and the Expanding Universe. Of course, I did not learn this information in the Church. I learned this from the writings of a physicist who understands that there IS a Creator; and that the Creator wants to communicate with the creatures that have been made.

As Jesus contended with the Religious Right of His day, today we have a Religious Right that focuses attention on the behavior of those in, and out of, the Church. Much of one’s acceptance is based on compliance with a set of behaviors.

There are far too many evangelical preachers who preach a concept they call ‘Holiness’ as a basis for salvation [one is ‘saved’ by Jesus’ death on the Cross; however, behavior determines the validity of the claim of salvation]. This term is derived from Scripture but goes far beyond what Scripture teaches. These same preachers demand from their congregations, and demand from their hormonal teenagers, a level of scrupulous personal behavior that somehow can be totally ignored when it comes to the President of the United States; a man whose behavior is the polar opposite of the concept of Holiness.

To paraphrase Jesus: it profits the Church nothing to give its soul for the whole world…but for Conservative Judges?

The Creator of the Universe did not enter Time and Space in the form of a single cell, implanted in the womb of teenager; so that He could, by dying on a Cross, save you from your sins [that which I call, the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up]. The Creator entered Time and Space so that you could learn how to live.

Preachers paint a picture of our entrance into Eternity as something like being presented to a Judge. The three spikes that affixed Jesus to the Cross outweigh, on the Divine Scale of Justice, all of our sin. The problem with the analogy is that each of us have been known by our Creator since our birth [possibly earlier]; all of our behavior is already Known. At the end of our life on Earth, I believe we will appear before the Creator of the Universe; and will have to honestly answer to ourselves:

How Did I Really Live?
What was in my heart/my Soul?
The Creator already knows the answer to these questions.

The Conservative Evangelical Church believes that Jesus died for our sins, because our sin is so egregious that we cannot stand before the God who demands Holiness, Righteousness and Truth; and that only a righteous blood sacrifice of God’s Only Son can redeem us. This idea comes with a question that I’ve never heard in a large variety of churches:

The Eternal saying, “Oh MY SELF! How could he possibly make such a stupid decision?!!”

This question can only be asked by a local god who is not Omniscient—all knowing; one of the character qualities ascribed by the Church, to God. The Omni [All]-words: Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent.
An Omniscient Creator already knows the answer, because the Creator is outside of Time. The answer is known before we even perform the answer.

Back to Mars…

If there are Martian Warriors, if there is, or ever is a Star Fleet, if The Doctor is more than a fictional character; if there is a Creator who entered Time and Space two millennia ago, to teach us how to live; then, the Truths that apply on Earth apply throughout the Universe. Because those Truths are not the ideas of religion; but are ‘laws of the entire Universe’. The sentient beings on other worlds, in other galaxies as well as our own, will all have their own “Jesus” story; or they will not need a “Jesus” story because they are not infected with the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up.

“If only.” Two words, taken together, form one of humanity’s most significant thoughts.
“If only I’d done that instead of this.”
“If only I had turned left instead of right.”
“If only I had said, No! instead of yes.”
“If only I had voted in the 2016 Presidential election.”
The list is almost endless [I voted for Bernie].

Once again, I am living with consequences of my actions. Once I was general contractor, the CEO of a corporation [a really small corporation]. I never expected, at that point, to be something other than a contractor. When the economy tanked, I started working for local government. When my bodily damage caught up with me, and I left my job at the City, I did construction again, briefly, on several occasions. My neuropathy eventually showed me the foolishness of continuing to work with sharp things—I can injure myself without knowing it. I’ve yet to really make the decision to stop being a contractor. I have a shop full of stuff I’m unlikely to use again. I struggle with the thought of parting with the stuff. I do far better with beginnings than endings.

If only Exxon had shared their report on climate change, in 1977…would we have done any more with the knowledge than we [collective] are doing today? Greed and self-interest [the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up] have been with us as long as humans have roamed the world.

Billionaires will still be planning visits to Mars.

 

Enough of that.

 

  • Illustration Tip #21: Layers

On Wednesday, August 7th, a number of brown-skinned parents in Mississippi sent their children to school, while P45 was in Air Force One, soon to land in El Paso, Texas. P45 was supposedly making a ‘condolence call’ in El Paso, because of the Mass Shooting the previous weekend; where 22 were killed, and dozens injured. P45 was actually making a ‘rally stop’ that will be used in an upcoming campaign video. While P45 was doing his thing in El Paso, ICE officers in Mississippi rounded up 600+ brown-skinned workers at chicken plants; providing the children of those parents with no provision for being picked up from school or day care. Thankfully, Grace-filled people in Mississippi made sure the children were safe and cared for.

These children may never go to bed, feeling safe in their parents’ care, again.

No owners or pink-skinned employees of the chicken plants were arrested.

I am First Generation; my mother and her sisters were born in Norway, they and their mother emigrated here in the mid-1920’s. In these times, my heritage has become very much a part of my thinking. Norwegians do not require much melanin in their skin…

The 600+ people in Mississippi were processing chicken that we pink-skinned people have probably eaten. The owners were asking ICE ‘who is going to prepare the chicken??!!”
Many of the 600+ people in Mississippi were people of faith. They came to America in hopes of being free from the abuses that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

I believe they were asking their Creator why this was happening. I believe that these people were never out of their Creator’s care; I do not believe that we are protected from the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up.

Shit happens.

Brown skin protects the body from sunburn. Pink-skinned people who abuse the rights of brown-skinned people, line up at shops and gymnasiums to get brown-skin. Lord Have Mercy.

Layers

While it is not necessary for you to think in terms of transparent layers for digital illustration, it makes digital illustration much easier to design and create. The key to transparent layers is the .psd file. The ones and zeroes in this file format allow for the creation of transparent layers. While a .psd file is commonly called a ‘photoshop file’ its use is not limited to Adobe products. GIMP [https://www.gimp.org] will allow you to use psd files. I use very old versions of PaintShopPro [very similar to GIMP], from back when dinosaurs ruled the earth. It’s the file format; not the computer or the program the computer uses as an interface.

I’ve been sitting on the first part of this essay for several days, maybe a week, trying to figure out what sort of “Illustrator Tip” to write. These essays aren’t planned; they happen largely by circumstance. Much of my work is by circumstance.

She is called Virgin of Mercy, or Madonna with Protective Cloak:

The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Christian art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak, or pallium, of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other countries and later art, especially Catalonia and Latin America.

The image is made up of 15 final layers. There were five or ten more layers that I merged to a specific category of image, for my own ease of use.

The Madonna comes with the black background and the grey floor. I copied and pasted the background behind the Statue of Liberty. The reflections are two separate layers—copies of the statues—at 34% transparency.

I have copied part of the Madonna’s cloak, and turned it coppery green for the Lady in the Harbor. There are additional cloak-parts underneath the girl in pink. The people under the Lady’s cloak are copied from both sides of the Madonna’s cloak.

The bottom layer is black; the grey floor is next.

I have not found a fixed limit for layers; the reality is that each layer enlarges the size of the total image. This image, with its layers is about 387,000Kb [377Mb] in size; reduced in size for online use.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 194: Dark Days

June 29, 2019

I posted the image above on Facebook, with a similar caption:

The Trump administration went to court this week to argue that migrant children detained at the United States-Mexico border do not require basic hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes in order to be in held in “safe and sanitary” conditions. Trump’s team also argued that requiring minors to sleep on cold concrete floors in crowded cells with low temperatures similarly fulfilled that requirement.

Social Media—that incredible gift to humanity that allows us to have near-instant communication with ‘nearly everyone’ on the planet [we will probably see ‘everyone’ happen]—only to find out there are a whole bunch of people that we really don’t want to communicate with at all.
I received one comment from the above post, from a person that attends the same church as my wife and I attend:

The real question is what conditions are they used to in the country they came from and do we care about the laws that are in place to take care of illegals? Are we going to just make something that is wrong, right??? or should they come the right way and get the total support and respect of a invited guest, that is the question?? This is not our job to take care of the world and break our laws in the process!

To be honest, I expected that this person would make some sort of similar comment at some point in the near future; I’ve been posting a lot of news articles about how P45 is going ‘above and beyond’ in order to misdirect attention from his upcoming legal consequences.

To remind the viewing public: Donald J. Trump would be in prison right now, alongside his indicted co-conspirator, Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer,” if he was not the President of these barely-United States. The crimes presented in Cohen’s charging documents are for money laundering, bank fraud, insurance fraud and obstruction of justice charges. Michael’s unindicted co-conspirator, one Donald J. Trump, identified in Cohen’s charging documents, will have many additional State and Federal charges to answer for once the investigations are completed. When he leaves office, he goes to jail. Consequently, he wants to remain President for far more than four more years.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/house-investigations-trump-his-administration-full-list-n1010131

While it is highly unlikely that the person who made the comment above will ever read this, I will submit that the images below of human beings seeking the protection of our Constitution have not lived like this in the homes they came from:

Mothers bring their children here to protect them from rape and death; parents bring their children here because food won’t grow where they come from. The person who wrote the comments is near to me in age; and must be aware of the results of our ‘War on Drugs’. The United States government bears some responsibility for life in Central America. As with all of our ‘War on…’ events, drugs are winning. Our country is responsible for the creation of the drug cartels in Mexico and Central America. We thought we could trade drug money for arms sales that were supposed to be ‘off the books’…

Perhaps our government needs to declare a War on Civility, so that Civility has a chance of winning. We have become pretty lousy at war.

The President isn’t responsible for all the chaos going on in this country. The American people allowed an amoral, white nationalist, con man and criminal to become President. Twenty-five women have accused him of sexual assault. As President Carter stated in the last few days, the man behind the Resolute Desk is an illegitimate President. We allowed this to happen. Half of eligible voters in this country, during the 2016 election, chose not to vote at all.

When a brown-skinned man became President, I hoped that the country had finally turned a corner and had made a significant step toward Dr. King’s Dream; apparently the haters just decided to go into the closets. I had a relative, with very different views on Social Justice than myself, told me that nothing had changed. I didn’t believe him.

We can never change another human being, try as we might; the most we can ever do is to provide an environment where change can occur, when change is desired.

Somehow, two dozen candidates will need to turn into two; over twenty people will need to step down and support those two candidates. If change in our country is going to occur, we need to focus on the places where we agree. In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine how this can happen.

Enough of that.
_________________________________________________________________________

We have a new child in our family, a little over two months old.

Hugo’s Mom manages one of the last independent children’s bookstores in Portland, A Children’s Place Bookstore. From the week Hugo was born, he’s been read to every day by his parents and grandparents; he often visits the bookstore, where other people read to him. His life is surrounded with children’s books. I’ve been wondering about the life he will live, the adventures he will have, imaginary or otherwise, based on continual exposure to children’s books. The image above is ‘Hugo the Adventurer’.

I honestly can’t remember ever having had a book read to me as a child. I remember weekly visits to the bookmobile and then the library and having a library of my own. When I wasn’t watching Superman, Zorro, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Robin Hood on television, I was reading. As a teenager, I annoyed a friend of my Dad, who was willing to hire me for a summer, to work on his wheat ranch. He would give me a task, when the task was finished, I’d pull a science fiction novel out of my pocket and sit down to read. My boss had this ‘odd’ notion that I should go find him, and get another task… I lasted a month.

I became an illustrator because of all of those books.

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and during the Golden Age of Illustration, one could go to the library and check out not-age-specified novels that were illustrated by America’s finest illustrators—N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, Frank E. Schoonover, and many others.

When I decided to make Illustration my career, I expected to be illustrating books like I read in my childhood: Classics Illustrated, Mysterious Island, Sherlock Holmes, etc. To my surprise, when I finally stuck my head above my drafting table, I discovered that the children’s book industry had changed drastically. The world had changed. The books I grew up with are mostly gone. While it is totally unrealistic, my goal is to bring that world back…

Nearly every night, I spend a few hours recreating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia using Sir Arthur’s original story, now in the Public Domain. I created a Korean-language children’s version of the story early in this century. I was thrilled to be working on a story of one of my heroes; sadly, I had a very short timeline, and the book wasn’t what I wanted it to be. At this point in time, my ability to draw sucks; because my fingers no longer do what I want them to do—a byproduct of a degenerative neurological disorder of unknown cause. However, I can still hold a mouse. I’ve repurposed some software to do what it wasn’t really designed for—it creates digital characters for me. The book is taking far longer to finish than I imagined; my original art has basically become the storyboard for the new book.

Original [left] and Revised [right] illustrations for A Scandal in Bohemia by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Scandal in Bohemia is that the fictitious King of Bohemia is about to be married to a ‘peer of the realm’ and is being blackmailed by an Opera Star with whom the King had a dalliance—and there is a photograph to prove it… [sound vaguely familiar to today’s news?]

Each night while I work, I’ve been listening to MSNBC, learning about the Scandal in Washington DC. The Man Who Would Be King has been accused again, and this time there may be DNA evidence on the outfit in her photograph…

One of my many questions is how the person at the beginning of this story attends the same church as my wife and me. It was in this church that I learned how to reach out to the victims of our broken world, by helping in specific ways to assist flood/hurricane victims in various parts of our country; and assisting Medical Teams International in Mexico.

Jesus teaches clearly what our responsibility to the homeless and downtrodden is supposed to be:

Aramaic Bible in Plain English; Matthew 5:42:

Whoever asks you, give to him, and whoever wants to borrow from you, do not refuse him…

Not a single word about skin color, or place of origin.

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #18: Everything digital can become an image

I’ve recently sponsored a 6-year old boy who lives in Bangladesh through Compassion International. There was a presentation at our church; as sometimes happens in my life, I felt an intangible ‘tap on my shoulder’ which usually seems to mean, ‘pay attention’. The concept of being attentive is spread throughout many belief systems. The child I picked has the same birthday as mine; around 60 years apart. CI has a means for writing the children; templates to use, etc. I hardly ever follow such instructions. So I wrote my own letter.

It starts with geography:

…keeping in mind that I’m writing a six-year old. I pasted two map images together, since Bangladesh is barely on the map. Working with .psd files [one does not need to use Photoshop to work with .psd files], you can create transparent layers to form a new thing. The primary map is semi-transparent; if you look closely, you can see the word, MONGOLIA from the lower map layer. Transparent layers are useful when scaling two separate images so that they are the same size [presuming some accuracy in scale].

The concept of Portland, Oregon:

An image from my first colored children’s book, and an image for a client. Portland in the 1800s and Portland today.

Reading the letter on file drawn by my sponsored child, I saw his answers in English as well as Bengali. Complicated as I tend to be, I decided to translate my written English portions into Bengali, to save someone’s effort. Google has a language translation program that seems fairly accurate: Google Translate. One way to check for accuracy is to copy the translated text into the ‘before’ box, and see what shows up in the ‘after’ box, in English. Language is fluid; they idea is to approximate the same meanings.

Bengali appears to be a beautiful language; I have no idea how it is derived. Word apparently has a Bengali language download; I was too impatient to wait. The above image is a screen print from the Google Translate page. Anything you see on a computer is a digital image. It’s all ones and zeroes. Software simply organizes the ones and zeroes into a particular form. Most keyboards have a ‘print screen’ function.

Word uses text boxes—the black rectangles above. Text boxes also work for pasting images. The text box is simply an output from the copy function.

Having finished my letter [much more time than I anticipated], I ‘printed’ the Word document as a pdf file [smaller file size]; only to find that I can only upload image files. If you have the full version of Acrobat, you can save pdf files as images. The website was happy to have me upload png versions of the pdf file which was printed from a doc file. It’s all ones and zeroes, interpreted by computer interfaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 191: The Wind of our soul…

May 26, 2019

 

The Spirit of the Creator
View Larger Image

Sometimes the images grow past their original boundaries. This image became far more complex than I’d planned, which is somewhat appropriate. Life is far more complex than I’d planned.

Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you, hmm? And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. [looks around him] Life creates it. Makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Everywhere. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.
Luke Skywalker: You want the impossible. [starts to walk away]
[Yoda sighs, then concentrates on the ship. Using the Force, he raises it out of the swamp and places it safely on dry land, then looks back to Luke.]
Luke Skywalker: [astonished] I don’t believe it!
Yoda: That is why you fail.
—————————-
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi: The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

George Lucas apparently did not identify with a particular belief system; however, he had studied a number of religions. The Force was intended to represent the notion of faith that exists in most of the world’s religions.

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I viewed Star Wars for the very first time, I was instantly captivated by the concept of the Force as a representation of what, three-plus years into the journey, I understood about Faith. As I have mentioned many times before, I came to my first hearing about Faith during my third year of college. I’d never darkened the door of a church prior to then. I had not been raised on the stories of the Bible, I’d never attended Sunday School. From my hearing in high school the complete performance of The Man of La Mancha, I came to an understanding that there could be something more in my life beyond the purposeless day-to-day events of my life. Life could have meaning.

There is little in Christianity that is harder to understand than the teachings about the Spirit of the Creator. During the years when I was first exploring this strange thing called Faith, I visited Pentecostal events called Revivals; in my opinion, religious circuses.

Steve Martin made a film called Leap of Faith, in which he plays a con man with a traveling ‘miracle’ tent show, presenting healings and miracles to gullible audiences in Middle America. From his perspective, he was presenting a better show than one could find in New York, with a far cheaper admission cost [donations]. He provided entertainment—until the climax of his tour occurs—a boy is actually healed during the Revival Meeting. Not a shill in the audience; the real deal. The lame walked. Like Job, when the Creator of the Universe appears before him and Job is found speechless [after dozens of chapters of speeches], Steve Martin’s character realizes that he’s ‘been found out’—he has encountered Truth. That night, he hitches a ride on an eastbound truck, leaving his crew to clean up the mess.

In college I met intelligent students from different backgrounds, who appeared to believe that when they ‘talked to the ceiling’ during times of something called ‘prayer,’ they knew that a Presence was listening; a Presence Who sometimes responded. For me, it was the stuff of science fiction or psychology—until it happened to me; and then I knew.

The above image represents the Spirit of the Creator as a rushing wind; the element of Spirituality that appears in many different forms of Faith. I’ll write more about that in Part 2. “The wind blows where it will.”

There have been many times in my life when I have known that I was in the Presence of the Spirit of the Creator. Most recently, when I made three trips to the Gulf Coast, repairing damage done by Hurricane Katrina, the Presence of the Spirit of the Creator was as palpable among us as a room filled with an invisible steam. I was in the Presence of the Spirit of the Creator one night when I represented Medical Teams International in Oaxaca, Mexico. That was in 2008. I can’t think of a time, since then, when I’ve known that I was in the Presence of the Creator; my lack of awareness doesn’t mean that the Spirit hasn’t been Present. I’ve been so focused on my own bodily challenges for the last 11 years—sometimes obsessively so—there is much I haven’t paid attention to. Over the years, I have witnessed events that were difficult to explain in any ‘non-Faith’ way; but those events haven’t been something I could describe as Presence. I call them Grace Gifts. I experience Grace Gifts in spite of my ‘dissolving’ body.

Religious people and the texts of the Church often use the phrase, “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” to represent the “Third Person of the Trinity”—a religious concept. For me, these terms imply that there is some sort of distance between myself and the Spirit of the Creator. I have come to a place where I believe the distance between my Soul—a religious concept—and the Spirit of the Creator is very small; if a distance at all. I have come to a place where I believe that the Spirit of the Creator exists within every human being; whether or not we are aware of the Spirit’s Presence. One might ask, “if the Spirit of the Creator is inside you, how can you not be aware of the Spirit’s presence?” Valid question. I can be in the same house as my wife, and not be aware that she is present. When I’m with my entire family and we are all awake, I can’t possibly believe that they are absent. When I am engrossed in a project or engrossed in an unexpected event in the life of my family, I can ignore lots of things. One of the ways that I deal with continual bodily pain is distraction. Last night/early this morning, an hour passed in ten minutes time…

Much of the Created world is not alive—rocks, cars, buildings; much of that part of Creation that is alive, is not sentient—does not appear to realize that it is alive—life just ‘is’ [of course this may also be an invention of our arrogance]. A cluster of cancer cells is alive, while in the body—the unchecked replication of cells obstructs with normal body function. The cancer shares in the life of the host; remove the cancer from its host, and it dies. To be animate is to have life.

http://www.roncobb.net/cartoons.html
a drawing that I copied in the past

There are many creatures in the world who appear to be sentient—to be aware of their lives in some fashion—and we are destroying them every day, to the point that we are causing the extinction of many of the species on earth. Our destruction of the world’s climate, our destruction of forests, our destruction of the oceans goes on, every single day, and most of the world’s population feels powerless to effect change; or simply doesn’t care.

I believe that when we die, we go Home—I have no idea how Home might be described. Biblical descriptions from thousands of years ago are, for me, simply symbolic of a ‘place’ that defies description. I believe [some would say ‘hope’] that when we arrive at Home each of us will see the scope of our lives in their true context. I don’t believe in Judgement—as in appearing before a Judge to await a sentence—I believe the Creator has known the entirety of our lives from the moment of Creation. Judgement is not required.

I FEAR that we have mistaken the ability to communicate with words we can understand with the idea of “Identity,” and we will see our part in the damage to our world. We damage the world with the food we bring home from the store, and its packaging; by the chemicals we use in maintaining the landscape. Online shopping is incredibly convenient and produces a lot of plastic we have no use for.

I believe we will also see the Grace [unmerited favor] we have brought to the world. I think that most of us will feel an extreme shame for the damage we have done. Or we will display an Arrogance that is actually a disease. I believe that the acts that induce shame will be Forgiven; I believe that Arrogance cannot be Forgiven until shame occurs.

Our interaction with the Spirit of the Creator, for the most part, is voluntary. We can be so damaged by our circumstances that we cannot even believe the Spirit exists. We can also be so shaped by our circumstances that we are able to Believe even more than seems possible. I believe that that this is one of the ways the Spirit of the Creator communicates with our Soul—the Creative Imagination. Many do not believe that the Soul even exists, because our Science cannot detect the Soul. ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’—Shakespeare

All I can say for sure, is that in the Fall of 1972, I did not believe in the Soul; by the Spring of 1973, I knew that I have a Soul. Nothing ‘magical’ happened; no ‘magic poof’. I don’t think that my Soul entered me in this period of my life; I believe that the Soul that has been within me for all of my life had been awakened in a new way.

When do we become ‘equipped’ with a Soul? This is the question at the heart of abortion debates. When does a fetus become a ‘human being’—a person? Is an 8-week old fetus that cannot sustain life outside the mother’s womb, considered a person because the fetus has a beating heart? I DO NOT KNOW.

I also believe that what happens inside a woman’s body is not the business of our Government. I believe that people who call themselves ‘pro-life,’ but do not care what happens in the child’s life after it is born, are merely ‘pro-birth’.

I don’t believe I’ll know the answer to these questions until I reach Home. My grandson is about 5 weeks old; looking at the photos taken minutes after birth, and the photos taken yesterday, I see significant changes. He is growing, he is developing, and is loved beyond his ability to understand—most of his life is involved in the ingesting of food, and the elimination of that food from one end or the other. With crying, when he is uncomfortable. It is a good thing that we don’t know about our future discomforts.

Perhaps the positive connection we make with another person is our Soul, connecting with another Soul. Perhaps that connection is a Gift from the Creator; a tangible presence of the Spirit of the Creator.

 

Enough of that.

 

  • Illustration Tip #15: More on Marketing

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and the internet did not exist, we needed to use print advertising to get our message out to the world. The rule of thumb at that time was that only 4% of our ads would create a response by a prospective client. To put that in a better perspective, if one sends out 199 fliers, one should not expect to receive more than 4 inquiries. If one sends out 220 fliers, one might hear from 8 prospects. The average number was an average; it wasn’t a guarantee.

According to the Netcraft January 2018 Web Server Survey there are 1,805,260,010 (over 1.8 billion) websites. Yes, the Internet is very big. However, most of those websites get almost no visitors. If I was really into marketing myself, I would tell you that “I have the formula for bringing thousands of customers to your website,” but I would be lying. There is no formula. MY guess is that the 4% number is probably still accurate.

Despite the assurances of people who want to sell you something [you are their prospect] you cannot control who visits your website. Does this mean you should not try to sell your work online? Of course not; unless you have some method of getting your art into the hands of the astute buyer.

I use three online retail outlets for selling my work: Society 6, RedBubble and Artist.com in that order. I have designs on another t-shirt site; the printing on the shirts I bought doesn’t last well in the washing machine. You should always order prints or clothing with your designs, to see the quality of the work, and to track how long it takes for the delivery of the work. Announce your work on Social Media; making sure you have links to the place[s] they can buy your work. It’s also a good idea to go to Kinko’s or FedEx Office or some similar place to print your work on paper—find out if the colors from the copy machines match the colors in your computer. If there is a discrepancy, you need to change the settings on your computer. “Monitor Gamma”

I’ve been doing this for over twenty years, starting when dinosaurs ruled the earth. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars over that time, marketing my work. For me, nothing seems to work. Or, if it does work, the people who contact me can’t remember where they saw my work. The amount of dollars does not mean that I earn tens of thousands of dollars from illustration. I’ve managed to create a huge debt load; which is the wrong way to go about this work. I just haven’t had a different choice. I bagged groceries in high school; my body won’t allow me to do it again.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 185: The Audience of One

March 15, 2019
“…mushrooms, 30-40 feet high” from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth

Nature has that in her which compels us to invent giants.
C.S. Lewis, ‘On Stories’, Of Other Worlds

Clive Staples Lewis is in my opinion, one of the most brilliant theologians of our time; perhaps of all time. Of course, my opinion and $5.00 might enable you to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Lewis died on the same day as John F. Kennedy; my guess, since I was only eleven years old on that day, is that Lewis’ passing did not warrant much media attention. He probably would have liked it that way. Lewis was a scholar, and he was a professor of English Literature, which also made him a scholar of history. He disliked the ‘celebrity’ which hounded him. He wanted to be able to quietly read.

Raised without a concept of personal faith, although a student of many forms of religion, Lewis came to faith at University; much like myself. An academic who found himself thrust into the limelight in England during World War II, presenting concepts of faith to ‘the common man’; and then across the world, through the publication of his theological works, his science fiction and his Chronicles of Narnia.

C.S. Lewis on The Modern View:

The whole modern estimate of primitive man is based upon that idolatry of artefacts which is a great corporate sin of our own civilisation. We forget that our prehistoric ancestors made all the most useful discoveries, except that of chloroform, which have ever been made. To them we owe language, the family, clothing, the use of fire, the domestication of animals, the wheel, the ship, poetry and agriculture.

The Problem of Pain, ch. 5

Between Jane Austen and us comes the birth of the machines…This is parallel to the great changes by which we divide epochs of pre-history. This is on a level with the change from stone to bronze, or from a pastoral to an agricultural economy. It alters Man’s place in nature…

I conclude that it really is the greatest change in the history of Western Man.

De Descriptione Temporum’, Selected Literary Essays

‘It is the same with all their machines. Their labour-saving devices multiply drudgery; their aphrodisiacs make them impotent; their amusements bore them; their rapid production of food leaves half of them starving, and their devices for saving time have banished leisure from their country.’

The Pilgrim’s Regress, bk 10, ch. 6

It took me as long to acquire inhibitions as others (they say) have taken to get rid of them. That is why I often find myself at such cross-purposes with the modern world: I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans.

Surprised by Joy, ch. 4

In the early years of this century, I illustrated a Korean children’s book based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. The story of a King who is being blackmailed for his dalliance with an American opera star, Irene Adler. She who was later described by Holmes as The Woman; the only person to outwit the Great Detective. I was chosen as the illustrator because the Korean publisher wanted the book to have a ‘western’ design, rather than an Asian design. I have no idea where they found me; typical for my projects. People inquire about my availability, and they rarely seem to remember how they found me.

The book was published; the publishing house was purchased by another company; and that company went ‘bust’. However, I own all the art that went into the making of the book. In the years since I illustrated the Korean children’s version of Doyle’s story, A Scandal in Bohemia has entered the Public Domain. A couple years ago, I decided to publish a digital version of the book, illustrated the way I would have liked to illustrate the book, all those years ago; using Doyle’s manuscript. Being a project for myself, it always takes second- or third place in my time priorities. So, most weeknights find me working on A Scandal in Bohemia while I listen to MSNBC’s coverage of the Scandal in Washington DC…

Os Guinness [yes, that Guinness] wrote a book entitled The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life; one of his stories comes from his own family history. His great-great-grandmother found herself widowed at a young age; her foolish husband having been killed in a duel in Scotland. Destitute, she had taken her children to a bridge, from which she intended to jump, along with her children. While gathering her courage at the bridge railing, she became entranced by watching a farm hand plowing a field. The farm hand was plowing his rows as carefully as a painter would have painted the scene. She realized that if a farm hand could take that amount of care in his plowing, perhaps she could make something of herself. She left the bridge railing; eventually found Faith and eventually married one of the Guinness sons; and is known to have prayed for the generations that would follow her, for the rest of her life.

She learned to live for an Audience of One.

Also from The Call:

Yehudi Menuhin, the renowned maestro and violinist, has held audiences all over the world spellbound with his conducting and virtuoso playing. Like many great musicians, his gifts were precocious. He made his violin debut in San Francisco at the age of seven and launched his worldwide career at the age of twelve with a historic concert at Carnegie Hall. In his memoirs, Unfinished Journey, Menuhin tells the story of how he began his long love affair with the violin.

From the time he was three years old, Menuhin’s parents frequently took him to concerts in New York where he heard the concertmaster and first violinist Louis Persinger. When Persinger broke into solo passages, little Yehudi, sitting with his parents up in the gallery, was enchanted.

“During one such performance,” Menuhin wrote, “I asked my parents if I might have a violin for my fourth birthday and Louis Persinger to teach me to play it.”

Apparently, his wish was granted. A family friend gave the little boy a violin, but it was a toy one, made of metal with metal strings. Yehudi Menuhin was only four. He could hardly have had the arms and fingers to do justice to a full-sized violin, but he was furious.

“I burst into sobs, threw it on the ground and would have nothing to do with it.” Reflecting years later, Menuhin said he realized he wanted nothing less than the real thing because “I did know instinctively that to play was to be.”

Stories like that are common lives of creative artists. Artie Shaw, a famous clarinetist in the old Big Band days, shared his heart with an interviewer. “Maybe twice in my life I reached what I wanted to. Once we were playing ‘These Foolish Things’ and at the end the band stops, and I play a little cadenza. That cadenza—no one can do it better. Let’s say it’s five bars. That’s a very good thing to have done in a lifetime. An artist should be judged by his best, just as an athlete. Pick out my one or two best things and say, ‘That’s what we did: all the rest was rehearsal.'”

I get up each morning and create illustrations for an Audience of One—the One to whom I gave my life 46 years ago. I opened my heart to my Creator and said, ‘here, take my life. I’ll only screw it up on my own.’ And my hope is that today I will create something beyond ‘rehearsal’; knowing that one can’t create ‘best’ without rehearsal.

This is not to say that I create religious illustrations or illustrate religious books. I mostly don’t. I’m not fond of religion. At the same time, I want all of my work to be a work of Grace—“unmerited favor”—humans do not merit the Creator’s favor—we are a cruel and monstrous lot. If you don’t believe that you should be counted in this cruel and monstrous lot, you haven’t read enough history; you haven’t read the news today. There is only one race; it is called “human” and every day, our government is in the process, directly or indirectly, of killing our brothers and sisters. I did not do anything noteworthy today to stop the murders. I signed some petitions; I’ve donated some money. I put the needs of my family above the needs of others. This isn’t ‘wrong’, per se; while I have been focused on the needs that I value, my fellow humans have been harmed. I bear that guilt, even if I don’t want to. I did nothing to stop the killing.

When the future Mrs. Guinness stepped away from the railing on that bridge, it was because she had decided to live for the future, rather than dying because of the past. She decided to live for an Idea.

I live for an Idea. I can’t prove that there is a Creator who guides my steps, although I believe this is true. I get out of bed each day for an Idea. It has become painful to get out of bed each day; I take a lot of medication—not nearly as much as some people—enough that my body now has a different smell than it had years ago—and my sense of smell is rubbish. There was a time, long ago, when my doc had to say, ‘take the damn pill, Marty,’ because I didn’t want to live medicated. Pain can be an addiction. It doesn’t seem that different from the barbiturate addiction I used to have.

I get out of bed for an Idea; that Idea is my Audience of One.

Who we individually are is Idea; nothing more, nothing less. As I keep writing, over and over, our bodies are collections of atoms that are largely composed of space, and electromagnetic forces; consequently, even though we seem to be solid, we are mostly space, and the electromagnetic forces that create an illusion of solidity. We are energy; when the shells of our body die, we remain energy in the form of Identity. How this all works is something we really can’t understand on this side of Life.

I believe that the Idea that is us, exists in a spiritual dimension; which is also an Idea. I believe that this Idea is also called the Soul. Ideas can build magnificent futures; Ideas can rob us of the future we might have had, were we willing to trust the Idea of us.

One of my mentors once said: ‘If you have to move 12 inches in order to be happy, you will never be happy’. People who live in chronic physical or emotional pain have a difficult time finding ‘happy’—happiness is largely circumstantial. Joy is a more achievable emotion, one that is less dependent upon circumstance. Living in Joy can happen even when happiness doesn’t occur. Joy is a decision. Joy is an idea.

How do we find our Audience of One? I think that we must first decide that we cannot do this life on our own, without screwing it up. For many of us, we have been proving this to be true for decades.

There have been alcoholics in my family; I have grown fond of the Twelve Steps. Steps 2 & 3 are:

[I] Came to believe that a Power greater than [myself] could restore [me] to sanity.
[I] Made a decision to turn [my] will and [my] life over to the care of God as [I] understand Him.

https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/12-step-programs

Overcoming the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up.

I realize that there are a lot of people who just can’t believe in the concept of a Creator [an Idea]—the sciences explain ‘everything’ without the need for a Creator. The sciences don’t explain everything, any more than religion explaining everything. I believe that the sciences are a language of the Creator. My understanding is that before he died, Stephen Hawking proved that the creation of the entire Universe could be explained by Gravity. I don’t know that he explained the existence of Gravity.

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #10:

Marketing. I hate marketing myself. People who spend weeks at a time, alone in a room, creating something, aren’t particularly social. To market oneself, one must learn to be more sociable. For me, Social Media and the internet are ideal ways to be sociable. I am anonymous; my interaction with people is structured; a fairly effective way to avoid saying things I don’t want to say [it’s called proofreading]; and I can deliver images.

ONLINE PORTFOLIOS

Websites that currently have my images [if you find a bad link, please let me know] are below. The websites marked in bold have brought verifiable sales or customer inquiries. Something more than “likes”.
The $ means that I pay a fee for the service. These fees are far less than I’ve paid for print advertising. Of course, at this point in time, my business income is less, which makes the fees a larger part of my income.

mjarts.com                       Society 6 Retail Store
MJ Arts website
              https://society6.com/mjartscom
http://mjarts.com/portfolio.html

Artist.com Retail Store
https://artist.com/name-lt-marty-jones/arts-list

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/mjartscom

about.me                                    The Creative Finder        $
https://about.me/martyjones       http://thecreativefinder.com

childrensillustrators.com     $
http://www.childrensillustrators.com/illustrator-details/martyjones/id=62

Dripbook:
http://www.dripbook.com/mjartscom

picture-book                 $
http://picture-book.com/mj-arts-illustration-2

hireanillustrator.com             $
http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/portfolio/marty-jones

behance.net                                    deviantart.com
https://www.behance.net/mjarts    http://mjarts.deviantart.com

Pond5 Stock Media
http://www.pond5.com/artist/mjarts

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators          $
https://www.scbwi.org

localsolo.com
https://localsolo.com/portland-or/profile/18258

Chronicles in Ordinary Time         Facebook
https://mjarts.blog       https://www.facebook.com/mjartscom

LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mjarts

Twitter
https://twitter.com/mjarts_com

youtube: mjartscom’s channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgJQUsjr0nmHieNcNpa8oeg

pinterest
https://www.pinterest.com/mjartscom

Artists Info          $
https://www.artistsinfo.co.uk/artist/marty-jones

Amazon Author pages:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B016GG2LPS
UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B016GG2LPS

IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/user/ur68910572

Redbubble
http://www.redbubble.com/people/mjartscom

Dribbble
https://dribbble.com/mjartscom

The collection above represents a huge amount of my time for uploading information. Every portfolio page has different sizing requirements. Nearly all of them require the use of keywords. I generally don’t create images that are designed only for the purpose of selling images. In the process of creating larger/more complex images, I create small images which, in theory, can be used as stock art. Apparently, I’m not good at selecting images that sell well.

Is it worth it? To be honest, I don’t know. I want to do illustration/graphic arts work; searching job boards takes a lot of time.

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

October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

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

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

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

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Flint

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

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

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

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

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 6]

September 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearless Girl

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

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

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

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 5]

September 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Angel of Grief 3

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

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

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

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

US military budgets

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

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

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

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

Do you ever wonder why your own HPtFtU happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

blue dot

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

Lagoon Nebula (Infrared-light View)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 168: HPtFtU [part 4]

September 17, 2018

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

Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God-Sistine

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

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

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

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

Solar System_mj_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

September 15, 2018

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

BOGUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a few hours, I was hooked.

sheepish

 

 

 


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