Posts Tagged ‘intolerance’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 187: Magical Thinking

April 12, 2019

All of life is beyond our control. “Magical Thinking” [for which I think I am an expert] merely gives us the idea that we have control.
I have long wanted to learn “3-D” graphics [they are really 2-D objects, because our monitors are 2-D; “3-D” graphics does not create holograms—but 3-D enables one to rotate the 2-D image around an axis]. I have long wanted to learn “3-D” graphics but have never ‘found the time’.
‘Finding time’ [as well as raising children] is not like finding an apple on the ground. It’s more like ‘finding an apple’ by planting a seed in a piece of ground that used to be a lawn. Given the right circumstances, an apple seed becomes an apple tree. If the tree is tended well, it will produce apples. The very last thing to grow is the fruit.


We live in a large, ranch-style house on an oversized lot. I started building the house when I graduated from college with the Bachelor of Architecture degree I didn’t really intend to use. By the time I graduated from the Architecture program, I had been drafting, every day, for about 8 years. I knew that any architecture job I was offered would find me drafting every day. I wanted a break. So, I convinced my Dad that I should build him the retirement home he wanted. One of the worst/best decisions I ever made. Worst because I knew nothing about actually building a house. I could design them—not very well, I learned—but was clueless when it came to putting the pieces together. Best, because it was the path that led me to where I am now. Not that I’m particularly happy with the life I now lead; but there have been so many experiences that have taught me so much. I don’t know if I would have learned these lessons on a different path.

You can’t tell from the aerial photos above, but there’s an apple tree in our backyard. I planted it in 1976. When a friend of my parents came up and kept the yard in the condition it was when I finished the landscaping, the tree produced apples. In 1985, we moved in. I have always hated yard work.
When our family cabin in the woods was sold by my aunt, I decided that I would let the Creator handle the landscape maintenance at our house, as the Creator had handled the landscape maintenance along the Sandy River. In retrospect, I became aware that there weren’t many apple trees growing by the Sandy River. Thirty-three years after I planted the apple tree, I think there was one apple last year; not very appetizing at that. The tree doesn’t get much sunlight because of the Douglas Fir that planted itself in our back yard; and the tree has been fertilized by several dead cats. I’m not sure that dead cats are good fertilizer for apple trees.

Scripture uses a lot of agricultural references. Having lived nearly all my life in urban environments, I often don’t understand the references in the way they were originally presented. When I worked as a contractor, we had a client that raised sheep and Great Pyrenees dogs. Everything with four legs was white; except when they were brown, from the mud. We were there because of the dogs—we built a bathing/ grooming/whelping room for the show dogs. In the process of getting to know the people, I learned that sheep are about the dumbest creatures on earth. When Jesus called us ‘sheep,’ I don’t think it was a compliment. I also learned that farming and ranching, even when pursued as a hobby, take a lot of work. Much like raising a child.

On the left side of the 2018 photo above, one can barely make out a drainage ditch that separates us from the road on the other side. I had built a makeshift bridge [in the public Right of Way] across the ditch so that our daughter could cross the ditch to catch the school bus. One day I was out working on the bridge with my two young sons, who wanted to help. When my adjustments had been made, I told the Creator, ‘I could have gotten this job done in half the time, and better, if I hadn’t been working with my sons’. The thought distinctly appeared in my brain “I know exactly how you feel”.

While working on that bridge I thought about the nature of the Creator and the nature of humans. If you pick up a rock from an unpaved surface, you will find a bunch of squiggly critters. The Creator entering time and space as a single cell in the womb of a teenager would be like my deciding that I was going to become one of those squiggly critters, so that I could show them how to live better. I wouldn’t do it.
Believers talk as if the Creator wasn’t that much different from a local deity—the gods of human history. They would never admit this; but that is how they speak. Non-believers often talk as if the Universe is so vast that there can’t possibly be a Creator. My faith in science won’t stretch far enough to accept the idea that all life is the product of evolution. I was just listening to a program about the human brain; and the guy said that, ‘people used to believe that soul was responsible for who we are. We now know that who we are is dependent upon the development of the brain. The plan is…’ What plan? He goes on to talk about how most of the information that seems to be hard-wired into other mammals is not present in humans; it is our lack of pre-programming that causes us to develop…’ etc. Again, what plan? How does ‘plan’ evolve? Plan means ‘design’/’choice’. People evolve over time, and there is evidence that leads us in the direction of having ancestors that were far less evolved than homo sapiens. “Adam and Eve” is a Creation story. Nearly all cultures have Creation stories; they all have similarities.

Rabbinical scholars from millennia ago did not have a problem with the notion that there were creatures present that were very similar to homo sapiens at the time of the Garden of Eden. After all, after Cain slew Abel [the first children of Adam and Eve], Cain left the Garden, married, and started building the first City [there’s a fascinating 20th Century book by Jacque Ellul about The Meaning of the City—the building of Cities is man’s response to the Creator’s treatment of man]. Who did Cain marry? If one takes Scripture literally, there were only four human beings. Scripture talks about these other beings:

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. Genesis 6:4.

There really isn’t a good definition of Nephilim, beyond the explanation that they were giants. “Daughters of men” doesn’t really provide an explanation for Cain’s wife, unless ‘men’ means mankind.

There is a BBC-made PBS video about Madagascar, and the unique vegetation and unique creatures that live on that island:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pd2fk

The vegetation on the south end of the island is almost entirely covered in spines/thorns. There is very little water on the south end of the island. Little leaves sometimes grow between the spines, and the reptilian creatures get their necessary water from these tiny leaves. I’m sorry—I cannot stretch my mind to accept the notion that these spiny plants evolved from the plants that grow on the luxuriant north end of the island. Evolution depends on small changes to the genome that prove beneficial over time. Using that concept, black becomes white by way of a whole bunch of grey. I can understand variations in the greyscale; but black becoming white in a small series of large variations stretches my brain too far. I prefer created-black and created-white. And I am not referring to skin coloration. We are all shades of brown, with differing hues, brightness and contrast. We humans are all one family. This has been demonstrated by DNA studies.

In human genetics, the Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans, i.e., the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mothers, and through the mothers of those mothers, back until all lines converge on one woman.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

Getting back to critters under a rock: ‘imagine, if you will’ a Creator for whom the Universe is in some sense small. ‘Small’ in the sense that the design of an entire skyscraper, down to the nuts and bolts and knobs, can fit inside the mind of an architect. My guess is that the Creator of the entire Universe ‘turns over the rock’ and looks at the history of Humanity and sees cruel and fearsome creatures who spend all of their lives killing each other.
You reply, ‘that doesn’t apply to me.’ Sure it does; it’s only by Grace that you aren’t living in a tribal situation where one tribe is willing to kill another tribe because they don’t think the same as you. The history of homo sapiens is a history of rape and pillaging. With brief exceptions. When preachers talk about our sinfulness, I think there are some who see our relationship to the Creator as something akin to my looking under a rock.

With exceptions.

I am of the opinion that Penal Substitutionary Atonement [you are evil, and god cannot stand your sinful presence, so god killed his only son to pay for your sinfulness] is a result of human guilt feelings. We are guilty; many choose to think that they are fooling the world and our Creator by pretending they aren’t guilty. When politicians become preachers and pronounce their understanding of Scripture that omits everything that Jesus taught, they are using the wrong book.

Jesus did not come into Time and Space in order to be the scapegoat for your sins [the scapegoat concept is part of the Hebrew religion]; Jesus entered Time and Space to show us a new way to live. In another time and place, I could be stoned for making this assertion. Yes, the ‘scapegoat’ analogy also fits; but I have trouble believing that this was the whole point.

Preachers who seem to love the word, “Repent!” are unaware that what the word means is ‘to see the world through new eyes.’ Human beings just like ourselves killed Jesus for His audacity; people like us did what homo sapiens always do. Jesus dared to tell religious leaders that they had made a mockery of that which all of history pointed toward.

Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose from the dead and told His followers that they could do the same. People have a really hard time with this idea. We are locked-in to the idea that what we are is our bodies.  At 66, it’s so much easier to believe that I am more than this crappy body.

I’m reading a book about the Gnostic texts found around the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but with a lot less ceremony and publicity. Possibly because they were written in Copt. They sat in a museum for about 40 years, when they weren’t floating around the Black Market. The theory is that these texts were buried by a monk in around 200AD, because that’s when Bishop Irenaeus wanted all the Gnostic Texts burned. The Gospel of Thomas is one of the most well-known of the 50 or so texts that were not included in the Christian Bible. Bishop Irenaeus was building the institution that eventually became the Holy Roman Empire. A religion built on a set of principles that were readily transmitted across countries; and were dependent upon a religious hierarchy. Those who practiced Gnosticism had a much wider base. Some of the texts seem to have come from Seventies San Francisco; others teach about spirituality that doesn’t come from a book, a spirituality that is based on experience. Something reflective of my own faith journey.

Easter is coming

 

Enough of that.

 

  • Illustration Tip #12: Tax Time

This will probably get posted before the 15th of April, so your deadline is drawing near, in spite of the Government Shutdown earlier this year. The IRS does not sleep.

BE ADVISED; I AM NOT PROVIDING YOU WITH ANY INCOME TAX ADVICE.

I will not offer any tax advice beyond the following: Don’t Cheat; you will get caught. Maybe not this time, but somewhere down the road when you’ve forgotten that some practice of yours was actually a cheat, when you first started it.

I have been audited more than once; in addition to having uncomfortable consequences to the digestive system, it can be very expensive; presuming that the reason you were cheating is because you discovered that you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service, and you hadn’t set funds aside for this unexpected contingency. Millionaires and Corporations cheat all the time, but they have expensive lawyers who can somehow call ‘blue’, ‘red’ and no one sees the problem.

One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you can deduct the expenses of running your business from your income. “Deduct” does not mean ‘hide it under the couch cushion.’ There are rules. If you are starting your business, and steadily lose money rather than earn money, the IRS will question whether or not your business is really a hobby. You may be able to deduct some of the expenses of living where you live. Generally, in order to be able to deduct expenses related to living wherever you live, you need to have part of your home set aside for working. Ideally, a room. Trying to convince an Auditor that your dining room table is your office is awkward, if you ever eat at your dining room table. The percentages of your utilities and rent that can be deducted from your income is based on a square foot percentage. If you live in a 200sf apartment, and your dining room table measures 18sf, you can do the math for the percentage attributable to business. But you better not eat at the table when you aren’t working.

Keep records of your spending. The Government likes PayPal, because PayPal is very transparent for bookkeepers. I use an ancient My Money program; it is low-maintenance, it makes for easy categorizing of expenses, and will provide one with reports on annual spending. Being a dinosaur, I don’t bother with far more advanced software. I’ve been using it for more than 20 years [yes, dinosaur-software runs on Windows 10-64; Microsoft would prefer that you don’t know this].

Computers are expenses that generally need to be depreciated. Depreciation means that there is a method by which you can deduct the cost of more expensive office equipment over time. Over time, these pieces of equipment lose their market value. Computers, and other spendy items in an office can often be depreciated over 5 years each.

You are not required to deduct any expenses from your business income. I do all of my income tax returns ‘by hand,’ meaning I do my own calculating. This provides me with the opportunity to make choices. When I’ve used online programs, I’ve discovered that these programs are written by someone who has a perspective on the Tax Code that I don’t have. Do not cheat.

Tax Codes are written by bureaucrats; bureaucrats tend to write with complex words; plan on looking for definitions. I used to write building code provisions; there’s a geeky part of me that likes to figure things out.

Norman Rockwell Daydreaming Bookkeeper

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 186: When does an Idea become a Fact?

March 25, 2019


An Idea. The most powerful force in the Universe.
When does an Idea become a Fact; and when does a Fact become an Idea?

In this context, I have to explain what I mean: I believe that Ideas drive us further than simple Facts. “Naia” above, is a fact; her DNA consists of combined Asian and Siberian strains in a pattern that is not found west of the Alaskan longitude. Her DNA is consistent with all the Indigenous peoples that populate the Americas [some of this information comes from the study of a younger skeleton, a male child found in Montana, which did not have a representation of his face constructed]. The face above is not what most of us would call, ‘an American Indian’. Naia’s face is not our Idea of an American Indian. But “Naia” is a fact. It requires an Idea for us white folk to understand that all the Indigenous people, throughout the Americas, are Naia’s forebears’ descendants. One family. This Idea is shown, scientifically, to e a much earlier time.

In human genetics, the Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans, i.e., the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mothers, and through the mothers of those mothers, back until all lines converge on one woman.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

Does science therefore prove that the Bible is correct? The Older Testament contains a Hebrew story about how the world began. Many civilizations have similar stories. The Book of Genesis also talks about the Creation of the sun, moon and stars. Stars that were light years away from Earth. Starlight from stars that take years to reach Earth.

The two [nearest] stars [to our solar system] are Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, which form a binary pair. They are an average of 4.3 light-years from Earth.
https://www.space.com/18090-alpha-centauri-nearest-star-system.html

How many stars are there within 1,000 light years from our Solar System? The space within 1000 light years is (1000/50)³ = 8000 times as large. Assuming a homogenous distribution you can expect 7 to 8 million stars in this range.
https://www.quora.com/How-many-stars-are-there-within-1-000-light-years-from-our-Solar-System

Scripture does say that to the Creator, one day is like a thousand years; and a thousand years is as a day…

People throughout history have overcome the Facts of their lives by focusing on an Idea that carries them beyond the Facts. An Idea that becomes the driving force of their lives.

For generations, there has been an Idea that all mankind are members of one family, our brothers and sisters. A Fact.
For generations there has been Idea that only those people within our generation of people are our family—often the people who our grandparents sired, or the people sired by our great-grandparents. Another Fact.
Research into our ancestry can enlarge our view of how we came to be. An Idea.

You are an Idea.

You are more than an Idea; however, when someone asks for information about yourself, you probably describe yourself by your job, or your role in life. You possibly identify yourself by your passions—sports, gaming, mountain climbing; the person you are married to, your children, your famous relative…these roles are facts about you. Or facts that you wish were about you. What you choose to do with these facts can become your guiding Idea.

People with a mental illness struggle with finding their identity—a post-medicated identity that doesn’t match the person they were before the medication. Being unable to reach a personality they no longer have. The struggle to understand who they are now. They need to find a new Idea of who they are going to be.

People with physical illness struggle in the same fashion—they can no longer participate in a life they enjoyed before. The athlete who is missing limbs, the singer who can no longer sing, the musician who can no longer play their music. The ‘ordinary’ [I believe we are all extraordinary—but we have been taught not to be] person who can’t walk anymore, or can’t climb trees, or walk along a mountain path. They need to find a new Idea of who they are going to be.

When one is a high-achiever by nature or learning and can no longer achieve to the level they consider necessary, they struggle with finding value in lesser achievements. The person with large dreams for the future who finds that the dreamed-of future will never happen.

I currently deal with an unexplained fatigue, on top of my Polyneuropathy of Unknown Cause. I can’t do what I used to be able to do. To a degree, I can’t do what I could do last year, and this is only March. The wrist that won’t support my weight without collapsing. The pain involved in getting out of bed. The morning walk that drains more energy than it did months ago. I won’t go through the details.

However, I refuse to describe myself by the things that I cannot do. This refusal is an Idea. The Idea that I have a choice about the way I see myself; succeeding or failing. On many days, I don’t succeed; I still refuse to accept the Idea of failure, as my self-definition. I am uniquely able, rather than using the dis- word. Life was simpler when I thought life was about facts.

Each of us is an Idea. We all make the decision as to what that Idea is.

The reality is that a large portion of the world’s population has no Idea at all. There are those who never seem to make it past adolescence, no matter how many years they have been around. There are many who are never permitted to have an Idea of who they could be. There are those who have lived in Privilege [however that is defined], whose world collapses underneath them; and now that have no privileges at all. The ones who have the weight of the world on top of them, when they were on top of the world last week. Then there are people who are uncontrollably damaged through no fault of their own. Shit Happens.

Who we become next is an Idea.
Where do we find the Ideas?

This is going to upset some people:
The Creator [aka God] is an Idea. I happen to believe that the Creator is also a Fact; perhaps The Fact of human existence. But I can’t prove this to be true. Countless wars have been fought, are being fought, because opposing peoples can’t reconcile their Idea with someone else’s Idea. Frequently wars are started because opposing peoples cannot agree on how a Book should be read. I’m a heretic. My most substantial evidence for the existence of the Creator does not come from a Book or Books; my evidence comes from my experiences. The Books back up what I’ve learned by way of the Spirit of the Creator.

I think one starts with ‘painting a mental picture’ of who you want to be; imagining what characteristics the who you want to become would have. How that person would act instead of how you react without being that person.
In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. He created a ‘score card’ with thirteen character traits he wanted to have. He kept this list with him at all times and marked his chart whenever he demonstrated that characteristic. Over time, more of the characteristics were marked. Over time, he changed who he was. It works; I’ve done it myself.

http://www.thirteenvirtues.com/

There are two men in my life who are very important to me. Fifty years apart in age, they struggle in similar ways with the question of who they are going to be. Both of them explore the concept of ending their existence. I know that I can’t ‘fix’ either of them—we can never ‘fix’ another human being; the most we can do is provide an environment where change can occur, when the person decides that change is necessary—and yet I know that they can change. They don’t yet have a new Idea for their lives. I can’t download an Idea from my brain to theirs; and I know this wouldn’t work either, because it would be my Idea, not theirs.

Where do we find the Ideas? For me, the Ideas come from a search for new truths. I have a soundtrack that plays through my head for most of my waking hours. Perhaps during my sleeping hours as well, since the music plays 24/7. Maybe my ears pick up sounds while I’m asleep, better than when I’m awake. A soundtrack for the person I want to be, even if I’m not there yet. Last night I was listening to an artist I admire; however, his music is mostly from the ‘pop charts.’ I find songs from pop charts to be fairly vapid; and yes, I’m a music snob.

I continually read. Each morning I read something specifically related to my Idea; during the day I read about what’s happening in the world. I read novels a few times a week; I’m a fan of hero stories. Before going to bed each night, I watch hero stories on the black rectangle in the living room.

I believe the Ideas we accept for our lives begin with our upbringing; whether positive or not. I’ve come to the realization that what parents assume is being taught to their children isn’t what their children are learning. I realize that I didn’t spend enough time engaging my children as they were growing. Partially because I never talked with my parents; but that is simply an excuse. The reality is that I placed a higher priority on my own struggles than engaging with my children and their struggles. We can’t go back and correct our mistakes. I’m a fan of time travel stories; however, I also realize that time travel is science fiction.

Find an Idea. Make it yours.

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #11: More Marketing

Being self-employed, I need to be marketing my work all the time. I hate marketing myself; the guy that mutes commercials on the black rectangle; the one that hides all the ads on Facebook. I usually quit reading Fb when I’m tired of deleting spam. I mark all the spam as Irrelevant; my magical thinking expects that someday, I will reprogram the Fb algorithm.

So, this guy who hates commercials needs to create ‘commercials’ for myself, in order to make my presence known. I’m this guy:

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.

Among the things I do, I make videos:

You may, or you may not, realize that most, if not all of the ads on Social Media now feature videos. The concept being that movement attracts attention. Movement does attract attention. For me, movement signals that I probably need to delete the ad…

I struggle with the Idea of what my business is. Creating videos is fun; it’s also tedious. If you follow the image link above to my mjarts.com home page, you’ll see a video that I enjoy, conceptually, but there is movement in the titles [vertical words] that shouldn’t be there. Correcting the movement is tedious. I think the plan was to do something different, rather than making the correction; my life being what it is, I forget what the plan was.

Even more than making videos is ‘photo manipulation’. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, and digital images did not exist, one sometimes ended up with a paper photograph that did not do the subject justice. Or one ended up with old photographs whose image degraded due to sunlight or other forms of abuse. Back then, it was called ‘photo restoration’. The need still exists, because people have old photographs they want to be proud of, and the photo is no longer cooperating:

I have just illustrated for you one Idea about marketing your business. Did it work? You tell me: marty@mjarts.com

[OMG: I posted my email address on a webpage. Yeah, that’s pretty much the point…yes, I get a lot of spam]

 

 

 

The Witch Hunt

March 24, 2019

For those who want to keep track…

 

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 172: Apparent failure does not have to be final

November 5, 2018

Feeling a tremendous sense of despair last week, as I tried to find something hopeful in the media, without much success; I turned to a film I ‘happened’ to bring home from the library [I don’t believe in coincidence]. The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, is the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poorly educated, Indian, mathematical savant; who, in the years before 1920 constructed completely original mathematical formulae that are being used today to study Black Holes. Sadly, he died at the age of 32, as a result of what was probably amoebic dysentery.

A deeply religious Hindu, Ramanujan credited his substantial mathematical capacities to divinity, and stated that the mathematical knowledge he displayed was revealed to him by his family goddess. “An equation for me has no meaning,” he once said, “unless it expresses a thought of God.”

His mentor, R.G. Hardy, was a self-avowed atheist:
G.H. Hardy:  You see, I am what you call an atheist.
Ramanujan: No, sir. You believe in God. You just don’t think He likes you.

I often find ‘the footprints’ of the Creator in science.
The Cambridge scholars, for the most part, did not believe that Ramanujan’s calculations were flawed—only a few could even understand them—they did not believe anything worthy of being at Cambridge could spring from an uneducated Indian.
When I read the Facebook posts from people who claim to have a knowledge of God, I can fully understand why people who have been trained in Critical Thinking would never consider ‘God’ as something worth thinking about.

Been there. Done that. Here’s what I found [if you are an Evangelical Christian, you probably won’t agree with most of what comes next. Save yourself some grief]:
I prefer science to the American Civil Religion; commonly called “Evangelical” in the media, but that term is so far away from what the Christian term actually stands for, it really shouldn’t be used.
From Gerald Schroeder: Genesis and the Big Bang:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005KB0V62/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Nahmanides’s account of the first seconds of the universe [written in about 1200 AD, 200 years before Galileo] reads like this:
“At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was so thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudo-substance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.”

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

We know this description as the Big Bang. The expanding Universe. About 200 years before Galileo, Nahmanides described the Expanding Universe. Nahmanides learned this description by his extensive study of the Jewish Scriptures, where the shape of every character in Hebrew can add to the meaning of a word. The Church in America rarely studies the Hebrew Scriptures in Hebrew.

Imagine, if you will, the hydrogen atom:
hydrogen-atom

The hydrogen atom consists of a single proton, and a single electron which continually orbits around the proton. Atomic hydrogen constitutes about 75% of the baryonic mass of the universe.
If the proton/nucleus in the diagram above was the size of a basketball, the diameter of the electron’s orbit would be about two miles. To put the idea in a more understandable context, imagine a water molecule—two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom:

stadium

If the nucleus of the molecule was the size of a baseball, the orbits of the electrons would create a ‘boundary’ something on the size of a baseball stadium. A space the size of a baseball stadium with a nucleus at the pitcher’s mound and nothing inside the stadium space, beyond a few electrons bouncing around. Each hydrogen atom, each oxygen atom, being comprised of atomically large, empty, spaces filled only with electromagnetic energy.
The ‘atomic model’ is the basis of nearly everything that exists; electrons almost endlessly orbiting protons and neutrons and subatomic particles that are still being discovered. Duplicated at enormous scale by the orbit of planets around a sun. The Universe is comprised mostly of empty space.

Like the Universe, at the atomic level, we are comprised mostly of empty space, filled with electromagnetic forces. It is this electromagnetic force that creates the illusion of our solidity.
Hence, my preference to thinking of the Creator and the movement of the Creator’s Spirit within us as being something like The Force in Star Wars.

the-force-1

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.

the-little-known-nebula-iras-054372502-an-enigmatic-cloud1
The little-known nebula IRAS 05437+2502 billows out among the bright stars and dark dust clouds that surround it in this striking image from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull), close to the central plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Unlike many of Hubble’s targets, this object has not been studied in detail and its exact nature is unclear… This image was taken with the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys on Hubble. It was part of a “snapshot” survey. These are observations that are fitted into Hubble’s busy schedule when possible, without any guarantee that the observation will take place — so it was fortunate that the observation was made at all.
https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/2018/hubbles-lucky-observation-of-an-enigmatic-cloud

My understanding of the Creator is that of a ‘being’ comprised mostly/entirely of Energy; a ‘being’ so unlike human beings that we cannot begin to understand the Creator’s nature. Everything that ‘religious people’ [those that believe in Creation] say about ‘God’ is an abstraction [there are so many, sometimes-strange beliefs about ‘God’ that I prefer Creator]. A large percentage of these people do not even understand the concept of ‘abstraction’.
My greatest understanding of the Creator, and the subject of Faith, takes place in a Christian environment. I believe that ‘serious devotion’ [more abstraction] to the Creator, in whatever form this devotion takes place, is equivalent to ‘serious devotion’ to the Creator in any religious form [Evangelical Christians are aghast]. This equivalency occurs, because there is only one Creator; the name by which one ‘speaks’ to the Creator is irrelevant—because devotion is about the Creator; not about us. If one is devoted, in a spiritual way, to Nature, one is devoted to the Creator, who created all of Nature.

The Abrahamic Faiths [Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in chronological order] refer to the ‘Children of Abraham’ as the Chosen People. In terms of world history, my view of having been ‘Chosen’ is mostly bad news. The portions of the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians largely ignore, are about the Creator, through Prophets, telling the Chosen people that they act like ungrateful whores. HPtFtU—the Human Tendency to F*ck things Up.
Because the Creator already knew, when the Creator created human beings, that we would have Free Will and the resulting HPtFtU; we were given a Grace Gift. The Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space in the form of one cell, implanted into the womb of a teenaged girl. From there you have the Jesus story. The story that ends with Jesus walking through walls and eating fish [think about it. How does that work? Jesus apparently was able to turn His solidity off and on].

Every sports broadcast shown has someone in the bleachers holding up a sign with the most famous Bible verse in history: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The verse has a context; and according to some translations, John 3:16 and following are written by the writer of John but aren’t necessarily Jesus’ words [designated by not using the traditional red font for Jesus’ words]. The writer of the Book of John apparently was present when Jesus had His conversation with Nicodemus. However, it’s the next verse that explains the most famous verse:
John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

This is how you know that Apparent Failure does not have to be final: you win in the end. You already are ‘saved’ if you want to be—it has nothing to do with you. This is what Luther understood as ‘salvation by Grace’. However, even the Creator will not force one to spend eternity in the presence of the Creator if it isn’t desired.

Because of HPtFtU there are Christians all over the planet that have all sorts of explanations as to why this promise does, or does not, apply to you. Their opinion does not matter, because the Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space on Earth, to compensate for our HPtFtU.

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

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time: The Post [2017]

October 22, 2018

RMN

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

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

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

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

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Flint

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

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

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

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

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 6]

September 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearless Girl

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

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

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

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 5]

September 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Angel of Grief 3

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

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

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

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

US military budgets

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

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

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

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

Do you ever wonder why your own HPtFtU happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

blue dot

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

Lagoon Nebula (Infrared-light View)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 168: HPtFtU [part 4]

September 17, 2018

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

Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God-Sistine

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

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

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

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

Solar System_mj_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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