Posts Tagged ‘mental-health’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 160: Call It Treason

July 17, 2018

Call It Treason

Korea.
Vietnam.

Few who know me would ever accuse me of being patriotic.
Nearly 100,000 soldiers lost their lives fighting ‘to make the world safe from Communism’. The Commander in Chief dishonors every soldier who has ever fought. He calls the European Union ‘our greatest foe’ and sides with the Russian government over his own Intelligence services; and the Department of Justice.

I am ashamed of what our government has become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 159: Birthdays

July 11, 2018

the force isn't with you
The Force Isn’t With You… [Django Boletus Photography]

I’ve been to Chicago, and I’ve been to L.A., more than 2000 miles all the way… but I’ve never been by way of that Route with which I now can be associated…

I’ve never been fond of birthdays; I don’t really know why.

However, I appreciate every one of you who have sent birthday greetings to me. The longer I grow, the more the presence of people in my life, means to me. I am by nature, a-social; I’m completely fine on my own, without being interrupted by people. ‘Family’ has always been a challenge, and I don’t feel that I do it as well as I should. The same applies to those friends who have become like family…

This birthday is more difficult than many have been; I am saddened and frustrated by all of the anger present in our society; and the cruelty that we as a nation visit upon others, seemingly with no regard to the fact that we all share the same DNA. Below the level of the skin, we are exactly the same as each other person of our gender; with minor differences, we are exactly the same as any other person on this planet. I have trouble distancing myself from the cruelty; a mentor of mine suggested that the pain I feel is simply a part of the pain that the Creator feels over the mess we foolish people have made of the joy of living.

Some of you are aware that I have a ‘degenerative sensory neurological disorder of unknown origin’. Starting in 2009, I began a series of ‘re-calibrations’ to “new normal”. The muscles mostly work the same; nothing feels the same as it did for decades. I’m in the midst of ‘re-calibrating’ again, learning which strange sensations I can ignore, and dealing with sensation I’ve newly-lost. I’m thankful for a skilled physical therapist I don’t listen to as well as I should.

To help wash out my brain, Judy and I went to see ‘Would You Be My Neighbor?’ yesterday. I recommend it to everyone. I was never a big fan of the television show, but I appreciate the incredible gift Fred Rogers was to generations of children. Mr. Rogers believed that television could be an incredible means of educating children; a tool that has been poorly used for nearly all of television’s history. Television in the 21st Century is primarily a tool for consumerism, as it has been since television started; Mr. Rogers realized that it could be so much more.

I carry around a small notebook, one that I used to be able to write legibly in; I used it for capturing thoughts I read in various places in my life. While I still carry the notebook, the document is now about 70 pages of letter-sized sheets. I spent the last half-hour or so trying to find something with which to close.

We can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life…  Surely this bond of common fate, surely this bond of common goals, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at the least, to look around at those of us, of our fellow men, and surely, we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Robert F. Kennedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 158: Do not abandon the work

July 8, 2018

IMMIGRATION SHAME 2_bw
Mama! [2]

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Friday that Trump administration officials have told him and his staff that they view placing separated migrant children in foster care as an equivalent to reuniting them with their families.
“The secretary told us on a conference call they do not have an intention to reunify these children with their parents,” Inslee said on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes,” appearing to refer to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“They’re going to call it good if they can find anybody else who can serve as a foster parent or anybody else who can serve as familial relationship, and these kids don’t even know these strangers,” he continued.
Inslee claimed that the Trump administration doesn’t plan on complying with a court order requiring that officials reunify all of the immigrant children separated from their families at the border under a since-ended Trump policy.
“It’s clear they do not intend to be humane and it’s clear they will continue on this course until he is removed from office,” the governor said, referring to Trump.
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/395912-washington-governor-trump-admin-views-placing-immigrant-kids-in

What isn’t being said is that the children cannot be reunited with their parents because when the children were being removed from their parents, no one was keeping track of parents and children. There is no record. No one bothered to take notes. This has been pointed out in the Immigration process, to the outrage of Federal Immigration Judges.
I think we now know why the Nazis tattooed their prisoners. Better record-keeping.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
—The Talmud

To be honest, I am daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. I feel that my role, at this point in my life, is to be a Creative. To Create. I find it incredibly difficult to create something worthwhile when horror is being done in my name.

Do not be fooled; do not take this lightly: this work is being done in your name.

If you are one of my Norwegian relatives, reading this at home on your island, the inhumane efforts of the present American Administration to ‘protect our borders’ isn’t being done in your name. But it is being done in the name of your relatives who left Norway in the 1920s to find a new life in America. I know almost nothing about my Norwegian heritage—”the Old Country”. I never heard much about my family’s life in Norway [it’s possible that I didn’t listen]. There was a small Norwegian flag on my grandparents’ mantle; we had Norwegian cookies and lefse at Christmas. I heard Norwegian being spoken between Martinus and Esther; I watched Martinus shuffle around the floor of our family cabin, hands behind his back, listening to Norwegian folk songs. There were photographs of Norway on the walls of the cabin. There’s been a photo of the family house on our wall for a very long time.
Is it possible that when they arrived in America, my Mom and her sisters would have been locked in a cage, while my grandmother was locked in a different cage, somewhere else in the country? Is this only happening to people with skin that is brown, instead of skin that is pink?
How can this be happening at all?
The Greatest Generation fought a world war to ensure that this kind of behavior could not happen again.
The President, on his campaign tours is lying to the thousands of supporters who show up, telling them about all of the rapists, drug mules, thieves and murderers that are showing up at our Southern border; and that he is defending the country from this infestation… And the thousands cheer…

Medicine Bottle
Medicine Bottle, scheduled to be hanged
for the crime of being non-white [1800s]

I always start these thoughts-on-digital-paper with an illustration. I search through my files to find something that matches my thoughts. The most appropriate illustration tonight was the one below, a pencil copy of a Norman Rockwell painting. But I could not start there. Not tonight.

I am a democrat [i.e. a believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. Whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people — all the people who believe advertisements and think in catchwords and spread rumors. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.

C.S. Lewis

Freedom of Worship-dwg

I believe in prayer.
Do I believe that prayers will enable all of the locked cages become unlocked; and that that those who are imprisoned simply because they, and/or their parents were looking for a better life, will be able to escape? It happened in the Book of Acts.

No, I don’t believe prayer will open the locks.

“It’s clear they do not intend to be humane and it’s clear they will continue on this course until he is removed from office,” the governor [of the State of Washington] said, referring to Trump.

Prayer can rouse a people from their slumber and cause them to speak up on the behalf of those who simply want their children to live in a land where they won’t be shot for the simple act of opening their door. Parents travel thousands of miles with their children and little else, because they believe they will be welcomed in America. Immigrants have been welcomed in America for generations.

Not any more, not in America today. America is closed.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 157: Immigration Shame

July 2, 2018

IMMIGRATION SHAME 2
Mama!

Marching is something my body will no longer let me do…
I can still make illustrations; drawing is complicated by my degenerative Neuropathy.
Children, stolen from their parents, live in Portland, in a number of government-funded facilities; one of which is a few blocks from my home.

I skipped church today. Hardly ever happens unless I’m ill. A different kind of illness today. Today will be the ‘Fourth of July’ commemoration. At a minimum, it will include flag-waving and the ‘hymns’ of our Civil Religion at the end of the service. I admire the woman who will be playing the organ; and I am not willing to walk out on her performance. We have a new guy doing the preaching. I have no idea what the sermon will be. Probably something from the Gospel of Mark; there’s a possibility that he will extol the blessings of living in this country…I can’t stomach that sort of sermon.
I stopped Pledging My Allegiance when my sons were in Boy Scouts. I was working on an illustration project that eventually was named “John 10:16” [look it up], and consisted of several portraits of Native Americans, based on photos by Edward S. Curtis; and quotations from people from the time. It forever changed my viewpoint on this country; researching history can do that to you.
http://www.mjarts.com/portraits.html

A suggestion, for all those who tend to respond to the ‘Fake News’ syndrome: nearly all of the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips. Research doesn’t take more than a few minutes. Stop playing video games and learn something.

This ‘great Christian country’ carries about it, the stink of death. Our country was founded on religious hypocrisy and white supremacism masquerading as ‘spreading the gospel’. When the Pilgrims landed [having been kicked out of England], and discovered that the indigenous people who lived on the Eastern Shore had died of disease and murder, they thanked their god for clearing the way for the Gospel… Only rarely did they reach out to the ‘savages’ and did not care to discover that the Indigenous People already had similar beliefs regarding the Creator of all.

In the last year we have been brought to a new low. The only thing I can say for the current President is that he makes no pretensions about our being ‘a great city, shining on the hill’. Our country has existed for 242 years; since we can fight several wars simultaneously, it may surprise you to know that we have been at war for 520 years. I didn’t know about half of the wars we’ve been involved in:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States

Given that our National Anthem is an anthem to war [I don’t know how people miss this], it shouldn’t surprise me that we’ve squeezed 500+ years of warfare into 242 years.

Senator Elizabeth Warren posted a report of her visit to one of the Internment Camps in Texas; she’s apparently ballsy enough to get passed the armed guards keeping people out. What she describes is an environment that is little better than prison camps. I’ve uploaded a pdf of the report to my website.

http://mjarts.com/samples/Elizabeth_Warren_26-0618.pdf

I was told by an acquaintance on Facebook that my concerns for the treatment of the prisoners at the Southern Border was, ‘a load of crap’—information probably gained from the greatest promulgator of Fake News in this country, the news channel championed by the man in the Oval Office. He won’t attend his own National Security briefings, but he makes time for Fake News each day.

I watched “12 O’clock High” this afternoon, a film about the American airmen who entered the war in Britain before American troops arrived in France…

P-38
P-38

The Base Commander has the job of turning a ‘hard luck’ base into a formidable weapon, because that was the only choice available at that point in World War II; troops and materiel were months away from arriving.
“You’ve got to help them, Frank, or they will walk out on you. That’ll be a worse failure than mine was. Give them something to lean on? Call it anything you like.”
“Well, Keith…I don’t believe it. Here’s where we part company.
They’re not boys. They’re men. Too bad to have to find out so young. How old is Bishop?”
“Twenty-one, maybe.”
“It’s tough to have to grow all the way up at 21. But that’s the only way we’re gonna get it done. And I think they can do it. Lean on somebody? I think they’re better than that. If that’s not true, then we’re a dead duck. We’d better find out about it right now. Once and for all.”

I’ve never fought in a war. And I have always had mentors to lean on. I don’t think I would have made it through adulthood without those mentors. My first instance of Adulthood happened while I was building the house I’m sitting in; the house I built for my parents. One day in the middle of winter, cold, tired, wet and relying on heat from a palm-sized fire in the newly-built fireplace, I wanted to quit. My Creator has always been my most-reliable mentor; after a time, I realized that if I quit, my parents would go bankrupt—they didn’t have the money to have a real contractor build the house. They were stuck with me and my modest pay [Minimum wage in 1975 was $2.10/hour; I was paid less]. I had to accept responsibility for my actions. Building the house was my idea—I didn’t want to spend the next 40 years at a drafting board. I knew nothing about building a house. Fortunately, a classmate I hired had a retired father who had built a lot of stuff.

Accepting responsibility for my actions seems to be a lifelong activity for me; sometimes achieving a goal can bring disappointment as well as joy. I ‘expected’ to be somewhat famous by now; this seems like a goal that slides away from me like a bar of soap in the bathtub.

P45_mj

If you research the life of our President, I think you’ll realize that he’s never had to ‘grow up’—meaning that I don’t think he’s ever had to take responsibility for his actions. I think he’s always been able to buy or negotiate himself out of admitting his own failures. A hormonal teenager who only got older; never more mature. He’s lied his way through life; using ‘credit’ to pay his way out of difficulty—or simply letting a business go bankrupt; what he calls a “sound business decision”. Not paying attention to the lives he’s disrupted by his irresponsibility. He simply doesn’t care.
The man has built buildings in this country using Undocumented Aliens to perform the work—the Undocumented don’t complain about their wages—and yet, publicly, in his Presidential Pronouncements, he considers the Undocumented to be a pestilence.

Now he wants the Undocumented imprisoned; or better yet, turned away from our borders. The President has a Constitutional Responsibility to accept asylum seekers. This President and the Vice President, by their spoken and tweeted words, apparently do not accept their Constitutional Responsibilities:

Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a “refugee.” The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol define a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980.
As a signatory to the 1967 Protocol, and through U.S. immigration law, the United States has legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees. The Refugee Act established two paths to obtain refugee status—either from abroad as a resettled refugee or in the United States as an asylum seeker.

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states

So, what do we do? We vote. Help to bend the arc of Justice.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK2

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 156: It’s like a disease…

June 27, 2018

P45_mj

Today the anti-Muslim ban created on a third try by the President was upheld by the Supreme Court, thanks to the vote by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump and joined the court in April 2017.

Sonia Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion argued that Trump’s order was a violation of the establishment clause, which protects freedom of religion. The majority would have none of it. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the court is free to “uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.” In other words, if smart lawyers can concoct some rational excuse for Trump’s irrational acts, then the resulting executive order will pass constitutional scrutiny.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/06/26/the-supreme-court-joins-congressional-republicans-in-refusing-to-see-trump-as-he-is/?utm_term=.5b5858a3e391

A facility that holds abducted youth from Central America lies about a half-mile from my house. Having watched far too many action movies in my past, I want to stage a jailbreak. I lack all facilities for so doing.
Accusations that child detention facilities on the US-Mexican border are similar to Nazi concentration camps were always likely to be rebuked by the White House – but perhaps no one quite expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ line of reasoning.

“This is a real exaggeration,” he told Fox News. “Because in Nazi Germany they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.”
Attorney General Sessions said: “We’re doing the right thing. We’re taking care of these children,” adding “they are not being abused”.

The concept that children being stolen from their parents aka ‘kidnapping’ doesn’t constitute abuse, because the children are being treated well, is mind-boggling.
Trevor Noah’s take: “Your children were just taken from the schoolyard! They’ve been kidnapped!”
“OMG! Call the police!”
“They were driven off in a Bentley!”
“A Bentley… well, never mind.”
What Attorney General Sessions seems to have missed, in his high school social studies classes [he’s 5 years older than I am] is the simple fact that Hitler instigated the killing of Jews simply because he hated Jews; and because the Jew was the ‘perfect scapegoat for all of the problems of Germany’.

C.S Lewis:
The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle forever. Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

Mere Christianity [1952]

Our world is filled with hate right now. It’s like a disease.
While I’m reluctant to put the blame entirely upon the man sitting behind the Resolute Desk, the nature of “The Presidency” has changed. It seems like the haters have taken P45’s behavior as an excuse to be as nasty as they want to be.

What saddens me is the realization that the ‘political correctness’ of 20-30 years ago apparently did not result in a greater respect for all people, as much as it was a mask people reluctantly put on.
Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I worked for the Bureau of Buildings, I heard lots of complaints about having to be politically correct–which never was a problem for me, as a follower of Christ–but they changed their behavior. I had hoped that PC was some sort of ‘evolutionary improvement’–apparently, I was wrong.
It seems that the haters have decided they no longer need to be politically correct.

Tonight, on PBS Newshour, Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania, pointed out that one person in this country has the responsibility and the authority to address the growing sense of outrage and hatred spewing between the Right and Left Wings—the man in the Oval Office; and he refuses to take up the challenge. I am of the opinion that the angry environment in America today is exactly that which the President wants to exist. An anger that will bring out the haters; and a defensive position by people who will refuse to vote for either Democrats or Republicans in the upcoming mid-term elections, because they can’t stand either party. That’s how we got here. Half the country refused to vote.

I am by nature non-confrontational. I am by nature asocial [my nature is to not require people in my life]. During my years in Portland’s Permit Center, I survived my years there with hyperventilating in the men’s room on my breaks. No one wants to get Building Permits. I calmed down over the years; medication played a large part in that. I finally burned out and went upstairs to primarily interact with large sets of construction plans.

Conceptually, for an INTJ, social media is a great thing. One can interact with people without having to actually interact with people. I find however, that connecting with people becomes more difficult as the kindness in our society erodes with polarity. I’m a follower of Jesus; Scripture is really clear how I am supposed to treat strangers in my life…how to treat immigrants like my forbears. I am the child of Immigrants: First Generation on my mother’s side; third on my father’s side. I find myself getting in digital arguments with people that seem to stem from the idea that only one response is possible in regard to moral questions, and that one idea is usually one that Scripture doesn’t address clearly.

A guy I know read a series of articles I posted about children being stolen from their parents, IN MY NAME [I assure you—when our government steals children from their parents, they are doing this in your name. It is your government]. Some of these abducted children are in a facility a few blocks from my home. The guy asked if I was willing to be as upset in regard to the area that he has committed his energy. I’m not, for a variety of reasons; one of them being that Scripture is silent about that particular issue. It’s an issue that began thousands of years ago and won’t ever be stopped by legislation.

A woman I know ranted about the evils of immigration and apparently watches a particular news channel I avoid; it being one of the sources of the ‘fake news’ its champion complains about. A woman I worship with on Sundays in the same sanctuary…

The entire world seems to be getting meaner. Or is it the same meanness there has always been; and social media and the 24-hour news cycle makes the meanness more available?
I often wonder if the billionaires of this world realize that the millionaires of this world won’t pick the crops. Nor will the upper middle class. There is no shortage of money in the world; there is a lack of will to use the money of this world for public benefit. At present, there is no shortage of food in the world; there is an extreme shortage of generosity.

I pulled this off of Facebook recently. This is the world that my parents taught me to expect…I can’t hope for this, for my children.

liberty cries

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 155: He thinks that morals are paintings on walls

June 18, 2018

P45_mj

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

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

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

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

And now, the children…

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

The President is lying about this, also.

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions brings the Bible into the argument:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

You can find more information here:

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

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

angel.grief_mj

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 154: The Plan

June 15, 2018

Inconceivable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the chess game

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

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

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

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

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

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

piggy back draft 5

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 153: Sh_t Happens

June 4, 2018

Die,Primitive
Die! Primitive!

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

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

“A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect.[1] It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas… One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7[3] Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like me.

The Prophet Isaiah_3

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 152: The Question that Doesn’t Go Away

May 17, 2018

Who are you?
Who am I?

watson's brain4

My old friend, Doctor Watson, contemplating the soul

An old guy that I know keeps asking the question, where is my soul? Someone once told him that the soul is “the breath of God”. His response is that it has to be more than a breath.

I can’t prove anything that I’m about to write; consequently, I won’t argue with you if you disagree.

In Chronicles in Ordinary Time 149, I wrote about Thought, and how the image below is a visual representation of a single thought, somewhere in the brain. The funny plant-root like things are the neurons in your brain, which are basically microscopic; they vary in size from 4 microns to 100 microns in diameter. Their length varies from a fraction of an inch to several feet.

thought_50

Every interaction you have with the world happens through your brain. You aren’t a body with a brain, you are a brain with a body. The sole purpose of your body, from a physiological perspective, is to enable your brain to function, and to tell you about your world.

I’m restoring an old picture frame for a client. Tonight, I was working on the creation of some of the decorative plaster ‘carvings’ that are attached to the frame. An experiment in how I can replicate the curlicue on the corners of the frame. I went out into the ‘debris pile’ that once was my workshop. To be honest, it hasn’t changed all that much—I have never been tidy with my work space. However, items are placed in certain places in the chaos, and I know where those places are.

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is that I should really get rid of lots of the stuff that’s out there—ideally, given away to someone who needs it—and I asked myself the question why it’s been sitting there for 9 years. 2009 was the year that I realized it was no longer safe for me to work with sharp things.

The neurons above run throughout our bodies and provide the brain with information about our environment; my sensory neurons are deteriorating for no known reason. My sense of touch has been significantly reduced; and I can damage myself without knowing it—I first called it ‘leprosy’. Hansen’s Disease is a deterioration of sensory neurons. People can’t feel pain when injured, and can just continue working, while creating significant damage to the body. Left untreated, the injury becomes infected, and can cause parts of the body to fall off.

That workshop, and all of its tools and clutter are part of my life. Probably 20 years of my life, if I was to add it all up. I used to build things out of wood. Houses and furniture, mostly.

An amazing thing occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, one night in 2008, when I was working with Medical Teams International. My fifth trip out of Portland to help build and repair things. My ‘high-functioning sociopathic’ personality had come to the realization that in spite of the noise and chaos of the Oaxacan night life below my balcony, in spite of the fact that I only knew a few words of Spanish and very few people in Oaxaca spoke English, I was willing to keep going on these trips. For a few days, I had a ‘vision’ of the life I could have in the years to come—traveling around the Americas fixing what man and nature had damaged.

Then came the Sensory Polyneuropathy [description, not diagnosis], about nine months later. It took a year for me to give up that carpenter ‘identity’  I had acquired; although I realized tonight that it’s not really gone…It’s just buried in memories. Memories scattered around my brain in connections between neurons, like data on a hard drive. I can clearly recall the buildings I worked on and the furniture I built; even though I haven’t seen them for decades.

To a large degree, what you are is the sum of your memories.

The other evening, I was talking to some friends about memories from my life. Memories, and absence of memories that have shaped my life and my faith. Faith is a huge part of my life at this time; although it doesn’t take the form that many Americans-of-faith share. Some things that people of faith consider crucial to faith don’t exist in my life; or they come with an entirely different package. My faith didn’t even come into being until I was in my twenties; it may not have come into ‘maturity’ until my fifties. I’m not sure what ‘maturity’ means when it comes to the subject of faith, because I don’t believe faith is a static thing.

To a large degree, your memories are patterns of electrons traveling through your brain. A connection between neurons. A pathway across which the electrons in your brain travel. Your memories don’t have a ‘structure’ in your brain. They are ‘recorded’ in connections between microscopic pieces of your brain.

‘Surely, our memories must be more than that.’ We think this because of our linear nature; at best we think in 3 dimensions, or possibly 4 [time]–what if the Universe is made up  with 5, or 10 dimensions? We talk about Infinity as if it means ‘really, really, long’; and we speak of Eternity as if it means, ‘a really, really long time.’ What if Eternity is an absence of time; and Infinity is an absence of distance, or an inclusion of all distance? I believe the world beyond this one defies our imaginations.

I believe that we communicate with the Creator of the Universe by way of a non-physical connection between our brains and the Spirit of the Creator. This is how a ‘high-functioning sociopath’ would ever conceive of the idea of spending time around people with unfamiliar customs and unknown methods of communicating. Working among the poorest of the poor, living in deplorable conditions. Being uncomfortable for days at a time; longing to return to my safe ‘cave’… Why would I ever consider this as something I would choose to do?

There have been a lot of these experiences in my life. Choosing to do things I would have never expected myself to participate in. I believe these experiences are the urging of the Creator’s Spirit. I suppose some will think that it’s indigestion.

This is my answer to the question, do I have a soul, and where is it.

My soul is in my mind; my soul can’t be weighed on a scale, because my soul consists of the connections between electrons. The day I die is the day when my soul is released from this very difficult body.

I believe I am a soul, with a brain. And a deteriorating body. The latter is the part that is temporary. The rest of my life is endless.

Stars [1926]sm

Stars [1926] Maxfield Parrish

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 151: I Saw Jesus Tonight

May 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

https://www.voicesofourcity.org/

http://ironzealfilms.org/homeless/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ashes of Hiroshima
The Ashes of Hiroshima

 


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