Posts Tagged ‘neuopathy’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 69: Stumbling Around in the Dark

April 4, 2015


 One of my relatively few ‘religious’ images.

     Holy Week, 1973 [if my memory is faulty, I apologize]: our church was getting ready for a sunrise Easter service in Eugene, Oregon. There are two prominent Buttes in Eugene; one had a cross on top that for years was a source of controversy—a religious symbol on City property. I haven’t been to Eugene in a long time, and I don’t recall looking at the skyline nearby; I don’t know if the controversial cross remains. Our church was planning to have its sunrise service on the other Butte—the one without a cross. There were at least two of us college students that asked God into our lives around the same time. The other guy, Greg, had the idea of building a cross that we could install for our church service—tall, free-standing and portable. There was a hole in the concrete survey platform on top of the Butte, and with some encouragement, would suffice for a 4X4 upright. So, during Holy Week, Greg and I built a free-standing cross in his garage—the biggest engineering issue being ‘how to keep it from falling over’.

Our other issue was how to get it up to the top of the Butte? Particularly since a religious symbol of this nature would not necessarily be welcomed by the community…

Brad joined us on Saturday night, and under the cover of darkness the three of us carried the three pieces of the cross—vertical, horizontal and the bracket to keep the cross upright—through the dark, to the top of the Butte; not using the road that would have been easier to travel [the symbolism of carrying the cross wasn’t lost on me]. There was a fairly vertical portion of the Butte—probably Columnar Basalt—that we needed to climb. While searching for a good route, we left the pieces of the cross lying on the ground, in the dark. Having found a route to the top, we then had to return to the cross pieces; which we could not find…

So, the title of this mental meandering—we wandered around in the dark, until we could find our way to the cross.

By the time we returned to the dorm, having mounted the cross on the concrete platform in such a way that it would be very difficult to remove, it was nearly time to take off to join the others of the congregation, walking up the road to the top of the Butte; my first Easter.

Easter is the defining point in history; a highly-controversial statement. I’ll use it in the most secular sense—it defines the time before the Creator of the Universe entered time and space as the infant Jesus; and all that has happened since that event. There are a number of calendars still in use that use a different event as a primary reference point; even though modern Western culture uses “Before|After the Common Era” as the division, in fact, it’s still the same calendar, still the same reference point as “Before|After Christ.”

I’m not big on holidays and religious festivals. When our kids were small, I joined in with the celebrations because it was a part of my children’s culture; I struggled with Santa Claus [Saint Nicholas] and the Easter Bunny. How did the concept of the Crucifixion become a chocolate rabbit?

I believe that all of my days should reflect both Christmas and Easter; if they don’t, I’m playing a game. I have no idea how well I’m accomplishing that goal. I’ll find out when I get Home.

There are a multitude of ideas as to the meaning of the Cross, and Jesus’ crucifixion. For a highly theological and very good summary of the thinking of scholars of the Church, I recommend this article by Conrad Hilario:

I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, we are all broken and stumbling in the dark. Not all the time, perhaps only on our bleakest days. I also believe that there are a lot of well-intentioned, but hard-hearted people who try to shame other people; people that have different beliefs and belief systems. The best and the brightest of the Church have never been able to come up with an explanation that all could agree on; I won’t try. I believe that Jesus is the defining point of history; however, I don’t have a ‘rule’ by which one addresses the subject of Jesus.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself [looking for loopholes], so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

At which point Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. To put it in a more contemporary context to American society, the story today should probably be that of the Good Muslim.

Jesus did not mention anything about spiritual laws in the above statement; nor did He mention Church sacraments or other rules. In the Book of the Prophet Micah is the following passage:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

If we could all manage to do this, we could change the world.

Be the change you long to see. If that change involves harming other people, think on it for a while longer.


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 50: More Oddness

May 2, 2014

I was sitting in one of those ever-present coffee shops, where I can now actually enjoy the coffee since they’ve added less-burnt beans to their offerings. My client was ‘waxing eloquent’ about a drawing I had hastily finished a few hours before. Knowing that I wanted this particular image to be completed for this particular meeting, I scanned the uncompleted drawing, removed the background and then adjusted the contrast with the computer until it was similar to another drawing in the set. So, it was a darkened semi-finished drawing:

scan0013My client was thrilled with the outcome, and was telling me about all of the emotion I had been able to include in the drawing… I sat there wondering what he sees– meaning and emotion that I can’t see.

I’m pleased with the drawing; it’s one of my better images…but I don’t see the emotion he sees in the drawing. I just copied the photo; a still from an old movie. I don’t see the emotion he sees in the photo, either. For my client, the image is perfect; for me it’s another drawing; created in a very similar manner to the one he described as “ugly as sin” a few weeks ago…

Images create stories in our minds. And, for the most part, we  are not aware that this is happening. Neurologists can explain some of the mechanics, but they really don’t understand how our brains work. Light comes in through the lens of our eyes; electro-chemical signals are transmitted to our brains through the optic nerve; and somehow those signals create an image in our brains.

Grady's Brain“Grady’s Brain”
Adapted from a character I created a few years ago; combined with a logo image I created. I like the mechanical images, even though they aren’t accurate; but, I have an understanding of mechanical things…

We don’t have flat-screen televisions imbedded in our brains; the fact that we see the world as if we have a flat-screen inside our head is an illusion created by our brains. When we read a book [remember books?], we ‘see’ a story in our minds; we picture the characters, we picture the situations. We sometimes see those stories replayed in our minds, as if we had seen the story in a movie or television show.

So what happens when we interact with people? Probably something similar. The words we speak–the stories we tell–create stories in the minds of our audience; and frequently their responses come from the stories in their lives, the stories in their minds and in their memories. It is it any wonder that we have trouble communicating with each other? Have you ever talked with someone about a movie you’ve both seen, and you wonder if the other person really did see the same movie you saw?

How do we get through the clutter in our minds, so that we can actually live our own stories rather than someone else’s? In today’s world visual clutter–someone else’s story–is everywhere we look. While I own a cell phone, I rarely use it. I bought it so that I could report that my land line was down. I consider cell phones to be a lot like commercials, junk mail and calls from solicitors. Stuff that interferes with the story of my life. When I worked for the City, I trained my customers to send me a FAX [dinosaur age–pre-internet] with their questions written out. When my phone rang, I mostly ignored it; and a couple times a day I listened to my messages. Every day I heard inspectors talking on their cell phones while in the rest rooms. The background noises could be interesting as it is; but if there was one part of the day when privacy could be expected, it seemed as if the bathroom would be it. The aforementioned client asked me recently for my cell phone number; I politely refused. “Well how can I reach you when you can’t be reached?” “You can’t. When I can’t be reached, I can’t be reached. It’s not your time. That time is reserved for someone else.”

There was a point to all of this rambling, which started a few days ago.At the time, it seemed really significant. Should have made some notes. Too many other stories in the last few days, crowding out my own… Obviously, I don’t know the answer as to how we keep clutter out of our minds…




Chronicles in Ordinary Time 10: Advent

December 16, 2011

[“Adoration of the Magi” acrylic, inspired by a Norman Rockwell painting: ] Chris Tomlin: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Did you know that Jesus wasn’t a Christian?
He was a Jew. All of His followers were either Jews or were seeking something More for their lives. These believers were later called “Christians,” but they referred to themselves as “followers of the Way.”
He probably wasn’t born in the Winter.
The “Wise Men from the East” didn’t arrive at the stable and the manger. Jesus was probably around 2 years old, when the Wise Men arrived. After the Wise Men left Herod the King, having told him about the birth of the promised Messiah/King, Herod ordered the deaths of all of the male babies 2 years old and younger.
But it makes for a good story.
For today’s times, I prefer this Advent Allegory by Jonathan Gray:

The Emperor Constantine legalized/”officialized” Christianity in the 4th Century. The Church has been messed up, ever since, confusing the Way of Faith with the ways of commerce and politics.

When the Holy Roman Empire moved into northern Europe, the priests re-purposed  the ‘pagan’ religious winter festivals into Christian feast days, so that Christianity would be more palatable to the folk they found there. This is human nature. Parents do it with their children all the time.

My Christmases, when I was a child:

This was taken in the mid-1950′s. I’m the kid looking at my cousin, Carol [Sunny]. Not sure why I wasn’t looking at the camera. Sort of symbolic, in a way, I’ve always looked in directions the rest of the world doesn’t. I still have the bear on the floor in front of me. These days, with my messed-up peripheral sensory nerves, I miss flannel-lined jeans [my cousin Jim, on the right, is wearing a pair]. My cousins, Bruce and Wendy are between Jim and I.

My first Advent was in 1973. That’s the year that I learned that the Eternal and Infinite Master of the Universe had, at a point in history, entered Time and Space. Seemingly impossible, unless one is Omnipotent. In 1973 I realized that this event was sort of  similar to my lifting up a rock, and deciding to become one of those crawly things scurrying around, under the rock. Only on a Much Larger Scale…
For 30 or so years, the incarnate Eternal apparently didn’t do much that one might expect from the Creator of the Universe. Jesus did the same sort of stuff that we do. Our Creator knows what it feels like to be human. Our Creator knows our struggles. At the same time, our Creator knows that our time here on earth is like an eyeblink in the span of Eternity–the existence for which we are created.
For three or so years, Jesus did the sort of things that the Creator of the Universe might be expected to do, and as a result, the religious leaders of the day arranged for His crucifixion. They wanted Him gone; only He came back, and told His followers that death wasn’t The End, it was simply The New Beginning…

I try to live with the message of the incarnation in my life, every day, as much as I can. It’s a little harder at this time of year. So many people are madly involved in celebrating Something Else. When our children were small, we got more involved in “Christmas”–there is something magical about the expression on a child’s face, their belief in the ‘magic’ of the lights, the presents, the wonder of the whole thing. A shadow of what the shepherds might have felt when they were in the presence of angels.

I told our children about Saint Nicholas, the real bishop, whose story somehow got transformed into Santa Claus. One year, to my complete incomprehension, there really were parallel lines on our driveway, and little round spots mingled among the lines…I still can’t come up with a more plausible explanation than the impossible presence of a sleigh and reindeer.

Advent. The time that marks the coming of our Creator into the world, with a message of forgiveness. We don’t have to continually beat up on ourselves, or beat up on other people in order to make our lives work better. We are accepted, the way we are; all we need to do is live in that state of acceptance. We can also become better than we are, because our Creator’s Grace can live inside us. Not so that we can experience magic, but to create wonder.

And, like Malchus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can be healed.

A blessed winter time of celebration, to you all.

Peace, and good will toward you all. May the coming year be filled with Hope.




Chronicles in Ordinary Time 9: Occupying Our Hearts

November 13, 2011

This illustration was created for Ken Gunther, for an upcoming book to be published by Gaiadigm Books.

Somewhere in the eighties I started drawing Native American portraits, some of which were compiled in the image below [John_10-16]. The process of searching for new images became a study of our government’s treatment of the indigenous peoples who lived here before the Europeans came; and the slaughter of those Nations.

Nations. Our government recognized these peoples as Sovereign Nations, and prepared Treaties with these Nations; and then systematically broke all of the Treaties.

In the image below, the words in the oval on the left state that the purpose of most of the early colonies was evangelism; over time the presence of the Native Americans became an obstacle…

“Our manifest destiny is to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying masses.”
John Louis Sullivan, 1845

“In treachery, broken pledges upon the part of high officials, lies, thievery, slaughter of defenseless women and children, and every crime in the catalogue of man’s inhumanity to man, the Indian was a mere amateur compared to “the noble white man.” His crimes were retail, ours wholesale.”
Lt. Britton Davis, 1884

In the image below, the oval on the right offers quotations from half a dozen “Indians” who spoke words that should have come out of the mouths of Christians of that time. Words that echo what Jesus taught.

The Lakota used a metaphor to describe the Europeans who arrived on their lands.
“It was Wasi’chu, which means “takes the fat,” or “greedy person.” Within the modern Indian movement, Wasi’chu has come to mean those corporations and individuals, with their governmental accomplices, which continue to covet Indian lives, land, and resources for private profit.
Wasi’chu does not describe a race; it describes a state of mind.
Wasi’chu is also a human condition based on inhumanity, racism, and exploitation. It is a sickness, a seemingly incurable and contagious disease which begot the ever advancing society of the West. If we do not control it, this disease will surely be the basis for what may be the last of the continuing wars against the Native American people.”
…excerpt from Wasi’chu, The Continuing Indian Wars,
Bruce Johansen and Robert Maestas
with an introduction by John Redhouse
[ ]

Evangelical Christians in the US seem to have a short memory. We talk about being a nation ‘blessed by God’ and overlook the slaughter of the Nations that were here at the beginning. We overlook Hiroshima and Nagasaki as crimes against humanity. And somehow we call our nation “blessed”. How can we justify these actions of the past as Christian actions?

The “Occupy…” movements of today, I believe, are a reflection of the some people’s recognition of the spirit of Wasi’chu among us. We live in a country of vast inequalities. I do not believe the answer is simply “redistribution of wealth”. When the wealthy refuse to be taxed at the same rate as the non-wealthy, at the expense of “social services,” I think we have a problem of Wasi’chu.

What Would Jesus Do?
I don’t know; the Gospels do not include any instances of “Occupy Jerusalem”. Jesus lived under the foot of an Emperor; and such movements would have probably ended with death and maiming.

In an interview with Gary W. Moon written in “Conversations
Journal” [ ], Philip Yancey writes:
For one thing, Jesus didn’t live in a democracy; he lived under an occupying power, the most powerful empire of its time. In such circumstances, you can either accommodate the ruling power, as the Sadducees did, or violently oppose it, as did the Zealots. Jesus mostly ignored it. He said nothing about the brutality of the Romans or some of their nefarious practices, such as gladiator games, pederasty, and the abandonment of infants. His guiding principle, “[Give] unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” is wonderfully ambiguous (Luke 20:25, ASV).

GWM: So, if you could write a one or two-sentence prescription for the
church in the US and you were sure it would be followed, what would you prescribe?
PY: Spend less time and energy trying to clean up the culture around you—a task Jesus and Paul did not seem concerned about—and more time and energy creating a counter-culture that presents a compelling alternative while exposing the shallowness of its surroundings.

I don’t think I can say it any better.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 7: Vision

October 22, 2011

    I am fascinated by perception. What I see is not what you see. What you see is probably similar to what I see; but not exactly the same. On top of that, what we see isn’t really seeing, at all.

     Light reflects off of the candle; the image is reversed by the lens of our eye; and the light hits the rods and cones–light receptors–of our retina. The electrical impulses caused by the the light image reacting on the rods and cones, travel to our brain via the optic nerve. Our brain then translates the electrical impulses into a ‘virtual image’ that ‘appears’ in our brain. That ‘image’ seems to be similar to what we see on a TV or LCD screen; however we don’t have a screen in our brain.

    A particular shade of red may not be the same to me as it is to you. People with red/green color blindness have that which “…is the inability or decreased ability to see color, or perceive color differences, under lighting conditions when color vision is not normally impaired. “Color blind” is a term of art; there is no actual blindness but there is a fault in the development of either or both sets of retinal cones that perceive color in light and transmit that information to the optic nerve.”[wikipedia]

    People with Irlen’s Syndrome can only see the ordinary printed page properly through colored light or when colored paper is used. Black letters on a white page send scrambled signals to the brain. With my astigmatism, I can’t see lines clearly unless the lenses of my eyes are corrected by glass lenses worn over my eyes.

    Animals seen in an entirely different manner, both structurally–in the nature of their eye construction; and in the wavelengths of light that they see. Many animals see in the ultraviolet and infrared ranges of the color spectrum. [see list] They see things we cannot see without the use of technology–night vision goggles, etc.

     To take this a step further– our brains, our eyes are composed of millions of atoms. If one were to enlarge an atom to the size of a football stadium, the nucleus of the atom would be the size of a grain of sand. The electrons orbiting around the stadium would also be the size of a grain of sand. All the rest of the atom would be empty space filled with electromagnetic energy.

    Our brains, like the rest of our body, are really composed mostly of empty space [yes, those people actually were correct]. That which we know about our bodies is mostly comprised of electromagnetic energy found in the visible range of the spectrum. The visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is only a small portion of the entire range, which extends from low frequencies used for modern radio communication to gamma radiation at the short-wavelength (high-frequency) end, thereby covering wavelengths from thousands of kilometres down to a fraction of the size of an atom. In principle the spectrum is infinite and continuous. In principle, we are infinite and continuous.

     Isn’t this what faith leads us to?

forward to:


September 5, 2011

To me, this is the heart of illustration– to tell a story; to make a story more clear and understandable by the use of images.

My fear, and my frustration, is always that I haven’t served the story well enough with my illustrations. This sometimes happens when I have to rush to meet a very short deadline.

Jesus told parables- stories- so that those who chose to listen to his stories would ask, “…why is He saying that? what does it mean?”

The ultimate answer to all of our questions is I AM– the story the Eternal told Moses. “You shall know this day and place it in your heart that the Eternal is God in heaven above and on earth below; ain od.” [Deuteronomy 4:39]

“ain od- a Hebrew expression in this verse meaning there is nothing else.” [Dr. Gerald Schroeder, The Hidden Face of God]

I believe that one of our purposes here on earth is to share our stories with others; to build stories with others; to pass on our stories to those that follow us.

Blessings, Marty

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