Posts Tagged ‘pain’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 182: The Blind Spot, Part Three

February 18, 2019

Yes, same image, one more time. If I could have chosen my profession, I might have chosen to be a Medical Illustrator. The above image is not signed; and isn’t entirely original. I have ‘adopted’ and altered portions from unsigned illustrations found on Google. Much of it is my own.

Blind Spots. The importance is somewhere other than the idea in front of us. Our brain ‘hides’ the blind spots in our vision; our brain also hides the blind spots in our thinking.

My goal in life, in all the different ways that I interact with chronos-life is to help people catch a glimpse of Kairos-life; and possibly encourage people to see ‘with new eyes’. We live two lives—the one you and I are reading this in; and the world of Eternity. The Creator lives in Eternity, without the hindrance of Time. The English language is deficient, in that there is only one word for ‘time’—in Greek, there are two words for time—chronos—clock time; and Kairos—Eternal time. ‘Eternal’ does not mean, ‘a really long time.’ Eternal means existence outside of Time. In the time-controlled-to-an-incredible-degree 21st Century, the concept of ‘life outside of time’ falls into the realm of science fiction. I wrote more on this subject in my previous post. I believe we were created to live Eternally; just not all in this place.

I am a man of Faith; I also believe in science. Headlines and social media rhetoric to the contrary, these two aspects of life are not contradictory. I believe that the Laws of Physics, Time, and Space didn’t just ‘happen’. The Laws of the Universe are Laws, not because Science says they are Laws—ideas proven by repetition; they are Laws because they are products of the Creator of the entire Universe. It is merely lack of imagination that attributes these Laws to ‘Nature’ instead of attribution to a Creator. Quantum Physics was understood by the ancient Hebrew scholars, who also recognized the scientific contributions of the Greek philosophers. They used a different vocabulary, but the information is there. The Bible was never intended to be a physics text. The Bible is the story of the Hebrew people, who provided the foundation for the Creator’s entrance into Time and Space in the form of a single cell, planted into the womb of a teenager. Human history is centered on that single cell. Most of human history has been oblivious to that single cell; ‘oblivious’ does not mean, ‘mistaken’. It usually means, ‘too busy’.

I learned, a long time ago, that my brain works along pathways that many others don’t. Not ‘better’—simply different. I fail to understand the ideas most people have, and the things most people do. This notion is possibly best stated in the concept of ‘clubbing’. I don’t know why people dance, I don’t know why people get drunk. I’m not offended by either idea; I am simply incompetent in these activities, and they don’t make any sense for me. This morning in church I realized that while I can recognize harmony, I have no idea how it is created vocally. “Competence” is what drives me; “incompetence” is among my FEARs. False Evidence Appearing Real.

I don’t try to ‘convert’ people to my way of thinking; to try to ‘convert’ someone implies that I know more about someone else’s life than they do. Another example of my incompetence. HPtFtU. The Human Propensity to F*ck things Up [the asterisk is for those who may be reading these words; I don’t particularly care]. The word has a strange history. The World has a strange history. I’ve been intentionally interacting with an old guy, nearly every week for almost four years; in some ways, I probably know things about this guy that his children aren’t aware of. However, he’s in his 80s; what I know is a small sampling. While I can see patterns from his past, he can’t see them. His relationship with his family is contentious. And there are nearly 80 years of his life that I haven’t seen first-hand. All I hear is his side of the stories.

We live in a society that categorizes life to an incredible degree. If we can categorize someone, we don’t need to think about them anymore. This is probably why people don’t listen; truly listening to someone—not waiting for your turn to talk—is one of the most powerful therapeutic tools that we all have at our disposal. If we made the effort to listen, we might solve some of the issues that face us. ‘We don’t have time’ to listen. ‘We don’t have time’ to save the planet…

We also live in a time of moral crisis. Politicians have always lied. Some portion of the lying has been to protect sensitive information—we don’t need to know information regarding international negotiations at the time the negotiations are taking place.

Now we have Government Leaders who simply lie; when they get caught in a lie, they cover it up with a bigger lie. Our current President doesn’t even hide is ‘misdeeds’—he does them in public all the time. He seems to believe that he is the CEO of Trump America, rather than President of the United States of America; a country bound by the Constitution of the United States. In the days before declaring a National Emergency that does not exist on Friday, February 15th, he tried to coerce the Tennessee Valley Authority into funneling money to one of his large contributors…

https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/times/

Rachel Maddow asks a very important question:

“Yes, this is the story of just another destructive tributary of Presidential corruption that is flowing though U.S. government policy out of this White House. But it is also another element in this age of — sort of — moral bewilderment we’re now in as citizens. There’s no way to embarrass somebody [the President] if they’re happy to be seen in public selling the government for cash. And if you can’t embarrass or shame anybody about it and increasingly, you can’t shock anybody about, then what do you do with it? How do you stop specific government actions like this, if there is no shame from public officials doing it; but also, how do we once again become a country where that kind of thing would at least be a scandal?… If it doesn’t matter anymore, if we’re not surprised and nobody is embarrassed, how do we not just become that?”

Can we once again become a country whose leaders understand honor? If our leaders do not act honorably toward the citizens of the country, how can we expect the citizens themselves to act honorably toward each other?

Enough of that.

Humor: Still Life, with Sea Urchins

A correction to:

  • Illustration Tip #4:
    “As an editorial note regarding Windows:” this should have said “Word”.
  • Illustration Tip #5:

Provenance. Copyright. Publication. Pixilation.

Digital “Provenance”—the art world is always concerned about the ‘provenance’ of artistic works—who made it, who did it get sold to, how often did it get sold before it landed here; is there any external proof—sketches, etc. to establish a link between artist and seller?

I now create digital images as opposed to painted images; I publish these images on the Internet; I ALWAYS ASSUME that my internet-published work will be ‘adopted’ by someone. Even when I sign the work. I have a Physical Therapist who seems to have been born with an incredibly high set of ethics—she says she is incapable of lying, and I believe her—I was not born with that gift. I’ve ‘always’ [not, ‘since birth’] believed Ethics are Situational.

Upon entering into Church Culture when I did, I could never understand the furor over “Situational Ethics” that was stirring in the 70s. However, I’ve never believed that the Creator has ink stains or granite dust on His Hands, from having created Tablets of Stone or original documents. The first use of graphite for drawing appears to be somewhere in the 1500’s A.D.; an entertaining description of a forerunner of the brush can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencil#Camel’s_hair_pencil

My suggestion is that if you are REALLY concerned about the ownership of your work, and the notion that you deserve to get paid for every hour you work, DO NOT publish your work in a reproducible fashion on the Internet. I know illustrators who invest a lot of energy into the subject of Copyright. I’m not one of those guys.

ALWAYS use a resolution of 72dpi [dots per inch] for images published on the Internet. 72dpi images will pixilate when printed.  If you do not know how to reduce the size of your images, it would an excellent thing for you to learn. Images that are published on the Internet will get copied by someone, at some time. It’s unavoidable. I’m a prime example. I download images from the Internet all they time; I use these downloaded images instead of hiring models. Hiring models requires the paying of models, which requires more money than I’ve been able to earn in my 20 years of work as a commercial artist. I earn enough to pay bills. I download high-resolution images, digitally cut them into pieces, and create a new ‘photo’ of something that does not exist. From that ‘photo’ I create new illustrations.

For what it’s worth, Norman Rockwell used a similar technique, using an opaque projector to project an image onto a canvas; which he then traced. Rockwell, however, hired models and a photographer. It’s possible that Johannes Vermeer used a similar technique with a camera obscura; many of Vermeer’s paintings have a photographic quality to them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim%27s_Vermeer

I only aspire to be in the same category as Rockwell and Vermeer. It will never happen. There was a time, when I could still paint, that I thought some sort of miracle might happen. I’ve resigned myself to simply being a commercial artist who specializes in digital images.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 181: The Blind Spot, Part Two

February 10, 2019

The majority of people with something like ‘normal’ vision have two blind spots’—one in each eye—where the Optic Nerve connects with the Retina. There are no light-sensitive cells in these locations. The reason that most of us are unaware that we have these blind spots is due in part to the fact that each eye views that which is in front of us from a slightly different angle. Consequently, there is an overlap between the two sets of images. The other part of the reason is that our brains ‘cheat’—they fill-in the missing signals with related, nearby information. Essentially, the brain essentially uses a ‘higher-resolution’ image than is necessary for vision [a concept, not a definition].

The concept can be demonstrated in ‘Pixilation’—Raster-based images use square ‘pixels’ of color to create images on a computer. The higher the resolution of the image, the easier it is to represent curves with square pixels. In the right-hand image above, there is a ‘sawblade’ demarcation between the darker brown color and the lighter brown color—the closest representation to a curved line the computer can make with squares. In this detail image, the ‘camera’ is zoomed-in to 1000% of the facial close-up. The computerized image fills in the space around the square pixel with square pixels of similar colors, camouflaging the ‘sawblade’ curved line by ‘shading’.

The absence of blind spots in our vision is aided by the brain’s filling-in of the missing ‘pixels’ of color by using similar colors to create a consistent image.

The mind-numbing part of this is that the brain does not have a flat-screen embedded inside the grey matter. What you see is an ‘illusion’—light transmitted to the brain by means of electro-chemical signals from light-receptive ‘rods’ and ‘cones’ connected to specific nerve cells, and ‘sent’ by the Optic Nerve to specific portions of the brain that translate those electro-chemical signals to something we perceive as sight. The ‘projection’ as it were, exists within our brains—signals between nerve cells. Depth perception is also an illusion, based on the degrees of difference in signals between the light hitting the retina on the inside of either eyeball. Our heads are less than a foot in depth, and yet we can perceive ‘depth’ over a large distance. We can also perceive ‘depth’ in a piece of plastic that has been designed for an illusion of depth.

How does our brain know how to do this? A very interesting question which many don’t want to answer. This illusionary process of ‘seeing’ really can’t be construed by the simple word, ‘evolution’ or the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. Start with a ‘pinhole’ camera—the simplest camera that can be made. Then look at the camera in your cell phone. The finest camera made cannot duplicate the human eye—the camera cannot be connected to our brains.

Non-human animals can perceive light that is outside of the human range of visible light. Light visible by humans is a relatively small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Heat is ‘visible’ in the infrared spectrum; ultra-violet light makes for fun parties…

The ‘swath’ of religious perception seems to be nearly as wide as the electromagnetic spectrum, and of similar variety. Having been following Jesus for four of my six-plus decades, I’ve discovered that there are far more than two Blind Spots in most people of ‘religious persuasion’. There are huge blind spots when it comes to the subject of Faith.

We live two lives—the one you and I are reading this in; and the world of Eternity. The Creator lives in Eternity, without the hindrance of Time. The English language is deficient, in that there is only one word for ‘time’—in Greek, there are two words for time—chronos—clock time; and Kairos—Eternal time. ‘Eternal’ does not mean, ‘a really long time.’ Eternal means existence outside of Time. In the time-controlled-to-an-incredible-degree 21st Century, the concept of ‘life outside of time’ falls into the realm of science fiction.

The Creator exists in Kairos—our past, our present, our futures have been known since the moment of Creation. Our souls have been made for Eternity; not for a handful of decades. I believe that nothing we do can ever surprise the Creator. We have Free Will; at the same Kairos, the consequences of our choices are already known. ‘Known’, not ‘controlled’. The Creator ‘observes’ what humans do; the Creator does not ordain or control what we do. Religious people will balk at this—their Bibles say ‘God ordains’. The problem being that the Greek word translated ‘ordains’ has a different meaning:

Original Word: ὁρίζω [horizó]: refers to the Lord (literally) “horizoning” all the physical scenes of life before creation. From this Greek word, comes the English word, horizon.

Lutheran doctrine [about which I am not a scholar], says that we are saved by Christ alone and not by our works. Yet the Church, historically, places a great emphasis on Works—how we behave. Many people in the Church, today, seem to believe that behavior determines whether or not one is ‘saved’ or ‘condemned’. We believe our eyes and emotions; and apparently forget the Love of Christ. Myself included.

I believe that there are ‘lost’ people in this life. Thousands new each day. They make choices and those choices head toward ruin; they need to learn how they can find themselves again. I am not convinced that these people are truly Lost, in the sense of being condemned to Eternal Separation. People grow up in excremental situations. People begin their lives in ‘negative numbers’ through no fault of their own. Some never find their way to ‘positive numbers’. The Creator understands all of this. People in the Church condemn our fellow brothers and sisters every day, people who carry the face of Christ in their own; and have a story completely different from many who condemn.

I simply have trouble understanding how a Creator who Created each and every individual on Earth could condemn to Hell 3/4 of all the human beings that have ever lived. This is what many are saying, although they probably don’t think about it. Arrogant ones don’t care.

The Faith Jesus called people to was Judaism. Jesus was not a Christian. However, Judaism got messed up in 60AD with the destruction of the Temple and the obliteration of a place to make atonement for our brokenness. It is believed that all of the Gospels were written after the destruction of the Temple, about 30 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion. The chronology isn’t spelled out in the New Testament. Everything in the New Testament happened after Jesus’ resurrection. There were no journalists; there were no pencils, there was no paper. Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, who wrote at a desk, of sorts, in ink on parchment. If we told Paul and the Apostles that their writings would overshadow Torah, I think they would be offended. And yet, that is what has happened for most of the history of the Church.

I come from a background that does not include Church. I was reading Existentialists before I heard the Gospel. I originally ‘got in’ for Fire Insurance. For the first time in my twenty-plus years, I had friends. They were all these Christian people that I had avoided for 2.5 years in college. They told me Jesus was coming next month, and they were all going away, and I’d be Left Behind. So, I ‘signed up.’ And studied and tried to make sense of the very confusing world of the Church, the Bible and denominations. At the end of my 4th year of college, I went to a Retreat Center in the LA Hills [after the fires, I don’t know if it still exists]. There I encountered the Holy Spirit. Encounters I could not explain by any other means. These occurrences continued in my 5th year, and in the years that followed graduation. I would have to be a dolt to not accept the reality of the Spirit of the Creator in my life, without regard to what is written in books.

If one travels widely enough among the denominations, one finds that people believe all sorts of weird stuff; and they can usually find Biblical verses to back them up; apparently without any understanding of hermeneutics. [Hermeneutics was initially applied to the interpretation, or exegesis, of scripture, and has been later broadened to questions of general interpretation. Hermeneutics is a wider discipline which includes written, verbal, and non-verbal communication. Exegesis focuses primarily upon the word and grammar of texts. wikipedia]

There are people of all faiths, and none, who worship the Creator; using different words and different methodology. I choose to believe that worship of the Creator is worship of the Creator, without regard to practice. I know pagans [not a lot, but some—however, I avoid people who are strange to me] who are more devoted to the Creator than I am; they just don’t think of it in the same terms. And they certainly don’t want to be compared with members of the Church…

In the words of the late, great Rich Mullins—”bear in mind children, that they listen to you because you are kids; not because you are right. This is how the Father listens to us.”

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #8: “Work Product” vs. Original Art

Who owns an illustration; who owns the painting? The person who creates the art, or the purchaser?

The language below was reviewed and agreed-to by the attorneys for the Yellowstone Park Foundation. I use it in all my contracts/ Services Agreements. You are welcome to use this language in your own Services Agreement as desired. I have yet to create the next Pixar image icon [especially because I don’t work for Pixar], so I’m not worried about loss of royalties that may exist in the unforeseen future. I always consider my work as designed for a specific client.

If you are certain that you are going to create a new ‘cultural icon’ in illustration, you might not want to use this language, because it causes you to give up your copyright to the Work Product; in return you keep all of your original images and sketches; and get a guarantee that you can use the work you created for your own self-promotion. They own the Work Product; you own what goes into the making of the Work Product.

I have never been taken to court over Work Products that I have created. I consider the concept of ‘going to court’ as having already lost. I may have clients who did not like the quality of Work Product they received; however, they have never paid for the disliked Work Product. If they don’t pay, they don’t own anything; and I have merely a disgruntled client. I do not have a client who has any monetary claim over work they were never billed for. That’s simply the way I do business.

Grant of Rights.  Upon payment, the Illustrator relinquishes all rights of copyright and hereby assigns to Client all rights of copyright to all artistic work delivered under the terms of this Agreement (“Work Product”), including all rights to reproduction, modification, distribution, public performance, and/or public display of the Work Product, and agrees that all Work Product shall be the sole property of the Client.  The Illustrator agrees that all such Work Product shall be considered “works made for hire” and shall be the exclusive property of the Client, and the Illustrator hereby expressly waives any right or interest it may have therein. The Illustrator agrees to provide such assistance as may reasonably be required by the Client in obtaining copyrights for such Work Product and in enforcing any rights and interests relating to such Work Product or to any copyrights resulting therefrom.  The Client will provide the Illustrator with credit on the Client’s credit page.

The Illustrator will provide to Client digital files in an appropriate format corresponding to Client’s permanent use, and the Illustrator will be entitled to retain all original artwork, including sketches and any other materials created in the process of making the Work Product. Client hereby grants to the Illustrator a perpetual, royalty free license to use and publicly display the Work Product only for the Illustrator’s own promotional use. The Illustrator shall not resell the Work Product to any one at any time.

Work for Hire sucks. The pay is poor. On the other hand, it is a way to get published, and to demonstrate that one can create a series of illustrations. Creating one great illustration is good; creating another one like it is usually a requirement. One can begin to create a reputation for a style of work and demonstrate responsibility.

I’m sure there are better ways to break into the publishing business; but I don’t know anything about those other ways. I’ve been doing Work for Hire for twenty years. I was able to create illustrations; I got paid. Work for Hire comes with a minimum of artistic direction—one of the factors that distinguishes Work for Hire as opposed to ‘being an employee.’ The down side is that there isn’t anyone around to provide editorial direction—’perhaps you could view the scene from a different direction’. You get paid for a project, and as long as you meet the deadline with work that matches the description, the client doesn’t have a lot of room for argument. It’s best to get input along the way, before you invest a lot of time into an unsatisfactory project for yourself and the client.

“mushrooms, 30-40 feet high” an entry for a Jules Verne Exhibition; Journey to the Center of the Earth

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 178: Abstraction

January 12, 2019
Nebula NGC 3627

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough of that.

An early sketch, pre-1970

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

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

Further Tips in the future.
Watch this space.









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

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

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

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

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


One of my favorite images of this last week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 175: Xmas in America

December 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our broken world needs the Protective Cloak of the Madonna.


Chronicles in Ordinary Time 174: a new way of seeing

November 22, 2018

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

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

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

Refugee Thanksgiving | The American Way
Norman Rockwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lagoon nebula

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 173: HPtFtU vs. Theology

November 12, 2018

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

Christ_Pantocrator_Deesis_mosaic_Hagia_Sophia

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

Redeemed
Big Daddy Weave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Human Propensity to F*ck things Up.

The Prophet Isaiah_3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

condon-1930s

The Human Race is at a crisis point.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 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


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