Posts Tagged ‘surviving’

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 180: The Blind Spot

February 3, 2019

Doug sent me a link to a scholarly article that presents a very thought-provoking idea—in Science, there is a Blind Spot.

https://aeon.co/essays/the-blind-spot-of-science-is-the-neglect-of-lived-experience?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=atom-feed&fbclid=IwAR1gF1WS-0jGyYwTGJuEMhehnFDz5b3f6msVOZTV_vkAOA1m5YKG0mqrUjs

“…the claim that there’s nothing but physical reality is either false or empty. If ‘physical reality’ means reality as physics describes it, then the assertion that only physical phenomena exist is false. Why? Because physical science—including biology and computational neuroscience—doesn’t include an account of consciousness. This is not to say that consciousness is something unnatural or supernatural. The point is that physical science doesn’t include an account of experience; but we know that experience exists, so the claim that the only things that exist are what physical science tells us, is false. On the other hand, if ‘physical reality’ means reality according to some future and complete physics, then the claim that there is nothing else but physical reality is empty, because we have no idea what such a future physics will look like, especially in relation to consciousness…”

The Scientific Method assumes that observation during an experiment occurs outside of the experiment’s physical limits; scientists cannot make objective observations from within the experiment’s parameters. However, all observation of our Universe takes place within our Objective Experience of the Universe; we cannot step outside of our Reality to observe our Universe. Consequently, the Scientific Method cannot observe Consciousness; although science is getting closer:

https://techxplore.com/news/2019-01-brain-speech.html

Brain waves can be turned into recognizable speech with the aid of artificial speech algorithms. Science can observe Consciousness; science does not yet have the capacity to interpret Consciousness.

We cannot make objective observations of our own Consciousness.

We cannot observe the Soul. Many people doubt that the soul even exists. In my opinion, the presence of the Soul is what Scripture means in the phrase, “made in the image of the Creator:” The Imago Dei. We are created in the image of Jesus; although it is probably more accurate to say that Jesus was created in the image of humans. Jesus claimed to be the person of the Creator—this is only evident when reading Scripture in its original languages. When Jesus speaks of Himself in the phrase, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” in English, He is referring to the unpronounceable Name of the Creator YHWH—the answer given to Moses from the bush. The four consonants [English] correspond to four breath-sounds in Hebrew; ‘the Name of the Creator is the sound of our breathing.’

There are many Scriptural literalists that would find exception to the above paragraph. For them, the Imago Dei means that the Creator has 10 fingers, and 10 toes, and sits on a Heavenly Throne all day; and has a vague resemblance to Charleton Heston. I won’t bring up facial hair.

We have a Blind Spot.

Technically, the majority of people have at least two Blind Spots, one in each eye. The Blind Spot refers to the portion of the Retina where the Optic Nerve connects to the Retina. This portion of the Retina has no optical receptors and is unusable for translating light into electro-chemical energy.

So, how is it that most of us cannot detect these blind spots? Two reasons—one, the two eyes are set a distance apart from each other; consequently, the light that hits the two Retinas contain information received from two different perspectives; and the brain merges the two images, reducing the visual overlap. Two, the brain interprets the information it receives, and ‘cheats’—the brain ‘photoshops’ the image we see on the imaginary ‘monitor/flat screen’ located directly in front of our eyes.

What we sighted people ‘see’ is electro-chemical-information-translated-into-images-by-our-brains. However, there are no monitors in our brains. This is why no two people see exactly the same thing. Colors are translations of electro-chemical-information by our brains. What my nearsighted, astigmatic, cataract-containing eyes see, without my glasses, is far different from what my corrected-vision eyes see. Since my glasses need replacing, what I am seeing now will be different if I ever get around to replacing my glasses.

At present, when one walks around any group of people, one will see people staring at the screen of some sort of Internet-connected device. You may be reading these words on some Internet-connected device, part of the Internet of Things.

You are staring at a piece of glass, behind which are tiny electronic inventions that emit light. As in the candle in the above image, the reflected light from that candle on your screen travels through your corneas, through your lenses [where the image is inverted—why aren’t we all upside down?] where receptors in the retinas turn the perceived light into an electro-chemical signal that travels along your optic nerves into specific portions of your brains [portions that appear to be outwardly identical to other portions].

Once in your brain, those signals somehow create the ‘imaginary’ image of a visible world. People who are blind and people who choose to close their eyes to the world, confirm by sensation that the ‘imaginary’ world exists. I reach out my hand, and I can still feel, to a degree, the keys on my keyboard [neuropathy sucks]. Because I learned ‘touch-typing’ in high school, if I can find the F and J keys, I can produce some reasonable facsimile to words that are also on a screen on my desk.

But all of these images, including this one, are constructs of our brain. There is no ‘flat screen’ in your head.

Enough of that.

The above image came to me from my Dad’s mother, at some point, long ago. I have a vague recollection that the story was that I had some relative I’d never heard of, who worked for Disney. This was long before I ever thought I would have a career as an illustrator. I did some googling tonight and was surprised to discover—searches of years past didn’t provide any information—that Milt Kahl was one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”— illustrators that had worked for Disney from ‘the beginning’. 1937 [the year on the calendar next to Goofy] was the year Snow White came out. My life having turned out the way it has, I like thinking that I have some history in common with someone at Disney—I never had the impression that the someone might be famous. Milt Kahl seems to have lived his life in California; my Grandmother never left Oregon. The “Milt” signature could be from a different Milt…

  • Illustration Tip #7: The psd file and Digital Art

It may not be common knowledge that one does not need Adobe Photoshop to ‘photoshop’ images. One only needs a graphics program that can read psd files. The ‘magic’ in the psd file is that this file has the ones and zeroes in a formation that can create transparent layers. These transparent layers can be stacked to create new images that are independently alterable. All of my digital images are created using layered psd files; however, I only use Adobe Photoshop for specific tasks—tasks my usual programs aren’t able to accomplish.

Transparent layers created from the original image

Once you digitize an image, the image becomes a ‘thing’. Scan a photograph, and the photograph becomes a digital ‘thing’, that can be manipulated to whatever degree you want. In the above image, I’ve taken the original Café image, and distorted it using a ‘skew’ distortion. I am then working with a parallelogram, rather than a rectangle. The parallelogram nature of the image gives the impression of ‘perspective’. I can then remove the separate characters from the ‘background’ and I can re-create them in a separated background layer. I could colorize each of the characters, so that they weren’t in black/white. The possibilities of this technique are almost endless.

I use two Paintshop Pro programs [versions 6 and 8] from the 90s for 95% of my work. Paintshop Pro is a lot like GIMP—an open source graphics program that has the same features as Paintshop Pro. Version 6 of PSP can use Bezier curves to create Vector images.  I use Version 6 for drafting. These curved lines are versatile tools, once one gets the hang of thinking in terms of tangents. Version 8 does not include Bezier curves for whatever reason.

99% of my work uses Raster images. Raster images are ‘fixed-size’ images. One can shrink Raster images without pixilation; but enlarging Raster images can cause the stair-step outline that is obvious if the image has too few dots per inch. Vector images are actually mathematical constructs, rather than the lines one sees in the interface between monitor and computer language. It looks like a line, but it’s actually more like a GPS location at a tiny scale. One can enlarge Vector image all one wants to, and a line will remain a line, rather than a set of steps. Because the line only exists in the software one is using. The printed output can be very large.

Since I have never made the effort to learn how to shade a Vector image, I don’t use them. I’ve seen wonderfully shaded Vector images; I am an impatient student. I can create a Raster image at a high-resolution that will allow the image to be enlarged without Pixilation. A 600dpi image can be enlarged to 3x scale and still work well in a printer. 4x, depending upon the image. Printed images can usually work well at 200dpi; however, printers prefer 300pdi images.

The psd file for this image has 8 separate layers

 

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

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

October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

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

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

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

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Flint

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

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

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

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

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 6]

September 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearless Girl

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

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

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

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 169: HPtFtU [part 5]

September 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Angel of Grief 3

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

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

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

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

US military budgets

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

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

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

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

Do you ever wonder why your own HPtFtU happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

blue dot

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

Lagoon Nebula (Infrared-light View)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

September 15, 2018

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

BOGUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a few hours, I was hooked.

sheepish

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 165: HPtFtU [part 2]

September 6, 2018

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.
I’m going to quote, frequently, from Spufford in the coming weeks…but not quite yet.

A Facebook page I’m a member of had the question, “how can God and evolution both be true?’ I was tempted to write an answer, but I get tired of people commenting on my comment, who really haven’t given it much thought. So, I’ll do it here.
How can God and evolution both be true? Because a large portion of Scripture is metaphor:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It:
    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances …
    —William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7
This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor

Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus] said that He was the living water, and those who drink from this water will never thirst. This is a metaphor. Water is not alive, unless one considers microbes—and the people of Yeshua’s time did not know about microbes. Followers of Yeshua get thirsty, particularly in the summer. The operative concept is “thirst.” Yeshua was addressing the ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’ we feel when we try to understand ourselves; when we try to fill the emptiness we sometimes feel.

Creatio_of_Adam2
Creation of Adam [modified] by Michelangelo; stained glass by Michael Greer

This painting is a metaphor; Michelangelo did not travel back in time, to the “sixth day of Creation” and snap a photo. However, many Christians seem to accept the concept that God is somehow like us [more, next time]. Many/most Christians’ theology is a mixture of Bible verses, songs they like, sermons they’ve heard and Bible Study texts they’ve read.
Some Christians apparently have very thin Bibles—those who manage to completely ignore Isaiah 58, and all of the similar passages which clearly spell out the Creator’s expectations for ‘the followers of God’—the way we are supposed to treat people who are not like us. At present, America is rubbish at meeting this expectation. There are other readers of Scripture who manage to not comprehend the nature of the if/then, Conditional nature of Scripture—“if you do this, then you will be blessed’. They prefer to quote the ‘then’ portions of texts while ignoring the if. “If you do your homework, then you get dessert.”
Getting back to Michelangelo, he was not intending to teach for centuries, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, that God looks like a buff older man with a beard; surrounded by naked beings. If one looks at this portrayal of the Creator for too long, one can get all sorts of ideas about the Creator that are probably wrong. Michelangelo’s painting is a metaphor for Genesis 1:27; and Genesis 1:27 is a metaphor for the creation of human beings. One of the reasons that Genesis 2:7 differs from 1:27 [both are descriptions of the creation of humans on the sixth day of Creation] is that this is all metaphor: figures of speech, “providing clarity or identifying hidden similarities between two ideas”.

Does this mean that the words of Genesis aren’t true? No. It does mean that the words of Genesis should not be taken literally, as if it was a science text; nor as a history text. Scripture is the story of the Creator’s actions with human beings; and it tells the story of the beginning of the nation of Israel, and its downfall; and most importantly, Scripture tells how the Creator of the entire Universe entered human time and space in the form of a single cell implanted in the womb of a teenaged girl—basically the first “In vitro fertilization” (IVF).  

Scripture [meaning the Scripture of the Jewish, Christian and Islam faiths] does not teach about the Creator’s interactions with the human beings of the Western Hemisphere/ the Americas. These people ‘did not exist’ to those in the Mediterranean world. Scripture also leaves out Asia and most of Africa [except by inference]. Why? Because Scripture isn’t a World History text. There are ~400 years between the end of the Book of Micah and Yeshua’s entry into the world, where the Creator sent no prophets to guide Israel. The Creator was silent. Four centuries–most of American history, as a reference. The Temple, the seat of the Jewish faith, was destroyed in about 70 A.D. Consequently, the Hebrew Scriptures have very little to say about the modern state of Israel, and its creation after World War II. There are prophecies: again, metaphors. People who want Israel to be considered an act of the Creator, read the prophecies in the manner they want to read them.

It’s our HPtFtU that causes war, and violent death, and poverty, and shame. These four words create a circle of death.
It is my HPtFtU that causes me sleepless nights, and my FEARs [False Evidence Appearing Real—I am not omniscient]; it is very possibly the cause of the constant pain I deal with. None of my Neurologists have come up with better answers.
It is our HPtFtU that causes us to have broken relationships with other people who have their own version of HPtFtU; we are all broken, we are all in need of mending.

Finally, the quotation from Francis Spufford, from his wonderful book, Unapologetic. I could have written these words, but I lack the talent:

I’m a very this-worldly Christian. I am averagely afraid of dying, but I don’t believe because I expect, or want, to have an unlimited future, tweedling about with a harp while the stars of the Western Spiral Arm burn out one by one. I believe because I know I’ve got a past and a present in which the HPtFtU did and does its usual work, and I want a way of living which opens out more widely and honestly and lovingly than I can manage for myself, which widens rather than narrowing with each destructive decision. Like the Christian Aid slogan says, I believe in life before death. For me and for everyone else. I don’t care about heaven. I want, I need, the promise of mending.
Mended is not the same thing as never broken. We are not being promised that it will be as if the bad stuff never happened. It’s amnesty that’s being offered, not amnesia; hope, not pretense. The story of your life will still be the story of your life, permanently. It will still have the kinks and twists and corners you gave it. The consequences of your actions, for you and for other people, will roll inexorably on. God can’t take these away, or your life would not be your life, you would not be you, the world would not be the world. He can only take from us—take over for us—the guilt and the fear, so that we can start again free, in hope. So that we are freed to try again and fail again, better. He can only overwhelm the HPtFtU with Grace.
Which we can now define. Grace is forgiveness we can’t earn. Grace is the weeping father on the road. Grace is tragedy accepted with open arms, and somehow turned to good. Grace is what the wasteful death on Skull Hill did.

The one thing that I would add is that my encounters with the Spirit of the Creator, over 40+ years simply can’t be considered anything else. I’ve tried. Do I mistake ‘chance’ [something I don’t believe in] for the Spirit of the Creator? Probably; sometimes. I too have to address my own HPtFtU. I can’t convince you of what I’ve experienced; it’s something that one needs to experience themselves.

garden gethsemane rev2
Peter’s HPtFtU in The Garden of Gethsemane

 

 

 


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