Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Measure Of A Man

It is pretty easy to feel good about ourselves when things are going our way, when we’re in the slipstream, when we’re cruising with the wind at our backs. The self-esteem is intact, the positivity is working overtime, and we’re feeling like a million bucks, with a silver dollar burning a hole in the pocket of our jeans. It’s pretty easy to feel significant, important even, validated, if not by circumstances, at least by our own feelings. These are good feelings. We need them in our lives. But this is not the measure of a man, or a woman for that matter. A man is measured more by how he deals with adversity than by how he deals with blessing. Sure, a man who has everything going his way can indulge in life in a way that would diminish his own stature, and many do. Or he can respond to blessing with dignity and generosity. These are measurements of the man, but most men, and women, rise to their true stature through disappointment, through hardship, and even through despair. There are some, born of luck and privilege, who manage to be great, but history shows that most truly great people have risen from circumstances that challenged them to their very core.

For those of us who do not face that level of challenge, we are measured by how we respond to the general vicissitudes of life. We all have hardship, disappointment, and, to varying degrees, broken dreams. It is not about whether or not it gets us down, but about whether or not we get back up. And what we do with the experience. Greatness is not measured externally by a jury of greatness experts, but internally, privately, within each of us individually. If we’re paying attention we know when we are living in greatness, and when we are not.
It is accessible to each of us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Voice Of Reason

I wrote this a long time ago, and read it again this morning. It is posted on the ‘Musings’ page of my website, but for those of you who may not visit that page too often, I decided to post it as a blog as well. We are living in a very unsettled world, in a very unsettled time. Maybe you can find a bit of comfort in these words.

The Voice Of Reason

There’s a place I’ve never been before. I don’t know where it is, or why, but I see it sometimes when I look out over the edge of my own limitation, when I reach beyond my own capacity. In this place I hear the sound of soft breathing, and the laughter of children. I hear the sighs of reconciliation. I hear the joyous weeping of those who have known forgiveness, and of those who have forgiven. I hear the sound of rain washing souls and faces with it’s quiet refrain, with it’s loving wetness, with it’s compassionate intent. I hear the voice of reason.

I hear the chiming of an ancient bell in the distance, and the chirping of a newborn sparrow. I hear gardenia’s breathing, and the whisper of the wind through long corridors of silence. I hear dreams taking shape, and I hear the sound of people talking backwards to gather up the words spoken idly, and carelessly.

In this place I hear kindness, and I hear visitors at the gate. I see a weathered hand reaching for the cinnamon. I see green apples rolling slowly across the kitchen floor, perpetually rolling, like a heart keeps beating. I see a ballerina in the fog, and a crystal decanter on a table in the meadow. I see a tugboat hauling potpourri. I see a candle burning faintly in a window, hanging just askew in the midnight sky.

I hear the warm breath of passion in the cool morning air. I see the reflection of many good intentions in eyes clear and deep,
like in a high alpine lake in winter.

I see family returning. I see friendship quietly emerging.
I see alizarin crimson. I see grace. And I see life.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Follow Up

Although I do not provide the means for readers to post comments to my blogs, I do welcome any, and all, emails pertaining to, and in response to, my writing. I try and respond personally to every communication.

Following is a copy of an email I received from the Iowa Director of the ‘Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests’ (SNAP). In an unusual move for me, I post it here because of the importance of the issue. I have included my response to the email as well.

I do not portend to solve the issue of sexual abuse in the church, only to further illuminate the problem and offer suggestion to consider. My suggestions may, or may not be, an answer to the problem, but if they promote continuing thought and discussion, such as is happening here, that is a step, and I am good with that.

I don't know how I came across your blog entitled, Confession: Part 2
I'm somewhat computer challenged and am unable to "blog" back; so you have my permission to post this.

In your blog, Confession: Part 2, you wrote: "Here's what I think. No male priest should EVER hear a child's, an adolescent's, or a woman's confession. That privilege should be given to nuns, who would be more trustworthy in matters of sexual exploitation."
I disagree with your comment that nuns are more trustworthy in matters of sexual exploitation.

I am a survivor of nun sexual abuse and have met way too many survivors of nun sexual abuse, both male, female, and vulnerable adults.
We have tried for the last 5 years to get the nuns to respond to clergy sexual abuse and have been totally ignored.

Females, especially female predators hiding under a habit, are as capable as males hiding behind a collar in exploiting children and vulnerable adults.

Steve Theisen
Iowa SNAP Director

I appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for taking the time.
I am aware of the sexual culture that nuns engage in, and failed to take that into account in the larger confession picture. Forgive me for that.
I did, however, state that nuns would be MORE trustworthy than priests, and that, I believe, is a true statement, not that all nuns would be trustworthy.
It is true that even though many women (in general) are sexual predators, the percentage of male sexual predators does far outnumber the percentage of females.
That does not excuse my oversight in not taking that into account regarding confession. Because of your experience, and the experience of many that you know,
it must feel like an enormous number engaging in the exploitation. As far as I'm concerned, one is one too many. I am very sorry about your experience, and I hope you have gained significant ground in the recovery process.
I do not make it possible for readers to post responses to my blogs because I don't want the blogs to turn into shouting matches. I prefer readers to respond to them in their own lives, among the people they know. However, in a situation such as this, because of its importance, I will make a point to communicate your concerns to my readers.
Again, thank you Steve. I hear you, and my best to you.


Self Correction: In my response to Steve I should have stated “the sexual culture that ‘SOME’ nuns engage in. I correct that here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Confession: Part 2

I wrote about confession a few days ago, suggesting that, as individuals, and as a culture, we need to go to confession. Could help, and it certainly couldn’t hurt. I’m not advocating, that anyone necessarily do the traditional church confession, although that is a sound option for adults, but I am suggesting that confession is a good practice, however one might choose to engage in it.

But today I want to talk about how confession is used in the church, secretly, to enable, and perpetuate its long-standing culture of pedophilia. We are all aware of the culture, some more than others. It’s been in the news enough the past few years to allow anyone to be informed who is interested in being informed. But what troubles me is that after all the headlines, the arrests, the pay-offs, the proclamations by the pope, the bishops and the other PR spokespersons for the church, there has still not been any significant investigation into HOW such a culture could develop, to become, and remain ensconced so profoundly in the church. It’s as if the public wishes to believe that it’s all cleaned up now, so it is all cleaned up now. But that’s like pretending that, after the major league baseball steroid scandal, and all the attention paid to it, that there are no longer any more steroids being used in baseball. Actually, we just got tired of it. But, pedophilia in the church is not just a bunch of overpaid athletes poking themselves in the ass. It is (excuse my description) kids being poked in the ass by supposed representatives of God, whom they have been conditioned to trust and respect. There can be no more abhorrent abuse of power and trust imaginable.

I know how this culture feeds itself. I’m not the smartest guy on the planet, but if I know, how is it that the church supposedly doesn’t know, or the Pope, or the authorities, or the parents of these children?

I was raised in the Catholic Church, went to Catholic school, first through ninth grades, and, as a child, did the whole confession thing every Friday morning with the rest of my schoolmates. Went and sat in the church as a class, and, one by one, took our turn in the confessional telling a priest our secrets and sins. We knelt in the confessional booth, and the priest sat in the booth in the dark on the other side of a screen. Who knows what he was doing? It was kind of mysterious, and it was kind of scary. But we told the priest our impure thoughts (of which, as young boys, there were always many), how many times we masturbated during the past week, how many times we tried to look up Megan’s dress, or down her blouse, and the number of lies that we told our parents. Things like that. A kids confession. The priest would ask us about some of our ‘sins’, and then give us absolution (forgiveness). Now, what’s wrong with this goddamned picture? And people still ask “how is it that priests target their victims?”
Well, that’s exactly how it happens. And that’s how it continues.

We always wondered why some of the boys, and girls, at the school were chosen to spend special days with the priests at the rectory (priests house), and others weren’t. And why some boys were invited to be altar boys, and others weren’t. I was (I got to help the priest ‘get dressed’ for Mass). Icky vibes. And why it always felt just a little bit creepy how a priest might relate to me during the week following my confession. And why priests just disappeared from the church, or school. Here one day, gone the next. We were always told that they had been ‘called back, unexpectedly, to Ireland’. Now I know that the church was feeling heat, and they were reassigned.

I will just say this to any of you practicing Catholics who have children attending Catholic school. Do not ever let them go to ‘confession’, and particularly if their school is connected to that church.

Here’s what I think. No male priest should EVER hear a child’s, an adolescent’s, or a woman’s confession. That privilege should be given to nuns, who would be more trustworthy in matters of sexual exploitation. Unless the church is willing to deal honestly with HOW the culture of pedophilia exists, and change it’s historical structure, then I would advocate that civil authorities investigate the practice of confession within the Catholic church in the same way they have investigated child marriage in the Mormon church. I am not one to welcome the intrusion of government into private life, but the cultish practices that perpetuate the abuse of children need to be brought to light. If not by the church hierarchy (and that’s not going to happen), then by any means necessary.

I believe in the redemptive power of confession, and primarily for adults, but it is a personal matter that may, or may not, include the participation of a priest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What If Nobody Listened?

Woke up to all the news on the internet. Can become a habit, a bad habit really. I try not to go there too often in the morning. Starts the day off wrong. Headlines screaming this disaster or the other. Fear mongering at its finest. The news used to be about ‘keep the people informed’ and maybe they’ll buy our cornflakes. Now it’s about ‘keep the people scared’ and sell them some more insurance. Make the people anxious and sell them some Xanax. Keep the people unhappy and sell them some Zoloft. Keep the people laying awake at night and sell them some Restoril. Keep the people feeling bad about themselves and sell them a Prius, or some Carbon Credits.

It would be a different world if the media screamed and nobody listened. I think that eventually they’d stop screaming. Call me an old coyote, but I still believe that we, the people, can control what goes on in our own world. Take, for example, the price of attending a sporting event, a baseball game, football, whatever. The prices are astronomical. The average person has been priced out of the games, unless of course he wants to see a basketball game instead of paying his rent, or mortgage for the month. The ticket prices are through the roof, the parking is an old fashioned hold-up, the concessions are triple and quadruple what they ought to be, the athletes are paid fortunes equal to the GNP of many small countries, and the owners make mega-bank off of our need for entertainment and relief from the realities of our media-driven unhappiness. My point is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If we just stop going to the games, the ticket prices get reduced, the parking becomes complimentary, and a hot dog and a beer won’t keep you from paying your Phone bill. The athletes can live on 3 million dollars a year, rather than twelve. The owners would still make more in a month than you or I would see in a lifetime. We’ve been conditioned, and convinced, that we need the game, we need more insurance, we need the Prius, and we need the medication. But we can control things. The problem is that we don’t want to give up anything to get anything. We’d rather pay $200 for a basketball game today than to boycott the games for a year in order to only have to pay $35. And in so-doing we say to the business owner “call me an idiot, just give me the game.” We live in a 30-minute world. If I want something I ought to be able to have it in 30 minutes, or less.

So the media will keep yelling at us, and scaring us, and we’ll keep listening. They’ll keep selling us the game, and the politicians, and the insurance, and the Xanax, and the Zoloft and the Carbon Credits. We‘ll remain too afraid to walk away, and too anxious to turn it off. And we’ll keep buying the $200 tickets.

What if we just stopped, and did something enjoyable with our families? What if everybody decided to be happy, to have some peace, and some peace of mind? What if the media kept screaming and nobody listened?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Men Together

Spent the day up on the mountain with one of my sons. Usually living different lives, and sometimes those lives living us, it was good to just be men together, two men who are as different as the lives we lead, but as similar as the dreams we have, the experiences we do share, and the truth we are willing to embrace. He was not only my son today, but his own man as well. I know, and have known, that about him, but it was in the context of this day on the mountain that I was reminded that I could trust him, his judgment, his perspective, and even his leadership, in much the same way he, as a child, had inherently trusted mine.
It’s interesting to see how life turns around on itself.

I think it’s important for all of us to discover who our loved ones are, not through the prism of our own fears or expectations, but through a new glass, one that will magnify and illuminate their individuality, and their uniqueness.
The earth revolves around the sun . . . . . . . . even when we’re sleeping.

On the way down the mountain I talked to my friend Curt on the phone about a particular situation I was feeling some anxiety about. I said to him “put in a word for me with the Big Guy cause I know you’ve got a good connection with him”. He said to me “I don’t know how good of a connection I’ve got with Him, but He’s sure got a good connection with me.”
I trust that about life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

That Last Luxurious Bath

I’ve crawled through the brambles, face in the mud, getting scratches on my belly like cuts on the wrists of a depressed housewife. The sad lady who popped a few too many valiums, knocked back one too many vodkas, and laid down in a warm tub so she wouldn’t make a mess around the rest of the house. She understood her husband could deal with her death, but not with a messy house.

I knew the lady. I knew her well. She was fabulously wealthy, pockets full of haughty promises, and a head full of fantasy. She tried to buy my affection, but couldn’t accept my polite decline of the offer. She came to me in, what she thought was, my own vulnerability, but which, in fact, was really her own. She was so very terribly mistaken, interpreting my sensitivity as weakness, my silence as need. But I did not need her. Not at all, not by any measure. I required only honesty, and an ease of friendship. She’d forgotten that I carry all those scratches on my belly. They remind me not to follow fools through the brambles, or driftwood through the mill.

I knew her husband too. He was the delightful guy who held her out for scrutiny, and set her up to lose. He was the guy who directed her to me, hoping I would be, for her, what he refused to be. She was an obstacle in his world. A certain kind of liability. He thought she would be a welcome addition to mine. She might have been at one time, long ago and far away, in a place I no longer choose to reside, or even visit. She was lost to me long before that last luxurious bath.

I did not grieve the loss. Nor do I today. It was less a loss than a liberation. And she didn’t really kill herself; she just died of her own delusions.

Happiness is now, finally, within her grasp.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I like that number written out. Not so much in its numerical form. But the words look good together. And I like the way it sounds.

This is my seventy-fifth blog. And they said it wouldn’t last. Well, I’ve actually written more than seventy-five, but some of them have been left un-posted. Didn’t want to scare the little children, shatter all the monuments we build to ourselves, or hurt anybody unnecessarily. Some of them will get posted down the road. Everything in its own time. Like it’s been said before “we will serve no wine before its time.” As you may have already noticed, some of my postings are wine, and some of them are just whine. It’s good to have choices.

I want to take this opportunity to explain some things about myself, to maybe clear up some misunderstandings. God knows, just about anybody who knows me, or reads my writings, has at least a few misunderstandings with me. I’m not an easy person to relate to. I’ve always known that, but at least I know that about myself. First, let me say that, I live in two distinctly different worlds. They are not distinctly different for me, but for others. I feel that I have achieved a balance between the two, an integration of sorts that serves me well and offers a distinctive, and satisfying, worldview. For others, I am either a borderline Christian without proper dogma, or a secularist with too much religious influence. In truth, I am an admirer of Christ, not in the traditional religious, and delusional, sense of worshipping him, but in a genuine and practical way, with a tremendous respect and reverence for the example of his courage, humanity and sacrifice. I find no other figure in modern, or historical, life who’s example I am as compelled to follow as his. To put it simply, his teachings, and the example of his life, make sense to me. He makes sense to me. And, in fact, the older I get the clearer he becomes. As I have said many times before, I do not worship Jesus. I think I know him well enough to know that he would not want to be worshipped. North Korea’s Kim Jong-il wants to be worshipped. Madonna wants to be worshipped. Christ was a man of strength, humility, love and compassion. Those men do not want, or need, to be worshipped. If you’ve never read the gospels you ought to check them out. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

I do not write, and I am not here, to be loved. Being loved is no longer a concern of mine. I’m all grown up now. Some will love me, some will dislike me, and some will find me irrelevant and not care one way or another. That is how it should be. I embrace that. No, I am not here to be loved, but I am here to love.

There is no love in dishonesty, and there is only honesty in love.

My writing has the potential to offend, to feel ‘unlovely’, and I acknowledge that, but I don’t worry about it. If I rail about politicians and religious leaders it is because of the double standard with which they conduct their lives. It is not about them personally. It is about their hypocrisy. It is about their dishonesty, and it is about their cowardly leadership. I’m sure they have many good qualities as well. If I express disgust with celebrities, it is because they enjoy the privilege of fame and fortune, but eschew the responsibilities that accompany holding such an elevated position in our culture, a position that creates, and perpetuates, standards of behavior for the rest of us. As eroded as their character becomes as a result of our idol worship, I’m sure they have redeeming value also.

If I sound an alarm about a cultural trend, it is not because I sit in judgment of those involved in the trend, but to offer them a perspective other than their own, and an assessment of the repercussions, and consequences, of participating in the trend. I am perfectly willing for my assessment to be rejected. If I call out the drug culture (from which I came) for its blind indulgence, or if I emphatically denounce the lie that pot is not a dangerous drug, it is not because I think ill of drug users, find them stupid or pathetic, but, in fact, it is because I love them and am willing to tell them the truth, to stand where the cultural leaders are unwilling to stand. Many doctors (pot smokers, no doubt) call pot a harmless drug, and many users echo those comments, but they fail to take into account that marijuana erodes the spirit of a man, from the inside. It compromises his integrity, clouds his ability to reason, restricts the development of his brain, and alters the accuracy of his perception, his self-perception even. In effect, it negatively controls his development when he thinks he is in control of his own. Experts working in the field of drug rehabilitation are unanimous in stating that a pot user does not even begin to recover from the effects of its influence until a full year after he stops using. Former users say the same. Sad to say, users do not even know what they don’t know about themselves. I do not point these things out out of derision, but because the families of these users love them and want them back.

I write about myself sometimes. As you’ve already discovered, I’m a contradiction. But at least I’m a solid contradiction. I will continue to write about myself because in knowing me you will begin to know yourself better than you already do. We tend to find ourselves in the minds, and lives, of others. I am someone you may find interesting to know, but would probably not want to be around for too long at any one time. I know that about myself also.

There are many of you who read my blogs, I know that from the website numbers. Most of you read me anonymously, that is, that I don’t know who you are. That’s OK. That’s fine. I’m the writer, you’re the reader. That’s the relationship. I write, hoping that something I have to say will make a difference for you. Move you, make you smile, make you angry, make you feel something you haven’t felt in awhile, inspire you, make you laugh, validate you, or push you away from a flame. I would hope to motivate you, or enable you to see something in a different light. I would hope that you would disagree with me sometimes. I disagree with myself sometimes.

I also write because I need to write. I’m a ‘constant thinker’. I never stop thinking. Ask my wife. I even think when I’m asleep. Life is a process of movement and clarification. Writing helps with both. I hope reading what I write helps with both for you.

If you’ve enjoyed my writing, what I would ask from you is that you don’t keep me a secret any longer. Have the courage to share my writing with a friend. You can email any of the blogs, individually, by clicking on the little envelope at the bottom of the blog, or you can send the web address so they can look it up for themselves. Send it if you agree with what I have to say, and send it if you don’t.

I promise I will, eventually, offend, in one way or another, anyone you might ever send it to. Oh, and that anonymity? Come on out from under the couch sometime, and let me know you’re reading.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Is it just me, or did you find the recent article in Parade Magazine about the ‘Most Generous Americans’ offensive also? If you recall, in the past week or two they ran a spread about how many millions of dollars some very well known celebrities donate to charity. Actually, I think it’s great that ‘well known celebrities’ give a lot of money to causes other than themselves. Helps a good number of people, and sets an example for others. Nothing wrong with that. They ought to be applauded. And believe me, they are. I don’t have the article in front of me, but I think Oprah Winfrey gave the most, followed by people like Barbra Streisand, Brad and Angelina, Mel Gibson, Paul Newman and others. Some of these people I like, and some I don’t, but that is not the issue. The issue is that they have been celebrated as “The Most Generous Americans”.

Now, giving is giving, but let’s not pretend that giving and generosity necessarily equate. These people are so unfathomably rich, have so many millions of dollars, that, not only do they not ever even see the money that goes out in their names, but they also do not even feel an impact on their life style or personal finances from having given it. Much of it is given for tax purposes to actually improve their financial standing, and the adoration and publicity they receive from the giving actually allows them to continue making even more money than they would have had they not made the donations. It’s not like they struggle over balancing their checkbook, trying to figure out how they can give some money to a worthy cause, and still make ends meet. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling into question anybody’s motives, I’m simply stating the obvious. Why someone gives is his or her own business, and it is not to be judged. No one knows another’s heart, only their actions.

The most generous Americans are actually people you have, most likely, never even heard of. They are not celebrated for their generosity, and they are not lauded for their choice of boutique causes. They are the struggling family that gives 10% of a meager paycheck to help an Appalachian community survive a devastated economy. They are the church janitor who takes a two week leave of absence from his employment to go down to Louisiana and help rebuild housing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They are the bohemian young people in the City who struggle to pay their rent, but buy coffee for the homeless guy on the corner. They are the career businessperson who leaves a profitable job, and lifestyle, to live in less-than-desirable circumstances in an underdeveloped country to assist the poor with drilling wells, planting food or establishing education. They are the women who give their time to run the thrift shops that benefit the most needy families in any given community. They are the everyday people who struggle to get by, and still give of what they have to someone who has even less than they do. They are the guy that gives his only coat to someone else who’s cold and doesn’t have one.

These are the Most Generous Americans.
Do not be deluded by the proclamations of the Parade Magazines of the world.

He who has everything, and gives much, has given a little.
He who has little, and gives a little, has given a lot.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We Need To Go To Confession

We need to go to confession. OK now, I know what you’re thinking, “what do you mean we?” I’ll say it again. We need to go to confession.

I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of confession. There’s something missing in our culture, which can best be exemplified by looking at a typical criminal/attorney relationship to the law. A man commits a crime. He knows he committed the crime, his attorney knows he committed the crime, and we know he committed the crime. Somebody was hurt as a consequence of the man’s actions. The attorney essentially tells him that he is innocent unless a judge, or a jury, convicts him of the crime. Then, should he be wrongly acquitted, by judgment of the system, or even on a technicality, he is regarded by the law, by his attorney, and even by himself, as innocent. He still committed the crime, and yet by virtue of his ‘innocence’ he no longer regards himself as guilty of the action. He moves away from any personal connection to its impact on others, or his culpability in visiting that impact on them. Never having had to admit his guilt to the court, or even to himself, or to deal with any consequences related to the behavior, human nature gives him permission to continue that same behavior, and as could be predicted, he hurts somebody else.

Without acknowledgement there is no regret. Without regret there is no forgiveness. Without forgiveness there is no change. Without change there is no redemption. When did the concept of ‘confession’ become passe’ in our culture? I believe it happened around the same time that sin became relative and irrelevant. Sin implies something unholy, unseemly, dishonest or hurtful. A more literal definition is “separation from God’. In our world, who wants to consider themselves, or their actions, unholy, unseemly, dishonest or hurtful? As we make everything relative we no longer need to feel any of those ‘negative’ things about ourselves. How convenient. But when we banish the concept of sin from our culture, and from our consciousness, we also rob ourselves of the opportunity for confession, which in turn deprives us of the process of forgiveness, change and, ultimately, redemption.

I was raised in the Catholic Church. I attended Catholic school from the first grade thru the ninth, when they asked me not to return for my sophomore year. That was OK with me (and here’s where I’ll probably offend somebody) because I always considered the Catholic Church to be the largest cult in the world. I don’t really have the population figures for that, so I could be wrong. Today it might be the ‘New Spirituality’ movement, whose only tenant seems to be ‘to judge no behavior, and to embrace anything, and everything’, except, of course, a conflicting point of view. But back to my original point. I think that the practice of confession is one of the things the Catholic Church got right. We were encouraged to go to the church once a week, go into the confessional, where a priest sat behind a screen, giving us a relative sense of privacy, while we kneeled on a cushion and told him everything we’d done wrong throughout the past week. Then the priest gave us absolution, gave us some prayers to say, and as we got up to leave he said to us “go now, and sin no more.” It’s an awesome concept.

One can argue that you don’t need to be forgiven by a priest in order to be forgiven, and I agree. One can argue that one can confess their sins directly to God, and I agree. One can even argue that we don’t need to confess our sins at all, and I agree with that as well. We can continue to carry them around with us for the rest of our lives if we choose, or we can pay a psychiatrist, or psychologist, for years on end, to help us discover the cause of our depression, our unhappiness, or our inability to move beyond the shame in which we have become stuck. We have those choices, and most of us avail ourselves of one or the other, or of a common alternative, to simply cloud the issue with drugs, or drown the memories with drink.
I remember engaging in an action that was very out of character for me, feeling terrible about it, and wishing it hadn’t happened. I did not hurt anybody else, but it hurt me. It compromised my character, and it flew in the face of my beliefs. I regretted it having happened. I called a friend, acknowledged the act, and asked his forgiveness. He forgave me my shortcoming, I determined that it would not happen again, and I felt a redemption that enabled me to continue on my path without a repetition of the behavior.

Redemption continually allows one to avoid self-destructive and addictive behaviors that are endemic to the practice of sin. This relativistic culture is not going to clue you in to that essential truth.

Whether you’re a politician selling a lie with a speech, a pseudo-enlightened and self-appointed spiritual guide selling a bogus stairway to nirvana, a thief posing as a businessman selling stock to a widow, or a rock star pushing drugs to young people with a song, . . . . . . you ought to be ashamed of yourself. I’ll say that again. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
We all have sin for which we ought to be ashamed.

And all of us, we need to go to confession.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Favorite Boots

Let the hammer drop. Let the clamoring stop. We've been too long drinking at the fountain of their fatal dispositions. We've been tripped up by the inquisition, which sent them first to trap us, and then to let us die, while we chewed through our own legs, like wolves caught in the deadly and vicious steel teeth left laying hidden in the autumn leaves, quietly, just beneath the surface. It's not so much the remembrance of that time that bothers us, as the fact that it never goes away. We have the scars to validate our feelings. We have the blood soaked ground laying wet beneath us every waking moment. It takes no other form. It’s always dark, and damp. We have the misplaced, but sacred, empathy given by the nurses in the head asylums, the state institutions of higher learning, the chemical lobotomy shops. The places they would take us to try and stop the bleeding. We have those memories, and those permanent marks on our records. It covers us like weeds while we’re busy sorting through the bone and sinew left protruding from these gaping wounds. We don't accept sympathy from others, we have quite enough of our very own. But we do accept their propositions. And we do reflect their pain.

It's not often that the bleeding stops, but when it does we each walk on our one good leg towards the coast, on our best crutch, with our favorite memories of our favorite boots. We stop in the bait and tackle shop along the way, and are reminded that the shoes of the fisherman's wife are really just some pretty jive-ass slippers waiting to be removed at the door of her, otherwise, vacant bedroom. Her husband doesn't know she has a thing for blood and bone.

We cannot continue to be afraid. The clowns running out of the room are scared as well, most of them anyway, but they continue to perform their act each and every day, without delay, under the scrutiny of a sea of watchful eyes, and on the ever shifting sand beneath a cloudless, and quivering, California sky. At least they never actually say they hate the people they’re trying to make laugh, even if they do. I know the distance between their face and the funny makeup is really much farther than one would ever imagine. We apply white face, and silly noses, ourselves each dawn before we fall, habitually, into line again for our own forlorn fashion shows. We’re relatively comfortable there. It feels, at times, like home.

The chill of disappointment only grows, it doesn’t ever go away. Still, we hope it will diminish, gracefully,
like the early morning darkness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Used To Be Alive

The wagons circle, unaware of what they really are surrounding. The camp is quiet tonight. No laughter. No singing. No fabricated stories of trashy whores, or vulnerable maidens. It's all the same anyway. Just stillness, as if it were expected. As if it were supposed to be. As if we all had been rejected for our point of view, for our flannel dispositions, our perverse personalities, our social pathologies, and our lies. Solitude breeds solitude for some. Or sorrow. Sometimes both. For others it brings relief.

All the solitary campfires, burning low, and dying out alone. Sounds like a song I once wrote. We sleep in one's, and begin our day in two's, in the morning, but only in the mirror. We wash our face of last nights lingering news. We feel a brief connection in the glass, but only for a moment, then it too reflects a chronic sadness, projecting an undefined, but familiar, grief.

This too will eventually pass.
And it does.
But an aching, nauseous, awareness sets in that nothing's really changed but the time of day. Only from p.m. to a.m. again. Only from then to now. Lingering impressions flood a vulnerable soul. Like a dam in heaven breaking wide open, or a buff tsunami racing fast across the earth. Noah must know what I’m talking about. Talk about floods? And talk about feelings? I would imagine he must have had a few of those himself.

We drag our baggage through customs after disembarking from the boat. We bring a pair of tigers with us for protection. We pass unmolested, as expected. We carry unknown promises in body cavities they decline to search. Besides, no one has enough authority to confiscate the contraband.

And it wouldn’t do them any good.

We used to be alive. Only yesterday we were feeling confident and indulgent of the life around us. Today that same life clouds our ability to reason. It challenges our agility, as it has scoffed at our optimism. It all breaks down around us when it gets around to breaking down. Turn off the television before it cuts our bloated jugular, and leaves us gasping for the air we used to breathe.

Hope doesn't give much notice, or turn to offer some pretentious resignation upon it's departure. It just walks quietly through the door with a furtive glance and is gone.
Sounds like a poem I once wrote.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Certain Abject Consciousness

For me, freedom is innately, and inexorably, connected to standing apart from myself. I am both my own jailer and my liberator. I shudder at the thought of such control, but self-control is the welcome alternative to the imposition of control by others. I have to acknowledge its scope in my life.
I have, throughout time, identified very closely with the captives, whether they have been criminally, or psychiatrically institutionalized, or socially, or politically repressed. I have identified just as strongly with the freedom people who refuse to live by someone else's dictate, who cannot be censored in their motivation, their intention, or their style. This identification is rooted in my experience of, both, suffocating boundaries and boundless freedom. Neither fits into the mainstream of life, by choice, or circumstance. Some would die to be free of confinement. Others are just thrilled to live.

It is not the particular ideologies I identify with, but the fact that they move beyond the mainstream in one direction or another. I have always preferred the side roads to the thoroughfares. Even though the main road might be more accessible, it is also the route where I would most surely experience psychic depravation. Peace, for me, is to be found off the map, in places where the call for conformity is least pronounced, the places where individuality is least likely to sound an alarm. The environment where I can best follow my inclinations, and my Muse, without the scrutiny of the politically correct, the guardians of the status quo, the arbiters of all things acceptable and all things deemed to be reviled. Everyone who travels down that road is different to one degree or another. It is that very difference that puts them there. An inability, or refusal, to adjust, or a certain abject consciousness, determines for us the route of least conflict, of least resistance. The back roads, the alleyways, the mountaintops, the canyons.

It is there that I meet people who know me intuitively, who seem to know who I am, where I've been, and why I'm not lined up in the commuter lane.
It is there that I find the glove to fit my hand. It is where I find my ability to breathe.

If this just proves to be a glimpse into my own personal psychosis, I don't mind. There's really only one psychosis, that I know of, and we each just chew on a different piece of it.

This just happens to be mine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No Such Thing As The Perfect Tan

Overcast sky this morning, unlike the way it’s been for about as long as I can remember now. The sun has hung hot and threatening above my head, daring me to challenge its blistering intent, to go outside without a hat if I care to measure myself against it. But I know I’d lose that confrontation. The great heat lamp plugged conspicuously into itself to tan, but shrivel, those of us who might choose the embrace of its essential, but dangerously, scorching, love.
We know the power of love, and we know the foolishness of flirting with the flame. An overcast sky can bring relief, on occasion, from its, otherwise, torrential affection, and the continuing temptation of seeking the perfect tan.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Natural World

There is an inherent equalizer in the natural world, in the beauty of nature, and in its incomprehensible power. I think that people have forgotten that we, in fact, are very much a part of nature, not separate from it, but integrally connected. We speak of nature as if it is a place we visit, or something we live in the middle of. We speak of animals as though they are natural (part of nature), but of ourselves as a collection of intruders. Can we please put to rest, once and for all, this ridiculous division? In a divisive world, where everything and everybody is divided into ‘this and that’ or ‘them and us’, could we not at least embrace the totality of what we are? We are the embodiment of nature just as profoundly as the Grand Canyon, or an old redwood tree, is. As certainly as a black bear living in a cave, or a bird nesting in the branches. Who would consider any of these to be separate from nature?

I believe that everything in life is connected to something that has gone before it. I believe the development of most attitudes, behaviors, lifestyles, communities, politics, religions and belief systems are born of, and perpetuated by, some form of connection to an incomplete, or inadequate, premise. In this case, that we are separate from nature. History shows us that, as people, we have not co-existed equally, or peacefully with one another, except for brief moments in time, and even then, only in small groups. Could it be that, because we have failed to embrace, or even acknowledge, our own integration in the most foundational, and elemental, of all groupings, the natural world, that we now find it all-but-impossible to co-exist around a concept, or even in a world, of our own faulty design? As we all know, in building a house, if the foundation of the house is not level we cannot expect the rest of the structure to be? In living, if we deny our own inclusion in the natural world, can we also expect to co-exist with, or within, it?

If I am born into a family, but deny connection to it, and instead consider myself to be from, but not of, that family, can I expect to feel integration with them? Or even camaraderie? If I consider myself to be elevated, better than, or more important than, the others, can I find union, with, or among, them? Of course not.

And yet that is exactly what we have done in relation to nature. We are born as an element of nature, as a component of, and in union with, its totality. But we have separated ourselves from it, considering ourselves to be elevated, rather than integrated, and then we expect life, from that faulty premise, to work out in our best interest, and to our own advantage. By any degree of fundamental logic, it is easy to understand that those who show little respect for nature usually exhibit minimal respect for others, and for themselves as well, effectively validating my conviction.

We are not the commanders, or even the guardians, of nature.
We are an embodiment of it.
Does anybody get that?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Blank Document

I love to sit down to write in the morning and open up the Word program on my computer. It’s not that I necessarily love sitting down to write, although I often do love it. And it’s not that I particularly like working on the computer, although it is a great convenience, and one I would miss if I had to give it up. But what I really love is going up to the menu bar and scrolling down to ‘New Blank Document’. I LOVE THAT. New Blank Document! NEW: ‘Something that has not been used by anyone else’. BLANK: ‘Not written on, not yet having, or showing, interest or awareness’. DOCUMENT: ‘To make a record of something by writing about it’. Damn, it speaks to me like a blank canvass might speak to a painter. What do I want this page to say today? It can say anything I want it to.

Our daily lives are New Blank Documents as well. Every day we decide what we want our lives to represent. What do we want our clothes to say? Our attitudes? Our actions? Our Words? Our Intentions? What do we want to put on the page of our lives? What do we want to record as part of our own personal historical record?

Our lives are being published, whether we push the publish button or not. We are being read by the people around us, those who know us, and many who don’t. We influence them in ways visible and invisible. Some of my clearest, and most profound, memories are of ‘moments of kindness’ by various strangers I have encountered along the way. And some of my greatest influences have been the simple lives of a few people I have grown to respect over the years, people who gave thoughtful consideration to what they put, daily, on their New Blank Document.