A New Spin on “More Christ”

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

To My Dear Friend Derrick J,

With the aroma of savory foods wafting from my kitchen, infused with the scent of pine-needled, Christmas decorations, I found myself thinking of you this morning. If you were here, we would be having so much fun cooking, sprucing, baking, singing, and dancing together while we make everything pretty. My thoughts were interrupted by Aziza who read aloud a Facebook post of yours declaring your distaste for all things “Christmas”. Since I know how much you love a grand soiree, I am convinced your disdain is for the overwhelming reminder that you are an atheist living in a Judeo-Christian stronghold. Please allow me to dispel a few notions and focus on what we know to be true.

Let’s cast aside the fact that neither can you prove that God does not exist nor can I prove that He does. For to make my points, it is not necessary to consider God or the Christ but rather the man, Jesus, about whom there are countless historical references and who, for all intents and purposes, is “the reason for the season”.

What we know for certain about Jesus, the man, is that he was crucified for the treasonous act of denying the divinity of Caesar- you know the guy who Jesus refused to exact taxes for from his disciples…For that reason alone, he deserves respect. He said “No” exercising his humanity, refusing to bow even to the point of death. But he didn’t just die. He was beaten, scorned, laughed at, spit upon, forced to carry the weapon which would kill him, and still, there is not one account of him retaliating verbally or physically nor attempting to blame anyone, demonstrating fierce manliness and a refusal to be a victim. Bravo, he is at least a god of a man!

Could you or I do that, my sweet friend? I would like to think that my principles are the essence of my being and therefore intrinsically woven in a way that I would cease to exist without them. However, I really do not want to ever be challenged to that degree. You have certainly been confronted by the State and know firsthand the hate and thievery that comprises it. Like him, you were accused unjustly. And that sucks!

So what did this man say that was so horrible to cause the religious leaders and statists to murder him? Well lotsa stuff. But what I find to be universally applicable and certainly a threat to those who would promulgate the need for force are the Two Laws he claimed summed up all the rest: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself. I claim that these laws sufficiently and universally apply to all. For those who believe in God, great, you’ve heard it before. But for you, darling, if there is no God, then that means that You are the most all-knowing, all-powerful being of YOUR life in which case, yes, loving yourself perfectly is your job and then…see law #2. And YOU know why this is such a threat: Love conquers fear and without fear, darkness has no power to control. Love is the answer to all of the interesting questions.

As you stroll about catching a tune from a Christmas carol, remember what you share in common with the man for whom it was written- a fierce and determined love of humanity and an unwillingness to bow to the State as your God. Also, it is not Jesus, the Christ, or even Christians who you are angry with but rather the statists, in collusion with the corporatists, who use the memorial of the event to control the masses- you know, the ones we are trying to free.

I have mad love for you!

Forever Your Flame Dame,

M

Wake up Darling

In: Mom's Oracles, TNT (Think Nice Thoughts)

You know those dreams you have from which you desperately do not want to wake? Imagine if that was just your brain showing you what life could be like if only you would wake up and do whatever it is that you’re dreaming. What if what it is that distinguishes you from others who seem to reach out effortlessly and take hold of that fruit and take a big bite is simply that you refuse to believe that it’s possible? That somehow you are stuck in this false conception that sleeping is for dreaming and waking is just living without dreams. Picture. Plan. Pursue. Persist. Persevere. Play.

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Fall But Not Falling

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

Good morning. Fall is frantically and fiercely upon us. Jewel-tone foliage has created a kaleidoscope of images to remind of change. I am uncertain if it is the autumn season and my body’s natural inclination to settle in, or that now, doing the same things, in the same place, for nearly a year, my mind and spirit have had a chance to catch up to my body and I’ve found my groove. I wonder if this means that I will be moving again soon.

I watched a movie last night that had an incredible monologue. It was as eloquent and poignant as it was philosophically sound. The character played by Ruben Blades  delivers a deathblow as he weaves us through the tragic truth that we create our realities. He says that when we come upon a crossroad, the decisions that led us there were made long before and cannot be undone; our ability to accept our reality determines the next one. I say “tragic” because in the case to which I’m referring, unfathomable and inescapable pain is about to engulf one who cannot avoid the consequences of the choices he made. Though a victim, his choices dictated the reality in which he was victimized. There was another choice with another crossroad in another reality not created.

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However, as with the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of tides, the cycles of the moon, the molting of the snake, we are meant to grow, transition, decay, and then be re-born anew, only stronger, more resilient, fuller so that we too can have more foliage and thereby more jewel tones. Only, unlike all of nature, humans have the distinction of being able to decide when that change will occur and thereby create a reality that will direct toward a certain crossroad different from the one we would have arrived at with different choices. It is very anti-fate. (Unless of course you are Freud who believed it didn’t matter what you did because in the end we all get fucked by our moms.)

Whereas the protagonist in the The Counselor was faced with a self-imposed dilemma dictated by his own unchecked greed, we, as individuals, have the opportunity minute-to-minute, day-to-day, season-to-season, really, decision-to-decision to make those choices that will create win-win realities. It is very difficult however. Or at least it is for me. I don’t naturally do the right thing for myself, nor even the most well-thought-out thing. Or I haven’t in the past. And that has led to many an unwanted crossroads. I’m highly emotional and have often been very reactive. Flexible and balanced from all the adjusting and readjusting, however, I’m lacking roots and stability.

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But one thing is certain and that is that I change. As the minute passes, the next one begins, and so do I. Sometimes, many times, that change has involved moving. Shedding one life for another. And with the decision to move, I created a certain reality for myself. And in all of those realities, there were unavoidable crossroads. Hmm…I wonder if I stopped wandering, where would I be? Not unchanged but maybe unmoved.

 

                                                             

 

The Beauty of Pain

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

Beauty is defined as: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. According to this particular definition, I think that it is safe to say that beauty is not necessarily pretty. In fact, I would argue that what I have found to be most beautiful is rarely pretty. More often than not, it is within a state of agony and pain that we can uncover what is the essence of beauty- the sacred place within that blisters our heart, changing our being, branding us forever, hence the exaltation of mind or spirit.

The look of a woman giving birth without the use of “pain killers” is one such image. Face is blotchy, make-up, if there was any, is now sweated off, leaving raccoon smudges, nostrils are flaring, brows furrowed as eyes squint in an intense effort to will one’s physical being to labor on beyond what only a contraction ago seemed impossible. And then, the baby comes and with it the elation of a job well done, a goal accomplished, one’s self-worth increased.

A runner at the end of a long race that has demanded more of his body than his legs and heart could handle is another. A runner like Pre who knew that you might beat him, but you’d have to bleed to do so. He crossed the finish line completely spent and used up physically and yet, there was still a wildness in his eyes and an intensity of focus that was undeterred. That singularity of intent translates into achievement of purpose, enveloping while exuding success. That sweet smell.

Intertwined like yin and yang, masculine and feminine, tragedy and hope, pain and beauty are married in such a way that make the sum not only greater than the parts but dependent on one another for full expression.

 

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!SDRAWKCAB LLA STi

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

Backwards Day at Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School was a fun day for my kids. Apparently, it is a common event nationwide when kids wear their clothes backwards, walk backwards, and eat their dessert first. Some can get really creative- one young girl wrote her schoolwork backwards. Though I thought it just a fun way to break up the monotony, I am starting to think that it is all a conspiracy to train us to think that what is backwards is correct.

Trying to pass a few minutes while in between tasks, I checked out recommended videos on Youtube yesterday and came across one that has gone viral. Here it is if you’ve not yet seen it. And don’t worry, the time you spend watching it can actually be considered an investment in your education.
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Yes, this “news” anchor actually said what you think she said. And no, she did not read the book, nor do any actual fact-checking about Reza. And yes, the theme of the show is supposedly about spirited debate. (I think that Reza and Russell Brand ought to be awarded Emmy’s for Best Anchor and Best Expose. Just sayin’>)

Now, the title of my post is “It’s All Backwards” so there must be an opposite to which we can contrast this joke of a news anchor and news show. And I have just the ticket. Funny enough, I was recently asked where I get my “news” from a less-than stalwart opponent in a political debate and I jokingly responded, “Jon on The Daily Show”. Well, am I a prophet, or what?
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Now I am not claiming that I agree or disagree with what Dr. Aslan is claiming. I am simply pointing out that Fox published a news show that was clearly lacking in anything newsworthy and even worse, the anchor was ignorant of the rules of scholarly debate which is the premise of the show; and a comedy show featured an actual interview that left the audience more knowledgeable about the author, his book, and some of the arguments that support his claims. In other words, news was provided.

There was one claim that was made with which I wholeheartedly agree: Not all who follow Jesus are Christians and not all who are Christian follow Jesus. Yep.

It May Be Terminal

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

Ms Mohs ties for first place as my all-time favorite teacher, of which I’ve had many, because she was unwavering in her resolve to maintain a standard of excellence. It was in her classroom where I was introduced to the “List of 50 Prepositions”, which, to this day, I can still recall from memory. Lord knows how I do appreciate skilled writing and Ms. Mohs was instrumental in my own personal  development. It was not from her, however, that I adopted one of my life mottos which is: Learn the rules and then learn why, when, where, with whom, and how to break them.

In addition to memorizing the prepositions,  there were  so-called “rules” regarding them, one of which was that I ought never to end a sentence with one. Handily, there was a little tune that I learned them to. (See what I did there?) “About, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at…” and then those that began with “b” and so on. (Oops, I did it again!). 

 You, too,  have undoubtedly heard the self-righteous grammarians who claim one must never end a sentence with a preposition. (They are often the same who claim that you may never begin a sentence with “and”.)  And I am here to tell you, that is absolute hogwash. If you wonder at how it came to be that the English language developed with such a rigid criterion, it has to do with Latin not using a terminal preposition and the educated class trying to fit the language into the Latin-sized box. Oh phooey! It is nearly a dead language for a reason! (Just kidding, Omar!)

And if you are one of those who still insist that you are correct about this ill-thought-out mandate, well we will have to part ways on that. You be you in your tiny, little box, and I’ll be me, happily in very good company!

I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for. (Walt Whitman)

Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and much to complain of. (Jane Austen)

The domestic man, who loves no music so well as his kitchen clock and the airs which the logs sing to him as they burn on the hearth, has solaces which others never dream of. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Then she remembered what she had been waiting for. (James Joyce)

Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. (Mark Twain)

There was a little money left, but to Mrs. Bart it seemed worse than nothing””the mere mockery of what she was entitled to. (Edith Wharton)

 

Lies Lie Waiting

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

You don’t mean to. Neither do they. Neither do I. And yet we do. We all do. We all lie. So if we all lie, we are all lied to.

Lies come in all sorts of forms. One lies to escape trouble. One lies to make another feel better. One lies to defraud another. So are all lies not equal? If they are not, why are those actions not given a different label? I suppose they are in a way. My dad used to tell us these grand tales and he called them “Whoppers” and we loved it. Being pulled into a story that is so largely fantastic that it cannot possibly be true, but with just enough plausibility that it could be, only to discover that it is not, just at the moment we had fallen for it was great fun. But was he lying? There is also the proverbial “white lie” which is a grade of seriousness just above a “fib” which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a childish lie”. But how does something being “white” make it less grave than not and aren’t all untruths childish?

And what about those lies that we tell  because we want so desperately for something to be true? As a loved one, teammate, fellow soldier, or even stranger lies (as in horizontally) bleeding and broken, do we not tell them, “Hang in there; you are going to be okay” even when they clearly are not? And would we not be appalled by someone who would dare say, “No, dude, you are going to be dead in a matter of minutes”? And do we not tell our young son or daughter that they sang beautifully even though they were off-pitch, out-of-tune, and flat? He or she has just stepped off of a stage they were terrified to walk onto and performed a solo that sucked, but they came off smiling, exuberant, and proud. Think Little Miss Sunshine. To lie is to tell a falsehood and to basically trick someone which by most accounts would be considered wrong and unjust. But in that circumstance, would it not be more wrong to say, “Oh honey, you were terrible and those people are only clapping to be nice. You lack vocal talent and your singing hurts my ears and grates on my nerves”?

When you are stopped by a cop and he or she asks, “Do you know why I stopped you?” it is incumbent upon you to say “No” for the very reason that under the United States Constitution, the state is required to prove your guilt, even though you know darned well that you were traveling 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. The allowance that is made is the 5th Amendment which states that you do not have to incriminate yourself. So in that case, you have an “out”. But what about when your four-year-old is standing at the edge of the family room in her cute little footsy pajamas and says “Hi Mommy” with a mouthful of cookie and yet categorically denies having retrieved cookies from the cookie jar? The evidence is covering her tongue with chocolate smears on her fingers so you know that she is lying. Do you feel wronged in the same way as you would if you found your spouse had dabbled in a different sort of cookie jar and then denied it even though the lipstick is on the collar or the used condom stuck to the heel of her shoe? Of course not, but they are both lies. There is therefore something greater at stake than being given false information.

Sometimes we lie without even knowing it. Information is insufficient or we are not privy to it but we make a declaration of fact only to learn later that we were incorrect. Are we responsible for speaking a lie in that case? Lawyers try to litigate that and provide outs by including “I know the above to be true to the best of my knowledge.” Well isn’t that convenient considering we have no ability to prove what is inside someone’s head?

These lies that lie waiting like snakes in the grass can sometimes bite us and other times let us continue on without recourse. But there is one person who always knows. And to that person you are accountable. You are accountable to yourself.  When Polonius says to his departing son, “To thine own self be true,” he is not telling him to never lie, but instead to always watch out for his own self-interest and thereby be better positioned to assist in the needs of others. That is hardly the deontological version of ethical theory that I so proudly have ascribed to, however, there is wisdom there. This oracle is contrary to  the lesson of Pinocchio whose nose grew on account of his lying but who was rewarded, not for untelling his lies, but by saving his father at the expense of himself. Once again, there is something greater at play. And still, we lie in bed at night and sometimes fall asleep thinking of lying.

 

 

 

Price Versus Cost

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

To determine how much something costs today compared to yesteryear requires knowing more than just the price of the good or service as my children so astutely pointed out to their Grandma Minnie back in 2008. We were all sitting around the dining table enjoying breakfast and debating going to see a movie. My mom asked the price of movies and when I told her that tickets were nearly $10 a piece, she said one of the three things that she will forever be remembered for: “Oh goody!”, “Oh shit!”, or “Oh boy!”. It wasn’t “Oh goody.”

Thus began a discussion of economics which was fairly typical for us as value, frugality, and scarcity versus abundance were hot topics in our household. Grandma Minnie was spurned on to “tell us about how much it used to cost to go to the movies.” I can picture my mom, sitting to my right, meticulously cutting her breakfast meats and fruit, savoring a bite before delving into her anecdote. “When I was a girl, it cost a fella $.50 to take a gal to the movies and that was for a double feature,” she said matter-of-factly. I just loved that she automatically assumed a guy would be taking her and paying for the tickets. All three of my kids whistled and expressed amazement at how cheap it was compared to today. “And that included getting burgers and a coke,” she added.

Pensive Omar was then awarded a big gold star for being insightful, asking what one had to do to earn the $.50. And sure enough, Mom had an answer for that too. Growing up in Oregon where a typical job for a teenage boy was to pump gas- a service that was mandated by the state, but also included checking the tires, fluids, and washing the windows, unlike in present-day New Jersey where an attendant is likely to put gas in your Diesel (yes that happened to me) and think you strange to request a window cleaning. The attendants earned $.25 an hour plus a dime, or so, in tips. So one could exchange two hours of labor for a date with a gal where you could both eat, drink, and be entertained for nearly 4 hours. Compare that to today, when for basically the same job, one would have to work four times that amount to purchase even less.

Why is it that there is such a disparity between the cost of living and wages today versus 60 years ago? Quite simply…inflation. People complain about the government regulations such as minimum wage, workman’s comp, and insurance as if those things are responsible for the economic crisis plaguing the US economy, when, in fact, they don’t even make a dent compared to the out-of-control printing of money that has no backing, other than a promise of the US government to tax the workers to pay the interest on the debt.

And the irony is that the very people who the government is portending to help with all of the regulations and stimulus are the very people hurt by it. But what does it matter to Congress when they can and do vote themselves a standard-of-living wage increase while exempting themselves of the mandates with which they burden their constituents? The solution is to end the Federal Reserve, allow for competing currencies, abolish the subsidies (start with the banks!), and allow the market place to establish prices and values. Incidentally, a quarter ounce of weed cost the same today as it did 30 years ago…chew on that.

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Bradley Beach, Perspective

In: Mom's Oracles, TNT (Think Nice Thoughts)

It is absolutely true that two people can be standing nearly side-by-side and yet have incredibly different experiences in what they see. I was thinking about this very thing while walking along Bradley Beach toward Asbury Park recently. And how fun it was to witness such a visual aid that serves as a bookmark for those thoughts in the contrasting views- and even more thrilling, the ambiance- on either side of the pilings along the seashore..

IMAG1228It was one of those days that has occurred so frequently in the area for the last few weeks where beautiful sunshine filled the morning skies inviting a chilly wind to come for lunch, and with it, a sort of despair filled the air as I looked out to where Sandy had wreaked havoc. I paused for a moment to focus in on something that had caught my eye a hundred feet back. If you look closely, you will see a little fella sitting right up on top, along with a couple of seagulls. He was looking out yonder obviously captivated by something in the distance. So I walked through to the other side of the structure to get a better look at his perspective.

It wasn’t a little boy at all as I’d thought, but an old man-a wooden one at that, whom I called Kevin.

IMAG1230He looked so happy perched up in the air with the birds sharing his seat. Who can blame him with the sun shining on his face like that? Apparently, he made it through the storm unscathed, though it must have been quite a ride with a 15′ surge rushing up on him. He remained steadily looking west and viewing the close of the day. Warmed by the sun, even on what had appeared a cold, friendless, and somber scene, that from his seat, wasn’t at all; it was glorious and happy, with the promise that eventually, the sun shines again after every storm regardless of perspective. A nice reminder to always be looking toward the sun which will always rise to bring about a new dawn, a new day, and a new life.

Liberty to Do What is Right

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, TNT (Think Nice Thoughts)

Growing up in the 70’s, I recall hearing “It’s a free world,” often. It was typically a response said with a tone of defiance. Whenever I heard it, I cringed; something did not sit right with me, because it sounded more like “Go fuck yourself!” than a joyous expression of humanity. As one who has always loved being unrestrained, I have enjoyed the ability to move about with my body, think and express myself in an assortment of ways, and live with passion. Those times when I was not able to do so was crushing to my spirit. Being free was my source for joy, unencumbered expression, and the communication of my unique self, not an opportunity to be rude, inconsiderate, nor offensive, which is what seemed to be the goal of those most often heard saying “It’s a free world.”

Liberty means the ability to have absolute freedom to do whatever you wish, with the caveat that you not jeopardize another’s liberty. In its most basic form, that idea is summed up with the Non-aggression Principle.  http://

However, I dare say that we can take it even further. The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” I shared a version of that quote with my very dear friend, Derrick J, a couple of years ago and despite not being a fan of Paul who is credited with writing it, he loved the concept and agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment. (He has the liberty to agree with what someone may say even if he doesn’t like the person. Inherent in that is wisdom.) It is easy to understand when you consider that one is free to eat junk food, but it is not in one’s best interest. But what about when it is simply abstaining from eating meat because your guest is a vegetarian?

Somehow people have lost their way on this concept however. The act may be something as small as using foul language in the presence of mixed company, claiming, “It’s my party, I can do what I want,” even though it offends the very guests you are hosting, or being late for appointments (something I have been guilty of and am successfully overcoming). Or it can be something far more egregious. I’m free to huck loogies onto the sidewalk, but it is unsightly to others; I’m free to have trash in my yard and not maintain my home, but it offends my neighbor who has to look at it; I’m free to call all those who believe contrary to me “Idiots,” but it is unkind.

Ultimately, isn’t it in my own best interest to be thoughtful, kind, and considerate, exercising the most rigorous of self-government? I have the best chance of having the most friends, the most peaceful existence, and the greatest opportunity for a network of people who will treat me with the same consideration. So liberty is not simply having the ability to do whatever you want; it is also having the liberty to do what is good.

I was challenged by TSA while on my way back from Las Vegas in December when I helped Travelin’ Val with her bags. She has spina bifida and quite clearly could not remove the things from her chair before being searched “for everyone’s safety.” Despite there being 9 agents within 30 feet of her and a near empty airport, not a single one of them lifted a finger to help her. I assured her that once I was on the other side, I would also lift her bags back onto her chair and that she would not be left alone. And for that act of charity, I was rewarded with a second and third search by these same agents who claimed that only someone with something to hide would help a person like that. I was horrified. I asked one of the women why she didn’t help her herself and she said, “Because I don’t have to.” Now that is what happens when people look to an authority outside of themselves to determine their course of action.

We must be diligent in our efforts to stand firm in our humanity. And that means maintaining the dialog of respect for others that is outlined by the Non-aggression Principle, as well as denying ourselves when there is an opportunity to treat someone else to a kindness, convenience, or charity that does not compromise our integrity or principles. Rest assured that if you are a vegetarian and a guest in my home, there will be food prepared special for you; if you are Muslim, we will not be eating pork; and if you are a recovering addict, I will not be lighting up a joint in front of you and will be serving raspberry lemonade and not my near famous whisky sours.