Friday, July 6, 2018



“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
Jack Kerouac

I saw this lady who looked really old. She was struggling, but she was out in bad weather taking care of business. She was shaky and looked as fragile as porcelain. She made me think about my own life: times when I complain about being stiff, or having to take all those damn pills. Looking at her, I felt embarrassed to even think I had it bad. I needed to ask her how her life was, how it had been when she was young. The things she had seen. About the people she has loved and has been loved by. Poor me didn’t have the time to do it, and I cheated my existence because of it.


Violence resides in all of us. We all carry a dark side. When we engage in war, it is all of us that are responsible, not just the chosen few. With each school shooting, each mall killing, each street corner revenge, humanity becomes less than what it could have been. When we take an eye for an eye, we become no better than our enemy. We move away from the common good, toward the common bad. Before long, we accept the common bad as okay, something we can live with. This is the law of diminishing humanity. We are all responsible. We sit around and watch ourselves slide back into the primordial ooze.


It was hot, like 105 degrees hot. I pulled into a Dairy Queen in Dickson, Tennessee, for some relief. I was headed for Murfreesboro on a work assignment. The young lady who waited on me had “HATE” tattooed across her fingers. She must have been about 25 or so. I figured she had a pretty rough life. She was really thin, methamphetamine thin. She had several additional nonprofessional tattoos on her arm. When she handed me my order, I asked if her fingers were getting any better? Maybe someone had asked her that before, I don’t know. It didn’t seem to startle her. She seemed to understand my temptation in asking. Anyway, she said yes, thanks. I’m sure that “HATE” went onto those fingers hard and will come off slow. A young woman I stumbled across in Dickson, Tennessee. I don’t have the slightest idea what her name was or the life she had made for herself, but I hope her fingers get some relief.


Flying in a six-seat Cessna at 5,000 feet on a clear night can be an exhilarating experience. What a sense of freedom and escape. Looking at all the lit-up towns is truly fascinating. Small patches of 50, 1000, 5,000 lights. Single lights off in an isolated nowhere. Imagine, under all those lights, the stories people could tell: fathers trying to teach their sons how to be a good man; a wife wondering why she married an abusive husband; daughters yet to be married; grandchildren yet to appear; careers still to be realized. Births, deaths, town heroes, town whores, lovers of life, killers of hope. Things beautiful and thoughts ugly flood into my mind. The plane turns dark, except for the lights below and the zillions of stars above. The constellations look like they are alive. The Milky Way, pouring out its miracle elixir. Orion, ready to do battle with evil. The North Star, about to get a new job. It will need to guide us home.
The regulator on the plane is out. The instrument panel is black. There is no way to know if the landing gear went down or not. It is a pity such a beautiful night ends with such bad news.


Have you ever walked down a road where you can’t stand the pain? How do I get to be the person I would like to be? What is it that holds me back from being a better me? Do I have to spend every minute worrying about the world and how I react to it? Can’t it get along without my attention? Every day I try to be a better person. Am I as devoted to that as I am to my golf game? My community needs me to help. Now? Can’t it wait until next month? Besides, what can I do? I’m a 67 year old man. Is there no rest? When the road gets painful, am I willing to keep stepping forward? Or will it burn holes in my shoes?


Time to take the plants in. Fall is about used up. I encountered this strange mushroom growing in one of the pots. A menacing looking little devil. It’s a bright lime color, like pistachio pudding, but without the pistachios. Lime Jell-o wouldn’t work to describe it, you can’t see through it. And I doubt it would giggle. While not very big, it looks like it could glow in the dark. Like it belongs in the dark. The stem burrows down into the soil, some of its flesh peeling off and falling next to it, reminding me of a creepy Zombie Halloween film I once saw. The white stem gleams clear and bright enough to see yourself in, about 3 inches high, getting thicker towards the bottom, with a ring about a quarter of an inch from the top. The cap reminds me of a Chinese hat sitting on top of a pudgy body, an old cartoon I remember, back when things weren’t so politically correct. The stem appears to go down deep into the pot, almost through the bottom, but not quite. The pot is black, with a bright red band around the top, making sure that dark thing stays inside. If you were to ingest this thing, it’s hard to tell what you might see. A mushroom I once ingested made me see music and I could smell colors. Luckily, the shaman helped me over the rough edges. This thing makes it look like you would regret the stupidity involved in trying to find nirvana in a mushroom. This thing looks like bad news.


People moan and groan about the perceived unwillingness of those on welfare to work. Yet when I’m around any country club, which isn’t very often, the most esteemed and admired seem to be those who don’t work. I’m sure there is an explanation, and I can imagine who paid for it.


·        Love is a four letter word. So is hate.
·        Love comes in a variety of flavors, none of them violent.
·        Love has been misused and abused so much that it’s hard to spot the real deal.
·        Love means having to say you are sorry, countless times. But not too many.
·        Never get married just for love, because love can wear thin, real quick.
·        Love can take you a long way. Unfortunately, sometimes the wrong way.
·        Still, if I had to choose between love and hate, I’d take love. I hate hate.


It is not enough to call oneself compassionate: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not an armchair slogan meant for the faint of heart. It is the boiling down of all the great religions into an elixir for a better world. Treat one another like you would want to be treated is a call to action. It is the dirt out of which all goodness grows. If there is a hungry person, feed her. She doesn’t need our prayers. She needs a meal. If a person is living on the street, in a car, or in some filthy, drug infested public housing, he doesn’t need our pity or pleasant scriptures, he needs a place to live. If I am killing my enemy and destroying his home and family, he doesn’t need my explanations or a copy of my ideology, he needs me to quit. Preaching that the poor will get their reward in heaven is of little value to a person here on Earth who is burdened with injustice and oppression. It is a morally devoid position taken by irresponsible preachers. We have been called to respond compassionately to our fellow human beings, now, today. The calling has come to us. We are the chosen ones. It is time for us to step forward. Promises of a better tomorrow are not worth much today.


You got to have faith.” The question would be: In what? Most often, having faith refers to having a belief in God. Faith in God requires a leap into the unknown, the unprovable. There is no 100% certainty.  You either believe or you don’t. There is not much of a halfway point. Taking that leap is difficult for a lot “of people, including myself. You want to dive over the edge like a bungee jumper, but you don’t quite trust it. The cord; the distance; the bounce. Generally speaking, I could use a shove, but that’s not how it works. It’s you who must face the doubt and uncertainty. I try to leap across the chasm in two measured, hesitant leaps, but I always come up short. Faith is a word that has always troubled me. I find it, than lose it; find it, than lose it; find………

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