Get a Life

Get a Life (1,102)

March 31st, 2011

I was invited to speak at an Atheists’ Club. Now, I’m sure it wasn’t really called the Atheists’ Club, but it was many years ago, in California, and I forget the actual name of the organization. I refer to it as the Atheists’ Club because they made it clear that they did not believe in God, and they wanted me to come and explain why I did.

So I arrived and before my little talk, they inquired if they could ask me some questions. The first question was, “Why do you believe in God?” This was my response:

I believe in life. I think everything centers around it. It is an astounding thing to me that the people who insist on believing in God the most often have the least respect for their own life and the dignity of others. They treat earth passage like toilet paper—a necessary little scrap of nothing to wipe up their messes while they’re waiting for the glories of eternity. I find this ridiculous. Because if you do believe in God, one of the by-products of that expression is to recognize that He made human life. If you think human life sucks, why would you ever contend that eternal life and endless repetition of the process would be so much better? Do you really think that streets of gold don’t eventually become boring? How about sitting around and singing praises to God all day—when deep in your soul, you complain on Sunday morning about having to sing the fifth verse of that strange hymn?

I believe in life, my friends. And if life was not made by God, then at some point, it will cease to be—and so will we. Then what? And I don’t mean “then what?” as in “what is heaven going to be like?” I mean, “then what did all this mean in the first place?”

Because if the two choices available to me are (1) there is a God and (2) there is no God, then if there is a God, then someday, according to all the information available, I’m going to stand before Him and He’s going to ask me what I did with my human life. And if there is no God, a bunch of other human beings who follow me on this earth are going to debate what I did with my human life. Either way, my journey is going to be scrutinized.

So the question is not, “Do I believe in God?” The question is, “Do I believe that life has a better way of being lived?”

For instance, treating people mean doesn’t seem to work very well. That isn’t a religious conclusion on my part; it’s an observation from my travels as a being that is human. Selfishness is not only looked down upon, but tends to leave one very alone and often impoverished. Adultery, although temporarily pleasurable, leads to more complications than a few minutes of ecstasy might render. So if I’m going to end up with a code of behavior or a lifestyle of practice that is conducive to the planet earth—life—what is the harm of believing that this glorious existence might transcend the earthly plane? Because there is one thing for sure. No one knows. And in the absence of knowing, the second-best thing in life is doing.

Of course, it would be great to know, but since I don’t know, it’s pretty cool to just be able to do things that simulate a little heaven in my soul. So because I believe in life, I choose to accept the notion of a God who, in His graciousness, might just allow me to continue life in some magnificent form. Realistically, it’s not an afterlife. If it is as cool as the Bible says, it’s a life after. Life doesn’t stop—it just expands.

After all, is Christmas really made better by disbelieving in Santa Claus? Do children become more solid citizens by rejecting the Tooth Fairy? And because I’ve had inklings of evidence of God’s working in my life, He seems more plausible than either the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

Don’t get me wrong, dear souls. I can understand why you wouldn’t believe in God. There is so much disappointment, pain and confusion around us that it is difficult at times to fathom any sense of control or wisdom. But for me, it’s about life. And I do believe that Jesus said we’re supposed to have it more abundantly.

So contrary to my religious friends, I am living this life like it is the only one—with a sweet hope in my heart that I might just get to continue it in some way, in some place, somewhere else.

The option to that is to struggle. I refuse to struggle. I refuse to lament. And I refuse to go through life believing that life is Fatherless.

I finished answering the question. They were very respectful. I don’t think I changed anybody’s mind, but I do think they realized that I had a reason for believing in God other than fear or devotion or a need for eternal life.

Because truthfully, why would you want life to go on forever if it kind of stinks here and now?

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  


Feeding (1,101)

March 30th, 2011

I don’t like hamsters. Gerbils either, for that matter. Guinea pigs give me the creeps.

I guess I should rephrase that. What I mean is that these creatures are distasteful to me as pets. If hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs want to exist as part of God’s great animal kingdom, I have no objection. I just don’t get the idea of domesticating them, because factually, when they are in their cages nibbling on their food of unknown origin, running on their wheels, they may be cute enough, but if they burrow their way out of their cages and end up running through the house, they suddenly de-evolutionize back to being rats.

Matter of fact, my little boy had a hamster that escaped and mated with a mouse—at least I think she did. Anyway, there were all these funny-looking rodents running around a little while later which had to be exterminated. Now I don’t know if scientifically that is even possible, but the mere notion of it is enough to deter me from purchasing one of the little furry balls and stuffing it into a cage, thinking I have control of the situation.

Yes, I will say it aloud, with a bit of trepidation over the grief I might receive from those who find me to be a bit garish: I don’t want to feed the rat. He may have more hair than the common mouse-in-the-wall, he may nibble on your finger in a cute way, but he or she is not a pet. He or she is merely an imprisoned rat.

Case in point. One of the worst attributes of human beings is the notion that we can keep rats in our lives and as long as they’re caged, we can feed them and maintain control. I never met a hamster that was happy being in a cage. They all have devised plans to escape. And I’ve never had any rat in my life that doesn’t want to get away from my scrutiny and go live on its own and do its own thing without interference.

What is it with us? We think we can keep vice, stupidity, anger, lust and frustration in our lives like little hamsters that we control and allow them to run on a wheel of repetition—AND that these rodents of difficulty will not eventually escape our little care-taking and run amuck?

I went to a Chinese buffet yesterday, fully confident in myself, that I was on a good food regimen and that I would be able to control my appetite ad walk out proud of how I had controlled my little hamster of overeating. Why? Because my successes had convinced me that my appetite was no longer a rat, but rather, a pet hamster. I was master. I was the one who provided the food and entertainment for my little pal. How ridiculous I am! Because, of course, the hamster of my control escaped and became the rat of my gluttony. It’s the same appetite—the same creature that lives deep within me. But as long as I insist that I control the hamster, I will be infested with rats. I need to find a new pet.

Another instance: people who say they only smoke a few cigarettes. That may be true—until they get nervous, uptight, or they’re trying to stay awake. Then they suddenly become chain-smokers. RATS! Also the folks who tell you with a straight face that they are “social drinkers.” Of course, occasionally their excuses for being social increase—as does their consumption of liquor. RATS!

We are NOT in control of our hamster. And the minute it escapes our less-than-formidable cage, it goes right back to being a rat. So after my little rendezvous at the Chinese buffet, I realized that I can no longer keep a hamster of appetite as a pet because of the dangers of it changing and “ratting me out.” So somehow or another, I have to change it to a dog or a cat. What does that mean? I don’t know. That’s for today’s perusal. But normally if a dog or cat gets loose, they are still dogs and cats. They usually don’t change into wolves or lions. It’s safer, you see.

So forgive my prejudice against the sweet little hamster, gerbil or guinea pig, but I’m not so sure they were ever meant to be domesticated, and when given the opportunity, they will go right back to being rats.

So it is with all my faults, weaknesses and difficulties. I wish I would just stop trying to pretend that I’ve found a better cage.

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spring(er) is Here

Spring(er) is Here (1,100)

March 29th, 2011

If God had a desk, I guarantee you it would be piled up and cluttered, but He would righteously insist He knew exactly where everything was. After all, the natural order, from our way of thinking, is neither natural nor really in order. Matter of fact, the word “dis-order” comes to mind. As we enter a new season, it does somewhat remind me of the Jerry Springer Show—lots of guests colliding onstage, vying for position, occasionally ending up throwing chairs at each other. For truly I say, the month of March can bring snow, rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, sleet, blizzards—or even occasionally … warming up. All in the name of spring.

I always chuckle when I hear that statement, “March comes in like a lamb and leaves like a lion”—or visa versa. Let me see … that would make it a man-eating lamb or a lion with a fleecy coat, with teeth. Neither one is very appealing. I particularly feel empathy for the birds and trees during this passage. Can you imagine being a bird down in Florida trying to figure out when to fly North? You hear, from “word of beak,” that the weather is improving, but your limited experience tells you that could be frigidly misleading. So how about if you were a tree? A few sunny days come along so you take the risk of sprouting a little greenery on your branches—only to be slapped in the trunk with a frost and end up freezing your buds off.

Yes—it is a perplexing thing to try to figure out the climate of anything, isn’t it? It reminds me of the story of the four dinosaurs who met to share a latté at the La Brea Tar Pits Coffee Shoppe.

Dinosaur 1: I don’t want to appear negative, but has anyone else noticed a chill in the air? I think we’re heading for Global Cooling.

Dinosaur 2: That’s not what worries me. Have you looked into the night sky? Those things flying across the horizon—what if those meteors hit the earth?

Dinosaur 3: Well, I see your point, but unless we stop eating each other, in no time at all we could devour ourselves.

Dinosaur 4: Or just look where we are … Next to these tar pits. One absent-minded step and we all could end up in the goop.

(You know the interesting thing about this story? All four of them ended up being right.)

It is a fascinating, often violent process by which the earth cycles and evolves. Just look at the names of the seasons. Spring: honestly, I’m not really that thrilled with anything that springs out at me. Summer: change one letter and you’ve got simmer. Fall: that’s a little frightening, isn’t it? And winter: just mention the word and the room drops twenty degrees in temperature.

So I don’t try to figure it out. There are three things I refuse to discuss, comment on or debate. (1)The weather. Jesus intelligently told us that it rains on the just and the unjust. Brilliant. So we’re all wet. Our best approach is to go out and buy an attractive all-weather coat and head out the door with our fingers crossed. (2) I will not discuss the end of the world. Once again, Jesus magnificently informed us that “no one knows the day or the hour” when such a thing is going to happen. There is one thing we can know and that is the beginning of the world, which we can initiate every day by turning the page and writing a fresh chapter. (3) And finally, I will not participate in dialogue about evil. The reason? Darkness is the absence of light, and the absent of light, it desires to be recognized. You want to scare the hell out of evil? Just do something good. It is why Jesus told us to NOT resist evil—because candidly, if someone is pointing a gun at me, I really do not think he’s going to be terribly impressed that I have one, too.

Spring(er) is here, with all of its unpredictable elements and transitions. Nature can be very volatile unless you prepare yourself for its cantankerous ways. So my advice is to go out and purchase an umbrella … and take the time to thaw out your sense of humor.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm  Comments (1)  

The Little Boy Who Cried “Pig”

The Little Boy Who Cried “Pig” (1,099)

March 28th, 2011

There has to be a better way”.

I find myself saying that quite often these days. While others around me are occasionally satisfied—or at least placated—by the explanations given for why things work the way they do, my curiosity (which, by the way, has never killed the “cool cat” in me) yearns for a more fulfilling conclusion.

I just see so many people running around nowadays like boys and girls crying out “pig.” Unlike the youngster in the story, who cried “wolf” to warn his community of the dangers of a predator, we seem to have a childish lot with political and religious agendas, who prefer to cry “pig.” Any attempts made towards progress, innovation, inclusion or intelligent interaction are harkened to be “oinkers”—hogging our traditional values.

I am at a bit of a loss as to what these traditional values are. In politics, they lead me to believe that traditional values have something to do with the United States Constitution, and in religion, it centers somehow or another around the Bible. Here’s a hint: both of those documents have been amended numerous times to bring them to a more contemporary state with the discoveries made through the progress of humanity. For instance, we no longer consider black people to be less than a whole person, as the original U. S. Constitution put forth, nor do we insist on stoning adulterers, as the Law of Moses considered to be apropos.

So my thought is that a document that has already allowed itself to be adequately updated and amended is already admitting that change is inevitable, if not required. Last week someone told me that the program I presented in his church was really good—a welcome break with tradition. So I asked, “What tradition are you speaking of?”

Because the present tradition in church, with its emphasis on worship, liturgy and form, is really a phenomenon of the last thirty or forty years. Before that, church was more a place of fellowship, human interaction, discovery and opportunity to learn how to become a better person. How far back are we supposed to go before something actually qualifies to be called traditional? Both Republicans and Democrats in this country make great hay by crying “pig.” They like to make every idea that is not their own seem extremely distasteful, like it has been wallowing in the mud and certainly lacking traditional values, thus rendering it “non-Kosher.”

Is this really the best we can do? Is this the way to create dialogue—to merely insult the thought processes and beliefs of another individual? For after all, when we’re not crying “wolf” and insisting that the world’s going to end real soon, we end up crying “pig” and proclaiming that our opponent’s ideas are sloppy, stupid and unsuitable for anything but the barnyard.

I understand the process. I understand that change and human growth is impossible to achieve until those who would stunt that same burst of energy towards discovery are silenced by the reality of the need that exists for transformation. Every good idea must suffer the slings and arrows of those who just basically fear both the concepts of “new” and “idea.”

I am tired of people who cry “pig.” Maybe it’s because I’m not sure of myself. Maybe it’s because I think there might be a suggestion out there that might help me lose some weight instead of listening to my own complaint that “I’ve tried everything possible.” Maybe it’s because I believe that my God of choice is more expansive than I can imagine instead of small and aggravated. Maybe it’s because I learned so much last week by listening to other people and numerous ideas that I have a chill go down my spine at the thought of merely “leaning to my own understanding.”

Or maybe it’s because I spent a delightful weekend in El Dorado, Kansas, with some salt-of-the-earth Midwesterners, who might have called themselves “traditional” short days earlier, but opened up their hearts to burgeoning concepts and fresh anointing. For after all, El Dorado is Spanish for “the golden one”—an imaginary place wherein dwells a city of gold. I am happy to report that it is NOT imaginary—because gold is always discovered when someone is willing to chip away at the crusty exterior to find the gleam within.

I refuse to cry “pig,” as I have also made a practice of never screaming “wolf.” It’s because I don’t KNOW you’re wrong. Bur honestly, you don’t impress me by telling me that you’re right. I will take three things into consideration as I muse over your assertions:

Is there any history to it?

Does it include other people, or shut them out?

Is it willing to evolve, or must it be worshipped in stone, without revision?

Yeah, that’s it for me.

I want to thank Steve and all the folks in El Dorado for once again renewing my faith in humankind. I’m sure they didn’t all like me—but I really don’t have the time to worry about those who might find me less than appropriate. I’m on a quest to expose those who cry “wolf” and kind of laugh at those who cry “pig.”

Because if we don’t eventually get our minds out of the barnyard, we won’t have the ability to do what’s best for human beings.

Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  


When? (1,098)

March 27th, 2011

When did Eve decide that she required more?

When did Hitler hate his first Jew?

When did Alexander propose that good was not enough and he needed great?

When did John Wilkes Booth grow weary of the theater?

When did Wilbur and Orville Wright tire of bicycles and want to fly?

When did the Dutch sea captain conclude that black men would make good cargo?

When did Cain fail to share with Able?

When did Edison light his last candle?

When did Lennon meet McCartney?

When did Pasteur milk his new idea?

When did Oswald choose to take his gun to a book depository?

When did Judas hatch the idea to betray his friend?

When did God yearn to become human?

When did I …?

When did you … ?

A moment…never underestimate the power of one.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

What and How

What and How (1,097)

March 26th, 2011

Mickey was the music director at a large Baptist church in downtown Columbus, Ohio. He was ten years my senior and we met one night at a gospel sing at the LauscheBuilding. He had his own group, which he had dubbed The Terrells, in honor of his own surname. It consisted of fifteen—count them—fifteen young humans who sang, played instruments and desperately tried to maintain their integrity by keeping their hands off of each other.

Mickey was a character. He was funny, charming and just bawdy enough to be fun to talk to for an elongated period of time. Mickey respected God and liked music—but he loved to entertain. He spent inordinate amounts of time greasing and combing his black hair into a pompadour, which qualified him to either sing Southern gospel music or perform in the bullring. He had a favorite saying. “My God shall supply all my needs.” It was a partial quotation of a legitimate scripture, which he ran into the ground, inserting it into unexplained intervals.

The Terrells became so popular that they branched out from their church and gospel work and began to do high school assemblies, conventions and county fairs. They put on one whale of a show, which Mickey was always willing to spout off about.

He invited my group to join him on several of these engagements as background singers, with me playing keyboard. The Terrells had begun to perform in clubs—army bases—and even larger conventions, with the gigs demanding travel over many miles. Mickey had very little sensibility about how to schedule with traveling costs, time, road expenses and inconvenience in mind. Did I mention that he had an old bus which was held together by twine and prayers?

So we were scheduled to appear at a butcher’s convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We made the long trek from Columbus just to do that single date. When we arrived we discovered that there had been a fight—or shall I say argument—amongst The Terrells and Mickey had lost half of his group just prior to the journey. So instead of arriving with eighteen people, he had nine, and was forced to use a house band to play his material. Unfortunately, the house band had not played with anyone else since Benny Goodman, and had the social security checks to prove it.

It was a disaster. The convention refused to pay him full price, so it took our group about two weeks to recoup our honorarium from Mickey and we only did so when he needed us to perform with him at a military NCO club in North Carolina. We agreed on a price.

This time when we arrived on the base, Mickey rolled up with nobody in his group. He was in a car and insisted the bus had broken down, and told the sponsor that he was unable to bring the entire entourage because they were stranded with the vehicle. He quickly went into the nearby town and hired two unknown guitar players, and somehow or another we put together a show, even though Mickey got into a fist fight in the bathroom with a sergeant who was refusing to pay full price for a less-than-fulfilling musical experience.

Later that night, I sat down with Mickey and asked him why he hadn’t made better preparations. He just patted me on the shoulder and said, “My God shall supply all my needs.”

Let me tell you something. Hid God didn’t.

After that weekend, Mickey continued deteriorating, leaping into a bottle of alcohol for comfort until finally we had to depart from him due to fear of angry sponsors and financial attrition. I never heard anything from him again. Someone once told me that he was back at some small church, leading a choir. I know it is not what he would want. But you see, to achieve what you want, you have to have a really good plan on how to get it. And merely quoting one scripture without realizing that they don’t stand very well as singles, without being married to other concepts, will often leave you holding the bag, faithless, wondering where in the hell God is.

Because the Bible does say that God shall supply all your needs, but it also says we are to count the cost and determine if we have the talent, the means and the gumption to see our plan through completion. Otherwise, a third scripture tells us that people will walk by and laugh at us because we started building a foundation and didn’t have the resources to complete it.

Time presses on. People often tell me what they want. I think about Mickey, so I always ask a follow-up question. “What’s your plan on how to get it?” You know, there are an awful lot of Mickeys out there who respond, “I’m leaving that in God’s hands.”

And if they do, they should be prepared to go to their mailbox and find it sent back their way, marked: Return to Sender.

Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Poli-Ticks Me Off

Poli-Ticks Me Off (1,096)

March 25th, 2011

I’m done. Truthfully, I never got started, so actually better phrased—I’m continuing my ongoing boycott of the foolishness of politics and all such maneuvering.

I think what bothers me the most is stagnancy. And when politics is introduced into any form of human communication—where the integrity of the parliamentary procedure or the authenticity of the organization is put in primal position over the benefit that could be achieved by being flexible or innovative, the end result is always a collision of chaos and calamity.

I am a creative person—I guess an artist of sorts if you want to be generous to my soul, who does not wish to be moved by anything other than spirit. Some folks consider this childish, unrealistic or even unrighteous because they contend that we, as a race, need order, discipline and meetings with committees to determine the best path for our undertakings.

I have sat through those meetings. I have attempted to be a collaborator in the midst of the sludge of inactivity which always seems to accompany debate minus action. Not only is nothing accomplished through the chaos of critique, but in the meantime new problems arise which, because no preparation has been made for them, create calamity, further frightening us from the initiative of change.

I hate politics. Yes—poli-ticks me off.

I know I will not win friends with this next statement, but here it is: I don’t vote. I’m on my eleventh President since my birth and the only difference I can tell amongst all of them is the varying intensity and conclusion of the scandals into which they found themselves drawn.

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Libertarian. I am not a member of the Tea Party. I am a creative human being who wants to find a way to love people more instead of alienating myself from them over some social or governmental issue.

Every Sunday I find myself in front of the only remaining melting pot in this country. It is called the church. Because of bigotry and preference, there is no other gathering place where Republicans, Democrats, gays, straights, independents, believers, agnostics and just general neutral folks like myself ever conglomerate together in any kind of unity of purpose.

When the Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into becoming more defined by their terms, they introduced politics. They asked him if it was right and moral to give tribute to Caesar. He told them to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to give to God what belongs to God.” It is probably the most intelligent answer ever uttered from the mouth of anyone who is truly apolitical. Can I say, I agree.

I do not speak ill of any President, whatever his party attachment. Instead I concern myself with human events, human feelings, human need, human relationships and human spirituality. I have heard all the cases presented to me about how “if I don’t vote, I’m leaving it up to others to decide the fate of our nation.” But candidly, my dear friend, I do not find that political parties, Senators, Congressmen or even Presidents determine the direction of this nation. Our future will be based on whether we get in touch with our hearts or whether we just continue to fiddle with ideas in our minds.

The twenty-four-hour news cycle and television as a whole certainly pepper the brain of the populace—but until our emotions and hearts are opened to newness, we will continue to pound out the doctrine of our particular religious affiliation, the platform of our political party and the dogma of our culture. It will take a revival of sensibility and a renaissance of creativity to awaken this nation to a tender-heartedness towards one another that will allow for the kind of renewal that makes ruling a people more plausible instead of hammering continually through granite.

I hate politics. Don’t ask me to participate and be prepared for me to walk out of the room every time I see someone respond to a question based upon the party line instead of the spirit of what really needs to be done. I don’t vote. I don’t argue with people about politics and I don’t believe there are any solutions that can come out of a meeting involving a gavel and outdated procedures.

When we finally open our hearts, we might just allow our spirits to renew our minds—to make the next thing we do truly innovative instead of just careful.

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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