The God of Love

For many years, I taught private piano and voice lessons in a very wealthy area of California. Rarely did I find the parents involved meaningfully in the lives of their children.  They were too busy working their two high-paying jobs, as well as attending unnecessary high-brow social occasions to which the children, of course, were not invited. Most of the children were brought up by nannies because the parents did not have time to bring them up themselves.  In almost all cases, the nannies were from foreign countries and did not speak English.  The children did not speak the languages of their nannies, and no effort was made for either party to learn the language of the other.

The parents placed their children in numerous activities that they had the money to pay for, seemingly to take them of their backs.  The children, involved in ballet, lacrosse, musical theatre, volleyball, etc. often received only four or five hours of sleep each night.  Actual parental contact with their children was minimal.  In one case, the mother did not even know my name six months after I had been teaching her award-winning son how to sing, and had been showing up at their home on a weekly basis.

On the other side of the socio-economic spectrum, we find a similar disregard for the sanctity of family love.   Consider the preponderance of foster children, emancipated children, and homeless children. I have spoken with homeless teenagers who were so eager to emancipate at the age of fifteen, that their concept of living indoors had become associated exclusively with abuse, neglect, violence, violation, and bondage.  The speech I gave in the previous post deals with this phenomenon, which I have experienced first-hand. 

Because I met these remarkable young people at a very difficult time in my life, when I myself was homeless and struggling to survive outdoors, I was inspired to to write a musical about the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  I honestly never dreamed I would be ever be able to finish an entire musical – book, music & lyrics – at this time time in my life.  But I did, because I was exactly that motivated, and that inspired, by these Kids.  What was so inspiring was the immense love that these Kids held for one another – a form of love they had never found anywhere else.  In their unity, one to another, they developed ideals toward the kind of universal love that could well save the entire human race.

Why on earth should today’s young people have to leave their birth families in order to awaken to these first-time experiences of love?  Why have we permitted our sense of family and birth community to disintegrate to the extent that love cannot be provided first of all in the first places of our lives?  I have seen some of these Kids absolutely freak out at the idea of living indoors.  When a well-meaning social worker recommends an indoor living situation, it cannot help but remind them of the only indoor living situation they have ever known.  There, the ungodly treatment that they suffered at the hands of their so-called parents had scarred their capacity to live inside, rather than outside —  possibly for the rest of their lives.

America has simply forgotten how to love. We seem to have lost sight of a few very basic standards that will dramatically improve our national morale as soon as we choose to re-implement them. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. A house divided cannot stand. The Good Shepherd does not go after the ninety-nine sheep who remain in the fold, He goes after the one who is lost.

chain weakest linkYet we split our houses in half at the drop of a dime.  We toss our aging “weak links” into poorly run, dehumanizing retirement homes.  We throw our “lost sheep” to the wolves so as not to have to cast our blinded eyes upon the sight of the pain in theirs. We have become a nation of self-serving pleasure-seekers, when we would profit immensely from redirecting our energies away from the pursuit of wasteful pleasures, and toward the love of our neighbors, of ourselves, and of the God of Love.  We have become, as predicted in 2 Timothy 3:4, “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.”  That we have not yet been completely consumed in the colossal consequences of our misdirected love is astonishing.   I think it’s high time we opened our eyes and realized what is going on in the shattering of the spiritual fabric of an entire generation.

It would not be a burdensome matter for us to cease burning bridges with such abominations as identity politics, liberal bashing, political correctness, White nationalism, and pointless flirtations and arguments on Facebook.  Why not become far less concerned with recreation, and far more concerned with creation itself?  Are we not all born with creative power to change, in the very likeness of the Creator who gave us all birth?  We have the power within us to create a new and better world for ourselves and for our children!   Why are we wasting our precious time doing anything else?

So – call me fanatical or reactionary or whatever you want to label this kind of thinking.  In my mind, of course, I am nothing of the kind.  This is neither a conservative statement nor a liberal statement.   It is a statement of hope.  I will confess that I hope not to have to express this position more than once.  But I express the reality of this hope as one who is old enough to remember when America was a compassionate nation.

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Spiritual Independence

This is one of nine speeches I made in the year 2013 concerning my experience with homelessness.  I created these speeches in a tiny spot that I rented for six months on the outskirts of Stockton, California.   Spiritual Independence was created on May 17, 2013, shortly before I returned to Berkeley to be homeless once again — by choice.

tent-secluded-night

Spiritual Independence

My views on the homeless phenomenon in America have changed and expanded quite a bit in the past five years since that speech was made.  I’m eager to begin a new Spoken Word project that I have outlined accordingly.  Assuming I can surmount the current technical hurdles toward this end, I will post a speech entitled “Homeless By Condition: Part One” on this blog one week from today.   Thank you for your ongoing interest in my work.

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Gimme Shower

I recently found this email in my Sent folder.  To this day, I wonder if it was my sense of desperation that prevented each of seventeen people in my life from permitting me to offer them twenty dollars so that I could step inside one of their homes for a period of a half an hour so that I could take a shower — or whether it was “something else.”

From : andypope7 at zoho dot com
To : [17 friends and family members]
Date : Mon, 11 Jul 2016 13:51:40 -0800
Subject : Shower?

Dear Friends and Family Members:

I kinda hate to approach you all in this fashion, but I don’t really have a cell phone now, and as you all know, I disdain to beg for change.  Not to mention, they’ve ripped out the pay phone by the library, outside of which I’ve been camping out these days.  I hope somebody will get back to me.

showerI really need a shower.  I’m not used to this neck of the woods, and I can’t just go hang out at the Multi-Agency Service Center like I could in Berkeley, where I could usually be assured of a shower in the morning, though I often had to wait for over three hours with about fifty other people, and sometimes would have my things ripped off during the brief period of time I was allotted for my shower.

As you know, I don’t drink, and I’m honestly not on drugs or anything like that.  I have twenty bucks I can give you for your trouble.  I promise I’ll be in and out really fast, and I won’t leave a towel on the bathroom floor, as someone complained about last time I tried this.  Honestly I’m totally clean, I just need to get cleaner enough to put on some decent clothes I got at Goodwill and hopefully pound the pavement and find a job pretty soon.

I’m only asking a half hour of your time.  I really really really need a shower.  Can anybody help me with this?  I’d really appreciate it.

Love,
Andy

Only one person replied, which was kind of him.  Now, in deference to that person’s kindness, I must admit that I have not been able to find the exact email.  I did, however, have several conversations with this individual (whom we shall call “Randy”) during that period of time.  So I recall that this is the basic gist of what he had said.  I hope you can appreciate the disparity in our viewpoints here.

From : “Randy McRiddle”<randy@mcriddle.net>
To : “andypope at zoho dot com”
Date : Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:28:17 -0800
Subject : Re: Shower?

Hey Andy –

I talked to my wife about this, and I’d like to help you.  But we let a homeless guy in here last year, and it turned out he had lice.  It was a real hassle getting rid of all the lice.

Also, to be quite honest with you, my daughter is home from school for the summer, and she gets really freaked by those kinds of people.  You understand.

If it was just me myself, I’d probably consider helping you.  But I’ve got the wife and kid to think about.

Hope it works out for you, trying to find a job.

“Randy”

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Treasures in Heaven

In my blog, I often discuss how homeless people are stigmatized in our society.  I  have also identified myself as a Christian. But the identity of a Christian is spoiled by stigmatic perception every bit as much as the identity of a homeless person is thus spoiled.   Therefore, I think it’s about time I did my part to diffuse a few of these stereotypes.

I almost fear telling others I’m a Christian, because I am often assaulted immediately with accusations of being a sexist and a homophobe.   But what is more germane to the present-day purpose of this blog is how much classism seems to run rampant in American Christianity.  This is especially evident in what is often called the Prosperity Gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel, in short, is a particularly inviting deception that equates spiritual blessings with material success.  Of course it is entirely conceivable that once a person decides to live according to spiritual wisdom rather than careless foolishness, one might find oneself advancing in material gain.  If one, for example, has been blowing all of one’s money on drugs, hookers, and other forms of escape, one would naturally notice a pleasant increase in one’s financial status once such expenses have ceased.  The Proverbs of Solomon are all about that distinction.  However, we find such wisdom in many sources other than the Bible; and I for one would submit that most of the Proverbs are merely common sense.

Besides, it is also quite plausible that a person can be extremely happy living a minimalistic lifestyle with very few possessions at all.  In fact, in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, we read of a young man who had “great possessions” who walked away from Jesus in sorrow when advised that he should give up all he owned in order to inherit eternal life.  Does such denial of worldly goods equate spiritual blessing with prosperity?  Obviously, the opposite is the case.

treasuresConsider also these very famous Scriptures:  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:24)  “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10).  And without bothering to quote every word, passages such as James 5:1-11 and Luke 16:19-31 hurl severe warnings in the direction of the wealthy.  But where in the Bible are such warnings thrown in the direction of the poor?  Nowhere.

To the contrary, Luke 6:20 includes the words: “Blessed are you who are poor.”  Where in the Bible do we find the words, “blessed are you who are rich?”  Again, we find them nowhere.

A proponent of the Prosperity Gospel will almost always cite Jeremiah 29:11 from the New International Version of the Bible, as follows:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11
N.I.V.

Although it is true that the word “prosper” figures in this translation, a quick scan of several other popular translations will reveal nothing of the kind. In the English Standard Version, for example, the phrase “plans to prosper you” reads “plans for welfare.” The same phrase in the time-honored King James reads “thoughts of peace.” So this single verse, taken completely out of context in a modern American translation, is hardly a valid rationale for a deception as extreme as the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

In the Bible, once again, where exactly are material acquisitions equated with the kind of provision that brings real fulfillment, inner peace, personal happiness, and eternal security?  Nowhere, really.  The only time when material gain is cited as a blessing from God is in a context where the greater blessing would be the evidence of God’s love; for example, the last chapter of the Book of Job.   And love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, abides forever.  Material blessings vanish at the grave.

In conclusion, I would contend that we who are spiritual ought to set our affections on the things that are above and beyond our material disposition (Colossians 3:2), rather than on the passing pleasures and comforts of this world.  The expression, “you can’t take it with you,” ought not to have been coined in vain.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21
N.I.V.

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Spamalot

I’m being majorly spammed on the My Pitch post by multiple trolls – probably the same entity under different guises.   I keep marking the comments as spam and then removing them, but I might just let them accumulate so I can show them to the Happiness Engineers when the time comes. 

fat catProbably their motive is to get my goat, knowing that since My Pitch is an obvious appeal to get money for my demo recording and the ultimate packaging of my musical, I will always head very eagerly toward that post in hopes that it’s money I might be receiving, rather than incoherent inter-babble from fat guys drinking whiskey who, unlike Yours Truly, do not have a life.

(Oh well.   At least I learned that I don’t like the picture of the Rainbow Kids dancing around making music.   It just seems weird and phony.    I’ll replace it with something more along the lines of “Power to the People” and see if that works better.)

On the money note, we did receive a $100 donation on the latest bid for seven hundred bucks.   I also want to make a true confession here, which will at least assuage my guilty conscience, if not make me any money.

More than once I have taken money intended to be used for the project and instead have paid my phone bill or bought groceries.  I did it out of desperation, and it has not helped my cause.  It’s true that my rent is $175 more per month than it used to be, and that I am also a disabled man on a fixed income.   However, it is also true that $175 is worth the fact that there are no more tweakers knocking on my door day in and out asking me for cigarette lighters (although I do not smoke) and where I’m hiding the drugs (because nobody can possibly type as fast as I do unless they’re high on speed.)

Unfortunately, there are limits to human compassion.   Ah, but I digress.

Because of my earlier indiscretions, Danielle and I have set up a fund site where all donations will simply sit in limbo until the $700 is achieved.   At this point, I am happy to announce that $100 has already been received toward that goal.  So we only have $600 to go.

Let’s get the $600 together, guys — and let’s get this show on the road.  It’s not as though the cat has nine lives here.   Enough said.

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All for the Love of Coffee

Not everything that happened in the psychiatric facility described in the previous entry was humane.  For example, there was a very disturbing turn of events that took place after I noticed that, while all the other patients were receiving caffeinated coffee with their breakfasts, I alone was condemned to decaf.

When I asked why this was, a psych tech named Steve stepped forward.  The following conversation ensued.

coffee protectionSteve: Well, Andy, because you are bipolar, we feel that regular coffee would hype you up too much.

Andy: But I’ve been having a cup of coffee every day since I was 19 years old.  I can tell you for a fact that a cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: If you were ADHD, the cup of coffee would relax you.  But since you are bipolar, the cup of coffee hypes you up.

Andy: Well then, I suppose I must be ADHD, because as I just told you, my morning cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: Andy, be honest with us.  You know for a fact that because you are bipolar, your morning cup of coffee does not relax you!  Your cup of coffee makes you hyper.

Andy: But Steve, don’t you think I know how my morning cup of coffee affects me?

Steve: Listen Andy, we know that you want help, but you seem to want the help to happen on your own terms!

Andy: My own terms?  A cup of coffee in the morning is my own terms?  ME AND THIRTY-FIVE MILLION OTHER AMERICANS??

Suddenly, about five mental health workers leaped out of their seats, and before I knew it, I was being given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue.  Everything went black.

Approximately 24 hours later, I woke up to the sight of another psych tech, a fellow named Tim whom I had remembered from my first incarceration in said facility back in 2004.  He was dressed entirely in black, which I recall caused a disturbed schizo-affective back in 2004 to think he was a manifestation of the devil.  I, however, knew him to be a pretty nice guy.

“Andy, don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here, man — it’s not going to work in your favor.”

“I don’t know, Tim.  It just doesn’t seem like three days of forced caffeine withdrawal is working in my favor either.”

As I began, in my typical fashion, to go over the heads of everybody and anybody in order to secure my badly needed cup of coffee, I eventually landed at the director of the institution, who happened to be from Austria.

I guess they think a little bit differently over there in Austria.  The psych techs who had forced the Zyprexa concentrate into my body were reprimanded, and my cup of coffee was made manifest on the third day.

Just in time for me to meet Greg the Bartender and head towards Stockton.  But in all due deference to those who have been asking me to write my memoirs, I’m pretty sure the buck stops here.

Or does it?

TO BE CONTINUED

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