Gratitude List 1623

(1) I’m developing good friends in this town among vibrant young people who I can relate to –people with ideals and values not unlike my own. Had a three hour Zoom conversation with one such person on Saturday when she was on a long drive. Hadn’t had such an in-depth meaningful talk with anyone for a long time. It was reflection of God’s love on the Sabbath, and it made me feel warm inside.

(2) My four mile course is becoming my favorite loop to run. I’ve done it on three consecutive runs recently – and it’s starting to feel a lot easier, too. I walked four miles last night, am going on a bike ride today, and I get to run the course again tomorrow. Exercise is good.

(3) People are starting to tune in to the Zazen Interview– with some happy results. I then asked Keva if she wouldn’t mind being interviewed this week. I’ve never done any audio interviewing before — it’s kinda fun, and as well as useful. The acoustics are really good in the church sanctuary, and the iPhone 11 that my daughter got for me has a fantastic microphone. Plus, I get to edit it and spice it up with Audacity later, which is even more fun. Thankful for new horizons.

(4) My daughter Angela wrote a new song that I love. She’s also doing really well these days. New horizons seems to be the order of the day.

(5) When I sat down on the lawn chair for the outdoor evening service last night, I realized I had not even left the house since Thursday, except for running four miles on Friday night. Getting out for errands on my bicycle now. I don’t mind sheltering in place, and I don’t mind being alone. But making sure to get outside once a day really helps. Which brings up another thing I’m grateful for — I’ve got decent snow boots, I like cold weather, and I don’t mind the snow. Every cloud has a silver lining.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” — Helen Keller

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Tuesday Tuneup 87

Hey I wrote this on Sunday night, at the end of a classically bad day during which, at one point, I threatened to leave WordPress out of total annoyance with the new editor, combined with a seeming inability to return to the old editor. I’ve revised my position, though I am just as annoyed. I’ll continue to post as I’m able. 

So — I permitted my feelings on Sunday night to result in this tune-up, which turned out to be a positive introspective exercise.  Hope you can relate (at least some of the time).

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Pain.

Q. Physical pain?

A. No. The other kind of pain.

Q. Mental?

A. Or emotional. Or spiritual, or existential. You know the pain I mean.

Q. Existential?

A. Best describes it, yes.

Q. Elaborate?

A. Emptiness.

Q. Who can fill that void?

A. You know the answer to that. Only God can feel the void. But God is —

Q. Intangible?

A. Bingo.

Q. Doesn’t God work through people?

A. That’s part of the problem. There aren’t any people around to work through.

Q. There aren’t?

A. You’re kinda boring tonight, do you know that?

Q. Boring, like — empty?

A. Yes.

Q. But isn’t that merely a reflection of your own internal emptiness?

A. I suppose it could be. Boredom, emptiness, loneliness — they’re all kinda connected.

Q. Are you lonely?

A. Right now, yes. Usually, no. It’s because of stuff that happened — bad stuff — stuff I wish I didn’t have to face or process —

Q. And if she were here, you wouldn’t have to?

A. I see what you’re driving at. If she were here, and I were in this mood, she would just become a sounding board. It would dehumanize her. I’d be using her. That would be lousy. You’re right — I’m best off alone. That way I won’t subject anyone to myself.

Q. But doesn’t she love you?

A. I believe she does, yes. But she loves the right things about me. That’s why I love her. Not many people have ever come along that even see those things in me.

Q. So — are you saying — you don’t want her to have to see — the wrong things?

A. Not the wrong things — the bad things. The things that are hard to live with. The things that make it hard for me to live even with my own self. Nobody should ever have to see those things — not even me, really. And yet, because I am me, I am consigned to see them all the time.

Q. Tell me: what do you see when you look in the mirror?

A. Oh come off of it!! You’re starting to sound like a pop psychology guru! I had enough of those cats in the seventies, for crying out loud.

Q. But what do you see when you look in the mirror?

A. I don’t know – let me go look. Brb.

Pause.

A. I see a guy who could use a shave.

Q. Is that all? Nothing else?

A. Not to speak of. It’s the unshaved look — most glaring.

Q. When was the last time you shaved?

A. Probably the last time I had a razor to shave with.

Q. When was that?

A. Oh, I don’t know. Five days ago, maybe.

Q. When is the next time you’ll have a razor?

A. Probably tomorrow. Razors are on my list.

Q. But why is your unshaven appearance the main thing you see?

A. It’s what’s on my mind, I guess.

Q. Not shaving?

A. Never mind. Some items are easier to hang onto than others. Razors go quickly.

Q. What else goes quickly?

A. Coffee. I rip right through that stuff.

Q. Could you use a cup of coffee?

A. Not anymore. I had a quad espresso earlier, when I finally got it together to figure out the easiest softest way to get caffeine into my system.

Q. When was that?

A. At about five in the afternoon.

Q. You didn’t have a cup of coffee till five in the afternoon?

A. No I didn’t. I also didn’t get a damn thing done all day.

Q. What about after the quad espresso?

A. By that time, I was brain dead. Long story.

Q. So you had a bad day?

A. You could say that, yes.

Q. Isn’t tomorrow another day?

A. Look buddy – how many tomorrows have we got left? It’s not as though we can afford to have too many more bad days. Every day is precious – the times are evil — we need to redeem the time —

Q. Why are you carrying the weight of the world on the shoulders?

A. Who else is going to do it? Atlas?

Q. Well there must many others who are equally concerned with —

A. Yeah – and you know who they are, don’t you?

Q. Not — exactly —

A. They’re a secret organization of cats from another dimension. Somehow they have successfully infiltrated the earth with an organized plan to save the planet. Only a select few of us even know they exist. They have taken great measures to conceal their identity, even from the Internet —

Q. Woah! Aren’t you sounding like a conspiracy theorist?

A. No! I’ve actually met these guys! And they swore me to secrecy, and —

Q. Are you on the level?

A. Why would I not be on the level?

Q. If the things you’re saying are so outlandish, how can you expect others to believe you?

A. That’s why I don’t usually talk about them. People will only think I’m insane.

Q. Are you insane?

A. Maybe more so on days like today than on other days. You see, if she were here, I wouldn’t be so alone, and my thoughts would not take me off into those strange conspiratorial dimensions.

Q. She would ground you?

A. I don’t know about that. But she would take my attention away from darker matters.

Q. Is she a lighter matter?

A. I believe so, yes. She understands me. Most people don’t. How can I not love her?

Q. So you love her because she loves you?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you love just anybody who loves you?

A. Who else loves me? She’s the only one who loves me. She’s the only one who even understands me.

Q. How do you know this?

A. I can tell.

Q. Has she ever told you she loves you?

A. No. But I can still tell.

Q. Then why don’t you let her in?

A. I don’t know. It seems — wrong. She will eventually see the bad stuff in me. And it will burst her bubble. And I will feel bad. And it would be better not to take that risk.

Q. What about God?

A. What about Him?

Q. Maybe only Christ can fill that void – you know?

A. I know. I’m supposed to love Him because He first loved me.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

Pause.

A. A couple things, actually.

Q. Shoot.

A. First off, what is love?

Q. How can you ask that question?

A. Why shouldn’t I?

Q. Haven’t you already implied that you know what love is, since you know that she loves you?

A. That leads to the second thing.

Q. What’s that?

A. Who is she?

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1621

(1) Unusually beautiful morning. Walked slowly to the church humming the song “By My Side” from the musical Godspell. Played it on the piano for the first time in forever, along with a couple worship tunes and some jazz improv. As awful as yesterday was, so is today wonderful. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

(2) Just had a really nice talk with my pastor. Cleared a lot of things up.

(3) I haven’t gotten any work done for three days and have felt like I’m lagging far behind the reasonable goal for what I’m doing. However today I feel like I can probably get a little work done (I’m having to totally revamp the Vocal Score based on what’s been learned at rehearsals) – and I also am feeling that if I don’t happen to get any work done, it’s not the end of the world and I won’t beat myself up over it, as I usually do.

(4) Slept unusually well last night — seven hours solid. When I awoke I was a new man, and what can best be described as a “medical issue” yesterday (involving extreme bodily discomfort affecting my mind) has gone away (for now). Actually feeling pretty good today.

(5) Something has changed in terms of my ability to do once again some things I used to do very well before twelve years of homelessness affected my head. I’m getting back the ability to vocal-direct and to conduct musical rehearsals. I’m also blessed with a great group of people, whose professionalism and devotion definitely help me to stay on track. But mostly I am blessed with the revelation that God loves me. He shows His love for me by permitting me to engage a joy that I had feared was long past.

In light of that revelation, it almost doesn’t even matter if the musical is never produced, or if I never see its production in my lifetime. Each day, working with those Kids — if I can even call them Kids — is a joy unto itself. God’s blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Somebody Can’t Breathe

My tenth column has been published on Spokane Faith & Values, thanks to Tracy Simmons.

Somebody Can’t Breathe

Has anyone noticed how many impressions the Universe has been sending forth, to the effect that somebody, somewhere cannot breathe? I can think of four for starts:

1. The Covid-19 pandemic strikes the planet Earth, bringing on a deadly disease that attacks the lungs, restricting the breathing of many of the earth’s inhabitants.

2. As Dr. Anthony Fauci and other knowledgeable health officials rise up to emphasize the benefits of wearing masks, a movement of “anti-maskers” rises up in return. We often hear them proclaiming that to wear a mask restricts their breathing, as well as other freedoms associated with being an American. 

Although I do not identify as an anti-masker (and I do, by the way, identify as an American), I have also felt the restriction of breathing that we all certainly notice – however slight or negligible – when wearing a mask.

3. The world watches as a group of callous cops casually sap the life out of George Floyd throughout nearly nine minutes of brutal torture. During this time, Floyd repeatedly shouts: “I can’t breathe!” 

Then, similar stories emerge. Many are the accounts of people of color who have been treated in a similarly heinous fashion. Many of them also uttered the words: “I can’t breathe.”

4. Wildfires have engulfed the Pacific Northwest.  A few days ago when I stepped outside my house, I literally saw smoke emerging from the two big breaths that I took without thinking. After 10 minutes of a phone call with a friend, I went back inside the house, because my breathing had been affected by the sheer force of the fire that rages throughout the present day.

What does all this mean?  I am no prophet, nor do I claim to know the answer.  But one cannot help but have noticed the eerie commonality in all these events. 

Are we allowing each other to breathe? Or are we virtually choking each other to death, in the ongoing Internet shouting match that is promulgated through social media?  Are we giving grace and peace to those with whom we differ? Or are we, as the Scripture says, “biting and devouring” each other, in light of our unwillingness to love?

“The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  But if you keep on biting and devouring one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.”                             Galatians 5:14-15

The time-honored words of St. Paul are no less true today than they were two thousand years ago. But included in that warning is a note of hope. No matter how hard we may have wielded the power of hate in the first century A.D., we did not succeed in destroying ourselves altogether.  Nor need we destroy ourselves now, if we but heed the call. The antidote to hateful behavior is the fulfillment of the law — in Love. 

The words of Jesus have rarely rung more clear: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ (Matthew 25:45).  If we make it difficult for any of us to breathe — literally or figuratively — then how can the Spirit of Christ breathe freely among us?  Let us cease to restrict the breathing of the Lord and Giver of Life!  

That man hung on a Cross and endured torture for hours on end, in order to spare a fallen humanity the fate that arguably, we all deserve. We need to come to realize, as a people, as a planet, that God is Love. We need to remember what this nation has all but forgotten. We are to love one another, rather than bicker with each other in mean-spirited pettiness — propelled by social media and especially by Facebook. In doing so, it as as though we seek to put Jesus Christ to death for a second time. We need not do so, nor is it humanly possible. He will always live and show Himself in this world, despite our efforts to eradicate Him. He will always be the sovereign source of life. But do we allow Him to live in our hearts?

Jesus gave his last human breath that we might live forever. We need to honor that act of sacrificial love, if His spirit is truly to live and breathe throughout our land.

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Tuesday Tuneup 86

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Paralysis.

Q. Meaning?

A. I can’t move.

Q. Can’t?

A. Well — maybe “won’t” would be a better word.

Q. Can you tell us the difference, please?

A. “Can’t” connotes actual inability. “Won’t” only connotes unwillingness.

Q. Are you saying, therefore, that you actually can move, but only that you won’t move?

A. Actually, now that you mention it, I not only can move, but I probably will move — eventually.

Q. Eventually? What’s keeping you from moving right now?

A. I don’t know which way to move.

Q. Why is that?

A. I could move in a number of different directions. But I don’t know which is best.

Q. How can you find out which is best?

A. Obviously, by examining the nature of each different direction, and deciding which direction is the priority.

Q. Well then! What are the various directions?

A. I could work on the three columns of the five columns in the series that I have not yet turned in.

Q. Columns? Series?

A. You heard me! My editor wants to do a series of my columns, one after another I believe, with some regularity, between now and Election Day.

Q. What happens on Election Day?

A. God only knows. But the point is, I have three more columns to turn in before Election Day. And in fact, I have stated that I would get them done within the next three weeks.

Q. So – is that the top priority?

A. Not necessarily. But it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Q. What else must you do?

A. I’m getting frightfully near the completion of a die-hard project that I began in June. Only a few short steps remain in order to complete it.

Q. What project is that?

A. It’s called the Ode Project.

Q. Ode? As in “Ode to Joy?”

A. As in “Ode to the Universe.”

Q. What is “Ode to the Universe?”

A. It’s a crazy concept I came up with about ten years ago. I had the idea to write a zany “ode” designed to be sung by anybody at anytime, anywhere around the globe, to the end that maybe we could get the entire human race together at one moment, and sing one song at one time — to the Universe.

Q. Isn’t that a bit ambitious?

A. I can do it! I truly can!

Q. Now is this really a priority on this particular morning, when you have all those columns to write?

A. No no – let me explain. So far I have nine videos of nine people performing the piece in different places and different times, accumulated over the past four months or so. I’m supposed to submit the videos to the videographer, who will then create a nice 3 by 3 set of frames, and —

Q. May I interrupt?

A. You already have.

Q. How long will this take you?

A. Well, I’m nearing the end — I have to do my video over — I think the mix of the nine performances needs to be synchronized a bit better — I can’t quite find the trumpet player’s video – and the trumpeter has not gotten back to me about it —

Q. So you don’t know how long it’s going to take, correct?

A. Correct. It may be nearing completion, but it depends on a number of unknown variables.

Q. So is there anything else you need to do today? I mean, on this very day?

A. Yes.

Q. What, may I ask?

A. I need to add three more piano tracks to this folder, so maybe my cast members will be able to listen to them before we rehearse them at 3:30 this afternoon.

Q. What time is it now?

A. About 10:30 in the morning.

Q. So you have five hours?

A. Correct.

Q. To record three songs on the piano?

A. Well, the sooner I do them, the sooner they’ll have them.

Q. How difficult will that be?

A. Not difficult at all.

Q. So what’s keeping you?

A. Nothing, anymore — now that we’ve thought it through.

Q. We?

A. Don’t you know two heads are better than one?

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1620

1. Grateful to have gotten a good night’s sleep and to be “up and at it” on a brand new day. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when a good night’s sleep was out of the question.

2. Grateful to be working with such a fine team of talented, dedicated young people. Particularly grateful for the new team member, who appears already to be just as great as all the other great people on the team.

3. Even though our small, close-knit artistic community has been somewhat shattered by the Pandemic, I find gratitude in the fact that we still interact positively online, and that occasional real-life gatherings have left me feeling warm inside, with a renewed sense of hope.

4. Grateful for the Black & Decker coffeemaker and for the tasty Columbian coffee I was able to obtain at low cost at the local Winko’s. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when obtaining a morning cup of coffee was a real struggle.

5. Grateful for the gratitude that the Giver of Life imbues upon my spirit, every time I ask for help in the morning. Grateful that, despite the pandemonium of the present day, life can still be beautiful — one day at a time.

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
     ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Members of the Team

At this time, I thought you might like to see some work from a couple of the very talented young people whom I am so fortunate to be working with on my musical project. Here is Keva Shull, currently playing the part of Taura, the ingenue in my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

And here we have Cody Wendt, the man on the right hand side of the piano he shares with his brother Ian on the left.  Cody is playing the part of Benzo, one of the antagonistic characters in the show.  He and his brother do an enchanting rendition of “Scarborough Fair.”

If you’re interested in hearing other piano reductions of the musical score, I’ve placed them on a shareable link on my Box drive. These are primarily for the purpose of helping cast members learn the music, but you might find them enjoyable all the same.

Other news is that we have finally found a male lead for our emerging production. I’m eager to begin working with Cooper Knutson, who has been recommended very highly by a number of people in the area. Further information is on our Facebook group. Hope you all are gaining encouragement from our group effort, at this trying time in human history.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Awake the Dawn

The team thought it would be a good idea for me to record a bunch of piano-only clips of the songs in the score to my musical EDEN IN BABYLON. This one was done on the famous Green Piano in Rm. 33 (of which I’m certain word must have reached your ears).  The Green Piano is an aging workhorse clunker that’s just perfect for the boom-chuck of musical theatre. And anyway, I read my piece “Awake the Dawn” off of my vocal score, and this is the first time I’ve played the tome from start to finish without missing a beat. A little touch of Edvard Grieg at the end, and we’re in business! Enjoy.

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Gratitude List 1615

(1) Yesterday I finished making all the adjustments in my musical script that were deemed necessary after an intensive three week reading and critique.   Grateful for the current team, without whose insights I’d have never made it.

(2) At the end of the day, I submitted the show to some people who might have the power to produce it.  And then, right after I did, I felt a huge sense of peace.    I felt relieved, realizing that I don’t have to mess with that script anymore.  Now I can focus on the music, and on other things.  

(3) Got my iPhone working that my daughter helped me to obtain.   Nice to have a phone again, and I can see why people like this one better than the Androids.

(4) This may sound weird, but I want to say that I’m grateful to be an Introvert and also the kind of person who doesn’t really feel a need to be in a relationship or very dependent on human touch.   It’s true that I haven’t touched another human being for about six months or so.  But it’s also true that I wasn’t very attached to human touch to being with.   So I didn’t have much to lose.   

(5) About to embark on a long slow run.   Very grateful for this particular form of exercise.  I always feel kinda “cleansed” afterwards.  There’s something about running that’s like a sacrament.   I’m glad to have rediscovered it at this time in my life.  It really makes a difference – it really does.   

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Nevermore

Interesting version of my age-old song “The Age of Nevermore.” Not sure about the church environment. This kind of music seems out of place. I do like the tone on that piano, though. It’s almost a hundred years old.

Weird how I still look fat even though I’ve lost 15 pounds from running. It must be my “piano posture,” but let’s face it — that’s not going to change. I look thin as soon as I stand up again. :(

Anyway, nice funky version of the tune, I was reading it off of my vocal score for a rehearsal tape. I pretty much want to abandon the Finale orchestrations and just put a five-piece band together — if and when, if you know what I mean.

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The Conspiracy Theorist

This is the ninth of my monthly columns to have been published for Spokane Faith and Values. I’m going to rev up my search engine and churn out three more columns prior to Election Day in an effort to do my part, and then probably break for a while to work full time on my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

The Mindset of the Conspiracy Theorist and Matthew 7:5-3

Because of certain aspects of my background, I have been quicker than most to let people experiencing homelessness stay at my house. Sometimes too quick.

Twice I had people over whom one might classify as conspiracy theorists. One of them, a Q-Anon adherent, believed that the FBI & CIA were watching her and her ex-husband. The other guest told me of conversations he’d had with Bill Clinton and Steve Bannon, and also claimed to be suing 17 States in a case of mistaken identity.  His tales were very tall, involving altercations with multiple federal agents, from which he always emerged victorious. Furthermore, he claimed to know the brother and ex-husband of the first person I’d had over, even though I’m fairly certain that she and he, coming from two entirely different parts of the country, had never met. 

I noticed that each of these people had one trait in common. Each of them blamed all of their misfortunes on other people, and neither took much responsibility for their own choices. It then struck me that we have a president today who not only gives lip service to conspiracy theories, but consistently blames anybody but him for what is going wrong in the nation.  

But let’s take a look at the raw facts. Forty million Americans have lost their jobs in the past three months. Violent riots are breaking out in many major cities. An untempered pandemic rages chaotically across the country. And worst of all (in my opinion), our country who once identified herself as “one nation under God” is so radically divided, I hesitate to identify as a “moderate” lest I be accused of being a “coward” for not fully embracing one extreme or the other.

And yet, who is responsible for all these problems, according to Donald Trump? From the sounds of him, one would think that the fault belongs to some bizarre combination of Obama, Joe Biden, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, anyone else who disagrees with him, somebody somewhere in the Ukraine — and of course, the Chinese.  

It’s also impossible not to notice that a good portion of our president’s followers appear to do the same. Many Trump-supporters would rather focus on unverifiable conspiracies than on the pressing issues that all Americans face today. It makes me wonder how many of them might be “blame-shifters” in their personal lives. My two house guests certainly were. One wonders what exactly is the relationship between blame-shifting and the mind-set of the conspiracy theorist.

In the Wikipedia article on conspiracy theory, a statement in the second paragraph intrigues me.

“Research suggests that conspiracist ideation — belief in conspiracy theories — can be psychologically harmful or pathological, and that it is correlated with psychological projection, paranoia and Machiavellianism.” Interesting that the concept of “projection” emerges as a factor in the conspiracist mind-set.

Psychology Today defines projection as “the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection–attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.”

In this definition, I am stricken by the expression “unacceptable urges.” For the current president, even in some bygone day, to have glorified the urge to grab a woman by her vagina is certainly unacceptable. Yet there are Trump-supporters who believe the details of Q-Anon; to wit, that the president is secretly in the process of outing a group of pedophiles — most of whom appear to be Democrats – who are secretly running the world and even sacrificing children in Satanic rituals.

Combine that with the testimonies of numerous women who have claimed that Mr. Trump has sexually abused them, and another wonder unfolds. Could it possibly be that an abusive misogynist would like for his supporters to think he is anything but?

Jesus said: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

As with many of Jesus’ sayings, He spoke this to “those to have ears to hear.” When I read these words, I am often convicted of my own tendency to pin the blame onto others. In some cases, of course, others truly are to blame. But I believe the point that my Lord is making is a universal one.  

All human beings have a natural tendency to blame-shift. When this tendency is activated to the extreme, one just might believe that the United States Government is to blame for their problems.  While one might well be right, on a certain level, one would certainly need to take the “beam” out of their own eye, before being able to see clearly to solve the problems of Uncle Sam.

Finally, if a person is actually involved in a conspiracy or “cabal,” wouldn’t it be convenient to divert attention from their own nefarious doings, and alert people to the supposed existence of an entirely different cabal? 

For all the absurdity of Q-Anon, its adherents often overlook one simple fact. Donald Trump colluded with the Russians in order to rise to power. And that is the conspiracy we all need to be looking at, as we approach Election Day on Nov. 3rd.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Corona and Community

Here’s a brief (four minute) video clip from last Thursday’s meeting of “Theology on Tap” on Zoom.  Kurt Queller, retired Professor of Linguistics, is a Stanford Ph.D currently teaching German at the University of Idaho. The “alleged scientist” in the clip is Bob Ritter, who teaches at the school of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, seen with his wife Sue.  Others present are Garth and Nancy Sasser, Oz and Genny Garton, and artists Chris and Karen Watts.  Chris Watts is a retired Art professor at WSU; and of course, the uneducated boy with the beanie is Yours Truly.

“Theology on Tap” is a low-key theological discussion group created by Walter Hesford, a retired English professor at U.I., and comprised largely of members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Moscow, Idaho.   In this excerpt, we discuss the political and philosophical issues around the wearing of masks.  The person referred to by Kurt Queller is the pastor of a local megachurch who encourages his parishioners not to wear them.    

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Tuesday Tuneup 85

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Waking up.

Q. Aren’t you an early riser?

A. Historically, yes. These days, not necessarily.

Q. Why not?

A. I’ve been re-enacting a life philosophy that in the year 2015, I referred to as the Social Experiment. Only now, it would be more aptly dubbed the Personal Experiment.

Q. What was the essence of the Social Experiment?

A. May I quote something I wrote about it in 2015?

Q. Why not?

A. Here ya go:

“In the City intended to form a prototype or microcosm of the New City, there is an abundance of resources available to any unscheduled person at any time.  Note how I don’t specify that the person is “unemployed” or, if a student, “unenrolled” — or any other state reflecting the person’s relationship to Time; other than that the individual is “unscheduled.”  There is no form of scheduling — academic, professional, or otherwise — that is to stay a person from exercising the liberty of showing up wherever they want to, at whatever time they wish to. 

“In other words, no human construction of constraints is to be added to the natural constraints on the liberty already effected by Time and Space.  One cannot, geographically, be in two places at once, for example.  “Nor can one get from one place to a much further place in a short period of time.  These are natural constraints — sheer results of the functions of Time and Space.

However, if in addition to these natural constraints there would also be placed constraints made according to an employee’s schedule, or student’s schedule, etc.; then there would be constraints indeed! One finds oneself ensnared in a form of bondage: bondage to the schedules imposed upon them by employers and teachers, for instance. But these are not natural constraints. They are artificial constraints. Without such, one is is relatively free.”

Q. Is that all your wrote?

A. Ha! It’s the tip of the iceberg. I generated all kinds of material concerning the Social Experiment. I referred to as a microcosm of the conditions that will entail in the New City, in the Age to Peace and Enlightenment that is to come — in the world beyond crime – in the world beyond war . . .

Q. Why has this come to mind at this time, five years later?

A. Because of sheltering in place. The parallels between sheltering in place and the place where is no shelter — AKA, homelessness — are starting to unfold.

Q. How so?

A. What was once the Social Experiment, involving the management of time in a reality where time was relatively irrelevant, has now become the Personal Experiment. As I shelter in place, it would seem I have all kinds of time on my hands all of a sudden. Time that ordinarily would be taken up searching for my wallet, my keys, my glasses, and other items. This is the time I would need to spend gathering up my stuff before exiting out the door.

In addition, I would ordinarily have struggled to get to whatever location I needed to get to, at the right time. Now, there is no such struggle. I may have a Zoom meeting at one o’clock on Friday. But how difficult is it for me to get to the computer from, say, the kitchen? Not difficult at all.

On the other hand, I was finding it extremely difficult to have all my things together, and to get to any external location at the right time — without undergoing extreme stress and uncomfortably high levels of anxiety. Now, all that has vanished. I am free of those artificial constraints. Free to explore the Free Flow of the Mind, bound only by functions of Space and Time, and finding myself feeling free — almost completely unbound.

Q. Is this how you felt when you were homeless, as well?

A. Not always. But it was a shining place of awe and wonder, an oasis in the desert that was homelessness. I and others accessed this beautiful place of freedom, as often as we could.

Q. So sheltering in place is not just a contrast to the place where is no shelter — there are also parallels. Am I correct?

A. Correct. The chief difference, in light of those parallels, is that it is no longer a social experiment, but a personal experiment.

Q. Will that always be the case?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Will it always be only a personal experiment, or will it at some point evolve into another social experiment?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.

The Questioner is silent.

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