Gratitude List 1567

(1) It’s nice for there to be a café here in town where they say, “Hi Andy!” when I come in, and “Bye Andy!” when I leave.  It makes me feel welcome (quite the opposite of my experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they’ve had been more likely to suspect me of stealing something, and at the same time, didn’t really care what my name was, because they’d figure I’d be giving them an alias anyway.)

(2) Did a really fast 2 1/2 mile run yesterday morning because I was mad at the time.  Passed my doctor twice on the path.  (He looked encouraging the first time and concerned the second.)

(3) As I rode into town this morning through campus, it dawned on me just how bike-friendly this town is, compared to just about any other town where I’ve ever lived.

(4) The new sound designer and I agreed on a certain figure for his services, and I was able to procure the full fee as of yesterday.

(5) Filled in for Cody at the United Church yesterday.   Aside from being a paid gig, it was a warm experience.  Most of the small congregation consisted of older couples, and we enjoyed each other’s sense of humor.   The ‘Joys and Concerns” period was particularly moving.  Also, it was the first time since 2017 that I’ve played an entire church service somewhere (thereby confirrming for me that I still know how to sight-read hymns out of hymnals lol).   Very fine occasion, and I’m thankful for my home community.   

“When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘We’, even the illness becomes wellness.”
       —Malcolm X

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Love Story

I’m taking requests now. I’m backlogged about five weeks worth of requests, and all of them are songs I’ve never played before. So this will be a learning experience. Thanks, Ashley Peterson, for the first request — good choice.   I’ll be back with “Circle of Life” next week, God willing.

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Taking Requests

I began making a podcast yesterday morning when I was in a depressed state. Actually, I’m not supposed to use the word “depressed” in this context (I am told) so as not to confuse my state with that of someone who suffers from Major Depression, which is a serious mental health condition. I’m supposed to say I was “despairing” — and anyway, that’s more accurate.

I disliked the podcast at the end of the day because my despair was interfering with the point I was trying to get across. I was going to just junk it, but when I got up this morning and started listening to it, I actually became jazzed. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “jazz” is the opposite of “despair.”)

So I’m touching it up a bit. This could take several hours. But when I submit it (at some point today) it will seem as though I think today is Thursday. Please overlook that disparity. Today is Friday (I think.)

I’m ceasing to make much sense, so I’ll close. But first I want to ask if anyone has any requests, and I’ll try to play one of them on the piano. I tried yesterday but couldn’t think of any songs I could particularly get behind. So I’m taking requests.

Uh – please do not request “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel. It’s one of several songs I will refuse to play. You’ll find out what some of the others are as you request them.

All that said, request away.

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Gratitude List 1566

(1) My weekly meeting with Kurt took place yesterday “on the real” for the first time since our mutual vaccinations.  Nice to have the air-conditioned Co-Op where we convened, and nice not to have to concern ourselves with missed connections and outages.

(2) Looks as though the workshop will come to a satisfying conclusion at some point during the next two weeks, which is all the time we have with the new sound person.  Communication has been good, and I’m actually pretty pleased with what’s happening, slow but sure.

(3) Tracy published a piece of mine and expressed gratitude that I was able to turn something in anyway, despite having announced I’d be wrapped up throughout the summer.  I’m thankful for the person who gave me the idea in the first place, by asking “Did Jesus ever doubt?”   Also thankful for the many subsequent pertinent thoughts that have crossed my mind post-publication.  I like it when I get the sense that a certain theme can be expanded.

(4) I have the third session of Cognitive Processing Therapy in about a half hour.  Interesting the similarities between street life and combat, in terms of some of the kinds of trauma reactions.   I like Cathy the therapist and am glad this issue is being addressed.

(5) I want to add that I’m grateful these days for the enhanced time spent outdoors.  It’s great to get out on my bicycle and go riding along the nice shaded pathways, through campus and around the outskirts of town.  Nice to have freedom and fresh air, in life.

Doubt is a question mark; faith is an exclamation point. The most compelling, believable, realistic stories have included them both.
      — Criss Jami

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Gratitude List 1565

(1) Exercise is going well, especially now that I got my bicycle fixed. I can always do long rides on the days I don’t run. Even in the heat, they’re not burdensome, because the air creates a breeze as I ride. I’m also getting “addicted” to my 2 1/2 mile running course, and I’ve twice run it two days in a row now.

(2) I got a gig writing out piano parts for the songs of an old friend. He happened to call from Arizona, right on the evening when I realized the workshop would have to be truncated.

(3) Had the second day of cognitive processing therapy for PTSD. Although the course seems to have been designed with veterans of combat in mind, I can see a lot of parallels between street life and a life of active combat. The triggers are often very similar, and I believe this will be helpful.

(4) Been very absorbed the past few days getting tracks ready for Dave, the new sound designer. It’s been an interesting process which I’m for the most part enjoying. Looking forward to our session tomorrow night.

(5) No matter what happens with the workshop, I’m glad Keva is going to stick around the area and that she and will remain in touch. Great to have someone with so much potential, learning how to sing my songs.

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Lead Me on Level Ground

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

— Psalm 143

Did Jesus Ever Doubt?

Somebody messaged me the other day saying they had a “religious conundrum” they wanted to run past me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could be of much help, but that I would be happy to entertain their conundrum. It was then that they asked me: “Did Jesus ever doubt?”

Yes,” I answered. “He doubted because He was human.”

Then I cited two instances where I believe Jesus expressed doubt. One was the famous event at Gethsemane, when He prayed that, if it were possible, the cup might pass from Him. He also prayed: Not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) So the way that Jesus distinguishes Himself from the Father may seem to contradict one of the more notorious of His statements: I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30).

However, as I told my friend, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He was human, born of his mother, and divine, born of God the Father. So the human part of Him doubted — thus He spoke: “Not as I will.” I, in this context, refers to the agency of his humanity. “You” – in this context — refers to divine agency.

But what did He doubt? I don’t believe He doubted God’s sovereignty. He knew He was about to be subjected to brutal torture, whipped and beaten and nailed to a Cross for hours on end, culminating in the death of his human body. Naturally, this made him afraid. So, in my opinion, what He doubted was His own ability, as a human being in the flesh, to handle it.

Then a second instance came to mind. As he neared death, after hours on the Cross, He cried out: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

As I see this, He was so near to death by this time, that He envisioned the separation of His Spirit from his body, and his highly weakened human self was despairing. But then (after a period of time), He said something else: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

The way I read this, He had a moment of doubt, feeling that God had forsaken him, but as he overcame that doubt, He gained in faith.

Consider also where the words of his question originated. Psalm 22, a psalm of David, begins “My God, My God, why have you forsake me?” It goes on to describe a situation not unlike Jesus’ agony on the Cross — even though the Psalm is attributed to King David, who lived many centuries before Christ.

““I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed. My heart is like wax; it melts away within me.” (Psalm 22:14)

This could easily describe a state of agony that our Lord was experiencing at the time.

For dogs surround me; a band of evil men encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”  (Psalm 22:16-18)

These verses enter a level beyond speculation. The Lord’s hands and feet actually were pierced, as He hung crucified. The centurions actually did divide his garments, and cast lots for his clothing. These words, written long before the Crucifixion, depict a very similar, very challenging event.

But as the Psalm proceeds, David begins to call upon the Lord, despite his initial despair:

But You, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of wild dogs.”  (Psalm 22:19-20)

As the Psalm progresses further, David changes his mind about his God having forsaken him:

For He has not despised or the torment of the afflicted. He has not hidden His face from him, but has attended to his cry for help.”  (Psalm 22:24)

Then the rest of the Psalm is full of expressions of praise and thanks to God.

Could it be that after Jesus expressed his moment of doubt on the Cross, He then silently recited the words of Psalm 22 within himself? Could He possibly have gone through the same progression — from doubt to faith to prayer, and finally to praise?

I don’t doubt it. This is a progression that we believers are called to enact. Our first reactions are always in the natural; that is, in the flesh. In order to do the right thing, we need to effect a progression from natural to spiritual; that is, unless the right things have become ingrained in our beings.

As Jesus returned to a position of faith, as the Psalmist had done long before Him, He then took the leap of faith: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!”

Jesus was humanly compelled to sin as we all are, yet He remained free of the sins He was tempted to commit. (Hebrews 4:15). Had He yielded to sin, had He acted on His doubts, He would not have been able to die on the Cross for all the sins of humanity.

So my answer is “Yes.” Jesus doubted because He was human. But He did not yield to His doubts — because He was divine.

© 2021 by Andy Pope

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Tuesday Tuneup 113

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a different place.

Q. What’s wrong with the present place?

A. Too small.

Q. Your apartment is too small?

A. No.  This town is too small.

Q. Too small for what?

A. For my comfort.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Things get around.

Q. What did you do?

A. I lost my cool.

Q. Why?

A. Somebody pressed my buttons.

Q. How?

A. They kept making this mistake.  But they didn’t know it was a mistake.   And I was too afraid of hurting them to be open about why it was a mistake.  To this day, they don’t think they made a mistake.  But that itself is a mistake.

Q. But how did this press your buttons?

A. It didn’t — until they started to blame it all on me.  Then I blew my top.  It wasn’t all my fault.  What was my fault was that I kept pretending everything was okay, out of not wanting to hurt them, and not wanting to lose them.   

Q. Did you lose them?

A. Something like that.   Or maybe they lost me.   But it doesn’t matter.  I just want to be in a different place.

Q. What kind of place?

A. A larger place.   A place I can call home.   A place where you’re allowed to have problems.  Where you’re allowed to make mistakes without risking it becoming small town gossip.

Q. Where would this place be?

A. I don’t know.   I’m used to the big cities.  I’m not used to the small towns.   Even now, after nearly five years, I’m not used to it.

Q. What about the workshop?

A. It might be a good idea to record a few songs — piano and singing only — using our respective smartphones.  I’ve noticed the iPhones have very good sound quality.   I don’t want their hard work to have gone to waste.

Q. Can you stick around long enough to do this?

A. Probably.

Q. Where will you go if you leave?

A. North and West.  Spokane first.   Then maybe Seattle.  

Q. What about money?

A. It’s a matter of timing.   The wherewithal will emerge if it’s in His will.

Q. Are you in His will?

A. I believe so.  I believe I have an inheritance in His kingdom.

Q. How large an inheritance?

A. At this point?  I’m sure it’s pretty small.  It might become larger, if I hang around and start doing the right things.  Whatever they are.  

Q. Anything else?

A. I’m tired.   And I want to go home.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1564

(1) Nice 2 1/2 mile run on that pleasant shady trail called Paradise Path.   Didn’t time it (heaven forbid!) but I clearly ran faster than usual.   It is an intriguing source of great gratitude that an O.G. like me can even still be running, after all the toll life has taken on me.

(2) Sure feels nice to be in the air-conditioned Co-Op on a day when many businesses are closed because it’s too hot for the workers in their buildings without air conditioning.   Nice that the Co-Op has reopened completely, and nice to be enjoying a salad of my choice for the first time in over a year.

(3) The fifth draft of the Vocal Score and Draft 5-T of the EIB Script are complete and have been uploaded on the Box links now indicated.   I am pretty sure I’m done, except for I need to insert a Table of Contents in the vocal score, which attempted task grossly challenged my aging nerves.

(4) Great conversations with my sponsor Matt lately, who is interested in my tutoring him in Music Theory.

(5) I can’t explain it, but I feel a bit freer than usual.  Something about the Kids, something about the workshop.   All’s well that ends well, I suppose.  Nothing like quitting when you’re ahead.   A folded hand is better than a hand spinning out of control.  At least I was able to finally love.  Only a small, select group of people received it, but I finally knew that what I experienced — for one — was Love.

“Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
— Alfred Lord Tennyson

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A Personal Note

This may turn out to be a slightly more personal post than I’m inclined to produce. Not that I’m experiencing a quandary in my personal life — in fact, I’m not even sure I have a personal life — but that I’m experiencing a quandary in my spiritual life.  It’s a quandary that I’m inclined to share.

A strange conflict is taking place between desire be positive and optimistic in life, and my moral obligation to assume responsibility for my choices.

It may seem at first that the two are unrelated.  How would a sense of obligation to assume responsibility for my choice conflict with a desire to remain positive?   Aren’t the most happy people the ones who do assume responsibility for their personal choices, rather than blame their misfortunes on others?

Happiest People Meme (2)

Apparently, this is the case.  So let me explain what I mean.

I am a very introspective person who is continually examining his behavior.  I often find great fault in my choices.  Then I feel guilty for having made the wrong choice.   The more wrong choices I make, the more guilty I feel.   When I feel sufficiently guilty, I find myself despairing.  I believe that my personality is impossible — that it will never become any better than it is today, and like-as-not worsen with age.

Today I happen to  be in a very good mood.   I slept a good six hours and had a nice two and a half mile run in the morning.  A good night’s sleep followed by a good run tends to lift my spirits.   So, while I’m feeling good, I’d like to examine this dynamic.

First off, it is possible that some of the choices over which I feel guilty are not actually wrong.   For example, I felt guilty for not being there for my daughter last night when she wanted critique on some of her work.  But was it actually wrong that I was unavailable?   Not really.  I was simply unavailable.  Not everything that one feels guilty about is an indicator that one has done something wrong.

Secondly, it’s possible that I am forgetting that Jesus died for all of my bad choices, and that I am cleansed from my former sins.   I almost hesitate to include this part.   We’ve probably all met believers who rationalize all kinds of immoral behavior on the basis of having been “forgiven.”  For these people, the words of St. Paul in Romans Six are lost:

Shall we then sin that grace my abound?  God forbid!   — Romans 6:1

But I don’t think I fit that modus operandi.  I’m a lot more uptight about my personal peccadilloes than many believers.  Often, people tell me I’m “too hard on myself.”  While that may be true, I don’t think it ought to be a justification for moral laxity.

For example, I sometimes don’t exercise due restraint in social situations, or over email.   I feel as though I am spewing my overactive mind upon innocent recipients of email replies.  Then, I have to apologize for the behavior, which leads to an unwanted discussion with said recipients.  I feel as though I am often having to “put out fires” that I myself have started.

So now you see how my desire to be fully accountable for my actions can make a dent in my positive spirit.  What is tempting – and what I try not to do — is to base my positive feelings on a comparison between myself and others.   Suppose I say: “Well, at least I’m better than John Doe.   At least I don’t try to pull that kind of stuff.”  If I do so, how is this any different than refusing to look at my own actions?

Not much, I fear.   Or am I only being hard on myself?

Maybe you know.   Until recently, when someone said — yet again – that I am “too hard on myself,” I honestly had no idea what they were talking about.  In my world, if anything, I’m too lax.

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The Knowledge of God

If you accept My words
and hide My commandments within you,
if you incline your ear to wisdom
and direct your heart to understanding,
if you truly call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search it out like hidden treasure,
then you will discern the fear of the LORD
and discover the knowledge of God.
     Proverbs 2:1b-5

Note

To whoever read my Thursday blog post (now in the trash), I removed it because of a logical inconsistency towards the end.

Before I removed it, I reformatted it and submitted it to Spokane Faith and Values. But something didn’t feel right. When I was walking to work this morning, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks.

I turned back, copped the Wi-Fi at the nearby A&W, and rescinded the submission. Tracy Simmons my editor said “no rush” — which is unsurprising. She hadn’t expected me to submit anything in the first place, being as I’d told her how wrapped up I am in the summer musical workshop.

But I also had to contact everyone I’d send the reformatted version to — approximately ten people — and let them know.

One such person — an evangelical Christian — said she had read it and very much liked it. She suggested that the “logical inconsistency” might be best explained by my artistic temperament.

Then, when I explained what the logical inconsistency was, she was like: “Wow! Why didn’t I see that? Yeah – you definitely have to rewrite it!”

(And I will be able to rewrite it. I know what I was trying to say. The English language failed me — but it’s not irreconcilable.)

Finally, my daughter, who is not exactly your Bible-believing Bible thumper (if you get my drift) replied with: “Intriguing! Can’t wait to see the amended version.”

All that said, if anybody wants a copy of the piece as it is, I’ll send it to you if you think you can find the logical contradiction. First person to detect it gets a free piano CD of your choice. (I have several, in addition to the four on this page that you get to listen to for free.)

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Summertime Happiness

Here’s a piano rendition of Clark Gesner’s song “Happiness” with a bit of the Gershwin “Summertime” thrown in as an afterthought. It’s entirely spontaneous, and was done at a moment when I felt I needed release from work-related and heat-related stress. I must disclaim that there is a clicking sound in the background at the beginning which may or may not interfere with your listening pleasure. (My daughter said it didn’t.)  It may be attributed to the fan that was running above me, being as my church (like many buildings in this area)  is devoid of air-conditioning.

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Tuesday Tuneup 112

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a cooler place.

Q. What wouldn’t be cool about the nice mellow little artistic community in which you live?

A. Ha – you’d know if you lived here.  But I’m talking about wanting a cooler temperature, birdbrain.

Q. Grouchy, are we?

A. How would you like to be burning up in 107F degrees?

Q. Is that how hot it is?

A. Not sure.  Let me check.

(Pause)

A. Yep. 107 is what it says.

Q. Haven’t you lived in very high temps before?  Even higher than 107?

A. Yes on both — in California’s Central Valley.   In the San Joaquin Valley in particular, where once it hit 117.

Q. How did that feel?

A. Need I even answer?

Q. Do you think this has something to do with global warming?

A. Well, considering it usually doesn’t top 89 or 90, I would say that’s a strong possibility.

Q. How long will this heat wave go on?

A. Who can say?

Q. How do you feel about it?

A. Well, the heat itself doesn’t feel too bad.  It’s the fact that there’s no AC in my apartment, causing me to toss and turn all night.  I’m not getting the sleep I need, and my appetite is next to nothing. Sleep paralysis is aggravated, my nerves are on edge, and I’m movin’ kinda slow.

Q. Did that answer my question?

A. Repeat the question.

Q. How do you feel about it?  You know, feelings?

A. Well, first of all, I take issue with the current culture’s emphasis on feelings.  I could say that I’m a bit irritable from protracted lack of sleep.  I could say that I’m a bit on the angry side.  But of what value is it to indulge such feelings?   Are not feelings only a function of the natural?

Q. The natural?

A. Yes, the natural — as opposed to the spiritual.

Q. Are you dividing yourself into two?

A. Maybe not exactly a division.  More of a spectrum or continuum.

Q. What do you mean?

A. The first reaction to anything unpleasant is naturally an unpleasant reaction.  In the case just cited, irritability and anger are the initial responses.  These are what I call the natural responses.   Naturally, one is irritated and slightly peeved about the inconvenient increase in temperature.   But the spiritual person is committed to overcoming these natural reactions.  After all, what good do they do?

Q. Don’t they inform you of your feelings?  Isn’t that good?

A. Certainly it’s good to be aware of your feelings.  But it is even better to use that awareness in order to overcome them.   This is why Scripture says: “In your anger, do not sin.”  (Psalm 4:4, Ephesians 4:26).  It is natural to be angry.  It is sinful to use that anger in a way that is injurious to self or others.

Q. Do you mean that, as long as you don’t throw a temper tantrum or beat your head against a wall, it’s okay to be angry?

A. Something like that.

Q. But since the weather won’t change for a long time, won’t you be in a constant state of anger?

A. Perhaps.  But even that is not sinful, so long as I remain aware of it, and hold it in check.

Q. How is this any different than what your previous teacher said, before you became a Christian, when you were still a Buddhist?

A. Glad you asked.  It’s not essentially different.   Chogyam Trungpa said: “Emotions are neither to be suppressed nor indulged, but merely acknowledged.”

Q. And your pastor agrees with this?

A. I once heard the very same words come out of his mouth, almost verbatim.

Q. Was he also a Buddhist?

A. No.  He is merely a very meditative man.

Q. So you’re saying this is a universal truth that transcends religious differences?

A. I like to think so, yes.

Q. Then why didn’t you remain a Buddhist?

A. In a way, I still am.  You might call me a Buddheo-Christian.

Q. But what is the advantage of Christianity?

A. The emphasis in Buddhism is to meditate, gradually expanding consciousness, and finally reaching Enlightenment — sometimes called Awareness or Nirvana.  The emphasis in Christianity is in trying to do good things for others, serving others more than your own self, loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself.   One could conceivably do this all one’s life without any particular expansion of consciousness or awareness.   Similarly, one could conceivably meditate all alone their entire life, reach the highest state of Awareness, and never help another soul.

Q. Then why meditate at all?

A. Because meditation makes me a more effective Christian, if that’s the spirituality I choose to practice.

Q. Are you “picking and choosing?”

A. Not all.  I believe that Buddhists, Muslims, Hindi and all people, whether religious or not, are going to have to appear before the same Christ.  In that light, Christianity is not a religion — it’s a Reality.   All I am doing is acknowledging that there is value in other spiritual practices.

Q. What’s all this got to do with the weather?

A. The weather spaces me out and makes me go onto long tangents.  Since I’m a person who lifelong has been obsessed with religion and spirituality, my tangents are likely to be religious in nature.

Q. Have you been getting your work done today?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Didn’t you say you were spaced out?

A. I am indeed.  It’s getting pretty difficult to function.

Q. What would be the next best move from here?

A. Sleep is most desirable.   It’s really been a pretty lousy day.

Q. See me next week?

A. Maybe.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1563

(1) Trying to get in shape is actually working this time. I’m not bailing out on my morning runs, I’m doing healthy nice long walks, and I’m up to 18 miles on my bike rides. Up to 20+ push-ups in two sets and losing the pot belly.

(2) Found an editor for my book deal who will work closely both with me and the publisher. Very excited to finally be publishing an anthology of all my writings so far on the subject of homelessness.

(3) One thing I can appreciate about the current heat wave is that it’s decreasing my rather huge appetite, so I’m probably eating half as much as usual. I’m also drinking at least five times as much water. So I feel like the heat wave is helping to flush out my system.

(4) As of our fifth rehearsal for the summer musical workshop, many problems were solved. It’s the first time that I think we all felt that we will actually meet our goal – and then some. The three part female harmonies are become slicker and more “angelic” in places. Most of all, I heard my lengthy four-movement piece “Awake the Dawn” performed from start to finish for the first time since having composed it in 2012. It brought a tear to my eye, because I never thought I would live to see the day.

(5) I provided guest music for a church service yesterday. During the service I felt the Lord’s peace, and He convinced me that I am forgiven. This meant more to me than even having to forgive myself – which in my case is much more difficult. I truly believe that this is not only a new day, but a new season. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Snippet from Sunday

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I want you guys to hear how these three female vocalists sound while SIGHT-READING the new introduction to my song “Ode to the Universe” from the 4th Draft EIB Vocal Score.  In no way had this been rehearsed prior to recording. Zazen, Keva and Karlie were reading their notes off the written score for the first time.  In fact, the three of them were singing together for the first time ever.

This thirty-second snippet reveals how the harmonic blend turned out — and well, you can hear it for yourself.   I’m getting a good feeling about this summer’s musical workshop — assuming we all survive the heat.

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Gratitude List 1562

(1) The more I think about it, the more I realize what a positive atmosphere we have here in our community at the Latah Recovery Center.   It seems that anyone coming from anywhere can expect to find support there as well as the opportunity to be supportive of others, no matter their personal struggles or journeys.   I know of no other place like it.

(2) On Thursday I attended an outdoor gathering, a discussion on critical race theory.  People seemed content to gather in a professor’s back yard, and there was wine and such.  Some very informed people made some very intelligent comments.  I mostly listened, as it was very informative.  Grateful to have been included among these interesting, academically inclined sorts of people.

(3) I must admit it’s nice to have my own place, where I can get up before sunrise, make my coffee, read interesting articles, hear the birds chirping outside my window, and watch the sun come up.  It’s nice to have my own desk and quietude in the mornings.

(4) All rehearsals have gone well, though as of the fourth such rehearsal some issues have clearly arisen. Mostly however this informs me what work I need to do on my own part.  The Kids for the most part are great.

(5) I resisted a big urge to go back to bed and waste the goodness of the good morning.   Instead I found myself having a breakfast bite at the nearby A&W — where also the coffee is good!  Today’s a good day to take things one step at a time.   It’s a beautiful new morning.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
– Marcus Aurelius

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Gratitude List 1561

(1) Ran 4 miles on Thursday, did 21 push-ups that night (in two sets) and rode 18 miles on the bike out to WSU and back yesterday. I noticed a visible decrease in size on my Aloha video. Lately I’ve been succeeding both in exercising more and in eating less. The latter is very important, as one endeavors to become lighter in every way.

(2) The first two rehearsals of the summer musical workshop went very well. The second one was especially encouraging, involving all the men and Keva. The increase in advance preparation is benefitting us all, and I find that finally I am “in my element” as a vocal director for a musical play.

(3) I very much enjoyed the second regular meeting with Dr. Gier on Wednesday. He’s intelligent, perceptive, and supportive. I like his columns too, as the Palouse Pundit. He’ll also be attending a Thursday evening theology group along with myself and Kurt Q as well, on the subject of critical race theory. I’m honored to be asked to attend these events, where I always learn a great deal.

(4) Music I composed “in my head” in Berkeley is beginning to resurface, and often affix itself to more recently conceived themes. There may be a renaissance of such themes on my new piano videos – beginning with the Aloha to be honest — and proceeding to emerging themes that bear enhanced investigation. I also find myself exercising more creative writing skills, a welcome release from journalism.

(5) It’s 85F degrees even at nearly six in the evening. I may take a stroll in the cool of the evening, say around ten at night. But till then I am grateful to have a nice cool place of my own. That’s not always been the case — and I’m no stranger to the heat.

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Classism, Stigma and Long Distance Running

This is going to sound horribly crass, but I keep thinking that only rich people are supposed to be about long distance running.   I keep thinking that we poor people are supposed to be wasting all our money on drugs, cigarettes and alcohol in order to cope with all the miseries of poverty.

But as I analyze that sentiment, I begin to wonder about it.  Let’s cite three specific wonderments, for the record.

(1) Why on earth would I be relating something so simple as health and fitness to financial status?   

Well, I think it’s safe to say that criminalization of the poor is a real phenomenon.  Impoverished people in our society are not only criminalized by those who are well-off.  We are criminalized by some of the very poor people we find in our midst.

Often, when I mention to someone in my financial bracket that I am going on a “run,” the word “run” is interpreted differently than I intended.

“A food run?” one might ask, supposing I’m about to go to the Food Bank or grocery store.

“A drug binge?” one might ask, since a “run” is colloquial for a bender.

When I tell them what form of running I mean, I have sometimes heard this reply: “You’re not going to see me running anywhere, unless I’m running from the law.”

Why is it that when a poor person is seen running, it is associated with running from the law?

For one thing, I don’t exactly have fine Nike shoes and Gore-Tex running suits.  I run in my normal duds, wearing old beat up shoes with holes in the soles.  I’m lucky if I even own a single pair of shorts for that matter.  The ones I run in now have tears in the sides.  But hey – how much of a priority is it to get good running clothes when one goes broke midway through every month?   At the risk of further crassness, let’s get real.

If a person is a bit better off, they can afford expensive running gear, and expensive race registrations, for that matter.  Not so with the poor folks.   So we have the association of visible poverty with criminality.  This cannot be overlooked — but let’s move on to the second question.

(2) Who dictates what one is “supposed” to be doing in the first place?   

While this is a very important question, I don’t think it warrants much extra analysis.  Once a person is a grown adult, no longer under parental guidance, no one dictates what that person is “supposed” to be doing.

No one but God, that is — and even in the case of God’s “dictates,” there is plenty of grace and room for personal preference.   The idea that poor people are “supposed” to be spending all their money on cigarettes and alcohol is only a social stigma.   That many poor people do smoke is quite true, and quite sad.  Cigarettes cost a lot of money, and poor people do not have that money.  But cigarettes are also very highly addictive, and that addiction is hard to break — for rich and poor alike.

(3) Is poverty really all that “miserable?” 

Personally, I don’t associate poverty with misery.  I associate poverty with inconvenience.   But inconvenience and misery are two different things.

Say I have a number of errands to do, as I did yesterday.   Say my bicycle is in the shop, as it was yesterday.  The errands take a great deal of time.   At one point, a drug store that I was depending on turned out to have gone out of business.  I then balked at making it all the way over to the next nearest drug store, which was miles away.   All of this stuff is inconvenient.

But was I miserable once I had finished my errands?   Not at all!  To the contrary, I felt great satisfaction in getting them all accomplished, even though the process was time-consuming.   In fact, if I had a car, I would be paying for upkeep and maintenance, if not car payments.   The bicycle consumes more time than a car, but it’s a wonderful way of getting around — given good weather conditions — and one gets one’s daily exercise in the process.   It also points to the beauty of the “middle place” – that beautiful place where one finds a healthy balance between extremes.

The Bible makes it clear that many blessings are afforded to poor people.   And no one relates God’s blessings to misery.  In fact, the words “happy” and “blessed” are interchangeable in Old Testament languages.   The words “Blessed are the poor” appear verbatim in the Gospel According to Luke, and slightly qualified in the Gospel According to Matthew.   The words “blessed are the rich,” on the other hand, are nowhere to be found.

Now the Word does say: “The rich and the poor have this in common: The LORD is Maker of them all.” (Ecclesiastes 22:2.)  This is one of many fine Scriptures, along with Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28, that point to egalitarianism.  (Even the Scriptures suggesting that women are to be submissive to their husbands are usually followed by Scriptures suggesting that husbands ought to be submissive to their wives — but for some reason we don’t like to look at those parts.)

Outside of Scriptural documentation, common sense suggests that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that we should be equal in the eyes of each other.  In my opinion, the only people who need to be robbed of certain rights to liberty are hardened criminals who should remain behind bars, as they would otherwise remain threats to society.   But whether one is rich or poor — or anywhere in between — does not alter their essential humanity.  We have a lot more in common with people in other social classes than we think.   We are all human.

The Bible does however go a bit harder on the wealthy.   There are scores of warnings delivered in the Word to those of high stature.   James 5:1 and Mark 10:5 come to mind immediately — but there are many others as well.  On the other hand, very few warnings are delivered to the poor.  In fact, the Prayer of Agur is just about as close as they come:

Two things I ask of You—
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me.
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the bread that is my portion.
Otherwise, I may have too much
and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
profaning the name of my God.
—  Proverbs 30:7-9

This also points to the beauty of the middle class: the middle class that is gradually disappearing from our social structure.   We have recently seen billionaires in the Cabinet.   Decent people — I repeat, decent people — are strewn about the streets of Seattle and San Francisco, drowning in a culture that no human being should be forced to endure.

But in the middle place there is balance.  One will neither think of God as unnecessary, nor curse God for apparent failure to provide.

If this new job works out — which so far, I am sad to say, it does not appear to be — I may be able to reach that middle place.   If not, the words of St. Paul still ring true:

“For we brought nothing into the world, neither are we able to carry out anything. But having sustenance and coverings, with these we will be content.”  — 1 Timothy 6:8

There is a certain measure of comfort in that directive.   That comfort may be felt by anyone who is human, and who believes.   But to equate a quest for greater health and fitness with having the money to afford high quality health food and fancy running gear is to miss the mark.

Digest the Word.  Soak it in.  Find in the Word the Beauty and Truth thereof.   “It will bring healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.”  — Proverbs 3:8

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Tuesday Tuneup 111

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater satisfaction.

Q. Do you feel unsatisfied?

A. This morning I do, yes.

Q. Why?

A. I’m not sure.   It may just be a Tuesday morning mood.

Q. Without basis?

A. Not entirely.   I’m dissatisfied with certain aspects of the way things are going, invariably related to behavioral patterns of mine that need to change.

Q. Like what?

A. I seem to often make blanket decisions when I am dissatisfied.   And later, I am dissatisfied with those decisions.

Q. Like what?

A. A while back I decided to stop posting piano pieces on Fridays, at least for a while.   In my heart, I felt a huge desire not to post any further piano pieces at all, to be honest.   This is a “blanket” decision.  It’s black and white.   It goes against the gray areas that comprise reality.

Q. What else?

A. I recently decided to stop writing about homelessness.

Q. Why?

A. Because I was dissatisfied with it.

Q. Why?

A. It’s not objective.  It’s emotional.  It derives from subjective personal experience.   It relates more to my own personality than it does to any concrete statement about society.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. Yes.

Q. But can’t you do anything to change this for the better?

A. I probably could.  I recall reading yesterday the last words of Romans 12:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Q. How do these words apply to you?

A. I get overcome by “evil.”  I post piano youtubes and look at them in disgust.  For one thing, I never seem to be able to lose enough weight to look thin or healthy enough to satisfy me.  For another thing, I never seem to get it together to obtain new clothes or an interesting wardrobe.

Q. Why is this?

A. I think my priorities are screwed up.

Q. So you are dissatisfied with your priorities?

A. Yes.   They need to change.

Q. Let me see here.  If you don’t prioritize writing about homelessness, and you don’t prioritize playing the piano, what will you prioritize?

A. The answer is at the end of Matthew Six.   Surely you know this!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God — and His righteousness — and the rest will be added unto thee.”

Q. Have you not been seeking first the kingdom of God?

A. Not always, and not lately.

Q. What have you been seeking first instead?

A. Isn’t it obvious?

Q. I don’t know – is it?

A. Obviously, my first order of business is to seek the production of my musical.   This is the real reason why I am tired of writing about homelessness, and tired of playing piano solos on my youtube channel.   They take so much energy, they take away from the energy I feel I need to put into my musical, in order to get it produced.

Q. But if you were to seek first the kingdom of God, what does that mean exactly?   What would it entail?

A. It means putting God first.   Serving others — not self.   Finding out what He wants me to do — and doing it.  Not just doing what *I* want to do, at the expense of helping others.

Q. But won’t your musical help others?

A. Not if it’s my first priority, it won’t.   I’ll become so obsessed with the musical, it will override all other concerns.   Not just the piano.   Not just the journalism.   But everything!   I will cease to eat.  I will disdain sleep.   My house will deteriorate into a filthy mess.  I won’t lay hands on a vaccum cleaner, for fear of taking precious time away from working on my musical.

Q. And then what?

A. Then something will go wrong.  Terribly wrong.   And I will be tempted to drown my sorrows.

Q. As in drink?

A. I do not drink.  There are other ways for one to drown one’s sorrows.   Unfortunately, these ways are illegal in the State of Idaho, though I notice they are legal in adjacent States.

Q. When was the last time you drowned your sorrows?

A. It was right after the close of the Pandemic Workshop.   I had thought we were ascending to higher heights.  I had thought everything was expanding.  And then — suddenly — everything collapsed.

Q. Are you to blame for this?

A. Not entirely.  But I do know that I failed to seek first the kingdom.   I was seeking first the expanding production of the musical.   And then, seemingly at that moment, it ceased to expand — but rather contracted.

Q. Have you learned from this?

A. Yes!  I am doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen this summer.

Q. But you still feel that your priorities are screwed up?

A. Dude!   When was the last time I washed the dishes??

Q. What can you do about all this?

A. Just what the Bible says.  It must become more important for me to be of service to the people around me, than it is for me to produce my musical.

Q. How can you better be of service to the people around you?

A. What I have to give to them, to offer them, needs to become more important than what I think they should be offering me.

Q. Does this apply to any group of people in particular?

A. It applies to all people — of course.

Q. But aren’t you thinking about a specific group of people right now?

A. Of course I am.

Q. Then isn’t that a part of the problem?   Why should that single group of people be more important than any other group of people?

A. They shouldn’t be — it’s just that — they’re the people I am called to serve . . .

Q. Called to serve?

A. That’s an interesting expression.   Not sure why it came out of me.

Q. Are you beginning to rethink the situation?

A.  Somewhat, yes.

Q. How so?

A. It cannot be denied that the Lord does put certain people into our lives for certain reasons.   Undeniably, we are called to serve those people.   That’s what love is.

Q. Do you feel that you are unloving?

A. By nature, yes.  But I’m not so bad off that the situation cannot be remedied.

Q. So you have found the problem?

A. Yes.  I have found the problem, and the problem is me.

Q. Anything else I can do for you?

A. See me next week.   Let’s pursue this theme further.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1560

(1) I’m up to three miles now running on Paradise Path.   I’m moving faster and more breezily through life, and people tell me I look thinner.

(2) I finished the Vocal Score on Friday, formatted more neatly than earlier.   It encompasses everything that was learned during the Pandemic Workshop.   I must say I am grateful to Karlie for proofreading it and to Kathy the church secretary for coil-binding ten copies of it on her last day of work before retiring.   Also grateful for all the Kids who helped me to refine it during the workshop.

(3) In a period of eleven days, I raised over $1500 toward honoraria for the summer workshop.   This is the first time I’ve conducted a fundraiser that has actually succeeded.   Grateful for the show of support from those who contributed, and the very encouraging words that they wrote.

(4) A publisher in White Plains MI has agreed to publish an anthology involving much of what I’ve written about homelessness in the past five years.   I’m in the process of organizing it all in .docx format.  Grateful not to have to mess with self-publishing and all that, glad someone’s interested.

(5) Slept six hours last night from 8:40pm to 2:40am, deep REM sleep with vivid dreams.  Woke up and read Romans 12, which is always inspiring.  Then my daughter came on Messenger as she was just going to bed.  A very nice way to start the morning.   Birds are chirping, the sky will soon be light.   God is Good.

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Renewal

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary;
His understanding is beyond searching out.
He gives power to the faint
and increases the strength of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
    — Isaiah 40:28-31

The Wide Wide World of Homelessness

I recently reconnected with the kindhearted person who assisted me in July 2016 by blessing me with a one way ticket out of California.  When I first got up to Idaho, this person suggested that, while I ought to write and give talks about homelessness, I ought to wait five years first. After five years, he suggested, I would be more objective.

Coming Full Circle

As it turns out, he was right. Five years have just about passed, and I find myself to be considerably more objective. As a result, I am objective enough to have realized that in the past five years I have submitted column after column about homelessness, most of my words falling on deaf ears, while my stress level constantly increases and I make almost next to nothing off of these columns financially.  In short, it’s reached a point of diminishing returns.  And that’s fine with me. I have already said, in many blog posts and speeches throughout the past five years, everything that I have needed to say.

So I have decided to submit one last post about homeless rights activism before the Far-Left ideologues in Portland spread their “houseless” euphemism all over the nation, as if the change of wording does anything whatsoever to dignify the homeless experience. They influenced impressionable young people and used language such as “We will forgive you if you can’t make the switch right away. Positive change takes time.”

Note use of the word “forgive.” This puts in the young person’s brain the notion that it is a moral error, that they did something “wrong” by using the word “homeless” instead of “houseless,” for which they needed to be “forgiven.”

Now I will openly admit that I lean a little bit to the Left these days.   But the tactics of these ivory tower ideologues are so insidious, they remind me of the fact that liberal social workers in Berkeley treated me like less like a human being and more like a “number” than even random conservative cops who stopped to question me.

Cops treated me like a human being. Liberal social workers, with whose politics I might have otherwise agreed, treated me like a round peg they were trying to cram into a square hole. To them, my Social Security Number was more important than my name.

But I need to add that my “lived experience” is subjective.   For example, I was old enough and wise enough to know that, when a cop approaches, it is best to be cordial and conciliatory.   A lot of the younger homeless people immediately became defiant on approach of a police officer.  Of course the cop would be nicer to me in that event, than to them.

Being as my lived experience is admittedly subjective, to what degree can I possibly represent the vast array of homeless people, in all their diversity and variety?

Anyway, before these verbal hygienists succeed in getting Homeless Rights Activism changed to Houseless Rights Activism, I am going to go my way. My feeling is that the likelihood that that the human rights of homeless people will ever be validated, and the homeless experience will ever be dignified as a legitimate way of life, is so depressingly slim, why am I bothering any further?   I’ve said all there is to say, and no one involved either in homeless services or homeless rights is listening.

My buddies in Berkeley tell me that only the youngsters are saying “houseless.” Gee it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out!   And of course, everyone who is outside simply says “outside.”  It happened just the other day.   A friend of mine who has long hair and a beard was sitting with me on a bench in the woods by Paradise Path.   A guy rode up on a bicycle asking if we knew “Robert” or “Jeremy.”

“Are they outside?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re outside.”

The whole way that people don’t listen to a person who has actually been homeless is all part of the fact that homeless people are not acknowledged as full human beings. I felt it for years. I was a not a person. I was a homeless person.

Letting Go of the Past

In order to put it all the past, don’t you think I have to put it all in the past? I allude to PTSD and balk at ever discussing the initial traumatic event. I told my best friend on the streets, a black guy named Jerome, and he said: “Do me a favor. Do not ever tell that story to anyone again.”

I started to tell my best female friend Lauren and she shouted: “STOP! STOP!” In this twisted society, you just can’t talk about the thing you most need to talk about.

I’m through! I’ve said it all except for one thing, and I’ll say it today:

Homeless Rights Activists in Berkeley advocated for the “rights” of career criminals committing heinous crimes who should have been behind bars. They didn’t distinguish who was a criminal from who was not, because they were so hung up on noticing who was “sober” and who was not. As if a sober person can’t commit a crime, and is if many people with drug problems are not perfectly decent people who simply have serious problems.

Similarly, those of us who were not criminally inclined were treated like criminals by Left-leaning social workers, like this one guy who had a van and drove around delivering socks and other self-care items to the homeless. In our conversations, it was almost assumed that I should be a criminal. I was encouraged to do gnarly things that violated my Christian moral code.

There is another thing I must add.   The reason why homeless rights activists were focused on how “sober” a person was (as opposed to being drunk or, more likely, on drugs) was because they equated homelessness with drug addiction, as though the two were synonymous.

Also, if someone developed a drug problem, it was assumed that it was the drug problem that led to their becoming homeless, and not the other way around.  If a homeless person told them the truth about where the drug problem began, they assumed that the homeless person was lying.   The idea that, surrounded by drug abuse year after year, a straight-laced Christian-type guy might eventually become drug-addicted, was not accepted as factual, even when it was the truth.

It was all part and parcel of the way that the social workers dehumanized and undignified us.  And now, since homeless/houseless rights activism has been co-opted by the Far Left, there really isn’t much room for truth.

Let Your Eye Be Single

So —  that’s all I have left to say. I’m through. I’m done! I am only a piano player, and that is the only person whom I want to be. I’m tired of losing sleep at night over all the ridiculous crap I have to contend with in order to maintain my stance among all these people.

Tired of spreading myself thin. It’s ungodly. Jesus said: “Whoever is not for me is against me; and whoever does not gather with me, scatters.” Why am I scattering myself? I have a job to do. I have a musical to produce.

Jesus said: “If your eye be single, then your whole body is full of light. But if your eye be evil, than your whole body will be full of darkness — and how great is that darkness!”

These are stern words. I would prefer to heed them. There is a chance — an outside chance, perhaps – then when Eden in Babylon is produced, people will kinda “get it.” They’ll get what it’s actually like, or at least what a cross section of the Wide Wide World of Homelessness is like. They might leave the theatre, merely entertained. Or they might have learned something.

That alone is a noble enough goal. I spoke with someone last night who said: “You are not only a piano player — you are also an excellent writer!” I felt like retorting: “Have you ever heard me play the piano?  No you haven’t.   Are you going to hear me play the piano, and then tell me I should be a writer?”

I don’t have the power to direct the course of my life from here. In my book, I would get the show produced, become a total recluse in some far-off land, collect royalties, and play my piano till the day I die. But let’s face it. My book is not God’s book – and it never can be.

So when I say “there is no way,” maybe there actually is a way. With us mere mortals, it is impossible. With God, all things are possible.

Matthew 12:30, Matthew 6:22-23, Mark 10:27.

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Summer Musical Workshop

This was originally intended for my YouTube channel in video form. I reduced it to an audio cast and placed it here, as a little explanation and promo for my demo. Still in the process of gathering funds, still need another $450 before I can call it quits.   It’s less than four minutes long and should be informative.  Hope you like it.

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Gratitude List 1559

(1) After waking up ornery over this & that, I figured a two mile run would set me straight.   What I noticed afterward is that everything I was mad about was easily resolved simply by overlooking the offense.   Scripture says: “A person’s insight gives them patience, and it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  (Proverbs 19:11).  Different people are offended by different things.  Just because someone offended me, doesn’t mean that they’re wrong.  Thankful for insight.  Thankful for running.  Thankful for letting go.

(2) Got a new column published in Spokane.  That makes 24 now in that one city, including one in the Spokesman-Review.

(3) Sitting at the Round Table, I saw all four of the Sullivans all come in at once.   Of course, you probably don’t know who the Sullivans are, but it’s always a joy to see such a well-adjusted, happy family.

(4) Had a great session with Keva yesterday.   I taught her the singing part to Now That There’s You, and we did a new version of “I Am the Blues” which she and I had both regarded as a practice take.  Slowed it down to a smoky smooth jazz groove, and that chanteuse knows exactly what she’s doing.  I’d be jealous if I weren’t so grateful.

(5) Last I checked, I’ve already received $1050 toward the $1500 goal of my fundraiser.   Danielle’s been holding the money for me, for which I’m glad.   Also, Zazen and Matt both came back to the team last week.  Things are looking up, and I’m grateful.

“When life at times makes us stumble and fall…we may limp for awhile…struggle to walk for awhile…but before long we are up and running again…not away from life but towards it. For each time we fall…we only become stronger.”
–Ash Sweeney

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Re: Expect the Best

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  

          –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Expect the Best

Kelsey and I talked this one through two days ago. Since then, another person from the previous workshop has signed on for the summer workshop, and more money has been raised for summer honoraria. It’s a challenging time in the history of this planet — but there’s more hope than we know. Kelsey Chapman and Andy Pope do the talking on May 24, 2021.

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Tuesday Tuneup 109

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of lesser anxiety.

Q. Are you more anxious than usual?

A. Well, duh! Why else would I have answered as I did?

Q. Why are you being flippant?

A. I don’t know.

Q. Any ideas?

A. Probably a combination of being annoyed by you, and the internal function of anxiety which tends to increase the extent to which I drift onto tangents.

Q. Do you think of your flippancy as a mere tangent?

A. It wasn’t a mere tangent, just a tangent.

Q. What else was it, besides being a tangent?

A. Are you saying it was rude or sarcastic?

Q. Didn’t I ask you?

A. All right then, it was rude and sarcastic, as well as flippant and tangential. Any further condemnation of my character?

Q. Why are you on my case?

A. Why are you on MY case?

Q. Didn’t I ask you first?

A. All right, so I’m not in the best of moods. Too much to do, not enough time to do it in. But that doesn’t give you the right to nag at me like you do.

Q. You think I’m nagging you, do you?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there someone else in your past who nagged you? Why are you transferring your failed personal relationships onto me?

A. Because they are unresolved.

Q. Why aren’t you grateful?

A. Grateful for what, may I ask?

Q. Hasn’t one such relationship been resolved?

A. Oh my God – I almost forgot!!

Q. Waking up now?

A. Yes.

Q. Fully awake?

A. More-or-less.

Q. Grateful?

A. Immensely.

Q. How do you feel now that your friend and you have been reconciled?

A. I feel as though a huge blob of congestion has been removed from my body. I literally feel ten pounds lighter.

Q. May I remind you of something?

A. Remind me later. I’ve got too much work to do. Let’s talk next Tuesday.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 110

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater efficiency.

Q. Why do you say this?

A. I feel as though I’m not managing my time very well.

Q. Has time management typically been an issue for you?

A. Let’s put it this way.  I once wasted an hour in a bookstore looking for a book on time management.

Q. How much time do you think you waste per day?

A. At least half the day.

Q. What can you do about this?

A. Well obviously, I gotta get off my rump.

Q. Do you see yourself a lazy person?

A. Not exactly lazy — that’s not my M.O.  I’m a person who generally enjoys working.   But I’m more like a spacey person — you might say, a scatterbrain.

Q. Absent-minded professor?

A. Adjunct comes closer.   Not exactly a full professor . . .

Q. But an absent-minded person?

A. Yessir.

Q. How long have you been this way?

A. All my life.

Q. Why do you think this is?

A. Something in my mental make-up.   My nature is to be more interested in what’s going on in my own head than in what’s happening in the world around me.

Q. When did this first begin to trouble you?

A. In 1976 when I was a student at the UOP Conservatory of Music.

Q. What happened then?

A. I found that I couldn’t concentrate on the reading load.  Especially Music History.

Q. What did you do about this?

A. I approached them and said I was having difficulty concentrating.

Q. What did they do about that?

A. They threw me into an intense kinda Freudian therapy group.   It had nothing to do with reading comprehension.  I was there with a bunch of other people who were having problems, and the facilitator of the group was this really mean guy who kept telling me how horrible I was.

Q. How long did you stay in the group?

A. Too long!   I finally walked out after six months or so.

Q. What happened then?

A. The head of the group essentially put a curse on me.   He said: “If you bail out now, you are going to be f—-d up for fourteen years!

Q. Fourteen years??

A. That’s exactly what he said.   The number fourteen.   I’ll never forget it.

Q. What happened throughout those fourteen years?

A. Well naturally I could never stop think about the curse!   I had good times and bad times, numerous office jobs, a few musician gigs, a couple failed efforts at college degrees, but I mainly just couldn’t get it out of my head how f—–d up I was supposed to be.

Q. What happened when the fourteen years were up?

A. This is the weird thing.  I know I was an impressionable young man, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed in that ridiculous group for as long as I did.   But I believe the effects of the curse from a stern male authority figure were deep-set.

Q. How so?

A. There came a day in the year 1990 when I had just finished a long-term temp contract with PG&E, and I had no idea how to pay my rent.  I was stuck in a tiny town near the Contra Costa Power Plant, feeling sorry for myself.   Then one day I got up and something was different.  I immediately went out and ran two miles and did a set a push-ups.   Then I got into the shower, and for reasons unknown to me, I started shouting:

“I am a child of God!  I am a child of God!!  I am child of the Most High King!  I am a child of God!!”

Then, stepping out of the shower — feeling absolutely wonderful — I saw that there was a message on my answering machine.  It was from a pianist whom I hardly knew who wanted to tip me off on a job she’d been offered.   The job was at a place called Gulliver’s Restaurant, in the city of Burlingame California.   This pianist, whose name was Tracy Stark, had decided to play on a cruise ship instead.  (Much better money).   So she was spreading the news of a possible gig.   (Musicians do help each other out this way, you know).

I put my best duds on, drove my Oldsmobile Cutlass down to the Bay Area, and hit the keys of a piano for the first time in six months.   It was a Yamaha C-3 baby grand, by the way.   When I touched the keys, I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Aahh!!” I exclaimed, feeling as though I was back where I belonged in life.   I then played my medley of “My Favorite Things” and “Orphan in the Storm.”   The manager handed me a W-9 and said: “Welcome to Gulliver’s.”

The rest is history – or my own history anyway.  I sat on that piano bench four nights a week for the next nine years.

Q. What do you make of all this?

A. The therapist was a sadist, and I was a gullible, vulnerable young man with all kinds of insecurities that he played upon.   The “curse” was nothing but power of suggestion.   I gave the fellow that much power.   When fourteen years had past, God intervened.

Q. Say, is there a name for your condition?

A. I didn’t learn this until fairly recently, but it’s ADHD, of a severe variety.   And people nowadays say I’m neurodivergent, and somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Q. What can you do about it?

A. I think the answer is clear.   It’s the same answer for us all.   Trust in God – whomever you conceive God to be — and believe in yourself.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1558

(1) I’ve started running again after a lengthy lull.  I seem to be more dedicated, and I’ve already done three two mile runs – Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week.   Also did 17 push-ups today (though in two sets, 7 in the first and 10 in the second.)  Tonight after work I plan on doing three miles, and taking it from there.  I feel more motivated these days in general — and I’m grateful.

(2) I’m loving my new job so far.  I’m on the 4-8pm shift now, having had three Zoom meetings today before four.   I finally feel like I’m doing something for the community (other than to try to keep getting everybody to produce my musical.)

(3) Kelsey and I met this morning on Zoom for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I believe I can trim it down to a half hour podcast for Wednesday.  We appear to be on the same page about the summer workshop and about the imminent completion of final stages of the project.  For this and other reasons, I’m getting a really good feeling about the Summer of 2021.

(4) All you have to do is click here to see the phenomenal progress that has been made in the past two days toward reaching our goal of having all money for honoraria for the summer workshop secured by July 9.   This is the first time in my life that I’ve organized a fundraiser that actually looks as though it stands a chance of succeeding!

(5) Best news of all: I have been reconciled with a dear friend of many years whom I thought I would never see again.  We had a falling out in 2013 over something rather trite, and I ought never to have overreacted to his words the way I did.  We met for an hour on Zoom today, and our friendship is reinstated.  I am grateful that, among many broken relationships, at least one very meaningful one has been mended.   Grateful for my good friend Phil.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting our trespasses against us. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  — 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

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Tuesday Tuneup 108

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater security.

Q. You??

A. What do you mean, me??

Q. Since when have you cared about security?   Aren’t you a risk-taking adventurer who will not sacrifice your freedom for all the safety in the world?

A. I am not a Trump supporter, no.

Q. But traditionally, have you not always favored freedom over security?

A. Is that even valid question?   Are freedom and security diametrically opposed?   Or mutually exclusive?

Q. Why are you asking me?  Why don’t you answer that for yourself?

A. Okay well let me think.   Freedom vs. Security.   One is reminded of an oft-misquoted Ben Franklin meme.   Something to the effect that those who would sacrifice their freedom for a little temporary security deserve neither.

Q. Would you sacrifice your freedom for a little temporary security?

A. Depends on how temporary.   I’ve been secure for almost five years now, compared to how “free” I used to be.   And that freedom I knew when I was outside was very tenuous.   Free of schedules, free of deadlines, free of the Mainstream.   But not free from accusations, threats, and assaults.   Trading the security of house and home for the chaotic pseudo-freedom of outdoor living isn’t quite a 50-50 trade-off.

Q. Then why aren’t you feeling secure now that you’ve escaped it?

A. My lack of security is on another plane.   I am not safe from my foibles and defects.   I am not safe from the consequences of the words that emerge from my mouth.  I am not safe from — well, to be honest with you, from PTSD.   I never know when the trigger will strike and lead to a flashback.  I thought the last time it happened was the worst it could ever have been.   But what happened six days ago took the cake.

Q. What happened six days ago?

A. I was at a meeting and I blurted out an opinion that certain people whom I might characterize as “Far Left” do not believe is a valid opinion.  An argument with one such person ensued after the meeting.   They seemed quite calm in apparently advising me that my opinion was unacceptable.   The result was, in a word, reactionary.

Q. Reactionary?

A. Yes.   While I ordinarily lean a wee bit Left of Center, I suddenly was hurled into a right-wing reactionary mode.

Q. Did you temporarily become a Trump supporter?

A. No — but I suddenly became about as conservative as I was about forty years ago.

Q. How conservative were you then?

A. Enough to prefer Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale.

Q. Were you less enlightened then?

A. I’m not very enlightened now, to be honest with you.  I was just younger, more gullible, less discerning, and less informed.

Q. What about when you were on the streets?

A. Libertarian.  Voted for Gary Johnson against Obama.   Slipped right into the mode of most of my White middle-aged companions who had fallen on hard times.   We were very assertive as to our personal rights and freedoms.

Q. And that changed once you got inside?

A. It began changing before I got inside.   It started changing around about the time Bernie Sanders was competing with Hillary in the 2016 primary.   I registered Democrat then, to vote for Bernie and against Hillary.   Moved up to North Idaho (largely Libertarian & Independent) and have not changed back yet.

Q. Are you planning to become a Libertarian again?

A. Not sure.   The Party here leans too far to the Right.

Q. Why would you even consider it?

A. Um — I recently met a Libertarian who is very open about his views.   He also seems a very happy person.  He has reminded me of certain ideals that the Party embraces.

Q. Such as what?

A. Reverence for the Constitution.   That’s valuable.   We need that to hold the country together.

Q. Can the Libertarians hold the country together?

A. Not as long as we’re all perceived to be a bunch of lunatics.

Q. Why would that perception have evolved?

A. It seems that the party clings relentlessly to ideals that don’t always pan out positively in the modern world.

Q. So you may remain a Democrat?

A. Probably.

Q. What about your conservative streak?

A. Between the two main parties, I would say that at this point the Dems are doing a better job at upholding traditional conservative values than the G.O.P.

Q. Would you repeat that, please?

A. Between the two main parties, I would say that at this point the Dems are doing a better job at upholding traditional conservative values than the G.O.P.

Q. How can traditional conservative values help us in the modern world?

A. Well, if everybody stopped sleeping with multiple partners and spreading STD’s and screwing around on their spouses and increasing the rate of abortions and alienating everybody with their incontinence, that would be a good start.

Q. So you think the problem is sexual abandon?

A. It’s a large part of it, yes.

Q. May I ask a question?

A. Please do.

Q. May we index this discussion for a future time?

A. Fine with me.   My ride will be here in a couple minutes.

Q. Meet again next week?

A. Sure.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  May we not talk about politics next time, please?

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1557

(1) I thought I had offended someone who is important to me, and it turned out that I had not offended them — in fact, whatever it was had nothing to do with me.    Grateful for the positive connections I have made on WordPress and elsewhere.

(2) Really nice chat with Cody yesterday, whose positive energy and tireless enthusiasm is always a blessing.  We wound up each having root beer floats at the A&W after our meeting yesterday.  It’s particularly refreshing to hear the ideas of those who genuinely think for themselves and think things through, who bring new and inviting ideas to the table.   He’s of that ilk, and it’s inspiring.

(3) Well, the meeting went well yesterday between myself, Cody & Liam.  I believe we will have a more solid and structured workshop this summer that will also provide more incentive for those involved, and that most of the players from the old team will be on board.   (I would say: “third time’s the charm!” but I don’t think I can quote chapter & verse on that one.)

(4) I put all of me and Keva’s stuff on a playlist in case anyone wants to tune in from time to time.   There are three songs on there now, and there will be more, and they will continue to be refined.   I’m lucky to have these people interested in my work here, because it keeps me from doing something rash (such as grabbing a sleeping bag and one way to Seattle — which believe me has crossed my mind lately.  Grateful for nice weather, though no need to prove it.)

(5) I want to let my readers know that this is not the happiest time of my life, and that I find myself to be troubled by situations that are beyond my control.   However, I remember some of the first words I read when I first opened up a Bible circa 1980, when I was very much hassled by same:

“In the world you will have trouble, but take heart — for I have overcome the world.” 
    —  Jesus Christ 

Tuesday Tuneup 107

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater balance.

Q. Is there something about your present place that is particularly imbalanced?

A. Definitely.  In fact, almost everything about it seems imbalanced.

Q. However did it get this way?

A. Gradually, I think, over time.

Q. When did you first become aware of the imbalance?

A. Oh, I think I’ve always been aware of it.  It’s just that lately it’s seemed particularly noticeable.  It interferes with easy access to a manageable reality.

Q. Has reality been unmanageable lately?

A. Not entirely.  Elusive would be a better word.

Q. Reality eludes you?

A. Yes.

Q. Why is this?

A. Because day after day, I find myself to be overbalanced in the realm of the creative imagination, which by definition creates a world of its own – separate from and independent of reality.

Q. And you wish for a greater measure of reality in your daily balance?

A. Hmm – well, now that you put it that way, it doesn’t sound too desirable.

Q. But how long can you get around reality?

A. Oh, I don’t know.  Probably a while longer.

Q. Do you really think it wise to avoid reality completely?

A. Doesn’t sound quite wise, no.

Q. Then why don’t you just face reality?

A. Who’s to say what’s reality?

Q. I don’t know – who?

A. Beats me.  So how do I know it’s even reality that I’m avoiding?  What’s real to one person might be a dream to another.  A dream — or even a nightmare.

Q. Is it a nightmare to you?  Or only a dream?

A. Will I ever know?

Q. I don’t know — will you?

A. I don’t know.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Gratitude List 1556

1) Though we’re rapidly returning to real-life settings in these parts, I am thankful for the experience of Zoom and for the Zoom meetings I will continue to enjoy.  I imagine this would include my weekly Monday afternoon meeting with Kurt the linguistics expert.  Although it hasn’t happened yet, I always enjoy it, and usually learn new things.

(2) I’m thankful for all the professors I met in the two theology groups I discovered a while back.  On Thursday I met with Nick, a professor emeritus of philosophy who was the director of religious studies at the University here.  We had a wonderful conversation, in which he expressed his interest in my musical as well as theology.   I’m thankful he’d listened to Talking Shop Part Seven and Reaching for Your Hand, because he had useful observations as well as encouraging things to say.

(3) In the past year and a half, it seems that a niche has been prepared for me in the local journalism community.   I now count 22 columns I’ve had published in Spokane Faith and Values, where I’ve met numerous journalists with whom I am able to network.  Also thankful for all the local journalists I’ve met here in town, and at the University.

(4) Keva and I met again on Sunday.  We dd a new recording of “Reaching for Your Hand” in which we used two iPhones spaced strategically in different spots near singer and piano.   I’m in the process of mixing it down for my SoundCloud.   We also did a video of a song I wrote called “I Am the Blues.”  On examining her work closely, I told Keva she should feel free to interpret my songs as she chooses.  She does have that power, that gift.

(5) I’ve been meeting one to one with people who are interested in reinstating a musical workshop for the summer.  It won’t be the same exact team, but I am encouraged by the genuine interest and enthusiasm I am finding in those with whom I meet.  It’s been wonderful to have slowly realized in recent months that I am not the only person who enjoys working on my musical.   It’s been wonderful overall to have gradually discovered that I am no longer isolated, no longer alone.

“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.”
   — Erin Gruwell

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The Meaning Behind the Masks

This post was first published early today under the title “Finding Meaning in the Pandemic” on the religion-related news site, Spokane Faith and Values.   

When I was 14 years old, I made two very important discoveries.

First, I discovered the world was beautiful. Here I was in sunny Naples, Italy, waking up to the sights of Mt. Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. Also notable were the young Italian women, whose beauty I was likewise now at an age to appreciate. I learned how to play the guitar in the summer of 1967, sitting on the balcony of the large villa that my military family was renting. With hormones pulsing in post-pubescent bliss, I played my first gig at the Allied Teen Club, hung out with groupies, and enjoyed my first kiss.

The second discovery I made was equally important. I learned that the world was horrible.

Every day I listened to the death count. The family television, continually blaring, reported just how many men had been killed daily in the unpopular Vietnam War. These were young men, only a few years older than myself. That could be me, before long.

On Italian television, I saw images of an America on fire. Protests were raging. Buildings were burning. There had been four major assassinations of powerful American figures in the past four years. The Cold War continually threatened to become hotter. The world, despite all the wonders of its beauty, was in reality a very precarious and volatile place.

Like many, I feared the worst. I feared that the end was just around the corner. If the world were not blown up in its entirety, I myself would probably be blown up in Vietnam. There seemed no way for beauty to prevail over ugliness, or for what was worthy to prevail over what was shameful.  We were all stuck on a violent planet composed of violent, greedy people.

But the years went by. The end did not come. When I was 18, I got a high number in the ’71 lottery, and was thus spared the draft. The 70’s went by, then the 80’s and 90’s. Here we are in the year 2021 already — and the world has not yet ended.

One might be tempted to become complacent, or even cavalier. Some already have:

“We’ve gotten through everything else so far, we’ll get through this too. Climate change? No worries!  It’s all under control.”

But in resorting to such a stance, one essentially defaults to a fallacy identified in Scripture:

“They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” — 2 Peter 3:4

To think that just because everything has always proceeded in a certain way, it therefore always will, is pretty faulty logic. Backing up a bit, to think that everything today actually is proceeding as it always has is pretty funky reasoning as well.

Limits of Denial

When I first discovered that the world was at once beautiful and horrible, I collapsed under the force of that disparity. What was I to believe? In which “world” would I live? The cognitive dissonance was overwhelming.

But as time went by, I noticed that I could choose to live almost exclusively in the “beautiful world.” By hurling myself full-force into my various endeavors, I was able to wipe the horrible stuff from my mind. This worked wonderfully, as long as the horrible stuff was not right outside my door.

In fact, it worked wonderfully throughout most of my life. As long as the bad stuff was only seen and heard from a distance and not directly experienced, I was able to construct a reality that overlooked the overall state of humanity.

While years of living on the streets put a significant dent in that illusion, the pandemic destroyed it completely. It was now impossible to ignore the critical state of the planet, because the most significant planetary story was no longer being presented strictly through the media, but in plain sight, everywhere I went.

The Masses Masked and Unmasked

Everywhere I saw people wearing masks. The sight of the masses in masks is not something from which one can easily hide. No matter what one believes about the value of mask-wearing, one cannot deny the unavoidable nature of the phenomenon. In seeing humanity in masks, we see a living symbol of a massive human wound.

That wound has been exacerbated and its healing delayed by the fact that many people have denied it. They see the wearing of the masks itself as the problem, and in so doing fail to acknowledge the much more serious problem that is the reason why people are wearing them. In seeing humanity half-masked and half unmasked, we see another living symbol: that of the war between human acceptance and human denial.

We have waged that war within and among ourselves since the beginning of time — since the Garden. But never in my lifetime have I seen it displayed as brazenly as it is today. The cultural division, once displayed mostly on social media via our personal devices, is now manifest in real life, right before our eyes.

It is one thing to block out information being received on the Internet. Accounts can be blocked, subscriptions terminated, devices disabled. It’s quite another thing to block out the obvious. Those who try are only trying to do what I and many others did for years. We succeeded in constructing our own little worlds and reveling in them, in order to sidestep the disturbances of the greater picture. But we can no longer do so. The pandemic has changed all that.

That insular cubicle in which I crafted my custom-made reality can no longer contain me. The cradle in which a sheltering parent nurtured me can no longer rock me.  I used to walk about Moscow, Idaho thinking: “This is such a nice town!  Look how everybody smiles!” Now, when I walk about my home community, I walk in the presence of the problems of the planet.

And you know what? This is a good thing. It’s no longer just my world. For better or worse, it’s our world — where each of us has a part to play. In the years to come, we may look back on this unique period of our history, when one way or another, our lives were determined by a deadly disease that had impacted the entire human race. When we do so, we may well see in hindsight how the pandemic provided a needed turning point in our shared life and our common culture.

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Tuesday Tuneup 106

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. What?

Q. I asked you: “Where would you like to be?”

A. Is that what you’re going to ask me this morning?

Q. Well, I just asked you it, didn’t I?

A. I imagine you did.

Q. Well, you gonna answer it?

A. I suppose so.

Q. What do you mean, suppose so?  

A. Just what I said, suppose so! 

Q. Well, what’s your answer?

A. I would like to be in a place where . . . hmm .  . . where I am free of fear, and where I am fully authentic.

Q. How are the two related?

A. They’re related because it’s fear that keeps me from being fully authentic.

Q. What are you afraid of?

A. I’m afraid that my real self will not be acceptable.

Q. Acceptable to whom?

A. To people whom I need.

Q. Do you really need these people?

A. Yes.   We all need people.   

Q. Are you afraid that if you show your true colors, you will lose them?

A. Yes.

Q. So what colors do you show them instead?

A. False colors, obviously.

Q. Can you give me an example?

A. Well, take the other night, when I was preparing the podcast for tomorrow.   As soon as the devices were rolling, and I knew I was being recorded, I became completely uptight.  I tried to compensate for my uptight state by putting on a stage voice.   At the time I thought it was the right thing to do — the professional thing to do.   But later, when I listened to the recording, I felt that I sounded forced and phony. 

Q. Can’t you just record it over again, and try to sound less affected this time?   And more like your real self?

A. Not possible.  There were two people involved in the podcast, and I would inconvenience them to ask them to meet a second time.

Q. Do you think the other person may also have been nervous?   Perhaps they too were not their true self?

A. Again, not possible.   As I listened to the recording, they seemed perfectly relaxed and at ease.  Totally natural — calm, rational, genuine — in fact, all the other participants have been little short of excellent — in all their spoken contributions.  It is only I who cannot measure up to the level of authenticity and integrity that I desire so strongly in myself and others.  I am the one who fails at his own endeavor . .  it is I who —

Q. May I interrupt?

A. Please do.

Q. How can you possibly believe that your perceptions are accurate?   

A. What do you mean?

Q. Is it logically possible that all these other people are performing perfectly, and you alone are in error?

A. I guess not.

Q. You guess not?

A. Okay – I know not.   But still it bugs me that I can’t find my authentic voice.

Q. Aren’t you confusing your inner voice with your speaking voice?

A. What’s the difference?

Q. Isn’t your speaking voice a mere anatomical apparatus?   Isn’t your Inner Voice the Voice of the Heart – the True Voice – from whence the True Self shines though?

A. But shouldn’t the speaking voice be a reflection of the Inner Voice?

Q. Does everybody have to be a good speaker?   What about somebody who can’t speak at all?   Does this deny them the right to access their own Inner Voice?  

A. Well, it shouldn’t. 

Q. Then why can’t you just let your speaking voice be?

A. Because it’s — lousy.

Q. Is everything about you lousy?

A. No.  I’m good at some things.   You know what they are.   

Q. Then why not focus on what you’re good at?

A. Are you saying, you don’t want me to make any more podcasts?

Q. Did I say that?

A. No.

Q. Do you think you should give up on the podcasts?

A. Well, no — because the information being exchanged is potentially very valuable — at least to certain sorts of people who are potentially very significant — and therefore the positive content of the podcasts outweighs the negative nature of my vocal delivery.

Q. So you’re going to keep up the Spoken Word projects, even though you don’t like the sound of your own voice?

A. I’m not sure.   It takes an awful long time to edit these things, though I do enjoy the process.

Q. So there are other variables to be considered?

A. Indeed there are.   

Q. Will you see me again next week?

A. Will you ask me a different question?

Q. Why should I?

A. Because this question didn’t lead to a conclusion.   I mean, there’s got to be a question that will get us where we need to go more quickly.   Don’t you think? 

The Questioner is silent.   

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Gratitude List 1555

(1) Though I’d felt tired and innervated for weeks, my energy level definitely increased throughout last week and on into the start of this week.  Walking into town, I easily turned left and scaled up a hill that often has intimidated me.  A roundabout route through campus was not only beautiful, but brisk.  Moreover, I notice I’m getting to bed early these days and waking up like clockwork at the same time every morning, very naturally.   Grateful for the gift of health.

(2) Wrote a column for the religious news site, first one since the five-week series.   Kurt had a chance to go through it with suggested edits, many of which I accepted, prior to turning it in yesterday.  (It’s about hidden meaning that may be found in the pandemic.)  Grateful for this writing gig, and for all the journalists I’ve met here who encourage me.

(3) Had a wonderful experience yesterday providing special music at the United Church, where Cody is the regular church pianist on staff.  He played the service with great sensitivity, and Pastor Jodie preached a provocative sermon.  I played my “very Irish” version of Be Thou My Vision, and it was a warm, spirited occasion.

(4) Keva’s delivery of Reaching for Your Hand is almost too good for me to listen to.  She was practically sight-reading off of a score on her smartphone — that’s how little we had practiced it – and yet she nailed it.  I knew she was good, but I didn’t know she was that good!   I gave her another song I wrote for female voice called “I Am the Blues” that we’re practicing to record on Sunday.

(5) Getting up at 4:30 every morning again has been good for my spiritual health.  My friend Danielle in Georgia leaves at 7:45 to drive to work, and so at 4:45am PST we often have a conversation.  Lately the conversations have been very encouraging, mostly about how to be forgiving, in an ongoing way, in human relationships, and how we can feel free to solve our problems knowing that we are forgiven, for we can see ourselves without shame.  It’s inspiring how both Danielle and I have been positively influenced by our respective churches over the past few years.    There is new life all around me, and I am grateful.

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
   –Martin Luther King, Jr.  

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Gratitude List 1554

(1) It’s been great getting to sit in the café lately, where a number of people have told me I look more relaxed and healthy than ever before. Funny too, because I haven’t been running and I think I’m fat. But if I transcend the personal perception of potbelly, I can be thankful for the compliment.

(2) Just sold a Pensive CD for $15 on the site. Thankful for my first sale.

(3) Looking forward to meeting with Kurt the retired linguistics professor this afternoon at 3:30 as usual on Zoom.  I continue to be grateful for the ongoing search for knowledge and purpose that I have found here on WordPress, as well as in my University community, among all the scholars whom I’ve been privileged to meet.

(4) Keva did an amazing job on both of those songs yesterday.   We’re planning to do another version of “Reaching for Your Hand” once she doesn’t have to read it off of her phone, but even so, it’s the best anyone I know has ever sung that song — out of many singers, over the years.  I’m grateful for Keva as well as for all the other young performing artists who recently have shown an interest in my work.

(5) Beautiful day, cool and breezy.   Nice running weather.  I may be a slouch but I am grateful I have two strong legs and two long lungs.   They’ve come in handy, here and there, throughout life.

“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.”
— W.B. Yeats”

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Keva Singing

Just want to post these, that we did during afternoon rehearsal.   Keva was singing “Reaching for Your Hand” fairly unrehearsed, reading the words and music from her smartphone.    She and I have done “Daylight” before, but we both wanted to do it over again — and I’m glad we did.   Both songs are from original musicals of mine.    Keva Shull does an outstanding job with them, imho — and I think you’ll agree.

“Reaching for Your Hand” from The Burden of Eden

“Daylight” from Eden in Babylon

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