Categories
Artist gratitude Musician running Writer

Gratitude List 1397

This morning’s daily gratitude.

(1) Though I slept only four hours sporadically, I did get a solid afternoon nap yesterday and also have confidence I’ll sleep more deeply at some point in the near future.   I’m grateful for a light schedule these days that doesn’t hassle me or make me too uptight, and I’m always thankful for the power of needed sleep.

(2) Grateful to have a nice quiet apartment to myself, where I can enjoy the quiet hours of darkness before the dawn, and usually get a lot of writing done, unhindered by interruptions from others.

(3) Nice to hear the rain pitter-pattering outside my window.   After so many years of sleeping outdoors, it’s nice to be inside.

(4) The six-piece praise ensemble at my church really did an outstanding job premiering my first-ever worship song, “I Want to Worship You,” yesterday.  They were so gentle and genuine with it, I was so honored for them to have selected it.   They put their hearts into it, and I was blessed.

(5) I’ve been faithful to meditate twenty minutes daily, with a few days off here and there.  It’s helping me to effect a better balance in life, and not be so self-destructively driven in the area of creative output.  Also, a local math professor gifted me with a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in contemporary English.   That’s the book that influenced my pastor’s meditative practice, and it’s helping to inform mine, as well.   

(6) I also just found a free pdf of the book Please Understand Me online.  Eager to delve back into David Kiersey’s unique Myers-Briggs type descriptions, from which I learned so much in the 90’s.

(7) Today marks three and a half years that I have lived indoors after many years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.  I’ve paid my rent on time every month, and have mostly lived alone here, with a few house guests here and there.   Between my music and writing gigs, and a healthy retirement income from the government, I have not had to suffer for bread.  Everybody thought I was going to die a pathetic, meaningless death in a gutter.  And now, in the midst of life’s trials and setbacks,  I am nonetheless happier than I have ever been in my life.

(8) Been walking about seven miles a day lately, briskly.  I even did fifteen push-ups in a single set the other day.  I’m thinking I can get by on running just twice a week, and still do the Eugene Half Marathon in April.  It will be a rush to run at sea level again after training at such a high altitude here in North Idaho.

(9) Very grateful for the community of artists, writers, and musicians that I prayed for so desperately for so many years, when I had found myself instead surrounded by hustlers, hookers, and thieves.   The community has come together even more in the wake of the death of a dear friend — a musician named Paul — one of the most vibrant and magnanimous people I have ever met.   He will be remembered in his glaring absence at the Open Mike on Friday.   May Paul Anders rest in the same joy and peace he brought to us all.

(10) God is Love.  

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Categories
Christ Christianity Psychology

A Way in the Wilderness

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Categories
Artist Creative process Musical Piano

Troubled Water

My improvisations toward — and away from — the classic themes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.   Unlike recent recordings done with an iPhone 10, this one was made using my pastor Norman’s old Motorola.   It gives it a nice effect — I hope you like it.   

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Categories
Homelessness Music Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Four)

This is the fourth in a five-part series, posted on five successive Thursdays.  Though the series is only quasi-chronological, I urge you to leaf through the first three first.  

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Drawing by Granger

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard referred to the moment, not as “an atom of time,” but as an “atom of eternity.”  That’s how the moment of August 8, 2006 felt.  One might say that time stood still at that moment, and I had a glimpse of the eternal bliss we might experience in heaven.

This is one reason why I framed this series as I did.   A chronological order of events would not be as meaningful as a spiritual progression, which in a way defies time.  My first day of homelessness was not August 8, 2006 — it was May 17, 2004.  But the night of May 17, 2004 was a night of fright and awful uncertainty, afraid to make myself prone on a bench at the Burlingame CalTrain station, but sitting up all night, nodding off periodically, and watching for cops all the while.

By contrast, the event of August 8, 2006 was one of momentary ecstasy, but where did that moment lead?  Down the tubes fairly quickly, as I recall.  Its memory, however, did not fade.

That memory was in fact felt in retrospect.  For on March 19, 2004, I took a look at my badly beaten car, its front end crunched like an accordion.   As I discovered the freedom of public transportation, of leaving the driving to those more capable than myself, I was granted a foreshadow of the more complete liberation I would know two years in the future.

The horror that marked my final three years in Berkeley was also foretold.  It wasn’t until June 24, 2013 that I first found myself pistol-whipped, as I watched a pair of young hooligans making off with my laptop.   But on some unknown date back in June of 2004, I had known a much more serious violation, of the kind that in civil society it is not thought proper to discuss.

The complex confluence of incongruous influences that comprised the conditions of homelessness was never considered a drain or an overload, in the way that the Mainstream had been.  The overload of the Mainstream was death to my soul. But all the excesses of stimuli that combined to create the Homeless Adventure were health to my spirit, and marrow to my bones.

“Naked I am!” I shouted.  “I am stripped of all I have ever thought I would be!  I have made myself naked and vulnerable in the face of a fully mercurial and often hostile Universe!”

I saw all my possessions be burned to bits before my eyes, the act of an unfeeling young juggaloe who hadn’t slept in days.   I was hurled to the ground by deluded gangbangers, shouting “I’m going to kill you White Motherf—-r!” — as they hit me again and again with the barrels of their guns, on the head I had bowed before them.

Yet through all these atrocities, I found it in myself to sleep on my back without bedroll in a thunderstorm, exerting pelvic thrusts in the direction of the full moon, and reveling.

“Bring it on!” I screamed.  “I want more!  I want more!!”

Then, getting up, fully clad and with shoes on — (for I always slept in shoes, so as to be ready) — I suddenly shivered.   So what did I do?   Of course, I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could, till I warmed.

When the sun shone, and the daylight burned, I walked about the City of Berkeley and composed music in protest, having not paper nor pen, neither software, nor laptop, no possessions at all, save the clothes on my back.

“Bop bop bop!” came the singing of the melodies.   My weathered trousers were as sets of drums.   Keyboards and electric guitars anointed the air, while passersby mocked and mimicked me, shouting: “Shut the f—k up!”  Meanwhile, seemingly unbeknowst to them, I composed the score to Eden in Babylon— to my proud estimation, the finest music I have written thus far, to date — in the timeless spool of life.

“That’s your whole problem!” my naysayers chided.  “You think that your music is more important than God.”

“Ah but no,” I replied.  “It’s your problem.  You think that your Mainstream is God.”

There was nothing Mainstream about the Uniqueness that was Homelessness in Berkeley.  So for all of the fears, the highs, and the rages, it yet remained sacred — to me.

“How do we get inside again?” my friend Jerome had earlier queried.   “How do we get back inside, and yet not get sucked back into the Mainstream?”

In search of answer, I shouted at the Most High in outrage.

“WHY am I hanging around pimps and hookers and drug dealers and thieves and criminals and hustlers and panhandlers?   WHY am I not among Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors — and people more like myself!?  I know — I know — these are the people whom JESUS hung out with!   But I’m NOT JESUS!!! I’m NOT JESUS!!  I’m only f—ing human!!!  Give me a god-d—–d break!!!!”

Many times did I scream to the God of my youth.  Many times someone screamed back at me: “Would you just shut the f—-k up?!”

Then came the terrifying threats of the night.  “This guy,” said a jealous man, pointing my way, “is not going to live much longer.”

“You know what?” I told myself.  “He’s probably right.”

So on June 24, 2016, exactly three years after the first of a series of violent assaults against my person, I went down to Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, bought myself a refurbished Dell laptop with my government check, and walked quietly away from the City of Berkeley without saying a word.

God then proceeded to answer every prayer I had hurled toward Him, facing His Infinite Love with hatred and vitriol.   He answered those prayers sevenfold, nay — seventy times sevenfold — in spades.   And He provided a way for me to live inside without getting sucked back into the evils of the Mainstream.   In so doing, He showed me the hugeness of His unfathomable, unconditional love.  

I have one more thing to say on this matter, more-or-less in conclusion. After that, I’ll be done — for now.

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Categories
journalism Social Media social statement

My Story on Cancel Culture Published in the Spokesman

I had the honor this month of being the guest columnist in the Faith and Values section of the Spokesman-Review, the main newspaper of the city of Spokane, Washington.   The story may be found online here, and a verbatim transcript is below.  

CaptureWhat is cancel culture? In a nutshell, it’s a subculture that consists of people who have eliminated other people from their lives, based on perceptions of their having behaved inappropriately. Those who perform these eliminations also encourage others to eliminate them as well, on the grounds that their offenses are irredeemable, and so no one should have to tolerate them.

None of us particularly relish the futility of arguing against someone’s egregious conduct. But the problems with advocating such a full-fledged “cancellation” of another human being are ultimately more serious than those which arise from that person’s unacceptable behavior in the first place.

On October 29, speaking at an Obama Foundation event, the former president declared: “Among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people’ and that’s enough.”

That’s not activism,” Obama went on. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

It’s interesting that Obama stresses how this phenomenon is propelled by social media. I’ve often been aghast at what people get away with on social media that they couldn’t do in their real, non-wired lives – such as block someone from a group and still participate in that group. In real life, this wouldn’t be possible. You’d either attend the group or not. You wouldn’t be able to simply render yourself invisible to somebody you don’t want to deal with.

But when it comes to cancel culture, people come close to doing just that. Those who have been “cancelled” are not only blocked on social media, but in every aspect of their lives. From that moment on, there is no prospect for redemption on the part of the offenders. They are like condemned buildings, destroyed by the wrecking ball. And who has condemned them? Fallible human beings, who may later find themselves condemned as well.

What about the First Amendment? An open debate over difficult differences is a touchstone of democracy. As Obama said in a speech to college students, as early as 2015: “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

What is at the root of such a twisted culture? In a certain light, it can be seen as just another instance of our human urge to seek personal glory at the expense of the greater good. When someone succeeds in calling out an adversary, of course that person feels exalted. As Obama explained: “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself.”

The idea of removing others from our sight is not something that serves humanity on the whole. It’s self-serving. And it’s been around for a long time. People used to be “banished” in the Middle Ages. Even today, how often do we walk past scores of homeless people on the sidewalks, and act as though they don’t exist?

In my view, we could all open our eyes just a little bit more, and start doing the small things for others that will gradually help us to rebuild a broken society. If we don’t, historically speaking, something will happen to open our eyes for us. And those events have not normally been very pretty.

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Categories
Berkeley Creative process philosophy

Tuesday Tuneup 69

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing, as always.

Q. Processing thoughts?

A. Yes.

Q. Where are these thoughts formed?

A. In the mind.

Q. Not in the brain?

A. No.  They are processed in the brain, but formed in the mind.

Q. And where is the mind?

A. In the Beyond.

Q. Head in the clouds, I see.   So what else happens to thoughts in the mind?

A. Glad you asked.   Besides thought formation, three other activities occur, as pertain to thought.

Q. What are they?

A. Identification, application, and preservation.

Q. How is a thought identified?

A. When it is completed and defined.  You see, all thoughts have the power to merge with other thoughts.  When two thoughts merge, they become a new thought consisting of a composite of the original two thoughts.  Similarly, three or more thoughts may merge, and affix themselves onto other thought forms, and become still newer thoughts.  There is thus no end to the number of thoughts that can be formed.   But at some certain time, one puts a stop to it.

Q. One?

A. One’s will, that is.  One wills the thought merging to stop and defines a certain conglomerate of thoughts as a single thought by identifying it.

Q. Identifying?

A.  Yes.  By naming it — by giving it a name of its own.

Q. Who is the One who does this?

A. Whoever first thought it up.  Ultimately, God.  God is the one whose will is operative in Universal Mind.   But we humans also assign names to thoughts.   After all, we were created in His image, and granted that initiative.

Q. So once the thought is fully formed, it is then identified?

A. Correct.

Q. Then what?

A. It is applied.

Q. Meaning?

A. It is sent to a thought-container where it may be put to use.

Q. Is the human brain a thought-container?

A. Yes.  It’s not the only thought-container, but it’s one of them.

Q. Then what happens to the thought?

A. It is preserved.

Q. Who does the preserving?

A. Many sentient entities have this power.  But the only one who does it perfectly is God.  Others preserve it only impermanently.

Q. Why does this remind of me of something?

A. Probably because you work with computers, and you see the parallel.

Q. The parallel?

A. Yes.  Thoughts formed in the mind often wind up in files, where they merge with other thought forms until the file is named; that is, identified.   These identified thoughts are then applied by sending them into folders.   The folders and then saved — that is, preserved, on the cloud.

Q. Is the brain then therefore a computer?

A. Yes.  It’s quite like a hard drive — a central processing unit.  

Q. But the mind is not?

A. No.  The mind, at its core, is divine.  It exists in an intangible realm of the Spirit.

Q. This is what’s called the Beyond?

A. It can be called that, yes.

Q. Why do you back off?

A. I am often hesitant to use misleading labels.  Even speaking of Universal Mind would peg me a theosophist, which I am not.

Q. You’re a Christ Follower, aren’t you?

A. I try to be.

Q. Then why does this information strike me as —

A. As?

Q. I can’t quite tell you.

A. Then I can’t quite answer.  But probably what you’re picking up is that this has nothing to do with good and evil; that is, with morality.   And morality is what is commonly associated with the Christian faith.

Q. Is that common knowledge fallacious?

A. Not at all.  But it’s only part of it.  The Word of God has a lot to do with precise language, with the meanings of names.  Words associated with the Christian faith have meanings that are often misunderstood.

Q. Like what?

A. Like sin, for example.  Most people don’t know what sin actually means, and they shy away from the concept.

Q. Another example?

A. Faith.   St. Paul says “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  But if one has a false idea of faith —  or of sin — that statement will be misinterpreted.

Q. When did you learn all this?

A. In the year 2012.

Q. Where were you when you learned this?

A. Berkeley.

Q. How do you know all this?

A. I’d like to save that answer for later — if you don’t mind.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Categories
Christianity gratitude journalism running

Gratitude List 1385

This week’s gratitude list is from last Thursday morning, the 16th.  

1. Slept 6 hrs from 9 till 3, deeply w/dreams.

2. I’m gettting to read Proverbs 16 (my favorite chapter) this morning, with 16:7, my favorite verse.

3. My piece on Cancel Culture is being published in The Spokesman.  I have to edit out 300 words to meet their requirements, and it’s due tomorrow. But I can do it. It’s a priority, as The Spokesman is the major newspaper of the 2nd largest city in the State of Washington.

4. It dawned on me during Bible Project that I would probably think more clearly and have less anxiety if I ate a little more properly.   So I resolved to start with eight forms of food that I read are good for people with ADHD in that they adjust dopamine levels in the brain: milk, eggs, fish, strawberries, apples, bananas, almonds and dark chocolate.

5. Ran 1.2 miles from the church to my landlord’s office to Ace Hardware in spikes & street clothes in 24F weather with the wind on my back, nice brisk run. Ran/walked 1.8 back against the wind, since Ace couldn’t copy my mail key and I had to go to the locksmith in the mall on 3rd Street. Good exercise. (Gives “running errands” a new meaning.)

6. Looks like it’s 31F degrees and less snow on ground. I can probably do a significant run this morning, yesterday’s jaunt being a warm-up.

7. Good Folger’s coffee at my own home out of my own Black & Decker coffee maker. Grateful for this place and for the amazing way it came together without my having to pay a deposit or them runing a credit or background chack, thanks be to God and Young Paul, the college graduate whose lease I took over.  Grateful to finally be no longer surrounded by tweakers, in life.

8. Got my daughter’s youtube of her song “Sparrows” from the open mike at the Starry Plough, a work of genius.

9. Got the Street Spirit check and 3 complimentary papers, along with a Happy New Years and a thank you from the editor-in-chief.  Also, John C. paid me the $10 he owed me on a Suspended CD, so I made $35, which ought to cover the utilities bill.

10. Excited about my theology group tonight, which will be on Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I’ve got three writing deadlines before Friday, and this will be a welcome restbit. God is Good.

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Categories
Classism Psychology scripture

The Plight of the Poor

All the brothers of a poor man hate him—
how much more do his friends avoid him!
He may pursue them with pleading,
but they are nowhere to be found.
— Proverbs 19:7 

 

Categories
Artist Musical Piano

Hallelujah

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Categories
Christ Homelessness Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Three)

It would be tempting for me to recount just about everything that took place between August 12, 2006 and April 15, 2011.   But that would be a story in itself — perhaps even a novel or a book.   Suffice it to say that my travels during that period of time were extremely disjointed.   They represented the trek of a man who, having already realized that the Mainstream held nothing for him, nevertheless engaged himself in a five year plan of pointless futility, hanging on to the remnants of a former Mainstream identity.  To everyone in my path, this leg of my journey appeared to be nothing other than a poisonous mixture of insanity and instability.   I bounced from Lodi to Redwood City to Stockton, back to Redwood City, up to Oakland, and back to Stockton, with frenetic periods in between where I could claim no single city as my own.  "BenjaminAlways, I was haunted by the lure of Berkeley and its particularly special brand of homelessness.  Having tasted of that heavenly fruit, there was no way I could return to anything like my former system of values without incurring disaster.  Berkeley loomed as though a Mecca for all who had embraced this unusual consciousness.  In fact, prior to the momentous event of August 8, 2006, there was even a previous moment in the Fall of 2005 that served as a kind of prophecy of unknown times to come.   Someone had driven me to visit my daughter where she was working at the Jamba Juice on Bancroft, and as I stepped out of the car, I suddenly found myself  lifting up my hands in a spontaneous gesture of amazement, shouting: “Berkeley!   This is where I’ve got to be!”

To this day, I have no idea what prompted that outburst.  Something in the air of this peculiar city had caught my attention in a way that no other place ever had.   And then, there was the mysterious revelation of 2006, followed by the tortuous premature application of that epiphany in the next three days, prompting a five year disappearance into failed jobs, shelters, residence hotels, and psych wards, until at last, on April 15, 2011, I gave up the ghost.

On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, got on an AmTrak, and alighted once again on the City of Berkeley, this time with the full intent of my heart.

That night I hooked up with a fellow named Sydney, sold my cell phone for a blanket, and the two of us slept in a corridor near the U.C. campus.  Far from the earlier disorientation, I now found myself guided, as if by an unseen hand, to every resource for the homeless that the city had to offer.  It was at that time that I also was directed to numerous other homeless men and women whom I discovered to be very much like myself.   All of them shared a similar story of having been “liberated” from an evil form of bondage that we called the Mainstream.

One of these was a tall African-American man named Jerome.  For the first five days of my intentional homelessness, I chatted with him at Starbucks.  He was well-dressed — as was I — and it took five days before either of us discovered the other was homeless.  At that, we decided to camp out together.  (There’s safety, after all, in numbers.)

“Here’s the challenge,” Jerome said one night.  “How do get inside again without getting sucked back into the Mainstream?”

“That is indeed the challenge,” I replied.

Then there was silence.

There are many levels to liberation.  As I wrote in Part Two of this series, one is not just liberated from something.   One is liberated into something.   And that something might just morph into an ogre as forbidding as that from which one had been released in the first place.

For my part, there is no true liberation, unless one is liberated into Christ.   “If you make my Word your home,” said Jesus, “you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make  you free.”  

When one has found a home, one needs to maintain it.  Otherwise one will have a home no longer.   Even the freedom that there is in Christ is not an absolute arrival.   To what extent I had found liberation it now needed to be tilled like a garden.  Otherwise, it would morph into a beast as threatening as the Mainstream from which I first fled.

For better or worse, that is what happened with homelessness.  It developed into a world of its own, with rules of its own, many of them tacitly acknowledged — unwritten and unspoken, yet real.   And those rules bespoke betrayal, vengeance, and death.

Though the first months of homelessness in Berkeley were little short of blissful, even on into the second year, eventually my old enemy reared his head, though in a different and far more frightening form.   Just how bad it got, it will disturb me greatly to tell.  But I’ll tell it, as cogently as I can, in Part Four.

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