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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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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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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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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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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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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Tuesday Tuneup 105

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. Drama.

Q. Drama?

A. You heard me.

Q. As in Shakespeare?

A. Come on – you know what I mean.   Personal drama.

Q. Is there a lot of drama in your life right now?

A. If there is, there shouldn’t be.

Q. Then how is it that you claim to be “coming from drama?”

A. Because that’s where I come from — by nature.

Q. You’re a dramatic person by nature?

A. A good friend of mine once told me that I treat life as though it’s a play I’m writing.   A play in which I am the main character.

Q. So you are both Playwright and Protagonist?

A. Yes.  In the Play of Life.

Q. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous of you?   I mean, that you — an almost infinitesimal fraction of the world’s population — should be the playwright of the whole shebang?

A. Presumptuous in an understatement.   Somewhere between grandiose and delusional come to mind.

Q. When did you first realize this?

A.  The night before last.

Q.  Seriously?   Only that recently?   

A.  I believe it had been brewing for a long time.   But finally yes, the night before last is when I connected all the dots.   I’ve been treating people unrealistically for a long time.  I’ve been treating them according to what purpose I think they’re supposed to fulfill in my life — rather than according to who they are.

Q.  What happened the night before last?

A.  I was walking and praying.  Praying for a couple people whom I met recently, people with whom I tried to form friendships, and then I fouled up the friendships.  

Q. How did you do that?

A. I did it because I couldn’t see who they truly were, or what their needs were.  I could only see the role that I presumed they should be playing in my life.

Q. In the Play of Life — the play that you are always writing?

A. Yes!  Now you understand.  

Q. How did you feel when you realized how you had been treating them?

A. Horrible!  I suddenly saw how selfishly I had taken advantage of them.   And each of them had respected me — perhaps even admired me.   They were younger, and they looked up to me.  I should have provided a better example, a better role model.   Instead, I used them — I tried to fashion them into these characters of my own creation.  As though I were —

Q. God?

A. As though I were God.

Q. Was it really that bad?   You didn’t abuse them physically, did you?

A. No . . .

Q. Did you call them names?

A. One of them, yes.  When I was mad.   I tried to apologize — but the apology couldn’t have taken away the hurt.   And then I didn’t know what to do anymore, to be honest with you.

Q. What did you do?

A. I just started to be nice to them, whenever I happened to see them.   Tried to start anew, I guess.

Q. What more can you do?

A. Not much, I suppose.  Maybe time will take care of it all.

Q. What have you learned from all this?

A. Something I should have already known.

Q. What’s that?

A. That I’m a playwright.  I was born to write plays.   My brain thinks in characters and dialogue.  I should write more of them.  I should write a brand new play.   If I write more plays, I will cease to act as though I am the Playwright of Life.   And I will respect the One who truly is that Playwright.  The One who created my character.   The One who wrote the whole show — from the Beginning of Time.

The Questioner pauses.  

Q. Is all the world a stage?

A. In God’s eyes, perhaps.

Q. And in your eyes?

A. All the world’s a page.   I am but a writer who writes on it.   Page after page I will turn, I will write.  Until I’ve written what’s right for me to write.

Q. Promise?

A. I promise.   

Q. But what about the people in your life?

A. It’s not my life.   That’s the whole point.   It’s just life.   I didn’t create it.   God did.   I am only to participate in it, and appreciate it.

Q. But what about the people in your life?

A. They have their own lives.

Q. Really?

A. Well – in a manner of speaking.   I can only pray that they too will be able to get the most — out of Life.     

The Questioner is silent

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Tuesday Tuneup 103

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Aren’t you a little quiet this morning?

A. Didn’t sleep well enough.

Q. Can you get more sleep?

A. Maybe a nap, maybe later.

Q. Anything going on that you want to talk about this morning?

A. Well, I’m a bit down.   But I think it’s the kind of thing that more sleep will eliminate.

Q. Down about anything in particular?

A. My personality, I suppose, as usual.

Q. Down on yourself?

A. Yes and no.  I’m not down on my achievements, or my work.   But some of the dumb things I do kinda get to me every now and then.

Q. Like what?

A. We discussed it earlier.   I put my foot in my mouth sometimes.  It’s awkward.

Q. Is this that thing of “jumping the gun” again?

A. Yeah, that’s it.  Jumping the gun.   Speaking before I think.

Q. When was the last time you did that?

A. Oh, maybe last night.

Q. What was the context?

A. Talking to somebody from California.  I mentioned a great compliment I had received.   But it wasn’t to highlight the fact that I was complimented.  It was to illustrate a point.

Q. What was the point?

A. A parallel between the protagonist in my musical and my own personality, me being the one who wrote the musical.

Q. Somebody compared you to the main character in your musical?

A. Yes.

Q. In a good way, or in a bad way?

A. Oh – a very good way.  It was highly complimentary.  But the point is — it was a factual comparison.

Q. Factual?

A. Yes – it illustrated an intriguing parallel.   So I was hoping that the person from California would catch the parallel.  Instead, they only caught the fact that somebody had “said something sweet” to me.  The way they said it — “Ah, how sweet!” — indicated that they didn’t understand or appreciate the parallel.  They related to the fact that I was complimented — not to the substance of the complimentary statement.  They could have said it about somebody saying something nice about my shirt.

Q. So how did you put your foot in your mouth?

A. By calling attention to the fact that someone had complimented me, rather than to the dynamics of the intriguing psychological parallel in the first place.

Q. So the focus was on the fact that you were complimented, not on the essence of the complimentary statement?

A. You heard me!  It’s like I just said.  It was as though I spoke out of ego — out of wanting the Californian to know that I had been complimented — kinda like I would have done when I was still down in California.  But in so doing, I missed the opportunity to get an intriguing psychological phenomenon across to them.  In fact, I could have left myself out of the picture entirely, and it would have been a much more meaningful interaction.

Q. Why did you not do so?   Why did you call attention to the fact that someone had flattered you, rather than to the intellectual dynamics of an interesting topic in the first place?

A. Because I was talking with a Californian.

Q. But – but — why does it matter whether they were a Californian or not?

A. Because in California, everybody was either always very critical of me, or else they were feeding my ego with inordinate praise.

Q. So you inordinately praised yourself, in order to defray their criticisms?

A. Exactly.  I defended myself — even though I had not yet been attacked.

Q. Why do you stigmatize Californians?

A. I think “stereotype” would be a better word.

Q. So why stereotype them?   Why stereotype anybody?

A. I don’t know.   It took years for me to realize that my best possible solution in life was to simply leave the State of California.  Since then, I’ve basically been raving to old friends of mine how great it is up here in Idaho.   But they never receive the positive.   They just think I’m down on Californians for some reason.

Q. Are you?

A. Well — I can count the number of Californians I still talk to on one hand.

Q. What is it about California?

A. You got me, man.  They have this attitude — and I don’t like to stereotype people or box them in — I hate it when people do that to me — but it’s this glaring generalization that I can’t escape.   They somehow — in general — put forth the attitude that they’re better than the rest of us, simply because they live in California.  And it’s like whoop-de-doo.   For all the problems that California has, you’d think they’d stop telling everybody in all the other States how we’re supposed to live.

Q. Are you sure you want to post these words online, where everybody can see them?

A. Not really.

Q. Then why are you doing it?

A. Because of my personality.  I stick my foot in my mouth.  I don’t think before I speak.  I jump the gun.

Q. Can you get better at this?

A. Maybe.   Gradually over time, I suppose.

Q. Say — I just thought of something — were you hurt by the way you were treated in California?

A. Hurt doesn’t even say it.   I was  only as though I was a piece of garbage for about twelve years, while I and a bunch of other so-called pieces of garbage were struggling to survive.

Q. You mean, when you were homeless?

A. Yes.   When I was homeless.   When we were homeless.

Q. But nobody’s treating you like garbage now, are they?

A. Not that I can tell.

Q. Then why bemoan the past?

A. Because I have no guard against becoming homeless again.   I’m just a check or two away.   One single emergency, and I’m probably out on the streets.

Q. And then what?

A. Then we’ll see how all these people who seem to like me so much will treat me.

Q. But they’re not Californians, are they?

A. No – but they’re people.   And people have their ideas about homeless people.   They usually don’t change them — until they themselves become homeless.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 102

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. A place of extreme excess.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I’m extremely excessive.

Q. How so?

A. Well, for one thing, I talk too much.

Q. But aren’t you an Introvert?

A. That I am.

Q. But aren’t most Introverts very quiet people?

A. Probably.   I’ve met a few others who are pretty chatty, though.

Q. Do you find those people to be extremely excessive?

A. No, not really.

Q. Then why do you think of you yourself as such?

A. Well, it’s not just that I talk too much.

Q. What else do you do?

A. I don’t think before I speak.

Q. Do you speak too soon?

A. Yes.  And often, there are consequences.

Q. What kinds of consequences?

A. I wind up annoying people.   Being in a leadership position, I give instructions that somebody begins to act upon, and later I realize the instructions were incorrect, and I alter the instructions after the fact, expecting them to switch gears and act upon them.  Very poor leadership, on my part.

Q. So you’re saying that you “jump the gun?”

A. Yes.

Q. Has anyone conveyed to you that they are annoyed with you?

A. No – not exactly . . .

Q. Why do you think this is?

A. Well obviously, they’re too polite to tell me, and they’re afraid of hurting my feelings.

Q. But you are convinced that they are annoyed with you?

A. Yes.

Q. What does it matter what they think?

A. Oh I don’t know.  I guess it doesn’t matter what they think, so much as it matters whether or not I do the right thing.

Q. And what is the right thing?

A. I’ve already told you!  I need to stop talking so much, and I need to think before I speak.  But that’s not all.

Q. What else is there?

A. Sometimes when I get super-stressed, I deliver a message to the wrong recipients.  A message that is supposed to go to say, a therapist or counselor, somehow goes to one of the people who is working for me.

Q. So you dump on them?

A. You might say so.

Q. Now what do all these things have in common?

A. Impatience.   I am too impatient.   Maybe not the talking too much — but the jumping the gun, and the need to vent — it all points to a spiritual problem.   I must be more patient.

Q. Can you now begin to do so?

A. Only if I trust God for the results.  I tend not to do that.  I don’t trust that the Universe is going to unfold as it should — if only I get out of its way.  Rather, I think that I have to do everything myself.

Q. Where does that come from?

A. Lack of faith.

Q. So you need more patience and you need more faith?

A. It would seem so, yes.

Q. Seem so?

A. Things are not always what they seem.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I already have faith.  I already have patience.  These are fruits of the Spirit.  And I already have the Spirit.  Faith, patience, love, joy, peace — these are all in me.   They’re inbred in our Divine Design.  I just need to exercise them — to practice them.

Q. Are you perfect?   Doesn’t everybody make mistakes?

A. But Jesus said: “Be therefore perfect – even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

Q. Why do you think he said that?

A. He wanted to inspire us to the highest possible standard.

Q. Has anyone ever achieved the highest possible standard?

A. Only one man has done so, in my opinion.

Q. So if only Jesus has achieved the highest possible standard — in your opinion — why are you so hard on yourself?

A. I don’t know.  It just seems that — nobody has ever accomplished anything truly great by going easy on themselves.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 101

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. To be honest with you, it varies from one moment to the next.   Sometimes I’m coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity.   At other times, I’m coming from anger.

Q. Anger?

A. Well – I like to call it “righteous indignation.”

Q. Are you indignant at the moment?

A. No, not really.

Q. Are you coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity?

A. Well, I wouldn’t say all humanity —

Q. Then where are you coming from at this moment?

Pause.

A. A very pensive place.  A place of thinking things over.

Q. Why is that?

A. I imploded the other day.  I shut down from stress.  I got to the point where the deadline, however self-imposed, was so much more important than any other thing in life — including my own self-care — that I literally shut down.   I became non-functional.  I imploded.

Q. Did anybody witness the implosion?  Or was it completely internal?

A. Oh, it was seen all right!   I wonder, however, if they knew the extent of it.

Q. Were you trying to hide it?

A. Yes and no.  I didn’t hide the fact that I was upset about something.  But I don’t think I conveyed the full extent of the inner implosion.

Q. Why not?

A. It would have been rude, ugly, and self-centered.

Q. So you suppressed it?

A. Well, I never exactly expressed it.

Q. What did you express?

A. Oh, some minor peeve that everybody knew I would get over in minute or two.

Q. But what was really going on?

A. Extreme insecurity.   We all implode every now and then — but me personally, I prefer to implode in private.

Q. So you were afraid that they would detect your implosion?

A. Exactly.  As I collapsed inwardly under the stress of pressure and deadline, I began to throw out smokescreens, in an effort to divert attention away from the implosion.

Q. Did it work?

A. I think so.  I think they just thought I was irritated.

Q. What exactly do you mean by “implosion?”

A. Well – it’s hard to define.   This graph, however, may be useful:

implosion

Q. Where did you get that graph?

A. Free Thesaurus.  

Q. To which of those external manifestations did your implosion lead you?

A. What do you mean?

Q. I mean – on the circle there – did you explode?  Did you go off?  Did you collapse?

A. Almost all apply.  But mostly, I think I “broke.”

Q. What did you break?

A. I broke my resolve.   I broke my code.  I broke my standard as to how I am to comport myself among the others.

Q. The others?

A. The other Artists.  The Artists who were, at that moment, in my midst.

Q. What is your code?

A. I could write books about it.

Q. Can you capsulize?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. My code is not to be a people-pleaser.  Not to say or do things because I am trying to get a favorable reaction from one or more of the other Artists.   Obviously, I cannot please everybody.  And in such a small, close-knit group, such measures  — born entirely of personal insecurity — are transparent.

Q. Have you not only told me what your code is not?

A. Can you repeat that, please?

Q. I said: “Have you not only told me what your code is not?”

A. Ah, I see.  I have in fact only told you what I aspire not to do.

Q. But what do you aspire to do instead?

A. I aspire to act according to the standard.

Q. The Moral Standard?

A. Well – that goes without saying.  But it’s not the standard that is most applicable in this context.

Q. What standard is that?

A. The Aesthetic Standard.

Q. Clarify?

A. I believe in an absolute aesthetic standard.   Just as with morality — and in my view, ethics — there is a standard of Beauty for which we all must strive.

Q. How does this apply in the context of the Artists?

A. Because we’re trying to get it just right.  We’re trying to make it as beautiful as we can make it.  And if we fall short, we feel it.  It drags down the energy of the whole room.   When we come closer to it, we feel that too — and it lifts up our hearts.

Q. Wow — so, this people-pleasing of yours, it interferes with the striving for the standard?

A. Of course it does.  People-pleasing is ugly.  The standard is beautiful.  But the gist of this discussion is merely this:

As long as I stay focused on our mutual desire to reach the highest Artistic standard, I will avoid my self-centered desire to make positive impressions on the other Artists.  And then, ironically, I will probably make the best impression I can possibly ever make.   Because it will no longer be I who seeks to impress.  It will be that which I and the other Artists have mutually created.  

It is that final Artistic product that I hope — that we hope — will impress the world.

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 99

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Embarrassment.

Q. What are you embarrassed about?

A. I scored a song in the wrong time signature.

Q. What song?

A. A song from my show.   It’s called “The Word from Beyond” — but that’s beside the point.  Why do you ask?

Q. Because I suspected you were the composer, and if you were the composer, then how can the time signature be wrong?   Doesn’t the composer decide such things?

A. It was wrong, because the signature I chose made it hard for the musicians to read it.  A different signature would have made it much easier.

Q. And the song would sound the same way with either signature?

A. Yes.  But no other similar sounding piece would have been written in the signature I selected.

Q. Then why did you select that signature in the first place?

A. Because I simply did not know the correct signature.

Q. How did you find out?

A. From one of the other musicians.

Q. And then you became embarrassed?

A. A little bit.   I guess to be honest with you, I’m more informed than embarrassed.  And that’s a good thing.  I learned something.   Embarrassment is only a function of the Ego.   Information is a function of the Mind.  Mind over Ego – in all matters.

Q. May I quote you on that?

A. Spell my name right.

Q. Just in case there are any musicians reading, what was the signature you used to score the piece?

A. 6/8.

Q. What is the correct signature?

A. 4/4 swing.

Q. How did you find out?

A. One of the musicians told me.

Q. And you didn’t know?

A. Let’s put it this way.  It would have been my second choice.

Q. Why would it not have been your first choice?

A. I shot for the easier way of the two, because I was in a hurry.

Q. And in making it easier on yourself, you made it harder on the people you were working with?

A. Yes.  But this time I’l do things differently.   This time I’ll start early in the week — in fact, I’ll begin today — and I’ll block out my time – and do it slowly but surely, and get it turned in to the musicians by Thursday.

Q. Promise?

A. I promise.

Q. What if something comes up?

A. Well – Friday at the latest.

Q. Promise?

A. I’ll do my best.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 98

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Self-doubt.

Q. Isn’t that a good thing?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, why should you have any faith in yourself?

A. Why should I not?

Q. Are you not completely flawed far beyond your capacity even to know it?

A. That’s what the Bible says, yes.  But still, I think in practical reality, it somehow doesn’t help for me to grasp how completely incapable I am.

Q. But isn’t God fully capable?

A. Well sure He is.  But so what?   God’s not going to come down and tie my shoe for me.  There are some things a person just has to do for themselves.

Q. How many times has God come down and helped you find a missing item?

A. Many times.  Sometimes I just shout out: “Where’s my glasses?” Then I find myself looking straight at them.   But He still won’t help me tie my shoe.

Q. Are you having a problem tying your shoes?

A. Not anymore.  Not since I’m no longer being ridiculed about the way I tie them.

Q. Who used to ridicule you?

A. Oh, the kids on the playground.

Q. Wasn’t that a long time ago?

A. Yeah, but it stuck with me.

Q. So what did the kids say when they ridiculed you?

A. Apparently, I’m throwing some kind of extra movement into the tying of the shoe that doesn’t need to be there.  They laughed because I don’t tie my shoes the right way.   I only tie them my way.

Q. But your way still works, doesn’t it?

A. More-or-less.  I do notice I have to bend down and retie them a lot.

Q. And what else do you notice?

A. Sometimes I forget to tie them entirely.  I just go about walking with them untied.

Q. Then what happens?

A. Depends on whether I’m alone or with another person.  If I’m alone, I just wait until there’s a logical place to tie my shoe without having to bend down all the way to the ground.  Like, you know, a fire hydrant.  Then I tie my shoe using the hydrant.

Q. What if there’s another person with you?

A. Usually, they notice that my shoe isn’t tied, and they tell me to tie my shoe.

Q. What do you do then?

A. Well, I certainly don’t tie it just because they told me to!   I usually respond with an expletive, adding that I’ll tie my shoe when I’m good and ready.   

Q. Do you have issues with authority?

A. I have issues with people issuing direct imperatives, yes.   Especially if they are not an authority, but an equal.

Q. Are authorities not equals?

A. I suppose they are.  They just don’t act like it.

Q. So you dislike not being treated as an equal?

A.  Dislike doesn’t say it.  I despise it.  We’re all equals and no one has the right to treat someone as a subordinate.  Unless, of course, you’re in the military or some other form of hierarchical structure to which you’ve signed on.  And in such a case, you asked for it.

Q. You did?  What if you got drafted?

A. Good point.   I’d have escaped to Canada, myself.

Q. Might you still?

A. Might I still what?

Q. Escape to Canada?

A. At this point, that would hardly be an escape.  More like a practical maneuver.  But I doubt they’d let me in.  I think I have to marry someone there, or something like that.

Q. Would you like to marry someone from Canada?

A. Sounds pretty romantic, but probably unlikely.    

Q. What about a marriage of convenience?

A. I wouldn’t know anything about those.  I’ve only been in a marriage of inconvenience.

Q. What was inconvenient about it?

A. Uh — conflict of lifestyles.   But aren’t we getting off the subject?

Q. What was the subject?

A. Something about equality and authority.

Q. Ah yes, how could I forget?

A. I have no idea.

Q. So — as I was saying, do you dislike being treated as an unequal?

A. Of course!  Who likes to be treated with condescension?  

Q. Why is this on your mind?

A. Something disturbing that happened a few days ago.   An unpleasant interaction with an old friend of mine.

Q. Who did not treat you as an equal?

A. Well – triggered the memory thereof.  The memory of —  almost never being regarded as an equal.  A time in my life when I just accepted the uneasy fact that most people looked down on me, as though I were despicable.

Q. Why would you have been despicable?

A. Uh — homeless — and homeless in the Big City.   It’s cold enough in the Big City to begin with.  When you become homeless, you find out just how cold it can be.

Q. But you’re not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.

Q. Why are you so hung up on the past?

A. That, sir, might be the most important question you have ever asked me.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 94

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Anger.

Q. Anger? Over what?

A. These two guys who ghosted me.

Q. Friends of yours?

A. Yeah. Or so I thought.

Q. What makes you say they’ve ghosted you?

A. Because they haven’t gotten back to me, no matter what. One of them I’d been buzzing a lot on Twitter, hoping he’d converse back with me. But he kept ignoring me. So I finally blocked him.

Q. You blocked him? And not the other way around?

A. That’s right. I blocked him because I got tired of never hearing back from him, no matter what I said.

Q. Wasn’t blocking him a bit severe?

A. I suppose.

Q. Couldn’t you have just stopped buzzing him, but remained friends?

A. You call that “friends?”

Q. Okay, well what about the other guy?

A. Same thing. I even issued a heart-felt apology at one time, and he ignored it completely.

Q. For what did you apologize?

A. For snapping at him when he was telling me how I was supposed to eat, and criticizing my long-distance running, and general over-criticism of my personality.

Q. Why do you hang around people so critical?

A. I don’t know.  It just seems like, for a while there, everybody I knew was critical of me. It just seemed par for the course.  And there are likable things about critical people. I don’t know. You put me on the spot.

Q. Say, uh — how much do you value these friendships?

A. I value them immensely. Why do you ask?

Q. Why do you think?

A. What are you driving at?

Q. I don’t understand — WHY do you value these friendships?

A. I don’t know. Friends are hard to come by, I guess. I figure if I’ve managed to stick it out with somebody for forty or fifty years, then it’s valuable.

Q. You’ve been friends with these guys for that long?

A. Yup.

Q. Well then, why not just call them up? Ask them what’s happening? Ask them why you haven’t heard from them? I mean, why not?

A. I don’t know. Maybe I lack the courage.

Q. What’s to be afraid of?

A. Further criticism. And I guess, to be honest with you, I’ve taken to criticizing them back recently. I didn’t used to ever do that.

Q. Why not?

A. Low self-esteem. I just assumed that their criticisms were true, because they were somehow better than me, for some reason.

Q. So you’re not going to bother calling them? Even to say hello?

A. Why bother? They’ll just let it roll over into the voicemail.  They don’t want to run the risk of my criticizing them.  Why should they?   They’re the ones who are supposed to be criticizing me.

abandon

Q. So you think they were only using you?

A. If they’ve truly abandoned me, then yes, they probably were.  And anyway, there’s no sense beating a dead horse. If somebody repeatedly refuses to return your messages, even well wishes and apologies, doesn’t it stand to reason that they might not want to talk with you?

Q. Where’s your courage?

A. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Q. So you’re choosing wisdom over courage?

A. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Q. Are you trying to tell me you’re letting go?

A. If you love someone, let them go. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t . . .

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 92

Q. What’s happening now?

A. You again?

Q. Why do you ask?

A. You left me alone last Tuesday. Why couldn’t you leave me alone now?

Q. Am I that much of a bother?

A. Never mind.

Q. What’s on your mind? Why are you being so weird?

A. You know what Tuesdays are like.

Q. Aren’t they usually your busiest, most stressful day?

A. Usually.

Q. Then why aren’t you always so weird, every single Tuesday?

A. You know the answer to that.

Q. Something about the election?

A. That, and a general sense of powerlessness.

Q. What do you do when you feel powerless?

A. Me? Well, ordinarily, I think of positive things.

Q. Can you think of any?

A. On this day? I’m hard-pressed. Within forty-eight hours, irrespective of the outcome of the election, it will be end of life as we know it.

Q. May I quote you on that?

A. Please spell my name right.

Q. Where have we heard this before?

A. Heard what before? About spelling my name right?

Q. No no – where have we heard you say your quote about the outcome of the election?

A. Oh – I said it once before. I said it earlier this morning.

Q. To whom?

A. I believe it was to Sally Hindman, the director of Youth Spirit Artworks.

Q. What had she said to you?

A. She said “We will get through this.”

Q. And then what did you say?

A. I said: “Within forty-eight hours, irrespective of the outcome of the election, it will be the end of life as we know it.”

Q. Is that all you said?

A. No – I added something else.

Q. What?

A. I said: “But you’re right. We will get through this. For we are the Human Race.”

Q. Do you believe that?

A. We’ve gotten through everything so far. The Human Race has an uncanny ability to pull itself together just in the nick of time. We’ve done it throughout history. We may bicker and procrastinate until it’s down to the wire — but when we need to, we pull together.

Q. What about now?

A. What about it?

The Questioner is silent.

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Isolation and Superstition

This is going to sound incredibly superstitious, because — well, it is. A long time ago somebody at some church somewhere told me I was supposed to read a chapter of Proverbs every morning, according to whatever day in the month it is. After all, there are 31 chapters in the Proverbs of Solomon. So on a long month I get up to Proverbs 31, and start the whole thing over the next month.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that book. But there’s something in that practice that doesn’t seem quite healthy for me. For example, on the 18th of every single month, an old resentment returns to me. I read the first two verses, and I see myself in Verse One, and the person I resent in Verse Two.

Observe:

“He who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1)

That’s me all right. Especially since Quarantine. I isolate myself; I prefer to isolate myself; I like being alone, and guess what? I wind up rebelling against all sound judgment. Seriously! In fact, I’ll prove it. Look at Verse Two:

“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in airing his opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)

I see that, and I think: “Yeah, that’s that guy who used to lecture me all the time as though I were an idiot. Never cared what my perspective was. Totally disrespectful! If I tried to get my two cents in, he would just go “Whatever!” As though my opinion didn’t even matter. And then, he would go right on with his undying lecture, telling me what I was supposed to do all the time.

A man happily showing his friend and telling him about the world they lived in. - Download Free ...

“Now that I see this Proverb, I ought to give that guy a piece of my mind! I ought to show him I haven’t forgotten what he did to me! I gotta show him that I still have his number.”

Then (every time the 18th rolls around, by the way), I start to text the guy with the biblical quote; that is to say, my estimate of him.

But then I see the first verse, and I think: “Oh that’s right. These thoughts only arise because I’m isolating myself, and therefore rebelling against all sound judgment. It’s not sound judgment to buzz this guy — I’ve already told him off a million times, and he never answers me. It’s better for me to take the first verse to my own heart, and stop isolating.”

And now you know what happens on the 18th of every month. Quite unlike the 16th, when I think that God is about to honor all my professional plans, and I get to verse 7, and I realize that if I only I please the Lord, even that guy who lectured me all day long will be at peace with me.

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” — Proverbs 16:7.

That’s what I really ought to be doing! If only it were still the 16th, and not the 18th, when obviously I have other things on my mind.

Sigh. I suppose it could be worse. I could read a horoscope every morning. I even tried that — but all they did was talk about my “love life.”

Love schmove. Never touch the stuff.

Hm – maybe that’s my problem . . .

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Tuesday Tuneup 90

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Interpretation.

Q. Of what?

A. Of an event.

Q. What sort of event?

A. An event that contains too much synchronicity to be coincidental, but that at the same time has the feel of somebody messing with my head.

Q. Messing with your head? Are you sure that’s the best way to describe the experience?

A. Without using the f-word, yes.

Q. But are you sure it’s only your head that’s being messed with? What about you? All of you? Your total being?

A. What are you driving at?

Q. On the streets, what did somebody mean when they said that they f—-d with you?

A. It didn’t mean anything negative, not in street slang. It only meant that they were willing to deal with me. Others they may have ignored, but me they interacted with. They probably even transacted with me. It meant that I mattered. That I was important to them.

Q. So when you feel that somebody is messing with you, what do you really feel?

A. Important.

Q. Come again?

A. Important.

Q. Say what?

A. Important! I’m important enough for them to bother messing with me.

Q. There you go! Now — who do you think has been messing with you?

A. Good question. There’s a sense of omnipotence and omnipresence. So it could be God. But it doesn’t seem to have the love that one associates with God. Maybe it’s an Agent or Angel of some kind. There’s a bit of an evil vibe to it. I don’t want to think it’s the Devil. Maybe it’s merely a gnome, or a poltergeist.

Q. Poltergeist? What kind of event are you talking about?

A. You really wanna know?

Q. Why else would I have asked?

A. All right. As you know, I don’t have my MediCare card. I was in the position where I would be billed for a service if I could not provide my MediCare number. The potential creditor only had my MediCaid number.

New Medicare Cards Coming Soon

So, to obtain the MediCare number, I took the little yellow slip of paper on which I had my MediCaid number written down, and I headed for the low income clinic. I figured there somebody might know me, and they might give me my MediCare number, especially if I could prove I was me, by showing them the MediCaid number.

But when I got there, I reached for my pocket, and the little slip of paper was gone! Oh well, not a big deal, as it turned out. The nice lady there got my name and birthdate, and soon handed me my MediCare number on a very similar little slip of yellow paper.

But then, when I got home, I reached for my pocket, and the little slip of paper she gave me was gone! What was there instead was the slip I’d thought I’d forgotten at home, the one containing my MediCaid number!

How could it be? It couldn’t be! It couldn’t possibly be that the slip of paper first vanished, then was replaced by a similar but not identical slip of paper, which was then mysteriously transformed into the first slip of paper. Poltergeist! Somebody was messing with me!

So I rode back on my bicycle and requested the MediCare number all over again. Then, when I returned home, I found I had both numbers on two little yellow slips of paper, which I then crammed down deep into my wallet. Moreover, I saw on the floor a third slip of yellow paper, this one containing my MediCare number! So I wrote my MediCaid number on the new slip of paper and stuck it on my refrigerator. Now I won’t lose my numbers – but I’m sure Somebody Up There was messing with me. They were just trying to let me know that They had my number (so to speak).

Q. Did you feel like you were being tested?

A. Yeah – that’s it. I was being tested. They were testing me, to see if I would blow.

Q. Did you blow?

A. No — not this time. I usually do, you know, whenever I think that they’re messing with me. But this time I kept my cool — and I kept my mouth shut.

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. At the time, pretty frustrated. I wanted to scream! But afterwards, upon reflection, it made me feel encouraged. I felt that I had passed the test.

Q. So how do you interpret the event?

A. As an honor. Just like it was an honor on the streets for someone to care about me enough to want to mess with me.

Q. But didn’t they only mess with you because you were an easy mark?

A. That’s right. And these Supernatural Guys — they think I’m an easy mark as well.

Q. Isn’t that a bad thing?

A. Not necessarily. I survived the streets, didn’t I?

Q. Why do you think you survived the streets?

A. Because there was always something they could get from me. I was useful.

Q. What about to the Supernatural Guys? What about to God?

A. To God, you ask? It just might be — just maybe — that to God, I am useful too.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 89

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Transformation.

Q. Of what?

A. Of character.

Q. What brought this transformation about?

A. Realization.

Q. Of what?

A. Of behavior.

Q. How had you been behaving?

A. Angrily.

Q. Recently?

A. Recently, somewhat. In the past, a great deal.

Q. But you are no longer angry?

A. Not at the moment, no. Far from it, in fact. But that’s not the point.

Q. What’s the point?

A. That my anger naturally caused people to distance themselves from me.

Q. And now they are no longer distant?

A. The people whom I got mad at two days ago are no longer distant. There have been apologies, forgiveness, and healing. As for those whom I got mad at in the past, they remain distant.

Q. How long do you think they will remain distant?

A. I don’t know. Perhaps forever.

Q. Why would that be?

A. Because people are not comfortable with anger. Or, because they’re offended by it. One way or the other, they either feel they can’t deal with it, or they believe they shouldn’t have to.

Q. Are you comfortable with anger?

A. Listen man — I lived on the streets for years. We all got mad at each other, back and forth, day by day, almost as a routine. We all screamed and yelled and cussed. We got used to it. We couldn’t get away from each other anyway — not even if we tried. Somebody can scream and yell and cuss at me all they want. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable nor does it offend me. If anything, it’s refreshing.

Q. Refreshing?

A. Yes. It makes me realize I’m not the only one. In fact, it even awakens my compassion. I feel for the person who’s getting mad, because I know what it feels like.

Q. How does it feel?

A. It feels lousy. You feel guilty. You feel like you might be hurting somebody. And you feel like you’re losing control. But you see, on the streets, it became par for the course. Half the time, we didn’t feel anything at all.

Q. What about off the streets?

A. There’s a lot less to be angry about. That is, in my own world. Plenty to be angry about in the world on the whole, especially as pertains to my own country. But my life is a breeze compared to what it once was. So of course I don’t get as angry as I used to.

Q. Are you saying that your temper was a product of the streets?

A. No – and I didn’t mean to imply that. I was angry before I landed on the streets. People didn’t know it. In fact, they often characterized me as “serene.” But I was not inwardly tranquil. I had inner anger that I’d learned through various means — medication being a factor — to manage. But the streets brought my anger to the surface. The streets gave me an outlet for my anger. They exacerbated it. They magnified it. They illuminated it — and I was angry for a long time even after I got indoors.

Q. What were you angry at?

A. Injustice and inequity. But even that is not the point. It’s more like — who I was angry at.

Q. Who were you angry at?

A. All these people who distanced themselves from me. Especially if they distanced themselves to the point of total disappearance. Those who dropped out of my life without notifying me. We wouldn’t have been able to do that on the streets. So, people who lived indoors were exercising a luxury we street people did not have.

A. Did this make you jealous?

Q. Not so much jealous. I was jealous of them because they lived indoors and I did not. But I was not jealous of their ability to remove me from their lives. I was only angered by that.

A. Why anger?

Q. Because I didn’t think it was right. The right thing would have been to inform me. To let me know that they were done with me.

A. But is it ever right to be done with somebody?

A. Not in my book. But that’s a pretty strange book — and I could elaborate. God’s Book is the Book in question.

Q. Is God ever done with anybody?

A. That, sir, is the Question of the Ages.

The Questioner is silent.

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The Conspiracy Theorist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday Tuneup 84

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Reorganization.

Q. Of what?

A. Of many things. Most important is the reorganization of my mind.

Q. Most important?

A. I take that back. Most important is the reorganization of the Human Race. But each of us has a part in that, and my part is the reorganization of my mind.

Q. Ah, I see! Well then, can you describe the basic essence of this reorganization?

A. I believe so. You see, certain habitual thought processes have often led to false conclusions. The logic may have been sound, but the axioms or postulates on which I based my reasoning were false to begin with. So I’m in the process of altering the axiomatic system so as not to act upon false premises.

Q. Can you say that in English, please?

A. Very funny. Okay, look — I have noticed three things about myself — three commonly repeated mistakes that result from erroneous thought processes. I would like to share them, if I may, from the least important, to the most.

Q. What is the least important?

A. Don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty important. It’s just not as important as the two that follow.

Q. Once again, what is it?

A. I have finally realized that if I embrace a sexual fantasy about someone with whom I am involved non-sexually, it will affect my dealings with that person in a way that is out of kilter with the correct nature of our relationship.

Q. Uh – do you mean — you’ll start hitting on them?

A. Me? Probably not. But I will become enthralled with them, and shower them with inordinate favor.

Q. Isn’t that just a crush?

A. No, not really. We would have to dive into the origin of the fantasy.

Q. Do you wish to do so?

A. Yes. But it would make the tuneup too long for most readers to bother with. The point is that I realized that fantasizing about her was causing me to lose objectivity in a context where I needed to remain objective. So I ceased to romanticize this individual, and now our interactions are better balanced.

Q. How did you cease?

A. By recognizing what I was doing. When I saw how it had all come about — that is, the origin of the fantasy — I saw clearly a mental pathway whereby my thoughts gradually took me from something entirely different toward the realm of erotic fantasy. And when I saw the exact path, I saw how to steer clear of it. It was easy, in fact, for I found myself viewing that particular mental pathway as disgusting, pathetic, and beneath my dignity.

Q. Are you lonely?

A. Not particularly, no. Not quite sure why you asked.

Q. Okay, so what was the second one?

A. I have realized that if I view someone as a potential investor, backer, or patron (that is to say, of my musical project), then I cease to see them objectively — as the true human being whom they are. This is extremely unfair and unkind to that person.

Q. Anybody in mind?

A. Quite a few people, I’m afraid. But it took me realizing that I actually liked some of these people, and these very likable people are not at all to be viewed as potential patrons, but viewed rather as the unique human beings whom they are – with special needs and values, just like my own.

Q. So you ceased to regard them as potential investors?

A. Yes.

Q. How?

A. Again, once I recognized what I had been doing, I felt that disdain, that disgust, that sense of distastefulness – and I didn’t want to indulge it further. It was an ugly thing. It’s my task, as an Artist, to create Beauty. So when I see that I have created ugliness instead, it is fairly easy to scrap that effort, and start from scratch — in an effort to replace ugliness with Beauty.

Q. Fascinating. Does this mean that you’re not so much operating on a moral level, but on an aesthetic one?

A. Ultimately, I believe they are one and the same. I also believe that Aesthetics will replace Ethics in the Age to Come — but now I wax eschatological. The essence of the realization is that it’s unfair to regard people either as potential romances or as potential investors. If I do so, I am no different than a corrupt C.E.O., who only sees people according to what purpose they might serve.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been doing unconsciously. It just recently surfaced.

Q. Intriguing. So what’s the third thing?

A. This is the big one. Are you ready?

Q. Shoot.

A. When I was homeless, I couldn’t understand why nobody was “letting me in.” All the people who lived indoors were seen as lacking compassion. I couldn’t understand how they could have a spare room in their house, and let me be rained on and ripped off and basically dumped on — all because I was “one of them.” I couldn’t understand how they could have money to fly to England and back, but somehow not have $60 to help with a night in a motel room.

Q. And now you understand?

A. More so than earlier, I think. The way I was coming across was desperate, insistent, demanding – and often accusational. I would accuse these people of lacking compassion, and try through logic and reason to convince them that I was right. But now that I’ve lived indoors for four years, I can only imagine how I would react if somebody came at me like this:

“Look dude – why aren’t you letting me crash at your house? I could die out here tonight! Don’t you have any compassion? What’s wrong with you?”

Q. Did you always come across like that?

A. Not always. At first my appeals were quite polite. But after hearing the word “no” enough times, I began to lose my natural courtesy.

Q. So what’s the point?

A. I’m leading up to something. I’ve already stated my new policy toward my home in Tuesday Tuneup 57. We don’t need repeated information on this quest. But my statement is a stepping stone to a much broader statement.

Q. About what?

A. About the people whom I have called friends. Those who have happened to have crossed my paths and vice-versa. People with whom I have felt an affinity. But that affinity waned when I had to repeatedly hear the word “no.” And then, even when I did get back on my feet, and was no longer homeless, these people still disdained my friendship.

I thought they were bad people. And perhaps, some of them were. Bad people do bad things in the privacy of their own homes, and naturally they don’t want to be observed. But by and large, chances are they were pretty good people. Just like the people I know today. But if I were homeless, and I started hitting up the people whom I know today for a crash pad, I don’t doubt that my present day associates would not behave the same way.

So it’s not as though the people I know today, who pretty much see my at my best; are any different than the people who knew me back then, who clearly saw me at my worst. The difference is not in the sort of people who see me. The difference is the person whom they see.

Q. But what about what Marilyn Monroe said?

A. I knew you would ask me that! She said: “If you can’t take me at worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” I embraced that when I was homeless. And you know what? It’s a lot of malarkey.

Suppose I do succeed. Suppose my musical is produced on Broadway. Suppose I receive the Tony award that arguably I deserve. Then, suppose one of these people who has shunned me then has a change of heart. Suppose they approach me and say:

“Andy, I really couldn’t handle you ten or twelve years ago, but the comeback you’ve made, and the way you are today is nothing but an inspiration to me. God bless you, Andy – you are one of the most amazing success stories on the planet.”

Would it really be proper of me to respond with:

“Where were you when I needed you?”

Of course not! That’s mean-spirited! It would only show that I was still holding a grudge. The right thing to do, the Christian thing to do, would be to look that person straight in the eye, and say:

“You know, it warms my heart to hear you say that! Especially when I thought I would never see you ever again! I completely understand. The way I was coming across was more than a lot of people could handle. All I can say is thank you for showing up on the happiest day on my life.”

Q. How did you manage to reach all these needed conclusions in such a short period of time?

A. I’m not sure. I have a theory, though. It’s got something to do with the pandemic — the way this unprecedented form of trial has affected us all. There’s been a shake-up. A wake-up. And I’m not the only one who’s waking. Far from it.

Q. But how did you manage to forgive all these people who wouldn’t let you in? How did you manage to get over the sense of abandonment and loss?

A. Largely, it came by understanding. Once I understood that the people whom I had begrudged were no worse than the people whom I hold in high regard, it was easy to forgive — for I finally understood. But blessed are they who don’t understand, and yet they forgive.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 81

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Expansion.

Q. And before that?

A. Contraction.

Expanding Your Mind – Learning For Success – Learning Mind

Q. How did it feel to be contracting?

A. Not good.  I felt pressured, for one thing.

Q. And for another?

A. Restricted.  I felt restricted.

Q. And what else?

A. Intruded upon.  It felt very intrusive.

Q. What kind of intrusion?

A. Intrusive thoughts.

Q. About what?

A. About situations far beyond my control.   Not only can I not control those kinds of situations, but I cannot control my thoughts when I start to think about them.

Q. Really?   You can’t just will those thoughts away?

A. Not exactly.  Best course is just to let them run their course and try not to be bothered by them in the meantime.

Q. How long does that usually take?

A. It depends on how bad the contraction is.   Earlier tonight it was a good half hour.  Probably the first half hour of a brisk four mile walk.

Q. And on the second half hour?

A. I expanded.

Q. How does expansion feel?

A. Very good!   I feel no pressure whatsoever.   I am not at all restricted.  Nothing is tugging at me or eating at me.   I feel open to receiving good things.

Q. What kind of good things?

A. Musical motives and phrases.   New ideas, new plans.   Respect from others, from people who count.   Love and support, where it matters.

Q. Anything else?

A. Beautiful things.  Things that come true, and only later do you remember having dreamed they would.   Levity, and gladness of heart.  Mirth, and gentle merriment.

Q. All this comes from expansion?

A. All this and more.

Q. Then why not expand always?   Why ever contract?

A. Why ever exhale?   Why not always inhale?

Q. What do you mean?

A. The Universe has to breathe, doesn’t it?

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 80

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Change of plans.

Q. How so?

A. Remember how I used to have you change questions every 22 times?  Well, things are going so slowly these days, I’d like to change that to every 20 times.

Q. Which means?

A. 80 being 4 x 20, we need a new question out of you by July 21st.   Then we can start Tuesday Tuneup 81 with an entirely new question.    

Orange man questions clipart

Q. What kind of question?

A. Well, you should know!  You’re the one who’s been asking them.   The first question, as I recall, was Do you know who I am?”  I believe you asked me that 22 times.    Then, you started asking me: “Where would you like to be?”

Q. Why would I ask you those kinds of questions?

A. Because they’re simple, broad-based, and can be answered a different way every time they’re asked.   Between one Tuesday and the next, I’m bound to have a different answer.

Q. Is that why I’ve been asking you what’s going on inside, too?

A. Yes.  What’s going on inside me will not be the same next Tuesday as it is tonight.  

Q. What kind of question will not work?

A. Any question that has a single absolute answer, regardless of how I might be feeling at the time.

Q. For example?

A. A good example would be: “What is your name?”   If I am to be honest, I will answer that question the same way every Tuesday.   One thing about me that does not change is my name.  

Q. What about you does change, then?

A. My mood, for one thing.   

Q. Will you be in a different mood next Tuesday than you are today?

A. Undoubtedly.   In fact, today I am in a different mood than I was last Tuesday.

Q. What else about you changes?

A. My attitude — my outlook toward life — somewhat related to mood, but perhaps more intentional.

Q. What else?

A. My plans.   What I intend to next.    This changes from one day to the next.

Q. Goodness!   How do you ever get anything done, if your plans change so often?

A.  I work really hard, to make up for it.

Q. Would that be a good question, then?

A. Would what be?

Q. “What are your plans today?”

A. That’s the general idea, yes.   Anything that will vary, from day to day — and from Tuesday till Tuesday.

Q. Should I start asking you that question next week, then?

A. No – not so fast.   That question is just a wee bit boring.    We might be able to come up with a more interesting question — one that will engage me and intrigue me.   If we pick the right question, I may even become motivated to show up every Tuesday.

Q. Will wonders never cease?

A. Probably not.   But getting down to brass tacks here, I think it’s time we choose a new question.   

Q. Who’s we?

A. All of us!   Maybe one of my readers would like to choose the question.

Q. You think so?

A. I do.  And in any case, it won’t hurt to ask.   What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 79

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Decision making.

Q. And what are you using to make your decisions?

A. What kind of a question is that?

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well uh — using as in what?   Am I using a slide rule?   Am I using a compass?

Q. No no no – I mean, are you using your sound reason to make decisions?   Or are you using your fickle and volatile emotions?

A. How dare you accuse me of making my decisions based on emotions!

Q. Methinks he doth protest too much?   Ya think?    

A. All right, smartypants.  I’ll admit I’m a bit of an emotional guy.   In fact, the subject came up last night in counseling.  I do seem to have made a few decisions based on strong emotions lately.

Q. Such as?

A. I gotta tell you – I was so jazzed about rehearsal on Tuesday, it just went so great — when I came back home, I was sky high with elation.

Q. Don’t tell me –  you then made a decision based on elation?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you go out and celebrate?   Did you party?

A. No, I did not.  I cranked up the headphones and my new Finale 26.3 music notation software, and I didn’t stop until I’d completed the whole accompaniment score to the opening number of my musical.   

Q. Then how did you feel?

A. Even more elated.

Q. But why?

A. Because I didn’t think I could do it!

Q. Why wouldn’t you have been able to do it?

A. Well, I hadn’t really worked with the software before, and I hadn’t used Finale much at all since 2016.

Q. What happened in 2016?

A.  You already know.   I emerged from years of homelessness in the Bay Area with a bunch of tunes in my head, found a coffeehouse and with a nice little round table, sat down, and sequenced most of the music that had been whirling around between my ears.

Q. So you did it then.  Why did you not think you could do it now?

A. I dunno.   Low self-esteem maybe.   Lack of confidence.

Q. But you did do it?

A. Yes!

Q. And this led to further elation?

A. I believe it’s called over-elation.   

Q. Ah.   Then did you make a decision based on over-elation at that time?

A. Not so much a decision — more like an expectation.  

Q. What kind of expectation?   

A. Well, I was really rockin’ on that song, man.  In a way, it kinda was like a party.   I was snappin’ my fingers, boppin’ my head, and rockin’ out to the beat.   A friend of mine was also rockin’ too, a gal named Kathy – ordinarily a very quiet and studious person.  As I was working on it, I sent her updates.   She kept writing back and saying: “Yeah!   Makes me want to get up and dance!”   So I was further spurred on by her enthusiasm, and —

Q. Cut!  You haven’t answered the question!

A. Sorry, I was getting around to that.  My expectation was that, since me & Kathy had rocked out to it, everybody else would too.

Q. And they didn’t?

A. Only on WordPress.   Nobody anywhere else ever said anything about it, so I may assume they did not listen to it.   Either that, or they listened, but didn’t rock out.  :(

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Ultimately, thankful for WordPress.   But at first, I was pretty disgruntled.  And maybe a little angry.   More than a little, perhaps, at moments . . . 

Q. Moments?

A. All right, so I was mad for twelve hours straight.   Pacing the floor all night, messaging people, talking out loud, trying to figure it all out, and not getting a wink of sleep till five in the morning.

Q. How do you account for this?

A. First off, the expectation that people would groove on it like me and Kathy did was pretty unrealistic.   Most people didn’t even know I was working on it.   Secondly, why should they listen to my music at all?   Especially these days — people naturally have a lot of other things on their minds.   But thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that when I found myself disgruntled, it was the natural reaction to the over-elation.  Law of gravity.  What goes up must come down.

Q. And where are you now?   Up or down?

A.  Neither.   I’m in the Middle.   

Q. What are you going to do from there?

A. What do you think I am going to do?   I’m going to start working on the second song in the show!

Q.  Do you think you can do it in three days?

A.  I tell you what — why don’t you check back on Friday and find out for yourself?

The Questioner is silent.     

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Tuesday Tuneup 78

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Upheaval.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I feel like I’m being shaken up inside.

Q. Is that bad?

A. Probably not!  It’s just unfamiliar.

Q. New territory?

A. Yeah.

Q. Do you also feel torn?

A. Yes!  That’s it — torn.  

Q. Well, what is tearing at you?  What are you torn between?

A. I’m conflicted between a number of different internal narratives, and the unresolved conflict is distorting my view of reality.   I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.

Q. How long have you been like this?

A. Probably longer than I know.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. It goes at least as far back as being homeless.  I would ask fifteen people if I could come stay with them for a while.   Even for a night.    Sometimes I even only asked if I could come over to take a shower, and leave.  Sometimes I offered to pay them.   Or just ask to come over for dinner on a holiday.   “Can I come by on Christmas?”  But nobody would ever let me in.

Q, Why not?

A.  Because why should they?  It wasn’t their responsibility.   But they never came out and said that.  They said lots of other things, though.  They gave all kinds of reasons.   Some reasons made more sense than others.   Some of them seemed kind of cold – others kind of paranoid.   I think there might have been a general sense that if you give someone an inch, they’ll take a ruler.   Nobody wanted to take a chance.

Q. How did this feel?

A. Not good.  I could tell that not all of their reasons were honest.  Many of the reasons were implausible.  I got the feeling somebody wasn’t telling me something — something about me.   There must have been some reason why I deserved homelessness, rather than the chance to get inside and get back on my feet.   But I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Q. What else?  I mean, what did that feeling conflict with?

A. The fact that it wasn’t all me!  They were doing things wrong.   They weren’t being honest with me.   I wanted them to come up front. 

Q. But what is the essence of the dissonance?

A. The essence of the cognitive dissonance is that I could never tell how much of it was my fault, and how much of it was their fault.  

Q. Why does it have to be anybody’s fault?

A. Well, somebody had to be responsible!

Q. But aren’t you the one who’s responsible for where you stay the night?

A. Yes, of course!  And I failed — because I couldn’t find anyone who would let me stay the night with them.

Q. But why should that be their responsibility?

A. What does it have to do with responsibility?   They were the ones who had roofs over their heads, not me!   What was I going to do, ask another homeless person to let me stay at his house?   

Q. But why is this all on your mind this evening?

A. Because the same dissonance is occurring, only with different variables.   And I do not believe that the dissonance started with homelessness!   It’s something in me!   It keeps happening, in different ways, even though I’ve lived inside for years now.   

Q. PTSD?

A. Yes.  I’ve been triggered.  

Q. Again?

A. It happens.   Every now and then — you can’t know when the triggers will arise.

Q. What is it this time?

A. If it were just one person saying to me, why they can’t show up, why they don’t have the music, why they didn’t make the deadline, why they can’t do the project — it would easily be believable.  But because it’s a conglomerate of people, I start to think: “What’s wrong with me?  Who do they take me for?   A fool?   Why are they playing me?  Why aren’t they coming up front?   What’s wrong with everybody?  Why do they lack compassion?”

Q. And that’s what you used to think when people wouldn’t let you stay overnight at their houses?

A. Yeah.  In both situations, I have felt like they’re not letting me in.   

Q. So what does this tell you?

A. That it must be me.   Just like, when all those people weren’t letting me inside their houses – whether they were being truthful with me or not — I was what they all had in common.   It was I whom they all held at bay.

And now, when all these people aren’t doing their work, or it seems like they’re not, and the team seems to be fizzling, it’s kinda like my friends — my family — they’re gradually abandoning me — they didn’t even start talking to me again after I got a place to live, after I’d stopped trying to cling to them —

My friends – my family — we don’t talk anymore, there’s my daughter, there’s no friends from the old people – no family — and these Kids —

Q. Go on.

A. These Kids — are going to leave me.   Just like my friends  – just like my family  – – 

Q. Why  —  why do you think so  —

A. They won’t let me in.   My brother, my sister — they won’t let me in.   Winston and Taura — the Kids in the show — the directors, the musicians, the producers, the venues —  they won’t let me in.   The Family won’t — let – me – in . . .

Q. Dude!  Dude – can you grab a hold of yourself?

A. Sorry, I’m flashin’ man –

Q. Are you sure this isn’t just drama?   Or words for dramatic effect?  To call attention to yourself when you’re feeling oversensitive, and easily abandoned, and you’re desperate for community and camaraderie?

A. Are you calling me a narcissist?  

Q. Did I say narcissist?

A. No –

Q. Why is narcissism on your mind?

A. Because that thing that happens — that pattern — that syndrome — it didn’t start with homelessness.   It started long before, with those very same people — and that’s why they didn’t let me in.

Q. When did it start?

A. With the Internet.   Way back in around ’99 or so, when I got my first computer.   I didn’t become homeless till 2004, but the Internet was a driving factor.

Q. How so?

A. I realized I could send the same message to multiple people at once.  I realized this about two weeks after I’d sent my first email.   A friend had sent a big email entitled: “Timmy Needs Help!”  He sent it to about forty people when he was on the verge of homelessness.

Q. So you learned you could do the same?

A. Yes!  Only since I didn’t become homeless for five more years, I sent the group emails for other reasons.

Q. What kinds of reasons?

A. Oh – if I’d lost my cell phone and needed somebody to call it.

Q. Isn’t that called cross-threading?

A. That’s right, I just remembered.  They told me I was “cross-threading.”  It isn’t cool to ask ten people to do something that can be taken care of by one.   

Q. Didn’t you lose a job that way once?

A. Yeah – that was the job I lost, that made me homeless, in 2004.  They were the ones who told me.   First job where I had to use email.  One day, I emailed five people to ask for help moving a piano, when one would have sufficed.  So two of us moved the piano, and four people showed up later, and got pissed.

Q. Is that the only reason you lost the job?

A. No – but that was a reason.  I was doing things like that all the time, and my boss told me to please stop cross-threading.   But I didn’t.

Q. Why not?

A. I’m not sure.  I think – I don’t know!   It seemed like — I couldn’t!   They told me I was having a first-time manic episode, and that it was all part of the episode.  But to me, all I knew is I’d gotten into a habit where whenever I sent an email, it had to be sent to ten or fifteen people.   I just became an Email Dispenser —  dishing out emails to everybody all day long, right and left.

Q. So – did they dish ’em back?

A. No.  They ignored me.  I used to send music for them to hear, too.  Songs I wrote.  If they listened, they never told me so.

Q. And these are the people whom you asked to stay the night with?

A. Yes, by and large.  A few add-ons, and some drop-offs, but  basically the same list.   

Q. I would assume they all said no, didn’t they?

A. For the most part.  That is, if they said anything at all.   

Q. Ever get the feeling you’ve been barking up the wrong tree?

A. Yes.  For longer than I’ve known, and in more ways than I know.  

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 77

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. I’m not sure.  It feels like a cross between transition and turmoil.

Q. Can you describe each sensation?

A. I’ll try.   Turmoil feels like things need to change, but they’re having a hard time getting themselves adjusted in such a way as to understand and effect the needed change.

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Q. Kinda like indecision?   

A. Kinda.  Or hesitation, or reservation, or doubt.

Q. What about transition?

A. That’s what results when doubt is removed.

Q. How does it feel?

A. Much better than turmoil.  In transition, there is hope.   Hope that the place I’m headed will be better than the place I’m headed from.

Q. Will it?

A. I think so.  Ultimately, yes.

Q. But there may be turmoil in transition?

A. Yes.  It’s not going to be a quick or easy ride.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Seven Reasons Why People Lie

I just read the excellent post, “Lost on the Spiritual Path” by the blogger known as Grady.  The post is about lying, and how toxic this practice can be for those who are on the spiritual journey.   Because the theme had been on my mind a lot lately, I had recently produced a list of seven reasons why I think people lie.

1. They’re trying to cover something up. Typical is when one makes it seem like their being a victim in a certain situation had nothing to do with a poor choice they had made, and was solely the effect of some surprise ambush.  An example would be someone who emphasizes how badly they had been abused, when in reality they were the one who started the fight.

2. They’re exaggerating the severity of a situation in which they were mistreated in order to deflect attention away from some poor choice of their own.   An example would be someone whose business was closed down by the Internal Revenue Service.  They might extol the horrors of the I.R.S. so that people won’t focus on the simple fact that they didn’t pay their taxes.

3. They’re minimizing something that makes them embarrassed or ashamed. An example would be saying “way back when” when the event occurred only three or four months ago.   “Oh, I had a drinking problem way back when!”  (Actually, they just had a drink last night.)

4. They’re trying to sustain a positive false impression in the eyes of someone whom they don’t want to know the truth. An example would be someone telling their parents they had a full time job with benefits when actually they were unemployed.  Or maybe they would tell them how happy they were in their relationship, when actually it was on the rocks.

5. They themselves are in denial. They inwardly don’t want to believe that things are as bad as they are, so they develop convenient, convincing falsehoods that most people will not question.

6. They are story tellers. They like to create colorful stories, and often do so at the expense of truth. Such people are probably deeply dissatisfied with some aspect of reality.  So they feel they need to adjust it a bit in order to cope.

Lying clipart - Clipground

7. Finally, they do not believe that there is, or should be, an absolute truth. Their truth varies according to whoever they’re talking to, depending on which falsehood they think will best serve them. They think everything is “subjective” or “relative” in a self-defined Universe that is elusive, and constantly in flux.

These sorts of people give themselves free reign to change all the time, so long as they can get away with it. Such people are usually extremely overconfident, and in a sense self-deifying. They overestimate their capacity to “create their own reality” at the expense of acknowledging the reality that’s actually happening.

They will fly closer and closer to the sun like Icarus, until finally they crash and burn.  People like these are known to hit swift and certain bottoms at some point in their lives.  They need to be shocked out of their unreasonable self-indulgence before they realize who they truly are.

If you pray, please pray for all of these kinds of liars — especially for the kind described in Point Seven.  The irony is that they are often very intelligent, with great gifts to offer.  For my part, I pray they come to realize that the Giver of all good gifts is God.

For your part, what are some reasons why you think people lie?

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An Intriguing Dream

When I was 18 years old, during the summer just before I left home for college, I had a very memorable dream.  

Magic fairy wand clipart clipart kid - Clipartix

A being like an angel appeared.  But she was more like a fairy, really.   She had a wand, and she waved it.  And she said:

“You will have many friends,
And you will have many enemies.
But you will need to know hate
Before you know love.”

The being in the dream disappeared, and then I awoke.  It was morning.

Every now and then that dream resurfaces in my consciousness.  What do you think it means?   

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Tuesday Tuneup 76

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Philosophical speculation, as usual.

Q. On what themes do you speculate?

A. One in particular.  The idea of worrying about what other people of you.

Q. Do you do this?

A. Sometimes.  Not nearly so much as earlier in life.

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Q. What gave rise to this particular speculation?

A. The other night, someone told me that they were worried about what somebody else thought of them.  I found myself saying something I had never said before.

Q. Did you say, perchance, that “whatever other people think about you is none of your business?”

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I find that cliché to be harsh.  It’s true that what other people of think of you is none of your business.  But it can come across like: “Hey! Mind your own business!”  

And then, the recipient of that rebuke might feel like: “Geeze, it wasn’t as though I was dipping into your personal stuff, bro!  All I was doing was worrying what somebody was thinking about me, for crying out loud!”

Q. Isn’t that an pretty sensitive response to an intentionally humorous cliché?

A. I’m a very sensitive person.  Next question, please.  

Q. Very well then.  How did you respond to this person’s concerns?

A. I said: “You really shouldn’t worry what she thinks about you.  The only person whose opinion of you matters is God, because God’s the only one whose opinion is perfectly true.”

Q. How did she respond?

A. She didn’t.

Q. What happened next?

A. I thought it was odd that those words came out of me.  I’d never had a thought like that before.   So I called my friend Danielle.  And she added to the thought.  

Q. What did Danielle say?

A. She said something very profound.  She said: “It is inbred in the human condition to worry about what somebody is thinking about you.  People who don’t believe in God don’t realize that this is because God has created us to be concerned about what He is thinking of us.   People simply transfer the object of the concern.”

Q. Fascinating!  But don’t people who do believe in God worry about what other people are thinking about them?

A. Sure they do.  But that’s just the other side of the same coin.  None of us except God is perfect.  So we can’t perfectly stop worrying about what all the other imperfect people are thinking about us.

Q. Can you think of anything to add to all this?

A. Not at the moment.  Maybe my readers can.

The Questioner is silent.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 71

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Uncertainty.

Q. Uncertainty about what?

A. About whether I ought to contact a group of theologians.

Q. Theologians?

A. University professors interested in theology.

Q. Why would you want to contact them?

A. To vindicate myself.

Q. Were you falsely accused?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. What was their accusation?

A. That I did not make any sense.

Q. When?

A. When I expressed my personal theological conjecture.

Q. Which is?

A. I call it “The Clone Theory of Creation.”

Q. What’s that?

A. Hard to express.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have told me I wasn’t making sense.

Q. Give it a try?

A. That’s why I’m here.

The Answerer clears his throat.

download

A. Simply stated, the Clone Theory of Creation intends to demonstrate a parallel between the creation of life by God and the scientific replication of life that occurs during genetic cloning.

Q. What inspired this theory?

A. Genesis 1:26.   “Let us make Man in Our Image.”

Q. You believe that when God made Man in Their Image, it was like scientists cloning a human embryo, and thus creating a replicate in the image of the embryo?

A. Exactly.

Q. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

A. One would think so at first.  However, I later found numerous Scriptures that appear to confirm the hypothesis.

Q. Why did the theologians think you weren’t making sense?

A. Probably because I wasn’t!   I’d never really tried to express the theory before, and when I did, I became extremely tongue-tied.  I must have rambled for five minutes, before the professor to my right put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Andy, I hate to break it to you, but nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made any sense at all.”

Q. What happened then?

A. I was embarrassed.  I felt my face turn beet red.  And I told them so.

Q. Are you sure that not one of those professors thought you were making any sense?

A. Quite sure.  There was, however, a young man present — a student — who approached me afterwards.  He assured me that the theory had made sense to him.  But he also said something that discouraged me.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “I followed your theory, and I thought you were making sense.  But in deference to your age, wisdom, and maturity, I would like to suggest that even you, Andy, know that your theory is OUT THERE.”

Q. How did you feel then?

A. Shot down.

Q. Why?

A. Probably because of my ego.  You see, at the previous such meeting of theologians, I felt that I was shining unusually brightly.   A respected professor emeritus of philosophy even expressed a desire to have lunch with me sometime — a man held in high regard, who had spent three years in India with the Maharishi, and wrote a book about Gandhi.  People seemed to admire me for my biblical knowledge, as well as my knowledge of denominational differences.

Q. How did you pick up your knowledge of denominational differences?

A. Probably by losing jobs as a piano player with just about every denomination on the planet.  But, despite looming loss of job, I always enjoyed soaking in the sermons, and comparing those of one denominational slant to that of another.   My history of failed church jobs reads like a class in “Comparative Christianity.”

Q. So you felt that you had really shone at the previous meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. Then what?

A. Then my ego told me I had an image to maintain!   So I went to the next meeting eager to sustain my positive image, in the eyes of the professors present.

Q. And?

A. Because of that egoistic expectation, I tried too hard to prove myself.  And in trying too hard, I failed.

Q. Is there a moral to this story?

A. There certainly is.

Q. And the moral is?

A. Ditch the ego, dude.  Just be yourself.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  I’d like to ask a question of you, and of my readers.

Q. What is the question?

A. Am I making any sense?

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 68

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing.

Q. Processing what?

A. Thoughts.

Q. Where does this occur?

A. In the brain.

Q. Not in the mind?

A. No.  The brain and the mind are two different things.

Q. How’s that?

A. The brain is the physical organ inside the body whose function is to process the thoughts that are formed in the mind.

Q. And the mind is not in the body?

A. No.

Q. Where is it, then?

A. That question is difficult to answer, because I have never been out of the body.

Q. You haven’t?

A. OK I take it back.  I have been out of the body.   It’s happened several times during sleep paralysis.  But I don’t know the name of the place that I go to when I have left the body.

Q. Do you enjoy leaving the body?

A. Not at all.

Q. You’re not into astral projection?

A. I understand that some people astral-project on purpose.  For me, that would be like sky-diving or bungee-jumping.  No thanks.

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Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Isn’t there a sense of adventure involved?   And exploration?

A. Sure there is.  But there are many other realms to explore where I have found adventure.  That just doesn’t happen to be a realm I am interested in exploring.

Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Why are you avoiding the question?  Are you afraid of astral-projecting?

A. Wow, we are really off the subject!

Q. What is the subject?

A. I was hoping to talk about thought processing.

Q. Can we discuss that later?

A. I suppose.

Q. So what is it about astral projection?

A. My God doesn’t want me involved there.

Q. Why not?

A. He says that this kind of practice is unnecessary and unwise.  

Q. Are you sure you’re not just afraid of it?

A. Well, to be honest with you, once I was out there for a really long time, and yes it was scary.  It was as though I were immersed in a raging river, struggling to stay afloat.  I felt as though there were rocks on either side of the river that I might have been dashed against. I heard three male voices right nearby, saying things like: “This way!”  “Keep him from heading that way!”  “I got him!”  “He’s safe!”  It felt as though these beings had been assigned to keep me from my ass kicked out there.

Q. But you eventually came back?

A. Three times.  When I came back it was like being washed ashore.  But then I went back into the paralysis, and soared up into the “Beyond” again —  and the same thing started over again.   After the third time, I gave up and went to the Emergency Room.

Q. What happened there?

A. I told the doctor exactly what I just told you.

Q. What did the doctor do?

A. He said: “Your description was very poetic.”  Then he dished out the benzos.

Image result for benzos

Q. Is that what you wanted?  The benzos?

A. Not at all.  I hate benzos.  They had me on 6mg of klonopin a day for almost ten years.  I got off it cold turkey on May 10, 2004 and have been hyped up ever since.

Q. Well, what did the benzos do?

A. They enabled to get back to sleep without entering into paralysis.

Q. So they worked?

A. Yes — for a one time shot.  I didn’t take any further, after that.

Q. Then you admit it was scary?

A. Yes.  And it wasn’t comfortable.

Q. But don’t some people astral-project on purpose, and enjoy it?  

A. Of course they do.  I’m just not one of those people.

Q. And you believe your God has told you not to do it?

A.  Yes.  

Q. How did He tell you this?

A. Look.  I seek Him all the time, all day long, moment to moment, throughout each day.  He says in His Word to “seek first the kingdom of God, and the rest will be added to you.”  Seeking the kingdom means setting priorities.   This isn’t a priority in my life.  There are other priorities that are far more important to who I am and what I am here to do.

Q. Like what?

A. I think you know what I’m about.  I’ve got all kinds of things to do besides waste my time soaring through the Beyond wondering how long it’s going to be before I come back.

Q. So you are calling the place where the Mind exists the Beyond?

A. Yes, I recall now, that’s what they called it.

Q. They?

A. They.

Q. They who?

A. I don’t remember their names.  

Q. How did you meet them?

A. Channeling.

Q. You were channeling?

A. Yes.

Q. Aren’t you a Christian?

A. I prefer the term Christ Follower.

Q. Aren’t Christians not supposed to channel?

A. I was doing it anyway.

Q. Then you disobeyed your God?

A. I did.

Q. Why?

A. Well — it was all part of a larger disobedience.   I was inquisitive as to a greater picture.  

Q. A greater picture than what?

A. Than what’s ordinarily available through the usual methods of research based on empirical data and sense experience.   I wanted to learn some secrets, that’s all.

Q. But isn’t God capable of revealing any information worth learning?

A. He certainly is.

Q. Then why didn’t you just turn to Him?  And to His Word?

A. Because I was tempted.  So severely tempted, that I succumbed.

Q. Why did you not resist?

A. Because I suspected I would learn something.  And I wanted badly to learn.

Q. What did you learn?

A. Mostly that in seeking greater knowledge, I lost sight of love.

Q. So you regret the search?

A. Not entirely, no.  It might be that the search can still be conducted, though not at the expense of love.

Q. How was love sacrificed?

A. Damage to essential self.  Self in need of self-care, of love.

Q. Self-love has been difficult since then?

A. I emerged with incredible boundary issues, to be honest.  I go about trying to serve others, as a Christ Follower.   But often I neglect my own needs in trying to serve others.  And then, sadly, I wind up not helping the others much either.

Q. Are you sad?

A. Not particularly, no.  I’m just trying to focus on other ways to be of service.   Astral projection and channeling are not ways for me to be in service to others.

Q. Where were you when all this happened?

A. Outside.   Sleeping in strange nooks and crannies.   This particular experience occurred in a stairwell attached to Berkeley City College.  

Image result for sleeping rough clipart

Q. Why is this all coming up now?

A. Because the things I learned are beginning to come back to me.   Like the word “Beyond” for example.  

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Passage of time is clarifying the message.   And I’m getting better sleep. 

Q. Why is sleep so important?

A. I’m not entirely sure yet.  But it has something to do with the realm of Mind as it relates to sleep states and dream states.

Q. Do you think it will all come back?

A. Only the good and useful parts will come back.

Q. Not all of it was good?

A. No.  Some of it was clearly good and breathtakingly beautiful.   It bespoke an incredible array of hope for the human race.  But its glory was obscured by all kinds of garbage.  It was as though the garbage were thrown in there by malevolent entities in order to keep me from getting the Beauty.

Q. And your job was to edit out the garbage?

A. It could have been.  And it still might be, in some ways.  It’s just that — it seems I can’t possibly serve the good of the planet at the expense of my personal health.

Q. But didn’t Jesus do just that?

A. He died, yes, that many others might live.  But He also rose again.  If I destroy myself, I doubt I will rise again.  I am not God.  He was.  Or that is, an incarnation thereof.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christ Follower?   Don’t you believe that if you died in Him, you will also live in Him?

A. Sure I do.

Q. Don’t you believe that, even if you destroy yourself, you will rise again to live on in heaven?

A. Why are you tempting me to destroy myself?

Q. Why are you unwilling to do so?   Did not Jesus destroy himself?

A. No he did not.

Q. How can you say that?   Didn’t he have a choice in the matter?   Couldn’t he have refused to take up his cross?

A. Had he refused to do so, you and I might both be burning in hell.

Q. But don’t you feel that you may have a special calling?   A mission to delve as deeply into these dark ethereal waters as you can, in order that humanity will receieve a needed message?

A.  I feel that I am delving deep enough into dark enough waters as it is, without risking destroying myself in the process.   And humanity will receive whatever message it is that I am meant to convey.

Q. Well then — can you at least give me a rough overview of what you learned?

A. I’ve given you enough information — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 67

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Depends on where inside.

Q. How about your stomach?

A. Not much acid.  More alkaline.

Q. Your heart?

A. Steady and strong.

Q. Your brain?

A. I was afraid you’d mention that one.

Q. What’s wrong with that one?

A. Oh, I’d say it’s probably damaged by now.

Q. Damaged where?

A. The hull of the skull.  I’ve got holes in my head.

Q. Like leaks in a roof?

A. Very much so.

Q. And the rain’s getting in?

A. Rain?  More like cosmic storms.   Bolts of supernatural lightning.   Fiery darts from the second heavens.  All kinds of random data from the Universe.  Hopes mixed with fears.  Love mixed with hate.  I’m all over the map.  I’m a wreck.

Q. Do you feel as though thoughts are flying to your brain from multiple external sources?

A. You took the words right out of my mouth.

Q. Then what?

A. The thoughts formed in external realms of the Mind are now confined in my own little mini-brain, trapped as it were, bouncing off the walls of my cerebral cortex, struggling to interact and make sense of each other.

Q. But the thoughts did not originate in your brain?

A. No, they did not. The brain is only a processor for thoughts that have their origin in mysterious realms of Non-Incarnate Mind.

Q. Realms of the Spirit?

A. Indeed. If I think any of my thoughts are original, I imagine I only deceive myself.  Surely they have all been thought before.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because the incompatibility of multiple thoughts in my own little brain bespeaks a greater incompatibility with these kinds of thoughts in the Universe at large.   I doubt these thoughts want to think too closely to each other, for they repel each other by nature.

Q. And now?

A. And now, though they repel each other, they do so in such an infinitesimally small habitat, they cannot help but bounce off the walls of this badly battered brain of mine, and by and by collide.

Q. What happens then?

A. Well naturally, they’re forced to coalesce with each other, living together in such close quarters, and so they combine themselves into new thoughts full of contradictions.  These contradictory thoughts are certainly formed in my own mind — not in the Universe at large.  For in the Universe at large, where they succeed at avoiding each other, no such combinations would be possible.

Q. How does it feel when this happens?

A. It feels as though war is waging within me.   Uncertain, endless war, with many sides at enmity with each other, and no clear or concrete alliances.

Q. Is there a way to stop the war?   To bring peace to your overloaded brain?

A. Only by reconciling all the myriad differences that entail among these different forms of thought, and thus inaugurating a new age of greater understanding and harmony within me.

Q. How can this be achieved?

A. Only by persistence in mediation on my part, until the thoughts are able to live with each other’s differences, and cease to fly about the brain as though bats in a belfry.

Q. How likely is this?

A. About as likely as achieving peace on Earth.

Q. Is that unlikely?

A. Not if we persist.  Not if we never abandon hope.   We can all do it together — if we try.

Describe who you are in 3 words. - December 19th, 2016 - Daily Challenge - MeYou Health

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Overcome Evil with Good

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Never flag* in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.

Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 

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

— Romans 12:9-21 RSV


*
The word “flag” has a meaning equivalent to the modern term “slack.”  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV) was produced in 1952.

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Tuesday Tuneup 66

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Having a third cup of coffee.

Q. Was there something wrong with the first two cups?

A. No — in fact, there was something right about them.

Q. What was that?

A. They tasted good.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that just because your first two cups of coffee tasted good, you’re drinking a third one?

A. That’s what I said, isn’t it?

Q. Well — don’t you think there’s something wrong with you?

A. There are many things wrong with me, as with us all.  But what are you driving at?

Q. Don’t you know that it’s unhealthy to indulge that which you enjoy to unneeded extremes?

A. Uh — a third cup of coffee is an “unneeded extreme?”

Q. Isn’t it well known that two cups of coffee are sufficient for all?   And that a third cup is extreme?

A. But how often do I actually have a third cup?

Q. I don’t know – how often?

A. Almost never.

Q. Your point?

A. My point is that it would be more extreme to remain at two cups every morning than to allow myself the occasional indulgence of a third cup.

Q. So you justify your indulgence on the basis of its rarity?

A. Yes.  It is so rare that I bother having a third cup of coffee, that I really don’t think I am in danger of overdoing it.

Q. Have you experienced any palpitations of the heart lately?

A. None.

Q. What about your excrement?  Notice anything strange in your poop?

A. Funny, my doctor asked me the same two questions last week.  And again I say, none.

Q. Why did your doctor ask you those questions?

A. Low thyroid, apparently.

Q. But don’t you take thyroid medication?

A. Begrudgingly, yes.

Q. Why is it begrudging?

A. Because I have to wait a half hour after taking it before I am allowed to have a morning cup of coffee.

Q. Isn’t that cruel and unusual punishment?

A. It has occurred to me more than once that the doctor’s orders are a violation of my 8th Amendment Rights.

Eighth Amendment: Banning Cruel and Unusual Punishment - David J. Shestokas

Q. And who else has violated your 8th Amendment Rights?

A. Glad you asked.   Before 2016, when I was experiencing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area, lots of people violated my 8th Amendment Rights because they kept waking me up when I had nowhere else to sleep.  Then finally Martin v. Boise came into effect, and Judge Marsha Berson ruled that it is unconstitutional to wake up someone who is sleeping on public property and tell them to move, if in fact they have nowhere else to sleep.  So, at least in the 9th Circuit, including most Western States, I am free to be homeless again and not fear unjust awakening.

Q. Do you want to be homeless again?

A. Kinda.

Q. Why?

A. You want an honest answer?

Q. Of course.

A. Because I got to be good at it.   Really, the main thing that bothered me was all the awakenings in the middle of the night, when I was only trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Q. But will those awakenings stop just because of a new ruling?

A. Come to think of it, probably not.

Q. Why not?

A. For one thing, not all of the awakenings were by authority figures.   A lot of them were by other homeless people, and many of them were by random thieves and vandals roaming the area looking for easy marks.   What mark could be easier than a sleeping homeless person?

Q. So you say you got a lot of things stolen from you in the middle of the night?

A. Yes.  Also was threatened to bodily harm quite a bit, when I awakened to the sight of a stranger telling me I had stolen “his spot.”

Q. Would you say homelessness has lost its appeal?

A. Most of it, yes.

Q. Why did it ever appeal to you in the first place?

A. As earlier stated, it seemed a thing I could probably do well.   After all, I wasn’t managing very well at hanging on to a living situation.

Q. But you’re hanging on to your living situation now, aren’t you?

A. Seems that way, yes.  In a few short days I will have paid my rent on time for the 26th month in a row.   And prior to that, on a smaller cheaper place, fifteen months in a row.

Q. Doesn’t that give you a sense of stability?

A. It does.

Q. Then why on earth would you ever consider being homeless again?

A. Why on earth should I value something like “stability?”

Q. What do you mean?

A. We’re all going to die anyway, right?

Q. So?

A. So there’s no such thing as stability on this planet.  If we get too attached to things that make us feel stable, they will eventually be taken from us, and then we will have a really hard time letting go of them.  Better not to become so attached.  Better to be ready for anything.

Q. Anything?

A. You heard me.  Especially nowadays.   It is better to live spontaneously, and for one to ready oneself for anything — than to seek the fragile semblances of stability that this passing world has to offer.

Q. You really believe that?

A. I said it, didn’t I?

Q, Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?   

The Questioner is silent.  

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Paralyzed

Meant to get this to you earlier.  It was first published in the October “special issue” of Street Spirit and subsequently submitted to the International Network of Street Papers, where it has been published elsewhere.   And now, here as well.   Hope you enjoy it.  

Paralyzed: The Demons That Prey on the Homeless
by Andy Pope

When one is homeless, one is by definition exposed to all kinds of elements that escape the confines of one who lives indoors.  Weather is only one such element.  There are also predatorial elements — people who invade the space of someone who has no physical barrier to separate them from intruders of the night.

There is also another kind of predator sometimes encountered in the darkness.  This is the supernatural predator, often colloquially referred to as a “demon” — an entity that invades one’s dream states, or states of half-sleep.

Homeless friends of mine reported being “hassled” or “attacked” by malevolent entities that seemed to hover over various outdoor spots where we tried to sleep.  I sometimes sensed these invasions as well.  Typically, I would become paralyzed, and suddenly feel as though an invisible hostile creature was grabbing me and rubbing or scratching me with things that felt like paws or claws.  Sometimes I would feel as though I were being pounded on.  I would hear abusive voices as this happened: “Andy, you scum bag!! You are a total piece of shit!!!!”

Whether these were truly alien invaders from outer space, or merely the subconscious reflection of my own low self-esteem, I cannot say.

I learned that these attacks have a name: sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is a condition where one is awake to one’s surroundings but lacks motor control.  In other words, you’re not awake enough to move your body, but awake enough to know what’s going on.  It often strikes during times when the usual patterns of sleep have been disrupted.  In my experience, very few things have disrupted my normal sleep patterns as much as the overall conditions of homelessness.

As a person who has had sleep paralysis since the age of 14, I am among the 8 percent of the population for whom this condition is commonplace.  When I was homeless, I noticed that these intrusions would be different depending on when and where they occurred.  For example, intrusions in Ohlone Park were different than those that took place on the steps of St. Joseph the Worker church or outside the Rubicon building.  I always sensed that I was being assaulted by some kind of invisible entity, but the nature of the entity would differ according to where it was that I was trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep.

If I were to take a daytime nap on Bart, however, I noticed that I was free of these mysterious assailants.  However, when the train would stop, sometimes they would attack.  This gave rise to the theory that they lived in a reality that intersected the normal Earth-based reality at certain spots, but that they were unable to traverse the surface of the Earth — at least not at speeds corresponding to those of rapid transit.   This theory is reminiscent of the concept of the “tesseract” expounded in the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engel.  

Another theory had to do with the veracity of these demon-riddled reports.  How plausible were they really?   How credible were those who reported them?   And most of all, who was most likely to believe them?  I could not help but notice that those who were impoverished, homeless, on disability, working poor, or low-wage blue collar or assembly line workers were the quickest to embrace and believe my reports of sleep paralysis.  Often, people in the lower socio-economic brackets would share their own similar experiences of encounters with “demons.”  But people in the scientific community, upper level academicians, white collar workers, and corporate business people seemed often to scoff at our accounts, writing them off the same way that they wrote off all of our statements.  To be sure, this is another type of paralysis — one that is relentless, and occurs in broad daylight.

Whatever the cause or effect of these widespread stories, one thing seemed most disturbingly clear.  There were legions of demons haunting the realm of the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the unprotected, and the abandoned.  Whether they meet us in dream states or in harsh reality, there are far more homeless demons than meet the eye.

Andy Pope is a freelance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 64

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I don’t know.

Q. What do you mean, you don’t know?

A. I mean, I don’t know why I’m still sitting here.  I’m supposed to go to a Christmas party.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. Because I dislike forced social gatherings, especially when I would rather be alone.

Q. Would you really rather be alone?

A. Well — maybe not.  It would be nice to be among people.  But not at a forced, previously defined, premeditated gathering.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because no doubt they will force various activities upon me that are supposed to be fun, but that will wind up only embarrassing me and testing the limits of my ability to perform as normal in public.

Q. As normal?

A. You heard me.

Q. What the heck is “normal?”   Have you ever met anybody who’s normal??

A. Of course I have!   Just about everybody I’ve ever met is normal — at least compared to me, they are.

Q. But why compare them to you?

A. You mean to say I shouldn’t?

Q. Well, why should you?

A. I don’t know.  Just comes natural, I guess.

Q. But why give in to what comes natural?  If you always went with what was natural, wouldn’t you find yourself acting on some basic instinct, and winding up in a– a– 

download.jpgA. A jail cell, right?   Go ahead and say it.

Q. Why a jail cell?  Why not a psych ward?

A. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

Q. What about the Christmas party?

A. What about it?

Q. It’s not a jail cell, is it?   It’s not a psych ward, is it?

A. Uh — er — I don’t suppose so, no . . .

Q. Then why not go to the party?

A. I can’t just go anywhere I please, on the basis of it not being as bad as a jail cell or a psych ward!

Q. Why not?

A. Because — that’s setting a pretty low bar.   I mean, you might as well tell me to go hang out in the Emergency Room.

Q. Wouldn’t the party be better than the Emergency Room?

A. That’s debatable.  In the Emergency room, there’s free coffee, and they’ll probably let me sit there all night, unless they’re busy.  Besides, they all know me, and they’re friendly toward me.  They’ll just say, “Hi Andy!”  And I’ll pick up a magazine, read it, and feel right at home.

Q. You honestly think that will be better than the Christmas party?

A. Maybe, maybe not.  But at least in the Emergency Room, I know what I’m in for.  At the party, anything could happen.  

Q. Like what?

A. There could be alcoholic beverages there.

Q. So what?  You don’t drink, do you?

A. No I don’t, personally.   But others might, and they might get drunk.  I can’t stand being around drunken people.

Q. But suppose nobody gets drunk.   What else might go wrong?

A. They might offer me marijuana.

Q. Then what will happen?

A. What do you think will happen?  Don’t be silly!   I’ll smoke it, and be grateful for it.

Q. If you would be grateful for it, then why would that be a bad thing?

A. Because I like it too much, and I’ll probably want to go out and buy some, which will cost me money I don’t have.   And then, I will no longer be grateful.  Besides, I like my sobriety.  It feels good.

Q. Can’t you just say no?

A. I could.  But I won’t.

Q. Have you ever tried?

A. Can’t say that I have, no.   

Q. Then why not just try saying no?  Just this once?

A, Okay.  I’ll grant you that.  But there are other temptations that could arise.

Q. Like what?

A. Oh — well lately — not sure how to broach the subject.  You see, I don’t deal well with these holidays.  People take off, everybody kinda leaves me in the lurch, and I feel more lonely than usual.   Usually, I’m not lonely at all.  In fact, I disdain loneliness.  I feel that loneliness is a pathetic and pointless feeling.   It’s like self-pity.  I should be bigger and better than such self-absorbed pettiness. 

Q. How did that answer my question?

A. It didn’t.  I just hadn’t gotten around to the point yet.

Q. Beating around the bush?

A. All right then.  When I’m lonely, I’m vulnerable.   I might meet another lonely person, and then — we might sort of hang out together — on the basis of mutual loneliness — and you know where that leads.

Todd Rundgren Quote: “Love between the ugly, is the most beautiful love of all.” (7 wallpapers ...Q. I do?

A. Don’t you?

Q. Why would I?

A. Come on!   Surely you’ve been lonely before!

Q. How could I have been lonely?

A. Hmm – well maybe you haven’t been then.  But I’ll tell you.   When two people get together, and they’re both lonely, it can lead to some pretty bad places.  

Q. Like where?

A. Like — like —

Q. Like what?

A. It can lead to places like —

Q. Hmm?

A. (after a pause) All right, I give up.   I’ll just go to the party.    

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 63

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I’m doing my morning, starting my day.

Q. Do you do this every morning?

A. No, not every morning.

Q. Every Tuesday, then?

A. Not really, no. Only on some Tuesdays. Sometimes on Sunday mornings or Friday nights. Other times, not at all.

Q. What about your morning ritual?

A. What ritual? There is no such thing.

Q. But haven’t I heard you recently tell people about your morning ritual?

A. I may have. I believe it lasted for about four days.

Q. What happened after four days?

A. I imploded.

Q. What do you think caused the implosion?

A. It was the fact of my forcing myself to follow a regimen that ran counter to my natural biorhythms and overall design. The ritual failed to honor my nature, and thus it backfired. I have now rejected the ritual, and have returned to my former, much more spontaneous treatment of the mornings.

Q. Spontaneous?

A. Yes. I simply get up and do whatever I want to do.

Q. What did you do this morning?

A. I started this Tuesday Tuneup, figuring it was Tuesday. Then I went to the 24 hour store down the way for a large coffee to get myself revved up. When I got back inside, I cranked up my Audacity software and started doing the final edits on a three way distribution of the new Suspended album onto three large wave files. This is for posting online for those for whom a hard copy CD is meaningless. I have figured out a way to make them pay for having it on the Internet, it requires my releasing the url to a personal link.

This project being divided into Parts 1-4, Parts 5-8, and Parts 9-12, I finished Parts 1-4 before calling Danielle. This is our regular morning call, and I thought I was late, but it turned out she was running late. So we got a good chance to talk.

Q. Regular call, you say?

A. Well, not too regular. Moderately regular, within reason.

Q. Do you do nothing with regularity?

A. I do not, yes that’s right.

Q. Why is this?

A. Because regularity rigidifies, and cyphens one in to its own restricted domain, whereby one regards as intrusive any externalia, despite its level of priority. In the opposite of regularity — which is spontaneity — one remains ready for anything, and will deal with passing, more pressing priorities as they arise. This is all part of the practice of spontaneity.

Q. And this is what you practice?

A. Yes. This is why I am irregular, and disdain ritualistic routines.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 61

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I’m fulfilling the requirement.

Q. What requirement?

A. I’m required to come up with a Tuesday Tuneup every Tuesday morning.

Q. Is that a requirement?  Or just a desire?

A. Okay, it’s a desire.  A requirement sounds a bit harsh, you’re right.

Q. Did I say anything about a requirement being harsh?

A. No – I suppose you didn’t.  But what is your question?

Q. My question is, why would you feel obligated to produce a Tuesday Tuneup if you don’t have anything in particular on your mind?   

A. Because it’s not really possible for there to be nothing on my mind.  The mind was designed to think.   And you have a way of drawing out what’s on my mind, even if I don’t know what it is at the start.

Q. What is on your mind?

A. What’s on my mind is how there really doesn’t seem to be anything on my mind this morning.

Q. But isn’t that on your mind?

Wellness Clipart | Free download best Wellness Clipart on ClipArtMag.comA. Ha — this is the kind of stuff that happens during meditation.

Q. Have you been meditating too much lately?

A. Well, uh – more than usual.  I don’t know it it’s too much.

Q. Do you think that meditation is clearing your mind of its thoughts?

A. Not exactly.  Otherwise none of this would be happening.  These are my thoughts, aren’t they?

Q. But didn’t you just say there was nothing on your mind?

A. Uh . . . I guess I was . . . a bit premature in presuming to pretend I had precluded all premediation from my — 

Q. From your preschool mentality?

A. Now you’re getting downright insulting!

Q. But aren’t I just playing off all the things you’re saying to me?

A. Jesus!   Now I know why meditation is such a menace.   I’m lacing up my shoes for a run in the snowy snow snow.   Laterz.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 60

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Thinking.

Q. About what?

A. About what to do next.

Q. What are your options?

A. Well, I can start working on one of two stories due Friday, I can continue working on my new musical, or I can do neither of the above.

Q. What will happen if you do neither of the above?

A. I’ll probably flop down on the floor from exhaustion.

Q. Have you been working too hard lately?

A. You might say so.

Q. Why?

A. Because everybody else says so.

Q. I meant, why you have been working so hard?

A. Because I’ve been hurt.

Q. What is the relationship between your working hard and your having been hurt?

A. When I’m hurt, I don’t like to experience the super-painful feelings.  So I dive into a creative project of some kind.  Something so engaging that it takes my mind off the hurt.

Q. Isn’t that unhealthy?

A. Why would it be unhealthy?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to face the hurt directly?   Walk through the pain?   Experience it fully until it has been processed?

A. Why would I be supposed to do that?

Q. Wouldn’t you be in denial if you don’t?

A. Denial of what?

Q. Denial of your feelings?

A. I don’t think so.  I already know how horribly painful the feelings are.   That’s the reason why I turn my attention away from them in the first place.

Q. In other words, your creative work is your painkiller?

A. You could put it that way, yes.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I believe I was seven years old when I began to do this.

Q. What happened when you were seven?

A. Somebody hurt me.  And that same year, I learned how to play the piano, write music, write stories, and draw pictures.

Q. Who hurt you?

A. God.

Q. How could God have hurt you?

A. He hurt me in the sense that He created death.   Before I found out about death, I assumed I was going to live forever, in a very happy place, with a loving family.  Naturally, when I learned this was not the case, I was shattered.   And not only on my own behalf.  I was shattered on behalf of the entire human race.

Q. Would it be better if we all lived forever?

A. Yes.

Q. But won’t we all live forever anyway?  I mean, in heaven?

A. We’d certainly like to think so.  But apparently that statement has been the theme of much debate.

Q. Would you like to engage in such a debate at this time?

A. No, I would not.

Q. What would you like to do at this time?

A. To be honest, my heart is hugely into this new musical of mine.  When I was super-hurt yesterday, I sat down and cranked out five songs for the first scene — songs I’d already written (music only, no lyrics) and saw in a very short time how they could form the exposition and a good part of the development of an engaging new story line. And I’m psyched! This really could be the best of all the musicals, if I hunker down.

Q. How many musicals have you written?

A. Five.

Q. How many have been produced?

A. One.

Q. Why only one?

A. Because the process of trying to produce a musical is tedious, cumbersome, arduous, uncertain, stressful, frustrating, maddening, and painful.

Q. And you don’t like to face those feelings?

A. You know I don’t.

Q. So what do you do instead?

A. Usually, I write another musical.  But not immediately.  I have to let the last musical set for a while.

Q. What do you do in the meantime?  I mean, if you get hurt?

A. Depending on the level of the hurt, I either write a poem, an essay, or a song.  Unless the hurt is really really huge.

Q. What happens when the hurt is really really huge?

A. I jump the gun and dive into the next musical.   It’s the way I roll.  When my mom died, I wrote a musical.   When my wife left me years ago, I wrote a musical.

Q. And you’ve started yet another musical?   A sixth?  And you knocked out the first Scene with five songs in one morning?

A. Yes.

Q. How hurt must you have been to do something so huge!?

A. It’s not really important how hurt I was, or who hurt me, or why.  The important thing is that I’m tired.

Q. Tired?

A. Tired and weary.

Q. Tired of what?

A, Please move on to the next question.

Q. So what is this new musical going to be about?

A. The original hurt.

Q. You mean, when you were seven?

A. No.  Even more original.  I’m talking about what happened in the Garden.

Q. You mean, Eden?

A. Eden.  The Garden that we’re all unconsciously trying to return to.

garden.jpg

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 59

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Killing time.

Q. Have you ever really stopped to think about that expression?

A. What expression?

Q. Killing time?

A. No, not really.

Q. Well, think about it!  How can time be killed?

A. But — it’s only an expression.

Q. Why do you not answer my question directly?

A. All right, all right.  Literally speaking, I have no idea how time can be killed.

Q. Then what makes you think you can kill it?

A. That would seem rather presumptuous of me.

Q. So!  What are you really doing here?

A. Waiting.

Q. Waiting for what?

A. For it to be 11:24.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:05.

Q. What happens at 11:24?

A. The bus comes.

Q. Are you sitting at the bus stop right now?

A. No, I’m sitting in the Courtyard Cafe with my computer.

Q. How long will it take you to get from the Courtyard Cafe to the bus stop?

A. About two minutes.

Q. Then shouldn’t you have said you were waiting for it to be 11:22?   Won’t you miss the bus if you wait all the way till 11:24?

A. All right, then.   I’m waiting for it to become 11:22.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:08.

Q. So for how many more minutes will you need to keep this up?

A. For 14 minutes, sir.

Q. Why did you call me “sir?”

A. I don’t know.  It seemed — courteous.

the GADFLY - Music Venues - 117 Elm St, La Grande, OR ...Q. But what makes you think I’m a man?   Couldn’t I be a woman?   Why didn’t you call me “madam” instead?   Why did you assume I am a man?

A. I don’t know — uh maybe some kind of unconscious sexism of some sort?

Q. Sexism?   Don’t you believe in equal rights for women?

A. Equal, uh, er, rights, yes — and equal opportunity — but perhaps not equality in terms of — of —

Q. In terms of what, may I ask?

A. Well, I mean, anybody knows there are innate differences in the way men and women process information . . .

Q. Are you saying that women are less intelligent than men?

A. Don’t put words in my mouth!   I said nothing of the kind!

Q. Well then!   Just what are these innate differences you’re so convinced exist?

A. Um . . . for one thing, it’s well-known that men are more solution-oriented, and that women are — are —

Q. More problem-oriented?!   Is that what you’re suggesting?   That all we do is cause problems??

(Awkward pause.)

A. What time is it?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to be asking you the questions?

A. All right, it’s 11:14 already.

Q. And just how do you propose to spend the next 8 minutes?

A. In total silence, preferably.

Q. How the hell are you going to get that to happen?

A. Probably only if one of us stops talking.

Q. And who might that be?

A. I would hope that you would be the one to stop talking first!

Q. And if I don’t?

The Answerer is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 58

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I have no idea.

Q. None whatsoever?

A. None at all.

Q. How could this come to be?

A. Not sure.  My guess is that it may be due to an emptying of the mind.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that your mind is empty?

A. Well — emptier.  It’s usually full of all kinds of fancy notions.   It seems to have been cleared of many of them.

Q. What kinds of fancy notions?

A. Oh, this and that.

Q. Can you be more specific?

A. Well — it used to be, not too long ago, my life seemed to depend on certain things falling into place.  Certain things happening.   

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Professional things.   And some personal things.

Q. Too personal to discuss?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are these things no longer happening?

A. Not exactly as I’d expected, no.  But bright things are emerging, both in personal and professional arenas.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. New things.

Q. New?

Q. Yes.  My world has been emptied of old things.   Things no longer pertinent to a newly emerging life.

Q. Do you know exactly what the new life will entail?

A. Not at all, sir.  I can only say that I’m very much looking forward to it.

Q. How did this all come to pass?

A. Through meditation.   And surrender.

Q. Surrender of what?

A. I already told you, sir!  Of old ideas.   Please don’t pry.

Q. Am I prying?

A. Yes.

Q. Should I apologize?

A. Only if it makes you feel better.

Q. So after you emptied your mind, did it come to be filled with new things?

A. Not filled to the brim.   But there’s a process of its being filled.

Q. By whom?

A. By God.   He can’t fill a full cup.  He can only fill an empty cup.

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. I do.

Q, How do you equate such an antiquated belief with your intellect?

A. The Word “God” is only a Word.   Words have meaning.  Ask yourself what the Word means.   Then read John Chapter One, Verse One.   Use the Berean Study Bible for ease of use and accurate translation.  Or the Revised Standard — that’s my suggestion.  Start from there.  Just try it.  And then — don’t read cover to cover.  The Word is not a novel.  Read where the Spirit leads you.   

Q. Why?

A. Because I did.  And another intellectual did — someone whom I love.   And countless others.   Believe me, it’s worth the search.   

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 57

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waking up.

Q. Literally or figuratively?

A. Both.

Q. Aren’t you usually an early riser?

A. Up at 3 this morning.   There’s a chair where I meditate sometimes.  I sat down to meditate, and fell asleep.

Q. Is this a good thing?

A. Sleep?  Generally, yes.  I don’t think we get enough of it.

Q. We?

A. We the People of Today’s Society.   We seem to run ragged on the lack of it, and even glorify ourselves in the process, as though proud of this insanity.

Q. How did we ever get that way?

A. First Industrial Revolution, I suppose.  From there it happened gradually.

Q. What about figuratively?

A. Figuratively?   Refresh my memory.

Q. Aren’t you waking up in some sense other than the literal?

A. Well yeah.   Waking up to some of the harder realities.   Folly in my behavior.   False sense of nobility.   Twisted use of the Golden Rule.  

Q. Twisted?

A. Check it out:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  — Luke 6:35

Q. How did you twist that rule?

A. How do ya think?

Q. Did you expect something in return?

A. Yeah.   I didn’t think I did at the time, but I did.  When I was homeless, I expected compassion from people who lived indoors.  That was a pretty unwieldy expectation.  It set me up for a lot of disappointment.   Then when I lived indoors, I expected respect from those who were homeless.  That didn’t happen either.

Q. But the passage refers to loving your enemies.   Who, then, were your enemies?

A. That’s a loaded question.   For a long time, my enemies were just about anybody who slept in a bed, and who wouldn’t let me inside their front door, even for a half hour to take a needed shower, even when offered money in return.

Q. And how did you try to love these enemies?

A. By appealing to them.   By making them more important than my friends.   By trying to state my case, very respectfully, as to why they should let me inside their front doors.  By advising them how great their rewards would be in heaven if they did so.

Q. And who were your friends?

A. Homeless people.   People in the same boat.   People who knew how hard it was to be out there — not just being rained on — that wasn’t one tenth of it.   It was being stormed on — by people.   By condescending social workers, treating us as though we were good-for-nothing, incompetent nobodies.   By cops, security guards, business owners, property owners — and worst of all, other homeless people.   It was this indignity, this demeaning demoralizing crap, crammed into our heads, day after day, year after year — this idea that we were somehow worse than other human beings — if indeed, we were even regarded as human at all.  Much of the time, we were regarded rather as inanimate objects to be stepped around and shouted over, whilst we tried unsuccessfully to get our good night’s sleeps.  

Q. Go on.

A. I remember my one friend Jerome — a big black guy.   He and D’Angelo, another big black guy, they kinda protected me.   We slept in a big vacant lot.   I had my laptop.  If someone wanted to steal it, they’d have to get past these two big guys.  So I wasn’t so easy a mark.

Q. What about Jerome?

A. He would say to me — “Andy, if you ever get lucky enough to get inside again, you’re not going to be one of those guys who never lets us inside your house, are you?”

Q. What was your answer?

A. My answer was: “No!  Of course not!   I know what it’s like out here — I could never do that to any of you.”

Q. Then what?

A. Then I got inside.

Q. And you didn’t let them in?

A. I was thousands of miles away.  And light years away in culture.   I couldn’t let them in, so I let other homeless people in.   Homeless people, and people who were on the verge of homelessness.  

Q. And what happened?

A. Every single one of them took a gigantic dump on my good nature.   

Q. How so?

A. It pains me to go into detail.   I made house rules.   No alcohol in my house.   No cigarettes, no overnight guests, no sex.   Lights out at ten.   

Q. And they disobeyed your rules?

A.  Yes.  They dishonored my graciousness.   So you know what that means?   I expected something in return.  I expected appreciation.   I expected respect.    So where was the Golden Rule then?

Q. Aren’t you being a little —

A. Hard on myself?  Don’t even go there.   Yes, Jesus said to feed the hungry, to help the needy, and to take in the homeless.  He didn’t say that after I take in the homeless, I’m supposed to put up with them trashing my place and stealing from me.   How the hell is that helping anybody?   In fact, maybe it’s not about the Golden Rule.  It’s about not being a doormat, a masochist.   Not making oneself completely useless in a failed effort to help another.   Check it out, the very next verse:

“Be merciful, as your father in heaven is merciful.”  — Luke 6:36

Q. Is that what you were trying to do?   Be merciful?

A. Yeah, but I forgot something.   I’m one of the people I’m supposed to be merciful towards.

Q. So what about nobility?   

A. The sense of nobility, of ideals —  totally false.   A sham.   Nothing more than masochistic hypocrisy — if you can even imagine such a baffling combination.

Q. What would be more noble?

A. Gratitude.

Q. How so?  

A. I wanted them to be grateful.   They were not.   So I became bitter.  But then I thought, well, if I want someone to be grateful, then I myself should be grateful.   You know, Prayer of St. Francis.

Q. Refresh my memory?


A. If nothing else, it’s a great psychological tool.  If I want to be understood, I should understand.   If I want forgiveness, I should forgive.   So if I want gratitude, I should be grateful.

Q. Grateful to whom?

A. To God.   God gave me a nice secluded spot of my own after years of sleeping outdoors.  I had only prayed for a “lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  God knew that was all I needed, and He gave me so much more than that.

Q. And how will you express this gratitude?

A. By being a good steward of this great blessing He has bestowed upon me.   By making it my spiritual sanctuary, my place of my repose, and the place where I accomplish my creative work.

Q. Did the people you let stay with you keep you from doing this?

A. Yes.  But I invited it.   So I could have expected it.   And now I’ve learned from it.

Q. What have you learned?

A. That there was a certain thousand dollars that didn’t come easy.   And now it’s gone.  I will never let anyone through that door again!

Q. Are you embittered? 

A. Perhaps.  But this too shall pass.  Are you but a gadfly?

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 56

finest work

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting ready.

Q. For what?

A. For a change in policy.

Q. Why does your policy need to change?

A. Because it’s ineffective.

Q. How is it ineffective?

A. Why don’t you just ask me what the policy is?

Q. Why should I ask you that?

A. Because you will then be able to determine for yourself why it is ineffective.

Q. Very well, then.  What is your current policy?

A. Reckless Abandon.

Q. With respect to what?

A. With respect to Art.

Q. How so?

A. I create continuously.   I create without letup or rest.  I create like a crazed maniac.   But I only create at random.  There is no order, nor rhyme nor reason, to the manner in which I create.

Q. Can you provide a specific example?

A. Yes.  The talks I gave recently, and the blog post I wrote as to how PTSD relates to the Homeless Experience.   This was random.  It was not something I intended to do according to a concrete creative plan.  It just sort of — happened — when I was moved to do so.

Q. And a second example?

A. The piano album I created, called Abandon.  It resulted from a comment someone had made that intrigued me.  I took off on that comment, until an entire piano album had been produced.

Q. Is this a bad thing?

A. Not in and of itself, no.

Q. Then why do you need to change the policy?

A. Because these creative endeavors have been keeping me from fully engaging a far more important creative task.

Q Which is?

A. The 4th Draft of my musical Eden in Babylon, and the 2nd draft of its musical score.

Q. Have you been procrastinating?

A. Yes.  But I prefer to frame it a bit differently.

Q. How so?

A. It’s not so much procrastination as it is preparation.  

Q. How can procrastination be preparation?

Labor of Love – A Semester’s Reflection | Kelsey BrannanA. It’s like so.  When I procrastinate, I engage my creative energies in a way that pleases me.  It is not what I have to do.  It is what I want to do.   In doing so, I practice creating out of desire, not out of obligation.   Then, when I cease to procrastinate, the desire to create remains — for I have practiced it.

Q. Do you mean to tell me that when you implement the new change in policy, the Object of your Creative Desire will immediately be changed?

A. Yes.  When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the Object of my Artistic Affection will be altered. It will no longer have anything to do with homelessness, or PTSD, or even blogging, for that matter.  Nor will it involve my piano playing.  It will instead return to what it was before I deviated off onto those artistic tangents.

Q. In other words, at the stroke of midnight, you will immediately reactivate the desire to work on your musical?

A. Not exactly.  It’s already been activated.  I just haven’t begun to do it yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it isn’t time yet.  It happens at midnight tonight.

Q. Why?

A. Because it’s been scheduled that way.

Q. Why adhere so strictly to the schedule?

A. You want the whole rundown?

Q. Why not?

Funny sublimation designs downloads quote funny Not | EtsyA. Very well then.  To be honest with you, when we suspended operations on the project, I became depressed.  I blamed myself for falling short.   I remained depressed for eleven days.  And I accomplished nothing.

Then I decided to deal with the depression in my typical, lifelong fashion.  I would hurl myself full force into various artistic endeavors.  But I wouldn’t work on the musical, because it was too depressing to think about it.

In the process of working on these less pertinent, less relevant side projects, I became happy again.   And now that I am happy, and longer depressed, I will resume working on the musical, and be happy doing so.

Q. So you’re trying to tell me that the same project that earlier depressed you will now make you happy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because you’re either not an Artist, or you don’t know me very well, or both.

Q. May I ask a question that might insult you?

A. At your own risk, ask away.  

Q. Why do you think you can pull it off?

A. Because my name is Andy Pope.   Any further questions?

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 54

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Contemplating life.

Q. Why?

A. Because I agree with Socrates, quoted below:

socrates.jpg

Q. What brought this on?

A. Transition.  I’m at a cusp between two stages in my journey.

Q. How do you figure that?

A. By observing the nature of the stage that is to pass, and envisioning the far greater nature of the stage that is to come.

Q. What is the nature of the stage that is to pass?

A. It is a stage based on fear.

Q. Fear of what?

A. Lots of things.  People, for one thing.  People’s opinions, for another thing.  People’s opinions of me, for a third thing.  But it all boils down to fear of death.

Q. Why be afraid of death?  Isn’t death a universal human experience?

A. Pretty much.  Even Jesus had to die, though He came back again, in eternal form.   Enoch and Elijah apparently escaped it.  People who believe in the “consummation of the saints” (AKA the so-called ‘rapture’), might escape it as well.  The jury’s still out on that one.

Q. Then why be afraid of it?

A. My experience is that those who are afraid to die are generally afraid to live.

Q. Have you been afraid to live?

A. Yes.  Especially throughout the past three years.

Q. What happened during the past three years?

A. I escaped twelve years of living in very sketchy situations, most often outdoors, in favor of living mostly alone in secure and secluded indoor dwelling spots.

Q. But wouldn’t that logically make you less afraid to live?

A. Logically, yes.   But what happened was not logical.

Q. What did happen?

A. I kept clinging to the old stage.  I kept living for the approbation of those from whom I had already departed.   Even though the new stage was crying out to be christened, I hesitated.  I clung to the old stage like a baby clinging to his mother’s breasts.

Q. So you were dependent upon the old stage?  Like a baby depends upon a mother?

A. Yes.  But not entirely of my own will.  It took two to dance that dance.  The possessive, overprotective mother of the Old Stage would not let me go.

Q. And now you are escaping her grip?

A. I can feel it, yes.   I’m not her baby anymore.  

Q. So the mother of the old stage was fear?

A. Yes.

Q. And who is the mother of the New Stage?

A. Love.  If you love someone, you let them go.

Q, So the old stage was a stage of fear, and the New Stage will be a Stage of Love.

perfect loveA. Yes — Love.

Q. Say again?

A. Love!

Q. One more time — 

A. LOVE!

Q. How so?

A. Because Perfect Love casts out fear.

 

                                                      The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 52

Q. What are you doing here?

A. What do you mean, what am I doing here?  I’m here to answer your questions, as best I can.

Q. But didn’t you say you weren’t coming back until October?

A. I changed my mind.

Q. What made you change your mind?

A. There’s much less stress in my life now than there was when I made that decision.

Q. But didn’t you give me your word?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Then why are you breaking your word?

A. Are you really taking this game that seriously?

Q. What makes it a game?

A. Hmm – good question.  I used the word “game” automatically, without really examining it first.

Q. Why do you think you did that?

A. There was a game on my mind.  A game where we used to always give our words, and shake on deals, even though a lot of the times, those deals were broken.

Q. What game was that?

A. Do you really need to know?

Q. Why shouldn’t I know?

A. It’s privileged information.

Q. Am I not privileged?

A. You are not.  And neither am I.

Q. Well, can you give me a clue?  

A. Can we have a guessing game?

Q. Okay.  Where did this game take place?

A. On the streets.

Q. Who did you play it with?

A. A bunch of other people who lived on the streets.

Q. What was the game called?

A. It was called the Game.  Capital G.

Q. How long did you play the Game?

A. Three years.  I began, to be honest, in July 2013.  I stopped in June 2016.

Q. Do you have a photographic memory?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What did the Game consist of?

A. Interactions with others based on monetary exchanges, supply and demand.

Q. Were you a merchant in the Game?

A. No.  More like a customer.

Q. Why did you stop playing the Game?

A. Because I was no longer interested in the products that were being provided.

Q. Did you then begin to play another game?

A. I did not.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because, as a dear friend once told me, I am not immortal – and life is not a game.

The Questioner is silent.  

Life is Not a Game - Being Effective for God (April 2012)

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Tuesday Tuneup 51

Q.  What’s been bugging you lately?

A.  The Tuesday Tuneups.

Q.  Why?

A.  They’ve lost something.

Q.  How so?

A.  I think it started around about the time it would be a nice “game” to ask my readers to select a question for me, rather than me selecting one that I knew would work.

Q. How would you know?

A. Because I’ve been doing the “tuneups” since 1987, though not online, and not always on Tuesdays.   So I’ve accumulated a compendium of questions that do work.

Q. So are you going to select a new question for next week?

A. No.  I’m going to discontinue them for a while.

Q. Why?

A. Overloaded.   I’ve been dealing with what I call “Mainstream Stress” and it’s affecting my sense of integrity.

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. The kind of stress one gets only in the Mainstream; that is, when one has multiple commitments, and has to show up at many specific places at specific times, prepared to conduct oneself according to an expected fashion.

Q. Are you trying to say you’ve been working too hard?

A. Something like that.  But I’ve always worked very hard.  I just haven’t done it to deadlines, or under pressure, in recent years.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I don’t believe that deadlines and pressures are good for the human spirit.  I also believe that my not having operated according to these Mainstream values is what has kept me generally happy and healthy over the years.

Q. And you are not happy and healthy now?

A. Still healthy, though at risk.

Q. And happy?

A. That depends upon what is meant by happiness.

Q. Why are you evading the question?

A. Scripture equates happiness with God’s blessings.  I have definitely been in receipt of God’s blessings.

Q. Then why aren’t you happy?

A. Because, apparently, I have been seeking happiness from a source other than God.

Q. What source is that?

A. Art.

Q. You have a friend named Art?

A. Um, no — I do know one guy named Art, but he’s only a casual acquaintance.   I’m talking about Art — as in Music.  Writing.  Singing.  All the things I have turned to in order to give beauty to an ugly situation.

Art


Q. What situation?

A. I can’t answer that.  I am sorry.  It’s too deep and too personal.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Not just yet.  Let’s decide when the Tuneups will recur.

Q. When would you like them to recur?

A. October 1, 2019.

Q. Deal?

A. Deal.

Angel and demon deal Vector Image #131294 – RFclipart

 

The Questioner is silent. 

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